February 18, 2013 archive

Kangaroo Court

Guantánamo trials plunged into deeper discord as confidence in court wanes

Chris McGreal, The Guardian

Sunday 17 February 2013 11.46 EST

In recent days, the commander of the Guantánamo prison, Colonel John Bogdan, was forced to admit on the witness stand that secret listening devices disguised as smoke detectors were installed in the cell where lawyers met their clients, and that he knew nothing about them.

“I said, Mr Guard, is that a listening device, and he said, ‘Of course not’,” she said. “Well, guess what, judge? It’s a listening device”

The prison’s lawyer, Captain Thomas Welsh, told the court he discovered the room was fitted with hidden microphones early last year and reported it to the then warden, Colonel Donnie Thomas, to seek assurances that meetings between the accused and their lawyers were not being spied on.

Bogdan said he was not informed when he took over. He told the court that the FBI was in control of the room until 2008 and that he has since discovered that the bugs were accidentally disconnected in October during renovations but then secretly reconnected by an unnamed intelligence service two months later, suggesting they were still in use.

Bogdan denied that the microphones were eavesdropping on lawyers. “We understood that any listening to an attorney-client meeting is prohibited,” he said.

That followed a strange incident at a hearing last month when the audio feed from the courtroom to the public and reporters was suddenly cut when a defence lawyer made a reference to torture in an unclassified motion arguing that CIA “black sites” in Poland, Afghanistan and Romania, used to interrogate and torture abducted suspects, be preserved.

The judge, Colonel James Pohl, was caught unawares and demanded to know who had cut the feed. It transpired that an unnamed intelligence agency was monitoring proceedings from an unspecified location and decided to censor the hearing, a privilege Pohl said was reserved exclusively for him.

Defence lawyers also accused the prison authorities of using cell searches to seize confidential legal documents. Attorneys for three of the accused – Mohammed, Bin Atash and Ramzi Binalshibh – said that the men returned to their cells on Tuesday to discover that the bins they use to store documents had been searched and confidential papers removed.

The prison lawyer, Lieutenant Commander George Massucco, confirmed that the documents had been removed and said they would be returned shortly.

Eviatar said the military tribunal’s track record is already damaged by the use of torture and CIA black sites in interrogations, and the original Bush plans for the conduct of the trials which were struck down by the supreme court as unconstitutional.

“I think what’s happening really seriously undermines the credibility of the process,” she said. “These are new courts to begin with. The first version of these courts was struck down by the US supreme court so you’re already starting with a lot of scepticism. And this current version hasn’t been tested in the US supreme court yet. But there’s so many problems every step of the way that it’s going to be very hard for anyone to look back and say this was a fair trial.

Yah think?


On This Day In History February 18

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 18 is the 49th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 316 days remaining until the end of the year (317 in leap years).

On this day in 1885, Mark Twain publishes his famous, and famously controversial, novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Considered as one of the Great American Novels, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is among the first in major American literature to be written in the vernacular, characterized by local color regionalism. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry “Huck” Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer and narrator of two other Twain novels (Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective).

The book is noted for its colorful description of people and places along the Mississippi River. Satirizing a Southern antebellum society that had ceased to exist about twenty years before the work was published, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an often scathing look at entrenched attitudes, particularly racism.

The work has been popular with readers since its publication and is taken as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It has also been the continued object of study by serious literary critics. It was criticized upon release because of its coarse language and became even more controversial in the 20th century because of its perceived use of racial stereotypes and because of its frequent use of the racial slur “nigger”, despite that the main protagonist, and the tenor of the book, is anti-racist. According to the January 20, 2011 Chase Cook/The Daily article, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn novel will be released in a new edition. Two words will be changed throughout the whole book, “injun” and “nigger” to “indian” and “slave”. The book is being changed as quoted in the article, “only to make it viable to the 21st century”.

Analyzing the blur (Part 1)

Since the stolen election of 2000, a cyclonic lot of crazy stuff has been whirling above the surface that previously managed to stay largely submerged in public political consciousness.  Among the eye-openers beyond Bush v. Gore were, of course, the 9/11 anomaly, the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, and the seemingly arbitrary and endless global war on terror more generally; the looming national security state and the steady erosion of Constitutional and international law; the general feeling that enlightenment has given way to endarkenment; free-ranging corporate malfeasance and immunity; the bursting of various financial bubbles resulting in a generalized, global economic implosion, resulting in turn in massive corporate bailouts and profits, ballooning deficits, joblessness and austerity measures for the masses; an increase in global civil unrest and pushback, including the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, and anonymous cyber-resistance; rather massive ecological catastrophes and an increasingly alarming pace of numerous climate change indices, including Hurricane Katrina and multiple other extreme weather events; and such an abject failure of the media to report on these developments with any effort approaching due diligence that one not only suspects willful dereliction, but active collusion with various malefactors.  

It’s no wonder that 99% of political dialogue is distracted and cannot focus on the major critical factors of our spiraling crises, which happen to be more inter-related than your average kissing cousins.  Rather than getting deep into the weeds on any particular topic, it’s worthwhile to zoom out and look at the main populations of events and drivers of these spiraling crises as they are subsumed under a master narrative of carrying capacity, a subject that approaches the brink of taboo in political (but not biological) discussions, insofar as it challenges the main religious orthodoxy of our time, namely, unlimited growth.  Let’s see if we can begin by accurately describing our situation in broad, simple strokes.  Part 1 (this essay) aims to provide the relevant background narrative for subsequent discussion.          

*     *     *

These first two graphs, which are virtually identical, show human energy use (top graph) and human population growth (bottom graph) over the past 12 thousands years or so.  Several things should jump out immediately beyond their near identity.  First, they are both wildly anomalous spikes in the historical record, one-time, vertical explosions of activity happening simultaneously.  Before knowing anything else, the very shape of the functions are cause for serious doubts about the sustainability of these trajectories.    


When plotted against one another during the explosive phase, the nearly perfect identity between energy use and human population is confirmed.


Because “behaviorally modern” humans have been around for at least 70,000 years, it would seem this sudden vertical trajectory did not happen because of some sudden evolutionary innovation of the past several hundred years.  Rather, these two simultaneous trajectories are consistent with energy being perhaps “the” rate-limiting factor of reproductive success, and humans fell into the Mother Lode, leaving other large mammals in their proverbial dust.  

Alternatively, it is possible that an accumulation of post-agricultural/post-division of labor and expertise cultural knowledge reached a critical mass whereby civilization (and population) suddenly bifurcated into an entirely new mode that would have happened independently of energy use.  The arguments are not exclusive, but the key experiment would be to remove the energy (a “before-after-before” experiment) to see if the large-brained mammals could maintain anything resembling their current numbers and technological complexity in the absence of energy.

That natural experiment is, in fact, underway, and while the design is adventitious and imperfect, it should provide definitive results.

Late Night Karaoke

Times Tesla Test Drive

So I happen to have a very old, very fast car that I rarely use.  It’s unreliable and can leave you inconveniently stranded at your destination, unable to return home.  It’s hard to drive because of the performance suspension and to get in and out of because of the configuration (it’s nickname is ‘The Flying Penis’).  While the mileage doesn’t suck it’s nothing to brag about and there is no cargo space at all.

On the other hand it still goes like stink and provided you’ve assured yourself a suitable stretch of road is enforcement free it’s a blast at high speeds.

These are not uncommon traits in a vehicle like this, mine is in fact relatively civilized.

What’s surprising about a piece like John Broder’s is that someone who should know better about the inherent unruliness of this type of automobile complains with particular pettiness and spite about the Tesla Model S.

Now I happen to think the computer logs prove Broder a pants on fire prevaricating liar and his apologists credulous fools grasping at straws (to say nothing of his own feeble attempts to avoid Judith Millerdom), but this is not the first time.

So what motivates this vitriol against electric cars?

Well, range is a problem.  Until I read up on this I had no idea it was so limited- around 40 miles for the Volt in pure electric mode, 73 for the Leaf.  Perfectly fine for errands, not so much for trips.

But I think that more fundamentally it’s God, Guns, and Gays.

Gasoline is a dinosaur in more ways than one.  Either it disappears or we do.  Turn Left Racing is the most popular spectator sport in the U.S. (Throwball has better TV ratings).  It feeds the populist fantasy that with a little more practice or firepower you too can be a hero for people so down and out their solace is the fact that at least they’re not a ____ and there will be pie in the sky by and by, by and by, on the big rock candy mountain.  Were your life that miserable and you a little less cynical you’d cling to it too.

But it’s all an illusion, magical thinking and distractions.  The big stories today are Danica Patrick’s love life and Daytona Pole.

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