October 16, 2014 archive

More Whitewash

Senate’s inquiry into CIA torture sidesteps blaming Bush, aides

By Jonathan S. Landay, Ali Watkins and Marisa Taylor, McClatchy

October 16, 2014

“This report is not about the White House. It’s not about the president. It’s not about criminal liability. It’s about the CIA’s actions or inactions,” said a person familiar with the document, who asked not to be further identified because the executive summary – the only part to that will be made public – still is in the final stages of declassification.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report also didn’t examine the responsibility of top Bush administration lawyers in crafting the legal framework that permitted the CIA to use simulated drowning called waterboarding and other interrogation methods widely described as torture, McClatchy has learned.

“It does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law,” the person said.

“If it’s the case that the report doesn’t really delve into the White House role, then that’s a pretty serious indictment of the report,” said Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University Law School. “Ideally it should come to some sort of conclusions on whether there were legal violations and if so, who was responsible.”

At the same time, she said, the report still is critically important because it will give “the public facts even if it doesn’t come to these conclusions. The reason we have this factual accounting is not for prurient interest. It’s so we can avoid something like this ever happening again in the future.”

However, the Democratic-controlled committee apparently dropped a demand that the White House surrender some 9,400 documents related to the program, raising questions about Feinstein’s claim. The White House had refused to turn over the records for five years, citing “executive branch confidentiality interests.”

Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld relentlessly pressured interrogators to subject detainees to harsh interrogation methods in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, McClatchy reported in April 2009. Such evidence, which was non-existent, would have substantiated one of Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003.

Other accounts described how Cheney, Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Secretary of State Colin Powell approved specific harsh interrogation techniques. George Tenet, then the CIA director, also reportedly updated them on the results.

“Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly,” Ashcroft said after one of dozens of meetings on the program, ABC News reported in April 2008 in a story about the White House’s direct oversight of interrogations.

News reports also chronicled the involvement of top White House and Justice Department officials in fashioning a legal rationale giving Bush the authority to override U.S. and international laws prohibiting torture. They also helped craft opinions that effectively legalized the CIA’s use of waterboarding, wall-slamming and sleep deprivation.

Even so, the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report doesn’t examine the responsibility of Bush and his top advisers for abuses committed while the program was in operation from 2002 to 2006, according to several people familiar with the 500-page document.

Their comments are bolstered by the report’s 20 main conclusions, which do not point to any wrongdoing outside of the CIA.

Instead, the conclusions only mention the White House once, asserting that the CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making.

Along with being handicapped by the political considerations, the panel confronted two prior Justice Department investigations that declined to assign criminal liability to any officials involved in the program. One probe was conducted under the Bush administration and the second under President Barack Obama.

Moreover, Obama opposed any further inquiry. Although he signed an executive order banning waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques soon after taking office, he also ruled out future prosecutions of those who participated in the program.

The extent of the Obama’s fury over the panel’s study was revealed in a memoir by former CIA Director Leon Panetta that was released this month. The president, he wrote, was livid that the CIA agreed in 2009 to give the committee access to millions of the agency’s highly classified documents.

“The president wants to know who the f— authorized this release to the committees,” Panetta recalled then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel shouting at him. “I have a president with his hair on fire and I want to know what the f— you did to f— this up so bad!”

My emphasis.

Why we can’t have nice things.

Latest Intellectual Property Chapter Of TPP Agreement Leaked: Would Be A Disaster For Public Health

by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

Thu, Oct 16th 2014 7:57am

(W)e’ve discussed the ridiculous and unnecessary secrecy concerning trade agreements negotiated by the USTR. The text of the negotiating documents and even the US’s general position is kept secret until the very end, at which point concerns from the public and innovators no longer matter. Instead, the USTR relies on legacy industry “advisors” who are mostly interested in protecting what they have from disruption, change and innovation. For all the talk of how these agreements are “free trade” agreements, they tend to be anything but. They are focused on protecting a few industries against competition, disruption and innovation. The former US Trade Rep Ron Kirk was unusually honest a few years ago in admitting that these agreements would never get adopted if the public actually knew what was in them. A year ago, Wikileaks helped leak the “Intellectual Property” chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and now it’s done so again with a more recent version of the chapter. Public Citizen has put together a thorough analysis, highlighting a key change: the US pushing to delay access to affordable treatments for cancer and other diseases, in direct contrast to the pledges of the Obama administration.

the US is pushing strongly for “drug-company friendly” language that undermines existing agreements under TRIPS. In particular, TRIPS has long allowed countries to authorize the production of cheaper generic drugs to deal with significant health problems. Big Pharma — showing how it really feels about public health — has been angry about this for years, and appears to be using TPP as a vehicle to try to undermine it. Of course, they know better than to kill off this provision entirely.

As you may recall, Eli Lilly is currently demanding $500 million from Canada under a corporate sovereignty (“investor state dispute settlement” or ISDS) tribunal, because Canada rejected some of its patents for not being any more effective than existing offerings. For most of us, it seems like a perfectly reasonable reason to reject a patent: your patented drug doesn’t do anything to make it more useful than existing products. Canadian law agrees. But big pharma, like Eli Lilly flips out, because they want to produce new drugs that they can patent as old patents run out, hoping to trick people into wanting the new, much more expensive “new new thing” rather than the old, generic, cheaper offering that is just as (if not more) effective.

A bunch of countries are pushing for the right to cancel a patent if it “is used in a manner determined to be anti-competitive,” but of course, the US and Japan are completely against such a thing. Instead, the US and Japan say it should only be cancelled on grounds that would have been justified for refusing to grant the patent in the first place. In other words, most of the countries recognize that patents can be abused in anti-competitive ways and want to protect against that. The US and Japan, on the other hand, appear to be happy with enabling anti-competitive abuses with patents. That says something.

In the copyright section, it appears that US goes beyond existing US law in asking that “making available” be considered one of the exclusive rights protected under copyright law. Some US courts consider “making available” to be considered part of the “distribution” right, but others have disagreed (saying that the distribution right only covers works that have actually been, you know, distributed). While the legacy entertainment industry likes to pretend this is settled law and merely making available equals distribution, that’s not entirely clear. No matter, in the agreement, the US (and Japan) push to require everyone to include “making available” as an exclusive right for copyright holders.

There was great fanfare a few years ago when the USTR announced that, for the first time ever, it would include some language about fair use to appease those who were concerned about how these agreements only ratcheted up the enforcement side of copyright, and not the public’s rights. Except, when the details finally leaked, we realized the proposed language was actually about limiting fair use by putting a much stricter definition on it. That language is still in the agreement. There still appears to be debate about copyright term length, with at least some pushing to extend the copyright term, because, hey, copyright terms always expand. This comes despite even the head of the Copyright Office agreeing that copyright terms should be reduced.

The US is also looking to definitively kill off any chance of an Aereo-like solution (even if Congress were to pass a law in response to the Supreme Court), by saying that such a service shall not be allowed without authorization of the copyright holder. The agreement would also extend broken anti-circumvention rules that block non-infringing and perfectly reasonable uses. The US is (of course) pushing for more criminal copyright efforts (Vietnam and Malaysia are pushing back). The US, against pretty much everyone else, is also pushing for statutory damages to be a necessary option for civil copyright cases, despite the massive problems we’ve seen with statutory damages in the US and how it enables shady practices like copyright trolling.

There’s a lot of debate about whether or not recording a movie in a theater should be a criminal act. The US, of course, is pushing for what appears to be an extreme definition where any recording should absolutely be seen as criminal. Other countries would like it to be more flexible, leaving it up to the countries to decide if they want to make it criminal. Singapore says the taping should be willful, and Mexico says it should only apply to a significant part of the film. The US doesn’t care. If you accidentally record a bit of a movie? Go to jail.

There’s a lot more in there, but, once again you can clearly see why the US remains so against any transparency at all in these negotiations. Having to actually answer for why they’re only concerned with protecting the rights of the legacy copyright industry and pharmaceutical industries, while paying little to no attention to the impact on public health, knowledge and innovation, would apparently put a damper on their future job prospects.


The Breakfast Club (Sit in the Lap of Baal)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgMussels.

I don’t know how you like them (steamed, melted herbed butter with fresh squeezed lemon juice) but for me the essential ingredient is the mussel which should be fresh and lightly cooked so that the fat orange flesh fills the shell.

Mmm… good eats.

Anyway TMC and I have been on kind of a serial mussel quest where at least one of us will order them as either a main course or an appetizer when we eat at a restaurant that serves them.  What?  It surprises you that living on the East Coast as we do we occasionally get together for a “working dinner” that we can write off against the vast profits our little bloggy empire generates?  Oh, it surprises you we have profits.  Well, I was lying about that.  I’m only interested in the art and I have the bloody earhole to prove it (I’ll need some more Orpiment Theo, the light is perfect).

You can’t take me anywhere though because outside of the vaguely disreputable and repellent air that I cultivate as seriously as any other poet, I like to play restaurant games.

 photo 1003141627_zpsc85f6252.jpgIn this particular case we were outside on the deck of our newly discovered mussel shack watching the summertime promenade of perfectly ordinary, unsuspecting individuals pass.  Besides the harbor we had a view of a pocket park the chief point of interest of which was an installation of unique chairs and benches that didn’t look like chairs and benches.  The statue of Baal being recently in the news I noted the chair pictured.

Soon enough the trap was set as a young mother and innocent child entered the park and the energetic not exasperated one started climbing around on the public art.

That was when I announced in my best (and loudest) ‘Joliet’ Jake impression-

“Come, come little girl.  Sit in the lap of Baal.”

So those were my favorite mussels this summer, served in the classic manner and done to perfection though if you insist on Haute cuisine we also had a perfectly acceptable dish served with a shallot, garlic, and wine broth.

Oh, you want Science and Tech with that whine.

Ancient Cult Complex Discovered In Israel Dates Back 3,300 Years, May Be Temple Of Baal

By Dominique Mosbergen, HuffPo

10/15/2014 12:59 pm EDT

Archaeologists working in Israel have discovered an “ancient cult complex,” where people who lived thousands of years ago might have worshipped a Canaanite “storm god” known as Baal.

The complex was unearthed at the archaeological site of Tel Burna, located near the Israeli city of Kiryat Gat. It’s believed to date back 3,300 years.

Researchers said the site has already yielded artifacts that seem to confirm the complex’s cultic past. These include enormous jars that may have been used to store tithes, masks that might have been used in ceremonial processions, and burnt animal bones that hint at sacrificial rituals.

Itzhaq Shai, director of the Tel Burna Excavation Project, told Live Science that it wasn’t entirely clear which god the complex was dedicated to. But he called Baal — which ancient Middle Eastern cultures worshipped as a fertility god — the “most likely candidate.”

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

-Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

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On This Day In History October 16

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.

October 16 is the 289th day of the year (290th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 76 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1916, Margaret Sanger opened a family planning and birth control clinic at 46 Amboy St. in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, the first of its kind in the United States.

It was raided 9 days later by the police. She served 30 days in prison. An initial appeal was rejected but in 1918 an opinion written by Judge Frederick E. Crane of the New York Court of Appeals allowed doctors to prescribe contraception.

This was the beginning of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921,  which changed its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. in 1942. Since then, it has grown to 850 clinic locations in the United States, with a total budget of approximately US$1 billion, and provides an array of services to over three million people.

Dealing with sexuality, the organization is often a center of controversy in the United States. The organization’s status as the country’s leading provider of surgical abortions has put it in the forefront of national debate over the issue. Planned Parenthood has also been a party in numerous Supreme Court cases.

In scanning through the articles on Margaret Sanger, I found this bit of trivia quite amusing

In 1926, Sanger gave a lecture on birth control to the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, New Jersey. She described it as “one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing,” and added that she had to use only “the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand.” Sanger’s talk was well-received by the group and as a result “a dozen invitations to similar groups were proffered.”

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Well, there’s a part of us dying

Late Night Karaoke

TDS/TCR (Evil or Idiots?)


Evil or Idiot?

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