May 21, 2015 archive

Good Germans (Again)

Kind of a follow up to the piece below- Illinois Abu Ghraib.

Government Seeks ‘Emergency Stay’ of Decision Ordering Release of Thousands of Torture Photos

Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

May 19, 2015 at 12:00 PM PDT

In March, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the US District Court of the Southern District of New York was no longer willing to tolerate the government’s secrecy arguments or the government’s refusal to individually review each photo and explain why each photo would pose a national security risk if made public.

The judge immediately issued a temporary stay and gave the government 60 days to file an appeal.

With that 60-day period about to elapse, the government abruptly announced it would appeal on May 15 and filed a motion requesting a stay.

Back in August, when Hellerstein ruled that the Secretary of Defense’s certification for keeping the photos secret was “inadequate,” the government was instructed to individually review the photographs and inform the court of why each photograph could not be released. Government attorneys rebuffed his request.

In October and February, the court reminded the government that the Secretary of Defense had to certify each picture “in terms of its likelihood or not to endanger American lives.” It explained again afterward that the government could not certify a mass of photographs as a risk to national security. The government never complied, which led to the judge’s decision in March.

The government maintains in its motion that an “emergency stay” will cause minimal harm to the ACLU. On the other hand, no stay will mean the photographs are released and the “status quo” is destroyed. It will harm the ability of the government to appeal.

“The absence of a stay will cause the disclosure of records that the Secretary of Defense has certified to be exempt from disclosure under the PNSDA, a statute that was enacted by Congress in order to protect U.S. citizens, members of the US Armed Services, and US government employees from harm while overseas,” the government argues.

According to the government, the Secretary of Defense’s certification of the photographs is not subject to “judicial review.” They could remain in secret in perpetuity if the Secretary of Defense kept re-certifying them as a risk. The district court also erred in making its own “assessment of the likelihood of harm, based upon its own analysis of the military situation in Iraq. That was reversible error.”

While it is true that the “status quo” will be preserved if the government is granted an “emergency stay,” the ACLU suggests that is no argument for automatically granting such a stay because a stay will make it possible for the government to “continue to evade its statutory responsibility of openness to its citizens.”

This impacts the ACLU, which has worked to educate the public on the torture and abuse committed by US officials and military personnel. If the photographs continue to remain secret, the American public will remain in the dark on the extent of torture committed in their name.

Illinois Abu Ghraib

As Torture Victims Win $5.5M in Reparations, Could Chicago Be a Model for Police Abuses Nationwide?, Democracy Now

As Chicago Pays Victims of Past Torture, Police Face New Allegations of Abuse at Homan Square, Democracy Now

Homan Square detainee: I was sexually abused by police at Chicago ‘black site’

by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Thursday 14 May 2015 12.50 EDT

It was 21 October 2012. The day before, Perez had been driving his Rav-4 on his restaurant delivery route when he says police accosted him, wanting him to contact a drug dealer who they believed Perez knew so they could arrange a sting. But Perez was less cooperative than they had hoped.

Now, Perez was handcuffed by his right wrist to a metal bar behind a bench in an interrogation room on the second floor of Homan Square. Behind him were two police officers that a lawsuit Perez recently re-filed identifies as Jorge Lopez and Edmund Zablocki. They had been threatening him with a stint at the infamously violent Cook County jail if he didn’t cooperate.

“They’re gonna think you’re a little sexy bitch in jail,” Perez recalled one of them saying. The lawsuit quotes Lopez: “I hear that a big black nigger dick feels like a gun up your ass.”

Perez claims he was bent over in front of the bench and a piece of detritus. He recalled smelling urine and seeing bloodstains in the room. The police officers pulled his shirt up and slowly moved a metallic object down his bare skin. Then they pulled his pants down.

“He’s talking all this sexual stuff, he’s really getting fucking weird about it, too,” Perez remembered. He began shaking, the beginnings of a panic attack.

“They get down to where they’re gonna insert it, this is where I feel that it’s something around my rear end, and he said some stupid comment and then he jammed it in there and I started jerking and going all crazy – I think I kicked him – and I just go into a full-blown panic attack … The damage it caused, it pretty much swole my rear end like a baboon’s butt.”

Whatever the object was, the police suggested it was the barrel of a handgun. After Perez involuntarily jerked from the penetration, Officer Edmund Zablocki is alleged to have told him: “I almost blew your brains out.”

Perez claims all of this occurred to persuade him to purchase $170 worth of heroin from the dealer.

Rahm Emanuel took office as Mayor of Chicago on May 16, 2011.  Chicago has been under Democratic Party control since 1931.


The Breakfast Club (Ahab)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgIt’s been a bad week for Marine Mammals.

Icelandic plan to ship whale meat to Japan angers environmentalists


Tuesday 19 May 2015 13.41 EDT

The Icelandic whaling company Hvalur HF plans to ship 1,700 tonnes of whale meat via Luanda in Angola, repeating a similar controversial delivery of 2,000 tonnes last year which sparked protests along its route.

Iceland and Norway are the only nations which openly defy the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC’s) 1986 ban on hunting whales.

Icelandic whalers caught 137 fin whales and 24 minkes in 2014, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), an anti-whaling group – compared with 134 fin whales and 35 minkes in 2013.

Japan has used a legal loophole in the ban that allows it to continue hunting the animals in order to gather scientific data.

But it has never made a secret of the fact that the whale meat from these hunts often ends up on dining tables.

Consumption of whale meat in Japan has fallen sharply in recent years while polls indicate that few Icelanders regularly eat it.

Yup, Japan has warehouses full of whale meat nobody wants to eat and they can’t sell.  Now there may be a very thin and specious argument about the necessity of keeping a domestic whaling industry for the financial benefit of the whalers (though simply paying them off would be cheaper and easier), but what the heck is the reason to import it?

Dolphin-hunting Japanese town may start farming them on the side


Thu May 21, 2015 12:47pm IST

A Japanese town notorious for killing dolphins may set up a dolphin breeding farm after zoos and aquariums decided to stop buying their animals caught in the wild, but it has no plans to halt the controversial hunt, its mayor said on Thursday.

The western port town of Taiji, the location of an annual hunt featured in the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary “The Cove”, may suffer a loss of income because of the Wednesday decision, which Japanese officials said came in response to foreign pressure.

The decision by Japan’s zoos and aquariums came after the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums threatened Japan with expulsion unless it stopped buying dolphins from Taiji. That would have meant Japan might lose access to zoo animals such as elephants and giraffes from overseas.

In 2013, 1,239 dolphins were caught in the Taiji hunt, according to the Fisheries Agency. Most of them were killed for their meat but 172 were sold alive, mainly overseas, at a price of at least $8,200 each.

“We plan to protect our fishermen, who have authority from both the nation and the local government,” Sangen said, emphasising the tradition of the hunt.

“We believe it can become the world’s main provider. I believe in 10 years our town will have changed its role in all this.”

Despite the bid to develop the live-animal business, the hunt would still go on, he said.

Like the legal market in ivory, this is simply another way to enable poaching.

Study Links Dolphin Deaths to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

By NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR, The New York Times

MAY 20, 2015

The findings are the latest results from the Deepwater Horizon National Resource Damage Assessment, an ongoing investigation by NOAA into the spill, the largest offshore oil spill in United States history. Combined with previous studies by the agency, this paper provides additional support to a link between the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and mass dolphin deaths in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“The evidence to date indicates that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused the adrenal and lung lesions that contributed to the deaths of this unusual mortality event,” said Stephanie Venn-Watson, a researcher with the National Marine Mammal Foundation who was the lead author of the report. “We reached that conclusion based on the accumulation of our studies including this paper,” she added.

A third of the Gulf Coast dolphins had a thinned or damaged adrenal gland cortex compared with only 7 percent of the so-called reference dolphins, the researchers said.

The researchers also found that about a fifth of the Gulf Coast dolphins had lung lesions caused by bacterial pneumonia, and that 70 percent of that group died because of that condition. Only 2 percent of the reference dolphins had any trace of bacterial pneumonia.

The researchers said that the dolphins most likely inhaled the fumes from the petroleum products on the ocean surface. They added that exposure to oil fumes is one of the most common causes of chemical inhalation injury in other animals.

“These dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions I have ever seen in wild dolphins throughout the United States,” Dr. Colegrove said.

Below you will find a report from The Guardian on the close ties between the British government and BP and Shell.

Science Oriented Video

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)

Science News and Blogs

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History May 21

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.

Click on image to enlarge

May 21 is the 141st day of the year (142nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 224 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1881, the American Red Cross was established in Washington, D.C. by Clara Barton, who became the first president of the organization.

Clara Barton

Clara Barton (1821-1912) had a career as a teacher and federal bureaucrat when the American Civil War broke out. Barton liked teaching when she was younger. All of her older siblings became teachers. Her youngest sibling was 12 years of age, when Barton was born. Her brother David was always like a teacher to her. She taught her first class, at age 17. She also expanded her concept of soldier aid, traveling to Camp Parole, Maryland, to organize a program for locating men listed as missing in action. Through interviews with Federals returning from Southern prisons, she was often able to determine the status of some of the missing and notify families.

After performing humanitarian work during and after the conflict, on advice of her doctors, in 1869, she went to Europe for a restful vacation. There, she saw and became involved in the work of the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War, and determined to bring the organization home with her to America.

When Barton began the organizing work in the U.S. in 1873, no one thought the country would ever again face an experience like the Civil War. However, Barton was not one to lose hope in the face of the bureaucracy, and she finally succeeded during the administration of President Chester A. Arthur on the basis that the new American Red Cross organization could also be available to respond to other types of crisis.

As Barton expanded the original concept of the Red Cross to include assisting in any great national disaster, this service brought the United States the “Good Samaritan of Nations” label in the International Red Cross. Barton became President of the American branch of the society, known officially as the American National Red Cross. Soon after the initial May 1881 meeting in Washington, on August 22, 1881, the first local chapter of the Red Cross was formed in village of Dansville, New York, where Barton kept a part-time residence between 1876 and 1886. Subsequent local chapters were established in Rochester and Syracuse. Ultimately, John D. Rockefeller, along with four others and the federal government, gave money to create a national headquarters in Washington, D.C., located one block from the White House.

Last Chance to See (Part 3)

So the question arises- why did I decide to write about Jon and Stephen instead of Dave?

Many of the reasons are petty.  Jon and Stephen had an existing community on Daily Kos where I could coin the mojo and rack up the comment count (which despite years of tinkering are still your surest defense against the O-bots, A–holes, and Trolls that populate the place.  I never once ran out of mojo, all my bans were Administrative.) and, at least initially, I didn’t have the confidence as a writer to just up and invent my own franchises.

Another petty reason is laziness.  Even today with a hat full of ideas and all the vanity in the world I find that there are just so many hours in a day, and a finite amount of energy to fill it.  If you’re going to cover the Late Show how do you justify not including The Late, Late Show which is often funnier and even more inventive?  Pretty soon it’s not dark anymore and the birdies are singing and I hate that, especially when I have a morning shift of things to write which even today happens more frequently than I might wish and at some points left me without sleep for days except for brief naps which are no substitute.

Also 5 days a week, not 4.

Additionally I’m just really not that interested in celebrity gossip and the constant whoring of their new projects.  You may object and say Jon and Stephen do it too and you are quite correct.  It’s my least favorite part of the program.  With a network talk show it is the program and the monologues and bits are simply there to keep you awake long enough that you can drift off to dreamland with the constant murmuring of buy, buy, buy sleep conditioning you until your alarm goes off and your screen is filled with people who are waaay too perky talking to the same celebrities you saw the night before, only packaged as news with recipes, weather, and ‘human’ interest, along with the one or two tragedies that are deemed worthy by ‘suits’ with the attention span of a gnat, a corporatist agenda, a thin Rolodex of the sluttiest self promoting attention hounds in D.C., and a remote crew who ‘better get some god damn pictures on the air, these things cost a lot of money you know’.

The television business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.

Oh, how do they do it?  Do they simply stay up partying?  Well, some do, but mostly they pre-tape the late night stuff.

And now we come to my substantive criticism.

It’s been argued that Dave has a liberal bias and not only by Faux Noise types, many people who call themselves ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ think that too.  Certainly, as I mentioned in Part One, Jay Leno’s style of humor appeals to the conservative type.  It is safe and predictable and designed to make you feel superior because of it’s predictability.  That which is not conservative is liberal Q.E.D..

But the thing is, late night talk is neither conservative nor liberal.  I’m sure Jay would point to the many times he gave the Republicans a zinger, just as Dave would the Democrats.  Here for instance is Politico’s list of Dave’s most memorable political guests.

The primary purpose of these shows isn’t even comedy, let alone political.  It is to push product.  They are hour long infomercials and you don’t put cash in the drawer by pissing off your audience.

So you get what Jon Stewart’s audience derisively calls being fair and balanced.  You don’t push hard because your booker won’t let you.  Do you really want to tear up Bill Cosby’s card by asking about the rapes?  Do you want to get booted from the locker room by asking Brady about his balls (sorry, been saving that one)?  The business that we call show says no.  As funny and entertaining as David Letterman is, what he represents is the mainstream that has been so warped by 55 years of Military Industrial Imperialism and 40 years of Neo-Liberal Economics that they wouldn’t know a liberal idea if it bit them in the ass.  This is why I call myself an Anarcho-Syndicalist and not a Liberal, even though my political thinking is thoroughly grounded by my primary education in American History and Civics.  My character is static.  

This is of course my greatest disappointment about Stephen Colbert’s coming tenure on Late Show.  By inhabiting the character of a right wing pundit he was able to expose the hypocrisy, moral bankruptcy, and intellectual incoherence of their positions.  With out his ironic protection any criticism will have to be expressed more directly, with more danger to his career.  Will he be brave enough?  Brave or not the format mitigates against it.  Late Night is not an hour long Colbert Report, you get 10 to 15 minutes of standup, a bit, 2 or 3 guests, and a musical guest.  Now hopefully Stephen will be able to bring on the kind of thought provoking and knowledgeable ones he had on The Report, at least for the 2nd one, there’s certain to be a lot of pressure from the Sea World class of advertisers to avoid controversy entirely.

Finally, will I miss Dave?  Of course I will.  I was a Letterman fan long before it was cool and while my viewing habits have been inconstant, ratings are not the reason he’s retiring.

It was comforting to know that in some little corner of TVLand Dave was out there, doing wacky things.  That he was still able to pack a theater every night.  That he would take it to the streets and didn’t exist in an air conditioned plastic bubble in the middle of the desert talking to air conditioned plastic bubble people about their air conditioned plastic bubble lives.  I’ll miss Paul Schaeffer and Biff Henderson and Chris Elliott and Calvert DeForest.

Will I miss Dave?  More than I hope you’ll ever know.

In attendence tonight-

Some of whom will be involved in Dave’s last Top Ten List.

Roasting the Chicken Farm Industry

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

On HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver took the chicken industry over the coals for a thorough roasting, uncovering facts that the public may not have known, the exploitation of contract chicken farmers, most of whom living below the poverty line.

As they satiate America’s vast, gnawing chicken hunger, the four big poultry companies use a system of contract farmers that leaves many of those actually raising the chickens taking on debt and living below the poverty line. With a business model that sees farmers taking on all the expenses of equipment and infrastructure – subject to frequent demands for upgrades – while the corporations own the actual chickens, “That essentially means you own everything that costs money, and we own everything that makes money,” Oliver notes. To make matters worse, he reports that the big poultry companies are known to retaliate against any farmers speaking out against the practices.

Toward the end of the segment, Oliver gets into the legislative meat of the issue: although protective rules for poultry farmers have been written, they are not enforced, thanks to a rider inserted into the agriculture appropriations bill that forbids the USDA from enforcing the rules. Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur introduced a measure forbidding such retaliation, which failed to pass the House Appropriations Committee the first time around. But since the committee is meeting again next month and Kaptur might propose her provision once again, Oliver has a solution.

Introducing the 51 voting members of the committee, Oliver suggests citizens engage in a particularly delectable form of rumor-mongering for those who don’t vote in favor of Kaptur’s provision: “Because chickenfucker accusations do not come off a Wikipedia page easily.”