Remember, these are 'the worst of the worst,' right?
Mohammed El-Gharani, the youngest prisoner at Gitmo, just 14 when he was captured in 2001, is finally being "freed five months after a U.S. federal judge ordered him released having reviewed the evidence against him and ruled that there was nothing to suggest he was ever an 'enemy combatant.'" El-Gharani has never been charged.
Andy Worthington, the man who literally wrote the book on the Guantanamo travesties, offers the sad background on the breaking news of the release of “Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child,” including details of alleged abuse such as being hanged by his wrists, and scissors held to his penis with threats of cutting it off. But we're supposed to look forward, not back, right?...
"Americans think that it’s healthcare that produces health, when there really is very little evidence for that. What turns out to be really important is the nature of caring and sharing in society….Where societies are more equal --- and economic equality is the thing that is most important in this --- people look after each other…and pretty well everyone does better. There’s almost nothing that is better in a society that tolerates the extreme levels of inequality in the United States. And so, we end up dying younger than people in all the other rich countries, despite spending half the world’s healthcare bill." - Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, March 30, 2009
"Who are we? Is this what we have become --- a nation that dumps people off like garbage who can't pay their hospital bills?" - Michael Moore, following a segment in which a confused elderly woman in a flimsy hospital gown is dumped curbside near a Skid Row rescue mission, in his documentary Sicko!*
In Failed States (2006), Prof. Noam Chomsky, a preeminent linguist and one of this nation’s most prolific political writers, concludes that the U.S. suffers from a “democracy deficit” --- the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected representatives --- which he attributes to the manner in which “elections are skillfully managed to avoid issues and marginalize the underlying population…freeing the elected leadership to serve the substantial people.”
The deficit is especially acute in what Chomsky describes as “the most dysfunctional healthcare system in the industrial world.” Chomsky notes that a single-payer system --- that is a system in which all medical providers would be paid by a government entity as now occurs with Medicare --- has long been overwhelmingly favored by “a considerable majority” of the American people, but routinely dismissed by both the corporate media and the leaders of both political parties as “lacking political support” and not being “politically possible.”
The issue touches on the core contradictions which arise because we have allowed private authoritarian entities, corporations, to subvert democracy by controlling our economy, our mass media and the manner in which we conduct elections.
This piece will focus on the irrationality of a privatized health care system which values the wealth of a handful of CEOs of the parasitic and entirely unnecessary middle-men --- for-profit carriers and HMOs --- over the health and very lives of our people. It will explain what corporate America and their bought-and-paid-for politicians do not want you to hear...
Waytago, New Hampshire! We've now got six states in the union who respect the conservative principle of Equal Protection for all as written into our U.S. Constitution. At least in the case of marriage (we'll talk about that whole election mess at another time). The rest of you 44 America-hating states comin' aboard soon?
BTW, for those of you making summer travel plans this year, might I recommend spending some money in New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine or Iowa? I understand they're all lovely this time of year!
The California Supreme Court today let stand Proposition 8, continuing marriage discrimination in California. The Court refused to undo the 18,000 marriages that same-sex couples celebrated in 2008, so that those couples remain married even while other California couples are, for now, barred from joining in marriage.
Supporters of equal rights for all are expected to push for yet another (and hopefully clearer!) ballot initiative to overturn the discriminatory Prop 8 in the near future.
"In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill...we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one." --- Plato
During the campaign, amid their state of elation, many disregarded Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama's past record and took any criticism of these past actions as partisan attacks deserving equally partisan counterattacks. Some continued their reluctant support after candidate Obama became grand finalist and prayed for the best. And a few still continue their rationalizing and defense, with illogical excuses such as 'He's been in office for only 20 days, give the man a break!' and 'He's had only 50 days in office, give him a chance!' and currently, 'be reasonable - how much can a man do in 120 days?!' I am going to give this logic, or lack of, a slight spicing of reason, then, turn it around, and present it as: If 'the man' can do this much astounding damage, whether to our civil liberties, or to our notion of democracy, or to government integrity, in 'only' 120 days, may God help us with the next [(4 X 365) - 120] days.
I know there are those who have been tackling President Obama's changes on change; they have been challenging his flipping, or rather flopping, on issues central to getting him elected. While some have been covering the changes comprehensively, others have been running right and left like headless chickens in the field - pick one hypocrisy, scream a bit, then move on to the next outrageous flop, the same, and then to the next, basically, looking and treating this entire mosaic one piece at a time.
Despite all the promises Mr. Obama made during his campaign, especially on those issues that were absolutely central to those whose support he garnered, so far the President of Change has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor. Not only that, his administration has made it clear that they intend to continue this trend. Some call it a major betrayal. Can we go so far as to call it a 'swindling of the voters'?
On the State Secrets Privilege
Yes, I am going to begin with the issue of State Secrets Privilege; because I was the first recipient of this 'privilege' during the now gone Administration;
Chicago radio host Erich "Mancow" Muller decided he'd get himself waterboarded to prove the technique wasn't torture.
It didn't turn out that way. "Mancow," in fact, lasted just six or seven seconds before crying foul. Apparently, the experience went pretty badly --- "Witnesses said Muller thrashed on the table, and even instantly threw the toy cow he was holding as his emergency tool to signify when he wanted the experiment to stop," according to NBC Chicago.
"I wanted to prove it wasn't torture," Mancow said. "They cut off our heads, we put water on their face...I got voted to do this but I really thought 'I'm going to laugh this off.' "
The upshot? "It is way worse than I thought it would be, and that's no joke," Mancow told listeners. "It is such an odd feeling to have water poured down your nose with your head back...It was instantaneous...and I don't want to say this: absolutely torture."
So far, it's been almost a full month since Fox "News"/ABC Radio propagandist Sean Hannity volunteered to be waterboarded for charity, claiming it was not torture. Despite MSNBC's Keith Olbermann offering $1000 for the troops, for every second Hannity lasts, the cowardly wingnut torture apologists has failed to revisit the topic since his original act of phony bravado.
See "Mancow" being waterboarded, and then commenting on it, in the two very short videos below. And remember, unlike the detainees that we tortured, he was not being waterboarded by hostile folks, and was able to call it off at any time, on his own...
* * *
On a related topic... I was on San Francisco's usually very rightwing radio station KGO last night, with the progressive Christine Craft sitting in as late-night host. Lots of similarly cowardly wingnuts called in to inform us that waterboarding isn't torture at all. Here's the audio. Enjoy.
Last night on Countdown, Olbermann announced that he was rescinding the offer to Hannity, and instead giving $10,000 to charity following radio host Erich “Mancow” Muller’s waterboarding attempt. Olbermann promised to donate to the charity Veterans of Valor, founded by Sgt. Klay South, who administered the waterboarding to Muller. Olbermann revealed that Mancow’s publicist had contacted Olbermann’s show yesterday to see whether Olbermann would make a similar offer to Mancow as he did for Hannity:
OLBERMANN: Mancow Muller had the guts to put his mouth where his mouth was, and the guts to admit he was dead wrong. As you saw, he not only said it is torture, but that he had nearly drowned as a boy, and it is drowning, and that he would have admitted to anything to make it stop.
So the offer to the coward Hannity — a thousand dollars a second he lasted on the waterboard — is withdrawn.
And to Mr. Muller, whose station’s publicity person contacted us yesterday saying she’d heard I’d offered ten thousand dollars to anybody who would do what he did –
You got it. Ten thousand dollars to the military-families charity of the man who did the waterboarding, Veterans Of Valor. [...]
As to Hannity, you are now unnecessary.
UPDATE 5/29/09: Olbermann interviews Mancow after his waterboarding. Video follows below. Here's a bit of the transcript...
Today, VelvetRevolution.us announced our new campaign calling for the disbarment of 12 of the Bush-era torture lawyers in four states and the District of Columbia. The campaign, whose VR homepage is at DisbarTortureLawyers.com (where you can sign on yourself, read the complaints, etc.), calls for action to be taken by the state bar associations to revoke the law licenses of attorneys John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, Michael Mukasey, Michael Chertoff, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradbury, Douglas Feith, David Addington, William Hayens, and Timothy Flanigan in NY, CA, TX, PA and D.C., following their exceedingly irresponsible and inappropriately liberal interpretation of U.S. law.
My colleague Kevin Zeese, an attorney himself, as well as executive director of VotersForPeace.us and a board member at VR, signed the complaints delivered to the appropriate boards for all 12 Bush attorneys. He announced the launch of the initiative at a press conference in D.C. this morning. His published statement, released today with the press conference, is posted in full here.
So far, the coverage in the corporate mainstream media today has been surprisingly decent and fairly widespread. We've seen reports from NY Times, CNN, LA Times, WaPo, Bloomberg, AP and others.
AP's coverage has been interesting, and instructive, to watch. When they first reported on the initiative early today, the lede on their story was [emphasis mine]:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two outside groups want Bush administration lawyers linked to memos on harsh interrogation techniques of detainees to lose their licenses to practice law.
Their updated version, which included a few more details, but the same headline, "Complaint seeks disbarment of Bush lawyers," had this as its lede [emphasis mine]:
WASHINGTON (AP) — A coalition of liberal groups filed petitions Monday seeking disbarment of Bush administration attorneys linked to memos on harsh interrogation techniques of detainees.
Not sure what makes calling for a strict, conservative interpretation of the Rule of Law, versus the wildly liberal interpretations of the Bush Administration (and that's putting it mildly), a "liberal" cause, but that's what I guess we must come to accept from the news organization --- sorry, let me update that --- rightwing house organ that AP has become.
UPDATE: As I've been asked by a number of media folks for a comment on today's initiative, as co-founder of VR, I've been happy to offer them this statement:
"The wildly liberal interpretations of the rule of law by the Bush administration attorneys, in order to justify their torture schemes, should be offensive to the core, to anyone who believes in a strict, conservative interpretation of decades of established U.S. law on the matter, including treaties signed, on behalf of the U.S., by such conservatives as Ronald Reagan."
UPDATE 5/19/09, 8:44pm PT: AP's short video coverage of Kevin Zeese at the presser yesterday is here. But a more complete version of his statement follows below. Also, a big congrats to our Kevin for being honored with the prestigious BuzzFlash "Wings of Justice" award today for his tremendous effort on this campaign!
These are said to be among the photos of prisoner abuse/torture whose release Obama has determined to block. Some of them were obtained, and posted several years ago, by The Sydney Morning Herald (who have more here).
Remember, these prisoners were captured in the war on Iraq, so even the disingenuous claims of Geneva Conventions not applying cannot be used here.
As Drudge and Rush have (predictably) taken to ridiculing these latest noticed photos of abuse/torture of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. captors, I thought it worth running some of them here, so you could similarly see how "ridiculous" it is to be concerned about this sort of treatment of prisoners on our watch. I'm certain that no U.S. military family would ever object, in the slightest way, were their son or daughter treated this way after being captured by an enemy country.
(We're posting the worst of them below the fold, so those who don't wish to look, don't have to)...
"When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an ever more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy. And, beyond its borders, allies and enemies turn away in collective revulsion." - Prof. Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture (2006).
Truth and justice are essential components of democracy and the rule of law. We cannot move forward unless we honestly examine our past. Accuracy is vital to every decision we make, be it impeachment, prosecution or a restoration of our nation’s honor and integrity.
This is the first in a five-part series of articles which will strive to correct misperceptions arising from the erroneous blending of military and CIA torture. This task has become especially relevant now that the Justice Department's the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), the very section which had issued the torture memos, tasked by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey with investigating itself, has now released a recommendation that none of the authors of the torture memos be prosecuted. This recommendation stands in stark contrast to our nation's post-World War II decision to prosecute German judges for war crimes at Nuremberg.
Part I addresses the relatively public involvement of the U.S. military and private contractors at Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq. It will dispel the notion that the Bush White House sought out independent legal opinions from the OLC before deciding to torture.
Part II will discuss the CIA's dark beginnings, including its recruitment of former Nazis, its devotion to covert "psychological operations" as a founding principle, the experiments on unwitting subjects that were part of a maniacal quest to crack the code of human consciousness, and the scientific studies that led to KUBARK, the CIA's torture manual.
Part III provides a vital historical account of CIA torture applied by surrogates in developing nations as a component of empire, an account that belies the suggestion made by the The New York Times that CIA torture first arose as an aftermath of 9/11.
Part's IV and V will address the CIA's involvement in extraordinary rendition and an ultra-secret system of “black-sites” into which “ghost detainees” would disappear. It will show how the techniques used on "ghost detainees" are the culmination of a half-century of CIA research and practices...
Yet another state backs the conservative, Constitutional principle of equal protection under the law for all, as Maine's Gov. John Baldacci signs the legislature's newly approved bill, allowing for marriage equality in the state.
In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions. I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.
Maine's recognition of equal justice for all, follows Vermont whose legislature last month over-rode a gubernatorial veto to pass a marriage equality law. Prior to that, same sex marriages were recognized as Constitutionally protected by Supreme Courts in Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut and California. In all of the state Supreme Court decisions, it was a Republican-appointee who wrote the majority opinion.
California's court finding has since been overturned by Prop 8, the constitutionality of which is currently being challenged. For the moment then, five states in the union now protect the right of same sex couples to enjoy the same rights that couples of opposite sexes enjoy.
War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, “I was just following orders.”
And let's also not forget what Saint Ronnie similarly said on these matters. Seems to me the Republicans themselves have made a very compelling case for prosecuting war criminals, such as George W. Bush.
UPDATE: Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson on Bush's pre-war statement: "I think the message there is 'just kidding, folks.'" Details, video...
Despite the new wealth of evidence that the Bush administration’s desire to torture suspects was driven by a desire to gin up phony links between Iraq and al Qaeda, not by concerns about another terrorist attack, former Vice President Cheney is sticking to his story that it was all about terrorism. In part II of his interview with Fixed News, the Dark Lord accusing the Obama administration of not believing that the U.S. is threatened by terrorism.
The Fox "News" interview was vintage Cheney. He referred to torture as “a robust interrogation program on detainees” that was vital “to the very existence of the nation.”
CHENEY: What the Obama administration is doing, in effect, is saying that we don’t need those tough policies that we had. That says, either they didn’t work, which we know is not the case—they did work, they kept us safe for seven years...
You have to see a Cheney performance in order to appreciate the effectiveness of Cheney propaganda. Unlike George W. Bush, who was inclined to trip over his own tongue, Cheney has perfected the quiet lie. His words may be false but he delivers them as facts so uncontroversial you’d think he was a local network anchor reporting on traffic conditions...
I was scheduled to be on CNN's new online "Live" format last Thursday, before they knew what the "topic of the day would be". Turned out to be the FDA's approval to allow Plan B, a.k.a "the morning-after pill", to be sold to 17 year-olds after they were ordered by a U.S. District Court to do so. The judge also ordered the FDA to re-evaluate whether all age restrictions should be removed, following a determination that the Bush Administration's FDA had used politics, for years, instead of science, in determining whether Plan B was safe and effective enough to be sold over the counter.
Here's the video from my appearance along with a coupla other bloggers, Rachel Campos Duffy of AOL's parentdish and Gina Cooper from GinaCooper.com (she blogged about her appearance here). No comment on the use of the cutesy "Blogger Bunch" name for the segment, or for the allegation that Brad "leans to the Left" during the intro, even though Rachel, who doesn't "lean", but rather seems to live "on the Right" isn't described as such. But, as I say, no comment on any of that. I look forward to being invited back again soon...
"The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention . It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.
The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called 'universal jurisdiction.' Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."
My italics. Reagan was admant [sic] about prosecuting torture, but also prosecuting inhuman treatment that some might claim was not full-on torture. Now go read National Review or The Weekly Standard. And look what has happened to conservatism in America.
Reagan was, of course, part of the Blame-America-First crowd. Soft on terror. Friend of the evil-doers. Why did Ronald Reagan hate America?
UPDATE 7/11/09: NEWSWEEK reports that Holder "may be on the verge of" and "leaning toward appointing" a prosecutor to investigate Bush/Cheney-era torture. Their story notes that his initial deliberations on this matter seem to have coincided with his comments as noted above. Details on all now here...