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Latest Featured Reports | Friday, August 22, 2014
Ryan Ignores, Dismisses Elderly Voter's Question About His Medicare Cuts
2012 GOP Veep nom and 2016 Presidential hopeful has charming way of winning friends and influencing elderly voters in FL...
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The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...


By Sibel Edmonds on 5/22/2009 4:19pm PT  

Guest Editorial by Sibel Edmonds

"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;

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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AUDIO BONUS: Brad on KGO last night with Hannity-like, torture-loving wingnut callers aplenty
LATE UPDATE: Olbermann donates $10k to charity on behalf of Mancow, rescinds offer to 'coward Hannity,' who is 'now unnecessary'
By Brad Friedman on 5/22/2009 1:30pm PT  

Via RAW STORY...

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.

MP3 Download, or listen online (appx 35 mins)...

* * *

Update: My VelvetRevolution.us colleague Kevin Zeese writes in to note that his coverage of the same news item at Voters For Peace, also includes a video of Vanity Fair's Christopher Hitchens being waterboard in February of 2008, to similar result as "Mancow's." He also lasts about 5 seconds under waterboarding by friendly torturers.


UPDATE 5/23/09: And this just in via ThinkProgress...

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...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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MSM cover; AP helps mislead, misinform...
By Brad Friedman on 5/18/2009 11:48am PT  

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.

[Disclosure: The BRAD BLOG is co-founder of VelvetRevolution.us]

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!


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By Brad Friedman on 5/15/2009 2:11pm PT  

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)...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Military Torture, Legal Fig Leaves & Premature Exculpation...
By Ernest A. Canning on 5/6/2009 12:07pm PT  

Guest Blogged by Ernest A. Canning
Part I of a Five-Part Special Series
(Part II is now here. Part III is now here. Part IV is now here. Part V is now here.)

"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...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Governor: 'Civil union is not equal to civil marriage'...
By Brad Friedman on 5/6/2009 11:09am PT  

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.

Said Baldacci upon signing:

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.

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Update: Pulitzer Prize Winner: Bush must have been 'Just kidding'...
By Brad Friedman on 4/28/2009 3:05pm PT  

George W. Bush just before the invastion of Iraq:

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...

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Sending them out to chase shadows...
By Ernest A. Canning on 4/27/2009 11:12am PT  

Opinion by guest blogger, Ernest A. Canning

Keith Olbermann was astonished (full video below):

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...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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There has to be a morning-after pill...
By Brad Friedman on 4/26/2009 10:46pm PT  

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...

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By Brad Friedman on 4/25/2009 8:56am PT  

Reagan on torture prosecution, via Andrew Sullivan, from the days before George W. Bush decided how to use signing statements for evil, rather than good...

From his signing statement ratifying the UN Convention on Torture from 1984:

"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?

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By Brad Friedman on 4/24/2009 1:16pm PT  

Hope? David Swanson reported last night that the AG "made [him] a promise":

As Attorney General Eric Holder left an appropriations subcommittee hearing on Thursday I spoke loudly from the third row as he prepared to leave the room:

"We need a special prosecutor for torture, Mr. Attorney General. Americans like the rule of law. The rule of law for everybody."

He replied as he approached and walked by, surrounded by bodyguards:

"And you will be proud of your country."

I was joined by others in replying simultaneously:

"Yes, we want to be proud of our country. We're ready. No need to wait."

Holder knew exactly what it would take for me to be proud of my country, and he told me directly that I would be.

Will I? Time will tell.

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...

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The harsh realities of torture and following orders are quite different from the fictional world of Hollywood's anti-terror warriors, says a noted former FBI Special Agent and 9/11 whistleblower...
By Coleen Rowley on 4/24/2009 11:09am PT  

Guest Blogged by Coleen Rowley, FBI whistleblower, TIME's 2002 'Person of the Year'

Back in December 2007, when I wrote "Torture is Wrong, Illegal and It Doesn't Work," I mentioned that "the FBI agent who reportedly had the best chance of foiling the 9/11 plot, Ali Soufan, the only Arabic-speaking agent in New York and one of only eight in the country, and who has since resigned from the FBI, could and should tell people the truth of how the CIA's tactics were counterproductive."

Well guess what?! HE FINALLY DID SO ON WEDNESDAY! The points Soufan makes are very instructive as our country begins to unravel the differences between the fictional world of Hollywood's "Jack Bauer," and the real world dilemmas and questions of morality and legality as faced by actual intelligence and law enforcement officers.

"My Tortured Decision" is how former FBI Agent Soufan titled his New York Times op-ed, speaking out to specifically refute a number of Dick Cheney's lies about how torture "worked." The truth, according to Soufan, is quite the opposite from how Cheney continues to paint it...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Fox 'News' host goes ballistic. Thank you...
By Brad Friedman on 4/23/2009 2:38pm PT  

Shepard Smith's days at Fox "News" may have to be numbered at this point. Even the filthy Judith Miller, for Chrissakes, is joining him in being appalled by the torture memos.

"If there was torture, there was a crime. If there was a crime, there were criminals who ordered the torture," he says to the reprehensible apologist Clifford May before he and Miller both concur that these "horrendous techniques are illegal"...


But later, Smith completely blows his stack on Fox's online-only show The Strategy Room, pounding on the table and SHOUTING: "We are America! I don't give a rat's ass if it helps! We are America! We do not fucking torture!!!":

(Hat-tips HuffPo and RAW STORY.)

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For that matter, why didn't Condoleezza Rice?...
By Brad Friedman on 4/22/2009 4:56pm PT  

The former State Department adviser to Condoleezza Rice and executive director of the 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow, disclosed at Foreign Policy's Shadow Government yesterday that he offered a dissenting view to the torture memos and policies of the Bush Administration. (Ernie Canning discussed those memos and policies in detail here this morning.)

Zelikow not only dissented from the party line, admirably, but he also learned at one point that while the administration disagreed with his opinion, they were taking it a step further by actually going out of their way to destroy all copies of his memo. As he explained at FP yesterday:

At the time, in 2005, I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn't entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable. My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views. They did more than that: The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department's archives.

While it's admirable, I suppose, that he's finally speaking up to reveal that at least someone in the Bush Administration dissented from their tortured legal justifications for war crimes, the question must be raised as to why Zelikow didn't simply resign when it became clear that the administration was going far beyond simply disagreeing with him. They were stepping over what would seem to clearly be the line of legality, by actually destroying (or attempting to), all copies of his opinion.

Surely that was a red flag that something was gravely amiss there, no?

Zelikow was on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show last night (complete video and transcript below), and she asked directly if he'd considered resigning at that point. But I find his answer rather unsatisfying, in my opinion...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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The Case for 'Looking Forward' to the Impeachment of Jay S. Bybee...
By Ernest A. Canning on 4/22/2009 9:48am PT  

Guest Blogged by Ernest A. Canning

At the same time he took a step forward, releasing the four Justice Department torture memos he described as a "dark and painful chapter in our history," President Barack Obama assured CIA employees, who tortured under cover of these quasi-legal sophistries, they would not be prosecuted. The President said this was "a time for reflection, not retribution...nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past." White House Press Secretary Robert Gibb explained that the President insisted on "looking forward." U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder not only seconded the President's promise not to prosecute, but vowed to provide legal counsel to defend these war criminals and to pay the damages awarded to their victims.

Great Britain's Times Online, quoting an unnamed former official, suggested there may be cases where the CIA exceeded the DOJ guidelines; perhaps even killed detainees. The President's hint at immunity does not extend to officials who exceeded the guidelines. Although the President, in his remarks, made no mention of those who ordered torture, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told ABC's George Stephanopoulos last Sunday that the President did not believe "those who devised the policy" should "be prosecuted."

The President's promise not to prosecute generated a firestorm of protest from the legal community. Law Professor Jonathan Turley blasted the effort to equate law enforcement with "retribution."

He is trying to lay the ground work for principle when he is doing an unprincipled thing....President Obama himself has said that waterboarding is torture, and torture itself violates four treaties and is considered a war crime. So the refusal to allow it to be investigated is to obstruct a war crimes investigation.…There aren't any convenient or inconvenient times to investigate war crimes. You don't have a choice....You have an obligation to do it, and what I think the President is desperately trying to do is to sell this idea that somehow it's a principled thing not to investigate war crimes because its going to be painful…It will be politically unpopular because an investigation will go directly to the doorstep of President Bush…and there's not going to be a lot of defenses that can be raised for ordering a torture program.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) who serves on a House Intelligence Sub-Committee, added fuel to the firestorm by contrasting the President's advancement of the "I was only following orders" defense to the principles our nation applied at Nuremberg after WWII. Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said the President's refusal to prosecute violates the UN Convention Against Torture.

Before discussing the refreshing news that we have a President who, in the face of such a powerful critique, is not afraid to reverse course, let's consider what it means to "look forward" given that the principle author of these torture memos, Judge Jay S. Bybee, now sits on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal, passing judgments on others. Absent incapacity or impeachment, there he will stay for the rest of his life...

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