Friday, February 13, 2009

Stimulus is on the way, the GOP is history.

At I write this the House has voted 246 to 183 to pass the $787 billion stimulus bill. Now it heads to the Senate where passage is expected (unless any of the three GOP Senators needed to pass it there suddenly has a change of heart).

Not one Republican voted for the bill in the House. Let that fact not be forgotten as this stimulus goes along. This is the Party that just voted themselves into the political wilderness for decades to come.

The NYT reports GOP minoroty leader John Boner "lamented that a bill that was supposed to be about 'jobs, jobs, jobs' had turned into one that was about 'spending, spending, spending.'
'We owe it to the people to get this bill right,' Mr. Boehner said."

Right, because they've done such a great job of getting anything right the past eight years! What a joke!

And let us not forget the 6 Democrats that voted to let our country do down the toilet:

Bright, Bobby (D-AK)DeFazio, Peter (D-OR) (New NAY vote. Voted YEA on H.R. 1 two weeks ago)Griffith, Parker (D-AK)Minnick, Walter (D-ID)Peterson, Collin (D-MN)Shuler, Heath (D-NC)Taylor, Gene (D-MS). (House Clerk)

So much for bi-partisanship. We very quickly went from "post-partisanship," to bi-partisanship, to no partisanship. Fom now on OHB just needs to bypass the entirely. Fuck them, you don't need them Barack.

Frank Schaeffer wrote an open letter to OHB at Huffington Post:

"As a former lifelong Republican, son of a co-founder of the Religious Right; my late evangelical leader father, Francis Schaeffer, I'm in a unique position to tell you a few things about the Republicans from inside perspective . . .

The lack of cooperation you're getting from the Republican Party will continue. You were right to indulge in a little bit of tokenism when you had to Pastor Rick Warren pray at your inauguration. But if you think that the Republicans in Congress and the Senate are going to do more than their utmost to obstruct everything you are and what you stand for you're dreaming . . .

. . . Allow me to explain something: the Republican Party is controlled by two ideological groups. First, is the Religious Right. Second, are the neoconservatives. Both groups share one thing in common: they are driven by fear and paranoia. Between them there is no Republican "center" for you to appeal to, just two versions of hate-filled extremes . . . [Just wait and see who they put up against Specter in two years!]

There's only one thing that makes sense for you now. Mr. President, you need to forget a bipartisan approach and get on with the business of governing by winning each battle. You will never be able to work with the Republicans because they hate you. Believe me, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are the norm not the exception . . ."


Thursday, February 12, 2009

FYI: The most viewed posts to date.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another bizarre twist in the Binyam Mohamed case.

The Guardian:

"US defence officials are preventing Barack Obama from seeing evidence that a former British resident held in Gantanmao Bay has been tortured, the prisoner's lawyer said last night . . . In the letter to the president [PDF] , Stafford Smith urges him to order the disclosure of the evidence.

Stafford Smith tells Obama he should be aware of the 'bizarre reality' of the situation. 'You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by US personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command.'

It is understood US defence officials might have censored the evidence to protect the president from criminal liability or political embarrassment."

So, in other words, the Pentagon is either trying to provide Obama with "plausible deniability," or someone is trying to protect BushCo from prosecution. In either case, what kind of popcorn stand is Obama running here?

Last I checked, he was the commander in chief.

And speaking of state's secrets: Remember the Obama administration is backing BushCo's stand in the case before the ninth circuit in San Fransisco regarding the torture of -- guess who -- Binyam Mohamed.

From the Empty Wheel:

"Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler (NY-08), Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Thomas Petri (WI-6), House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-14), Bill Delahunt (MA-10) and Zoe Lofgren (CA-16) today reintroduced legislation that would ensure meaningful judicial determination of the state secrets privilege. The bi-partisan State Secret Protection Act of 2009 would curb abuse of the privilege while providing protection for valid state secrets.

'The Administration's decision this week to adopt its predecessor's argument that the state secret privilege requires the outright dismissal of a case challenging rendition to torture was a step in the wrong direction and a reminder that legislation is required to ensure meaningful review of the state secret privilege,' said Rep. Nadler.

'This important bill recognizes that protecting sensitive information is an important responsibility for any administration and requires that courts protect legitimate state secrets while preventing the premature and sweeping dismissal of entire cases. The right to have one's day in court is fundamental to protecting basic civil liberties and it must not be sacrificed to overbroad claims of secrecy.'"

I'd say we're in desperate need of some congressional oversight and the imposition of the rule of law, at this point, if the above story is any indication.

Binyam Mohammed (dangerous criminal) to be released from Gitmo.

The Guardian:

"Binyam Mohamed, the UK resident detained in Guantanamo Bay, is to be visited by a British police doctor and could be returned to Britain shortly, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, said today.

The US authorities had agreed to treat Mohamed's case as ' priority'' Miliband said, enabling Britain to work with Washington for 'a swift resolution'.

British diplomats have been given permission to see Mohamed and make preparations for his release and flight back to the UK."

Not that the political brew-haha going on in the UK and the possibilty of him dying while refusing food might have had any baring on this sudden rush to resolve his case.

The Guardian:

"Allegations that Mohamed was tortured were at the heart of a legal row last week after high court judges complained that Miliband had used national security grounds to block the public release of documents relating to his case. Mohamed's lawyers say his health has been damaged by hunger strikes in protest at his continued incarceration."

So, hunger strikes do work.

What the hell is wrong with spending $200 Mil. on re-sodding the National Mall?

Seriously. How much do the Republicans hate our country?

The Mall has been a national disgrace for decades. As a percentage of the federal budget, $200 mil. is a drop in the bucket to make our National Mall look like something approaching the grandeur we supposedly ascribe to our nation's Capital (and, perhaps, giving some of the homeless vets living rough in DC some gainful employment, which they are always looking for)!

I understand the Republicans hate everything to do with the notion of federalism, therefore, the symbol of that federalism should be torn down at every turn, including making our cherished Mall look like an Appalachian trailer park, but the Democratic majority -- the Party the nation overwhelmingly elected into power -- shouldn't be squeamish about insisting on finally doing something about not making the show-piece of America look like a scene out of Logan's Run, for Christ's Sake!

The only thing missing at this point is a '49 Ford pickup sitting on cinder blocks in front of the Lincoln Monument!!!

The disconnect between the people we send to DC to do our business and the people that actually live in the city, is just stunning. Our glorious leaders never leave their limos (zipping back and forth around the federal district with motorcade protection) long enough to ever to go out and actually look at the crappy city that's crumbling around them.

Shame on them!

I guess, though, that initial House appropriation is off the table now, because it's so damn embarrassing. Condoms and grass, tax and spend liberals. Run and hide little liberals! Lush Bingbang has spoken!

Monday, February 09, 2009

The change in administration has no bearing: Renditions A-OK!

The NYT reports the Obama administration's Justice Department has decided to stay the course in extraordinary renditions and keep all records about it secret. On Monday Obama's DOJ let everyone down in front of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by citing executive privilage to hide what happened to Binyam Mohamed, the guy the Morracans tortured at the UK's behest, discussed in previous post. (Re: sliced penis.)

The ACLU's background on Mohamed:

"In July of 2002, Ethiopian native Binyam Mohamed was taken from Pakistan to Morocco on a Gulfstream V aircraft registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as N379P. Flight and logistical support services for this aircraft were provided by Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. In Morocco, Mohamed was handed over to agents of Moroccan intelligence who detained and tortured him for the next 18 months. In 2004, Mohamed was rendered to a secret U.S. detention facility in Afghanistan.

Flight and logistical support services for this aircraft, a Boeing 737 business jet, were also provided by Jeppesen. In Afghanistan Mohamed was tortured and inhumanely treated by United States officials. Later that same year Mohamed was rendered a third time by U.S. officials, this time to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba where he is presently (on hunger strike)."

The NYT:

"In the case, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian native, and four other detainees filed suit against a subsidiary of Boeing for arranging flights for the Bush administration’s 'extraordinary rendition' program, in which terrorism suspects were taken secretly to other countries and tortured. The Bush administration argued that the case should be dismissed because even discussing it in court could present a threat to national security and relations with other nations

President Obama had harshly criticized the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees during the campaign, and has broken with the previous administration on such questions as whether to keep open the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But a lawyer for the government, Douglas N. Letter, made the same state-secrets argument on Monday, startling several judges on the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

'Is there anything material that has happened' that might have caused the Justice Department to shift its views, asked Judge Mary M. Schroeder, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, coyly referring to the recent election.

'No, your honor,' Mr. Letter replied.

'The change in administration has no bearing?' she asked.

'No, your honor,' he said once more. The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been 'thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration,' and 'these are the authorized positions,' he said . . .

Ben Wizner, a lawyer for the A.C.L.U., told the judges that many of the facts that the government is trying to keep secret are scarcely secret at all, since the administration’s rendition program and the particulars of many of the cases have been revealed in the news media and in the work of government investigations from around the world. 'The only place in the world where these claims can’t be discussed,' Mr. Wizner said, 'is in this courtroom.'"

Last Thursday, an NYT editorial wrote that this case was the first test of OHB's commitment to restoring the rule of law:

"The Bush administration’s claim is that the 'very subject matter' of the suit is a state secret. We can understand why the Bush team would not want evidence of illegal detentions and torture presented in court, but the argument is preposterous.

To begin with, there is a growing body of public information about the C.I.A.’s rendition, detention and coercive interrogation programs. More profoundly, the argument that any litigation touching upon foreign intelligence operations is categorically off limits to judicial scrutiny is an affront to the constitutional separation of powers.

It is also contrary to Mr. Obama’s stated views. To put them into action, Mr. Holder should immediately ask the court for time to rethink the government’s position and to file a new brief. Instead of trying to automatically shut down any judicial review of these issues, the Obama administration should propose that judges examine actual documents or other specific evidence for which the state secrets privilege is invoked, and redact them as needed to protect legitimate secrets."


Full film here.


While Obama fiddles: On a sliced penis and hunger strikes at Gitmo.

Two items of note here.

1) The Telegraph reports that, according to secret British documents, UK resident and current Gitmo inmate, Binyam Mohamed, was tortured by Morracan interrogators while British MI6 agents peppered them with questions for him.

A British judge just ruled that the documents couldn't be released because "the Bush Administration 'had threatened to withhold intelligence cooperation with Britain if the information were made public.'

According to the Telegraph’s sources, the documents describe particularly gruesome interrogation tactics:

"The 25 lines edited out of the court papers contained details of how Mr Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, 'is very far down the list of things they did,' the official said.

Another source familiar with the case said: 'British intelligence officers knew about the torture and didn’t do anything about it.'"

The rub here is that this is a major political scandal in the making for the Labour Party.

The Telegraph:

"David Davis, the former shadow home secretary who first highlighted the case, said: 'What has become clear is that the information being held back is not protecting the American government who have made a clean breast of their involvement in torture, but the British government, where at least two cabinet ministers have denied any complicity whatsoever. 'It is very clear who stands to be embarrassed by this and who is being protected by this secrecy. It is not the Americans, it is Labour ministers.'"

But never mind all that, it's time to look to the future. OHB says he's going to shut down Gitmo at some point or another. Meanwhile, though, there are 42 Gitmo inmates on hunger strike:

2.) Hunger Strike at Gitmo:


"'We have 42 hunger strikers,' said Captain Pauline Storum, spokesperson for the facility, who said the figure includes 31 detainees being force-fed . . .

The feeding process is administered by registered nurses and is conducted in a humane manner focused on the care of the detainee, as well as protection of medical personnel and the guard force," she said.

'Practitioners use industry standard equipment and procedures -- the same that may be found in any civilian healthcare facility,' she said."

Uh huh . . . Enter the "Padded Cell on Wheels."

The NYT reported in 2006 the so-called "industry standard equipment" being employed is a restraint chair and the "procedures" include stuffing a hose down the hunger striker's nose. Fawzi al-Odeh, a Kuwaiti detainee, according to his lawyer "said he heard 'screams of pain' from a hunger striker in the next cell as a thick tube was inserted into his nose.

"Another lawyer, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, said one of his three Bahraini clients, Jum'ah al-Dossari, told him about 10 days ago that more than half of a group of 34 long-term hunger strikers had abandoned their protest after being strapped in restraint chairs and having their feeding tubes inserted and removed so violently that some bled or fainted . . .

'He said that during these force feedings too much food was given deliberately, which caused diarrhea and in some cases caused detainees to defecate on themselves,' Mr. Colangelo-Bryan added."

In a telephone interview yesterday, the manufacturer of the so-called Emergency Restraint Chair, Tom Hogan, said his small Iowa company shipped five $1,150 chairs to Guantánamo on Dec. 5 and 20 additional chairs on Jan. 10, using a military postal address in Virginia. Mr. Hogan said the chairs were typically used in jails, prisons and psychiatric hospitals to deal with violent inmates or patients."

Just like in "any civilian healthcare facility."

Force feeding is moral?


"'There is a moral question,' the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., said in an interview. 'Do you allow a person to commit suicide? Or do you take steps to protect their health and preserve their life?'

Dr. Winkenwerder said that after a review of the policy on involuntary feeding last summer Pentagon officials came to the basic conclusion that it was ethical to stop the inmates from killing themselves. 'The objective in any circumstance is to protect and sustain a person's life," he said.'"

The good doctor ought to talk to a lawyer about that. The International Committee of the Red Cross says:

"The issue of force-feeding constitutes the link with situations of coercion and torture. As is well known, the World Medical Association (WMA) Declaration of Tokyo of 1975 prohibits any participation in torture, whether actively, passively or through use of medical knowledge, by a medical doctor. Article 5 of the Tokyo Declaration also stipulates that prisoners on hunger strikes shall not be force-fed, though few doctors know exactly why this clause is included. One common interpretation is that force-feeding is viewed as a form of torture . . .

In cases of real voluntary total fasting, usually by politically motivated prisoners or prisoners supporting a specific cause, be it ethnic, religious or otherwise, there may be a will to go all the way' and accept the physiological consequences of a prolonged fast.

In countries where prisoners’ rights are not fully respected or even completely disregarded, and where torture is practised; hunger strikes may be a last resort for prisoners wanting to protest against their situation."

I'd say for most of the detainees at Gitmo, after six years of detention without being charged with a crime, and having no hope of ever being released (never mind the penis slicing) they're pretty much out of options for protest beyond refusing to eat. What I want to know is if the "Emergency Restraint Chair" is still in use, and if it is, what Obama is doing about stopping its use. If he condones this type of illegal brutal tactic for breaking a perfectly legitimate form of protest, then he's buying into BushCo's crimes and tarnishing his reputation just as badly.

What difference has this made?

[Read my previous post on this subject from Feb.18 2006 at LTAD.]

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