Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Bloodthirsty Bitches and Pious Pimps of Power" Gerry's New Book

In case you haven't heard, Gerry has a new book out with a great title: "Bloodthirsty Bitches and Pious Pimps of Power." (The Amazon link is here.)

From a New York blogger named Mickey Z here is a quote from the book....

"I’ve come to believe that the members of Team Hate are what and who they are because of what and who we are. The mirror is always at work. None of our bloodthirsty women and none of our pious pontificators could survive one segment on the tube but for the fact that they are speaking to us, the real us, that is, that part of us that resonates to the rantings of hate ... As we, they are angry because they, too, must have been forgotten, misled, lied to; because they are disappointed and have felt pain; and because their expectations have not been met. They are as trapped as we ... But they have learned to profit from it. We and they were born in the same culture, one that was not of their choosing, nor ours. They, as we, are like children who have grown up in a slaughterhouse and have forgotten the soft touch of a lamb. Might there one day be remembrance."

A wise man once told me it feels today in this country what it must have felt like in Berlin, in 1936, with so much hate in the air. I can't wait to read Gerry's take on the current state of our "union."

Easier to Declare Martial Law?

From the listserve comes this link to an article by the San Francisco Independent Media Center describing a provision in the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007." According to the article this provision...

"allows the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."

I haven't had the time to examine the allegations in the article including a claim that:

"Section 1076 of the massive Authorization Act, which grants the Pentagon another $500-plus-billion for its ill-advised adventures, is entitled, "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies." Section 333, "Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law" states that "the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of ("refuse" or "fail" in) maintaining public order, "in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."

But, could it be that this bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate, is an another instance of the Bush Cabal attaching a provision to a defense appropriation bill, knowing that a vote against it would open the door to charges, like O'Reilly made on Letterman or like Lynne Cheney made against Wolf Blitzer, that if you're not with us, you must be with the terrorists?

Brings to mind the scene in Fahrenheit 9-11 when Rep. John Conyers admits that many votes are conducted without representatives truly knowing what's contained in them?

Here is a link to Sen. Patrick Leahy's Senate website, which includes this statement:

"Also expected to be included in the conference report is a widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the National Guard. The conference committee has made changes the Insurrection Act, which governs when the President can call to action the National Guard without the consent of state governors to restore public order. Under the changes, the President would now be able to invoke the Act during such regular occurring events as a natural disaster. Because posse comitatus restrictions that prevent the military’s involvement in law enforcement do not apply when the Insurrection Act is invoked, the changes would nullify these long-standing laws."

As I said, I haven't had time to examine the actual bill that was signed, significantly, the same day the Military Commissions Act was signed.

But if the article's allegations can be verified, the ramifications are chillling, aren't they?

Brings to mind Bush's remarks, made during Katrina's aftermath, (see this CNN link with the headline "Bush Eyes Bigger Role for Military in Disasters") that Posse Comitatus hindered his ability to respond to a natural disaster. I wondered then, as I do now, that Katrina would be used to tear down these restrictions, opening the door not to natural disaster relief, but to the horrifying disaster of a "Unitary Chief Executive" given the power to label "enemy combatants" and to conscript the National Guard to round up "undesirable" protesters, even over the objections of the nation's governors.

Let's hope this story gets investigated and reported outside of the blogosphere. It's like I always say to my friends who question why I like to work as a public defender: "One day you'll realize why you need those rights and it'll be too late to realize you've surrendered them all in the name of cracking down on criminals."

More on this story later...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Waterboarding is like dunking, isn't it?

Dick Cheney submitted to an "interview" (h/t Glenn Greenwald) with a right-wing talk show host and was hit with hard-hitting questions such as

""Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" In reply to the latter question, Cheney replied: "It's a no-brainer for me""

Who's opposed to a little dunking if it can save lives, really? The "dunking" they're referring though isn't of the same type Foley tried to perform on the pages. They're talking about waterboarding, which can be seen clearly in this video, created by a former U.S. serviceman so we could see what all the fuss was about. Be warned; it's disturbing.

I bring this up because I left this comment at Greenwald's post.

"[x] says waterboarding is "stress but more intense than leaving the lights on."
If you have the stomach for it, here is a link to a video of a former member of the U.S. military who paid to have himself waterboarded (or "dunked" as dick might call it)so we could see what all the fuss was about.

Be warned though. It's difficult to watch, but equally disturbing to realize this is what's being done in our names, and now sanctioned by our representatives."

Apparently this sounded phony as another commenter noted...

"This is sooo phony - like that Michael Fox Democrapic commercial."

He is of course referring to Rush Limbaugh's assertion that Michael J. Fox, who displayed symptoms of his well-documented Parkinson's disease in an ad for the Democratic Senate candidate in Missouri, was putting on an act.

Here's what I wrote back, since it seems a little phony of me to accuse someone who dares act out the symptoms of their debilitating disease in public is faking it.

"[Y]accuses me of being phony for pointing out what waterboarding actually looks like and for commenting that watching it happen, knowing that it was approved by Congress, is sickening.

Then [Y] parrots Rush, saying that Michael J. Fox is being phony, apparently just like me.

On Countdown, discussing Rush's contention that Fox is acting, Sam Seder pointed out that Rush's real role is to insulate his listeners from reality. Thus, in Rush, [X] and [Y]'s world acts that send Japanese soldiers to prison at hard labor become simply "dunking" and waterboarding is just a little more "intense" than leaving the lights on.

Watch the video, and see if you still think it’s funny, or phony.

What's truly phony is describing what's on it as "dunking,” or declaring "we don't torture" while you ask for U.S. law to change to avoid future war crimes prosecutions, or believing that people who display the symptoms of Parkinsons, and who desperately need the medical advances of stem cell research to overcome them, are putting on an act.

Why don't you and Dick go "dunk" each other and see if people who are concerned about still seem phony?"

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Rule of Six

From a suggestion by Alan on the listserve, comes this article by Judy Sorum Brown about a way to think about something perplexing. Since the article says it better than I can...

"When we are trying to figure out something perplexing (for which we often use the term, "a problem"), or when we are facing into uncertainty, it seems natural to our western way of thinking to find the right answer through questions like this: "Exactly what is the cause of this? What's going on here? How are things going to unfold? What is likely to happen? What should be our plan?

Many of the most heated arguments, whether within our own heads, or among colleagues or with family members, are about who has the right answer to the question before us.

The "rule of six," a Native American thinking process or discipline, requires that instead of coming up with the one best answer to the question, we instead come up with at least six possible, or good, answers. And then having done that, we hold all six in our head and do not choose among them.

This is very hard for the Western mind. Even when we think of two possibilities, it is for the implicit purpose of having those two possibilities fight it our, until one wins. Thinking about more than one cause of an event or more than one possibility of an outcome is, in our mind, simply an invitation for us to quickly choose the right one.

The Native tradition, by contrast, holds that there is a generous and open space after we notice something. And that is the space within which to hold many possible interpretations, or causes, or developments.

The ability to hold six possibilities in our mind accomplishes several things. It keeps our perceptions open to a wider range of data; it allows us to be 'systems thinkers' seeking multiple roots of causality in multiple dimensions of a situation; it keeps folks from having to fight with each other about who is right at a time when they should be listening with curiosity to why each other sees things differently.

And since we are not forcing ourselves to invest our ego in a single "best" idea, we naturally become more flexible in our thinking, and if our "favorite" of the possibilities doesn't turn out to be born out by the unfolding of data, we can more easily shift out emotional commitment to another idea which in the course of time has proved stronger; and we can make that shift earlier and more easily.

So in a sense, the rule of six allows us to remain aware and realistic, more flexible in our thinking, present to the world and to the thoughts and perceptions of others, and perhaps even more compassionate with ourselves when we are "of two minds" or more about something."

Why You Need to Read Blogs

This Newsweek Online article, entitled "Are the Faithful Losing Faith?", details the results of the latest Newsweek poll on voting patterns. It describes bad news for the GOP, including a finding that "fifty-five percent of likely voters ... would vote for the Democrat in their district if the election were held today."

Sounds like great news for Democrats, right? However, on the issue of impeachment, the article continues:

"Other parts of a potential Democratic agenda receive less support, especially calls to impeach Bush: 47 percent of Democrats say that should be a “top priority,” but only 28 percent of all Americans say it should be, 23 percent say it should be a lower priority and nearly half, 44 percent, say it should not be done. (Five percent of Republicans say it should be a top priority and 15 percent of Republicans say it should be a lower priority; 78 percent oppose impeachment.)"

So, if you read this article, doesn't it sound as if the "Impeachment Part" of the Democrat's agenda is receiving low support? After all, the polling data regarding impeachment is described in negative terms, such as "receiv[ing] less support," concluding, once again in negative terms, that less than half of Democrats say impeachment should be a "top priority."

In short, the tone of the Newsweek article is that potential calls for impeachment are not being well received.

But, as Glenn Greenwald points out, if we break Newsweek's code, we can easily see that the other side of their conclusion that "44% of all Americans" say impeachment "should not be done" is that a minority of those polled believe this President should not be impeached.

So why isn't this the headline and why do we have to "parse the statement" to get to this finding? After all, this public call to impeach the Bush far exceeds the public call to impeach Clinton. But, like the proper conclusions to draw from the polling data, we have to figure this out on our own.

Looked at another way, the results of this poll are even more astounding. If "28 percent of all Americans" say impeachment should be top priority and , 23 percent "say it should be a lower priority," why doesn't Newsweek point out that a majority of those polled believe this President should be impeached. After all they agree on impeachment, but differ only on how much of a priority it should be.

But we have to break their code to figure this out!

Tragically, most readers of Newsweek's "Online Exclusive" poll would have missed this analysis and would likely have walked away thinking, as the article implied, that impeachment wasn't playing well in Palookaville.

To get to what wasn't stated, but what was clearly true, you had to read between the lines, or go to a blog that had already done so. That's why I go straight to blogs, like Greenwald's or Digby's, rather than trying to read between the lines of the corporate media sites.

What makes finding the right blogs, amongst a sea of bad ones, is that it gives you a look inside the "filter" that the news is pushed through, before it reaches you and me.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"Emotion Detection Technology" Anger Alerts

This article describes a new technology being tested at telephone-based customer service call centers to alert supervisors when a customer's anger level reaches a certain point. In short, a computer measures 200 elements of voice tone, word choice, etc., and the new article describes a "major attraction of [the] emotion-detection technology is its promised ability to help identify customer frustration." The article continues...

"The software conducts a flow analysis of each call, examining 200 elements to give a holistic picture of the customer experience. Besides emotion detection, Perform uses two other methods to analyze customer experiences with call centers. The software allows users to create lexicons of words and phrases a caller may say that could raise red flags: cancellation, frustration, or a competitor's name."

While the new technology may be promising for companies seeking a better way to identify customers who are upset, what about the technology's potential for corruption? In other words, in an age when the President willingly violates the Fourth Amendment and allows agencies to eavesdrop on purely domestic phone calls between citizens, wouldn't this new technology make Dick Cheney's dark eyes light up?

We are told that the new "Military Commissions Act,"- which allows the President to determine who is an "unlawful enemy combatant" and who is thus able to retain their ability to be tried in U.S courts, to contest their detentions via writs of habeas corpus, and their ability to retain rights to counsel, to speedy trial and to confront their accusers- will not be used to punish his political enemies. "Don't you worry your pretty little heads," we're assured. "This power will only be used against terrorists."

But try to fathom now that (1) we don't know how much eavesdropping is being conducted, and that (2) soon this new "emotion detection technology" will allow computers to search speech for phrases which may be deemed to "purposefully and materially support[] hostilities against the United States" as is criminalized under the new MCA.

The implications are terrifying for anyone who believes the Fourth Amendment should be anything but a "quaint" reminder of an earlier, pre-9/11 mindset, to paraphrase the Attorney General's assessment of the Geneva Conventions application to the GWOT.

While the implications of this new technology and our lack of knowledge about the scope of eavesdropping is truly terrifying, it is even more shocking to read this description of the "enemy at home" by the Rishwain Research Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Disesh D'Souza.

"In this book I make a claim that will seem startling at the outset. The cultural left in this country is responsible for causing 9/11. … In faulting the cultural left, I am not making the absurd accusation that this group blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector, and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world.

I realize that this is a strong charge, one that no one has made before. But it is a neglected aspect of the 9/11 debate, and it is critical to understanding the current controversy over the ‘war against terrorism.’ … I intend to show that the left has actively fostered the intense hatred of America that has led to numerous attacks such as 9/11. If I am right, then no war against terrorism can be effectively fought using the left-wing premises that are now accepted doctrine among mainstream liberals and Democrats.”

In other words, (1) you can be made to disappear at the Decider's whim, without access to a court or a lawyer if he concludes that you "purposefully and materially support[] hostilities against the United States," (2) phone calls between citizens are being eavesdropped upon at unknown levels and the ability of search these calls for phrases is now available, and (3) many mainstream, right-wing "intellectuals" believe, as D'Souza does, that "the left [in America] has actively fostered the intense hatred of America that has led to numerous attacks."

Is it too far of a stretch to believe the MCA will be "stretched" soon to allow the those they believe "caused" 9/11 to be described as "purposefully and materially supporting hostilities" against the U.S. to be deemed "unlawful enemy combatants" and removed to those new detention facilities being constructed inside the U.S. by a Halliburton subsidiary?

I sure hope so.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Olbermann: "Beginning of the End of America"

Keith Olbermann, who moved from ESPN to MSNBC, from sports to news, is telling things like they truly are. Sadly, when someone sent him some harmless powder, with a warning that he stop his criticism of the Bush Administration, the New York Post thought it was funny. IN fact, when Olbermann asked for additional tests at the hospital to see if powder was indeed harmless soap powder, as preliminary tests indicated, the Post's Richard Johnson mockingly wrote "[w]hether they gave him a lollipop on the way out isn't known."

I was afraid he'd back off, but he hasn't. Here is a link to his latest comment on the Military Commissions Act, which Bush signed this week. A few excerpts if you don't have time to read the whole comment...

"This President now has his blank check.

He lied to get it.

He lied as he received it.

Is there any reason to even hope, he has not lied about how he intends to use it, nor who he intends to use it against?

"These military commissions will provide a fair trial," you told us yesterday, Mr. Bush. "In which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney, and can hear all the evidence against them."

'Presumed innocent,' Mr. Bush?

The very piece of paper you signed as you said that, allows for the detainees to be abused up to the point just before they sustain "serious mental and physical trauma" in the hope of getting them to incriminate themselves, and may no longer even invoke The Geneva Conventions in their own defense.

'Access to an attorney,' Mr. Bush?

Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift said on this program, Sir, and to the Supreme Court, that he was only granted access to his detainee defendant, on the promise that the detainee would plead guilty.

'Hearing all the evidence,' Mr. Bush?

The Military Commissions act specifically permits the introduction of classified evidence not made available to the defense.

Your words are lies, Sir. They are lies, that imperil us all.

"One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks," …you told us yesterday… "said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America."

That terrorist, sir, could only hope.

Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.

Habeas Corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The Moral Force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush… they would be "the beginning of the end of America.""

Sadly, since the MCA provides the president with the authority to decide who is an "enemy combatant" and precludes even habeas review for U.S. citizens classified this way, the next warning Olbermann receives could be a trip to Gitmo.


The MCA allows even a U.S. citizen to be classified as an "unlawful enemy combatant" if they "purposefully and materially support[] hostilities against the United States."

It's not a stretch to conclude that an administration which reads the Constitution to allow the "unitary chief executive" to disobey both U.S. law and disregard the Constitution in times of "war" would also read this act to include prosecution of people like Olbermann.

Or you. Or me.

Is it?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Federal Judge's View of "Detainee Treatment"

Here is the comment a federal bankruptcy judge wrote into NPR after hearing John Yoo's remarks on Morning Edition. (Notice, in bold, the way he refutes the conventional wisdom" expressed in the press, that American citizens still enjoy the right to habeas corpus!).

"Listening to John Yoo talk about this new legislation was chilling. I'm a federal judge, and have taught constitutional law for 16 years. The very idea of holding anyone without trial, without the right to see the evidence that was used to justify naming them an "enemy combatant," and depriving them of the ability to challenge why they are even there is so repugnant to a constitutional democracy that I am shocked that this man actually claims to be defending American values. These are the tactics of the old Soviet Union, not of a country that stands for freedom and the rule of law.
I also quibble with his contention that U.S. citizens still have the right to habeas review. I've read the law. The president can form his own tribunal, which can determine who is an "enemy combatant" (not just an alien enemy combatant), and the decision of that tribunal would not be subject to habeas review. Moreover, persons targeted by this tribunal would not even have access to the military tribunal trial created under this law.
How easy it would be for a president to use such a law to make his political enemies simply disappear. Can this be America? -- Leif Clark, San Antonio, Texas"

Keith Olberman also comments, somewhat tongue in cheek, on his Tuesday Countdown, on the "murder of habeas corpus" that occurred under the so-called Detainee Treatment Bill.

"... COUNTDOWN has learned that habeas corpus actually predates the Constitution, meaning it‘s not just pre-September 11 thinking, it‘s also July 4th thinking.
In this those days, no one could have imagined that enemy combatants might one day attack Americans on native soil. In fact, COUNTDOWN has obtained a partially redacted copy of a colonial “declaration,” indicating that back then, depriving us of trial by jury was actually considered sufficient cause to start a war of independence based on the, then fashionable idea that “liberty” was an inalienable right.
But too today, thanks to modern post-9/11 thinking, those rights are now fully alienable—for your protection

OLBERMANN: The reality is without habeas corpus, a lot of other rights lose their meaning. But if you look at the actual Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments of that pesky Constitution, you‘ll see just how many remain for your protection.
  • OK, No. 1 is gone. I mean, if you‘re detained without trial, you lose your freedom of religion and speech, press, assembly, all the rest of that. So, you don‘t need that any more. And you know, you can‘t petition the government for anything.
  • No. 2, While you are in prison, your right to keep and bear arms just might be infringed upon even if you‘re in the NRA, so that‘s gone.
  • Three, well OK, no forced sleepovers at your house by soldiers. Three‘s all right.
  • Four, you‘re definitely not secure against searches and seizures, as it says here, with or without probable cause. And, in prison that‘s not limited to just the guards, so forget the fourth.
  • Five, grand juries and due process, obviously out, so forget five and the little trailer up here.
  • Six, well trials are gone too, let alone the right to counsel. Speedy trials? You want it when?
  • Seven, well this is about—I thought we just covered trials and juries earlier so forget the seventh.
  • Eight, well, bail‘s kind of a moot point isn‘t it?
  • And nine, other rights retained by the people. Well, you know, if you can name them during your water boarding, we‘ll consider them.
  • Ten, powers not delegated to the United States federal government. Well, they seem to have ended up there anyway.

So as you can see, even without habeas corpus, at least one tenth of the Bill of Rights, I guess that‘s the Bill of Right, now—remains virtually intact. No. 3 is still safe.
We can rest easy knowing that we will never, ever have to quarter soldiers in our homes as long as the third amendment still stands strong.
The president can just take care of that with a signing statement."

Well stated. Let's hope it's well listened to.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

FPD's Move to Dismiss Padilla's Case due to "Outrageous Conduct"

The Federal Public Defender's Office in the Southern District of Florida, who represents Jose Padilla, has filed a motion to dismiss his criminal case because of "Outrageous Governemntal Conduct." The motion itself is not available online but I read about it at this blog, which has extensive excerpts, including:
  • "In an effort to gain Mr. Padilla’s "dependency and trust," he was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention. The torture took myriad forms, each designed to cause pain, anguish, depression and, ultimately, the loss of will to live. The base ingredient in Mr. Padilla’s torture was stark isolation for a substantial portion of his captivity.
  • For nearly two years – from June 9, 2002 until March 2, 2004, when the Department of Defense permitted Mr. Padilla to have contact with his lawyers – Mr. Padilla was in complete isolation.
  • Mr. Padilla’s dehumanization at the hands of his captors also took more sinister forms. Mr. Padilla was often put in stress positions for hours at a time. He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his cell would be manipulated, making his cell extremely cold for long stretches of time. Mr. Padilla was denied even the smallest, and most personal shreds of human dignity by being deprived of showering for weeks at a time, yet having to endure forced grooming at the whim of his captors.A substantial quantum of torture endured by Mr. Padilla came at the hands of his interrogators.
  • In an effort to disorient Mr. Padilla, his captors would deceive him about his location and who his interrogators actually were. Mr. Padilla was threatened with being forcibly removed from the United States to another country, including U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was threatened his fate would be even worse than in the Naval Brig. He was threatened with being cut with a knife and having alcohol poured on the wounds. He was also threatened with imminent execution. He was hooded and forced to stand in stress positions for long durations of time. He was forced to endure exceedingly long interrogation sessions, without adequate sleep, wherein he would be confronted with false information, scenarios, and documents to further disorient him.
  • Additionally, Mr. Padilla was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations.
  • For most of one thousand three hundred and seven days, Mr. Padilla was tortured by the United States government without cause or justification. Mr. Padilla’s treatment at the hands of the United States government is shocking to even the most hardened conscience, and such outrageous conduct on the part of the government divests it of jurisdiction, under the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment, to prosecute Mr. Padilla in the instant matter."
A news article with further details is here, but why isn't there more press coverage of this?

In other news, the Navy JAG who, along with Neil Kaytal, defended Osama bin Laden's driver, Hamdan, was denied a promotion and will leave the Navy. A news article is here. Big surprise, but what great legal work at great personal sacrifice. Makes me proud to be a lawyer but ashamed of what my government will do in my name. The NPR story which described the $40,000 of his own money that Kaytal spent on the Hamdan case and the way that Lt. Cmdr. Swift was described as a guaranteed loser of a case and turned it into one of the most important Supreme Court cases of our times. From the NPR story...

"Katyal [with Swift] went to Guantanamo to meet his client for the first time. Hamdan, who comes from a culture of gifts, gave the lawyer what Katyal calls "literally theonly possessions he had," a few prized sweets -- a date and some raisins.
He had just one question for the lawyer: "Why are you doing this?" As Katyal recounts the meeting, he told Hamdan: "I am doing this for you because my parents came from India to America" for one simple reason, "America doesn't treat people differently because of where they come from. We fought a civil war in part about the idea that all people are guaranteed certain rights, and chief among those is a right to a fair trial."

America may indeed try to not treat people differently because of "where they came from" but when you make the government look bad, you pay the price.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Garrison Keillor's Amazing Article

Garrison Keillor has summarized the "Detainee" Treatment Act beautifully (as pointed out by Amme). My favorite part...

"None of the men and women who voted for this bill has any right to speak in public about the rule of law anymore, or to take a high moral view of the Third Reich, or to wax poetic about the American Ideal.

Mark their names. Any institution of higher learning that grants honorary degrees to these people forfeits its honor.

Alexander, Allard, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Burr, Carper, Chambliss, Coburn, Cochran, Coleman, Collins, Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, DeMint, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Ensign, Enzi, Frist, Graham, Grassley, Gregg, Hagel, Hatch, Hutchison, Inhofe, Isakson, Johnson, Kyl, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Lott, Lugar, Martinez, McCain, McConnell, Menendez, Murkowski, Nelson of Florida, Nelson of Nebraska, Pryor, Roberts, Rockefeller, Salazar, Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Smith, Specter, Stabenow, Stevens, Sununu, Talent, Thomas, Thune, Vitter, Voinovich, Warner.

To paraphrase Sir Walter Scott:
Mark their names and mark them well.
For them, no minstrel raptures swell.
High though their titles, proud their name,
boundless their wealth as wish can claim,
these wretched figures shall go down to the vile dust from whence they sprung,
unwept, unhonored and unsung."

He then goes on to describe going to the Bush's Methodist Church in Dallas, on tour to promote his book "Homegrown Democrat"...

"I got some insight last week into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky. I walked in, was met by two burly security men with walkie-talkies, and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics. I was there on a book tour for "Homegrown Democrat," but they thought it better if I didn't mention it. So I tried to make light of it: I told the audience, "I don't need to talk politics. I have no need even to be interested in politics--I'm a citizen, I have plenty of money and my grandsons are at least 12 years away from being eligible for military service."

And the audience applauded!

Those were their sentiments exactly. We've got ours, and who cares?The Methodists of Dallas can be fairly sure that none of them will be snatched off the streets, flown to Guantanamo Bay, stripped naked, forced to stand for 48 hours in a freezing room with deafening noise. So why should they worry? It's only the Jews who are in danger, and the homosexuals and gypsies. The Christians are doing fine. If you can't trust a Methodist with absolute power to arrest people and not have to say why, then whom can you trust?"

The man can write.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hold Your Tongue Around Cheney or "Feel the Steel"

From a New York Times article describing what happened to Steven Howards, a Golden, CO environmental consultant who happened to see Dick Cheney on a public street while Howards was walking his 8-year old son to a piano lesson. According to the article, Howards said to Cheney, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible."

"A Colorado man who was arrested in June on harassment charges after he approached Vice President Dick Cheney to denounce the war in Iraq filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday accusing a Secret Service agent of civil rights violations.
"In his suit, filed in Federal District Court in Denver, the man, Steven Howards, an environmental consultant who lives in Golden, Colo., says he stepped up to the vice president to speak his mind in a public place and found himself in handcuffs -- in violation, the suit says, of the Constitution's language about free speech and illegal search and seizure. . . .
"The suit joins two others -- in West Virginia and another in Denver -- charging that Secret Service agents or White House staff members violated the law in keeping people with opposing political views away from President Bush or Mr. Cheney....

[After talking to Cheney] Mr. Howards said he then went on his way. About 10 minutes later, he said, he was walking back through the area when Agent Reichle handcuffed him and said he would be charged with assaulting the vice president. Local police officers, acting on information from the Secret Service, according to the suit, ultimately filed misdemeanor harassment charges that could have resulted in up to a year in jail."

The criminal complaint was later dropped by D.A. Mark Hurlbert (of Kobe Bryant fame) but imagine Mr. Howards' reaction when, according to the Denver Post, the secret service agent...

" came out of the shadows,' Howards said. 'He didn't accuse me but asked me if I had assaulted Cheney. I said no, he grabbed me and handcuffed me behind my back in front of my son. As he led me away, I told him I can't abandon my son. He said he'd call social services.'"

Imagine Howards' horrified reaction, but imagine also the reaction of an 8-year old boy, on the way to his piano lesson, to see a federal agent "come out of the shadows" arrest your dad, and then "call social services" to make sure you were properly taken care of.

This hits home with me since just last year I had to explain to my own 9-year old daughter that I was late picking her up because I'd been arrested. I was only held about ten minutes, and the officers treated me very well, even apologetically, but my crime was refusing to shut my mouth when a judge told me that if I opened my mouth and said one more word to interfere with her speaking directly to my client, in court, pre-arraignment, that she'd bring in the sheriffs.

The worst part was explaining this to my daughter. I thought she was too young to understand that it wasn't only bad people who were arrested. Fortunately for me, she understood and we both learned a lesson.

I can post a transcript of the hearing if anyone's interested. But the lesson of that episode and of Mr. Howards' encounter with Cheney is that we are all about ten seconds away from "feeling the steel" of handcuffs, even when we are just doing our jobs or exercising our First Amendment rights.

In Dick Cheney's America, you shut up and don't talk back or you feel the steel.

But, if you do shut up and don't oppose this mentality, you'll likely feel it eventually anyway, won't you?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

O'Reilly Forgets Foley's a Republican

With so many facts emerging in the Mark Foley fiasco, apparently Bill O'Reilly "accidentally" forgot exactly which party Foley hailed from. According to Bradblog...

Just amazing. Fox's O'Reilly Factor just covered the Mark Foley (R-FL) issue in two different segments, one of them with a page who says he received communications from Foley, and another with Ann Coulter.
Never mind the content of either segment for now. Incredibly, during a total of three different cutaways to video footage of Foley, he was labelled at the bottom of the screen eachtime as "(D-FL)" !
Three different times. In two different segements. Each cutaway about 15 seconds or more. Showing Foley as a DEMOCRAT. Amazing.

Here's a comment I left at David Feige's blog, where I found the screenshot.

O'Reilly has been calling himself a "warrior" lately, referring to his belief that he's battling a cultural war against "secular humanists." It looks like anything goes in this war of his, including misleading your viewers with false propaganda. It's shocking but it also tells us what we're up against. These people feel their power draining away and it looks like they'll sacrifice principles like the writ of habeas corpus, which originated in the Magna Carta, as well as anything resembling the truth, as you point out. I shouldn't be surprised but I truly didn't think he would sink this low. We shouldn't misunderestimate how low they'll sink, as this screen shot shows.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ashcroft Quit Flying Commercial in July '01 because of the "threat assessment"

From a CBS News article dated 7-26-01, we hear that Atty. Gen. Ashcroft

Fishing rod in hand, Attorney General John Ashcroft left on a weekend trip to Missouri Thursday afternoon aboard a chartered government jet...

In response to inquiries from CBS News over why Ashcroft was traveling exclusively by leased jet aircraft instead of commercial airlines, the Justice Department cited what it called a "threat assessment" by the FBI, and said Ashcroft has been advised to travel only by private jet for the remainder of his term.

"There was a threat assessment and there are guidelines. He is acting under the guidelines," an FBI spokesman said. Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department, however, would identify what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it. A senior official at the CIA said he was unaware of specific threats against any Cabinet member, and Ashcroft himself, in a speech in California, seemed unsure of the nature of the threat. "I don't do threat assessments myself and I rely on those whose responsibility it is in the law enforcement community, particularly the FBI. And I try to stay within the guidelines that they've suggested I should stay within for those purposes," Ashcroft said.

Asked if he knew anything about the threat or who might have made it, the attorney general replied, "Frankly, I don't. That's the answer." Earlier this week, the Justice Department leased a NASA-owned G-3 Gulfstream for a 6-day trip to Western states. Such aircraft cost the government more than $1,600 an hour to fly. When asked whether Ashcroft was paying for any portion of the trips devoted to personal business, a Justice Department spokeswoman declined to respond. ...

The Justice Department insists that it wasn't Ashcroft who wanted to fly leased aircraft. That idea, they said, came strictly from Ashcroft's FBI security detail. The FBI had no further comment.

By itself, perhaps this is explainable, but what happens when you put it beside this story, things suddenly get a little more conspiratorial, don't they?

"A new book by Bob Woodward of The Washington Post alleges that Rice failed to take the July 2001 warning seriously when it was delivered at a White House meeting by Tenet, Cofer Black, then the agency's chief of top counterterrorism, and a third CIA official whose identity remains rotected... Woodward wrote that Tenet and Black considered the briefing the "starkest warning they had given the White House" on the threat posed by Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. But, he wrote, the pair felt as if Rice gave them "the brush-off."
Ashcroft, who resigned as attorney general on Nov. 9, 2004, told the Associated Press on Monday that it was "disappointing" that he never received the briefing, either.
... Monday evening, Rice's spokesman Sean McCormack issued a statement confirming that she'd received the CIA briefing "on or around July 10" and had asked that it be given to Ashcroft and Rumsfeld.
"The information presented in this meeting was not new, rather it was a good summary from the threat reporting from the previous several weeks," McCormack said. "After this meeting, Dr. Rice asked that this same information be briefed to Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General Ashcroft. That briefing took place by July 17."
David Ayres, who was Ashcroft's chief of staff at the Justice Department, said... that Ashcroft could recall only a July 5 briefing on threats to U.S. interests abroad.
He said Ashcroft doesn't remember any briefing that summer that indicated that al-Qaida was planning to attack within the United States.
The CIA briefing didn't provide the exact timing or nature of a possible attack, nor did it predict whether it was likely to take place in the United States or overseas, said three former senior intelligence officials...

In the briefing, Tenet warned in very strong terms that intelligence from a variety of sources indicated that bin Laden's terrorist network was planning an attack on a U.S. target in the near future, said one of the officials.
"The briefing was intended to `connect the dots' contained in other intelligence reports and paint a very clear picture of the threat posed by bin Laden," said the official, who described the tone of the report as "scary."...

Nor is it clear why the 9/11 commission never reported the briefing, which the intelligence officials said Tenet outlined to commission members Ben-Veniste and Zelikow in secret testimony at CIA headquarters. The State Department confirmed that the briefing materials were "made available to the 9/11 Commission, and Director Tenet was asked about this meeting when interviewed by the 9/11 Commission."
The three former senior intelligence officials, however, said Tenet raised the matter with the panel himself, displayed slides from the PowerPoint presentation and offered to testify on the matter in public.
Ben-Veniste confirmed to McClatchy Newspapers that Tenet outlined for the 9/11 commission the July 10 briefing to Rice in secret testimony in January 2004. He referred questions about why the commission omitted any mention of the briefing in its report to Zelikow, the report's main author... Zelikow didn't respond to e-mail and telephone queries from McClatchy Newspapers."

Of course, it's nice to know that Zelikow and Rice wrote a book together in 1996, and that this meeting wasn't detailed in the final draft of the 9-11 commission report.

Also brings to mind an eerie program called Operation Northwoods.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Waterboarding - Pictures and Video (WARNING: Not for the squeamish!)

Bush says unequivocally that "we don't torture" but in last week's Detainee Treatment bill the White House "compromised" with ex-POW John McCain, changing the President's request for allowing U.S. interrogators to inflict "severe pain" to allow the infliction of "serious pain," which is defined as "bodily injury that involves extreme physical pain." Got that; "severe pain" is illegal, but "extreme physical pain" is just fine under American law.

Word games aside, waterboarding is approved under the new measure. But what does it look like?

Here is a link to a video, created by a former member of the U.S. military, who paid $800 to have himself waterboarded by other former U.S. soldiers, so we can see what these word games allow our interrogators to do. (BE WARNED, the video is ugly to watch. I found it much worse than the Baghdad E.R. documentary the Pentagon warned could trigger PTSD)

If you're not yet physically sick and want to read more on the subject, here is a link to an Alternet article called " This Is What Waterboarding Looks Like" by former U.S. News Senior Editor Jonah Blank. Blank says,

The crux of the issue before Congress can be boiled down to a simple question: Is waterboarding torture? Anybody who considers this practice to be "torture lite" or merely a "tough technique" might want to take a trip to Phnom Penh. The Khymer Rouge were adept at torture, and there was nothing "lite" about their methods....
Bottom line: Not only do waterboarding and the other types of torture currently being debated put us in company with the most vile regimes of the past half-century; they're also designed specifically to generate a (usually false) confession, not to obtain genuinely actionable intel. This isn't a matter of sacrificing moral values to keep us safe; it's sacrificing moral values for no purpose whatsoever.

Sen. Patrick Leahy and others virtually assured the press that the new law will be struck down by the Supremes, but that could take years. Even more eerily, there are indications that the Republicans would not abide by the Supreme Court's authority. Former Speaker of the House and author of the Contract on, er, with America said this weekend, as reported at Salon under the headline "Gingrich Urges Overriding Supreme Court":

Supreme Court decisions that are "so clearly at variance with the national will" should be overridden by the other branches of government, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says.
"What I reject, out of hand, is the idea that by five to four, judges can rewrite the Constitution, but it takes two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate and three-fourths of the states to equal five judges," Gingrich said during a Georgetown University Law Center conference on the judiciary.
It takes approval by two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the 50 states to adopt an amendment to the Constitution, the government's bedrock document.
Gingrich, a Republican who represented a district in Georgia, noted that overwhelming majorities in Congress had reaffirmed the Pledge of Allegiance, and most of the public believes in its right to recite it.
As such, he said, "It would be a violation of the social compact of this country for the Supreme Court to decide otherwise and would lead, I hope, the two other branches to correct the court."

What does he mean by "correct" and how far will these people go outside of the Constitution?