Archive for Torture

Sep
06

9/11 Daze

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George W. Bush made me a blogger of me. Writing was the only way of dealing with the intensity of the frustration at America’s
Bush-era follies:

A flood of post-September 11 articles asked how the attacks happened, what we would do next, and why terrorists hate us. One savvy pundit asked, Would America keep its head?

We invaded Iraq on trumped-up intelligence. We conducted illegal surveillance on our own citizens. We imprisoned people without charge, here and abroad. We rendered prisoners for torture and tortured others ourselves in violation of international law. All the while, millions of staunch, law-and-order conservatives supported and defended it, and still do. Vigorously.

Did America keep its head? Uh, no.

Just as a friend’s PTSD flares up each year at this time (she lost a loved one in the New York attack), we’re still coping with the aftermath of decisions made by Bush’s Mayberry Machiavellis. So sure that they were God’s instruments (if not Halliburton’s), they could rationalize all of it. Their elaborate justification memos in legaleze are still trickling out.

“We conclude only that when the nation has been thrust into an armed conflict by a foreign attack on the United States and the president determines in his role as commander in chief .?.?. that it is essential for defense against a further foreign attack to use the [wiretapping] capabilities of the [National Security Agency] within the United States, he has inherent constitutional authority” to order warrantless wiretapping — “an authority that Congress cannot curtail,” Goldsmith wrote in a redacted 108-page memo dated May 6, 2004.

The program, code-named Stellar Wind, enabled the NSA to collect communications on U.S. soil when at least one party was believed to be a member of al-Qaeda or an al-Qaeda affiliate, and at least one end of the communication was overseas.

The ACLU obtained the memos through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Staff attorney Patrick Toomey tells the Washington Post,

“Unfortunately, the sweeping surveillance they sought to justify is not a thing of the past,” Toomey said. “The government’s legal rationales have shifted over time, but some of today’s surveillance programs are even broader and more intrusive than those put in place more than a decade ago by President Bush.”

Now that Bush is home in Texas painting and Vice President Dark Side is still stumping for renewed U.S. intervention in the region his intervention helped destabilize, we are still dealing with the after effects of their misrule.

Has any one else noticed: Have any of these former global players from the Bush administration actually set foot outside U.S. borders since leaving office? Can they?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Torture
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Jan
13

The Justice of the Blinded

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I really didn’t follow the career of Aaron Swartz, but his apparent suicide made news and brought details to light that had fallen down my memory hole (if they were ever in memory). Including his passion for making public information public … and accessible. That got him in trouble with the law in 2011. The New York Times explains:

In an effort to provide free public access to JSTOR, he broke into computer networks at M.I.T. by means that included gaining entry to a utility closet on campus and leaving a laptop that signed into the university network under a false account, federal officials said.

Mr. Swartz turned over his hard drives with 4.8 million documents, and JSTOR declined to pursue the case. But Carmen M. Ortiz, a United States attorney, pressed on, saying that “stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.”

Except stealing isn’t stealing in this country. And torture isn’t torture. That is, if you’re powerful enough to be above the law, as Swartz clearly was not. The same U.S. Department of Justice Ms. Ortiz works for has decided that if criminals are well-connected and powerful, bank fraud, massive fraud, shift the Earth on its axis fraud is not something this country prosecutes. Instead it negotiates. It holds meetings, like this recent one.

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Jun
15

We shall make you understand!

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Cross posted from Ascend of Asheville.

As of 2005 there were 737 US military bases in other countries around the world. Every two years the Executive branch of the US government submits about 4000 civilian, and about 65,000 military appointments to Congress for positions within the government. Most of these positions are within the Executive branch. Essentially, the vast majority of the Executive is military in it’s origin, purpose and/or personnel.

This represents, to borrow a phrase from a famous General turned Executive, a vast military/executive complex, with power that arises in many ways from a single admonishment in the Constitution that the President “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”.

The framers of the Constitution wished to avoid a capricious government that was subject to the whims of the population (too much Democracy) or prone to abuse by dictators (too little Democracy). By aiming for “just right” as they understood it, they created a system approaching genius, but they also created a Damoclean situation that has deteriorated over time. Read More→

Local blogger, gadfly and muckraker Jason Bugg traveled to Georgia Diagnostic Prison to bear witness to the Troy Davis execution, here’s an excerpt and a link to the entire story…

I’m not a journalist; I’m a guy who writes simple little things for this blog. Thanks to the readers of this blog, I went down to Jackson, Georgia yesterday to see what was happening at the vigil and protest for Troy Davis. I’ve never been close to anything like what I saw. I’ll do my best to add in names of people and try to recount things that they said, but what I’ve included here are my impressions, and should by no means be treated as authoritative.

–more–

Categories : Action, History, Local, Race, Torture
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Dec
05

Reaction To The WikiLeaks Reaction

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The successive waves of document dumps by WikiLeaks have revealed just how much goes on behind the scenes, some aimed at driving the public to where leaders want to go. I am old enough (barely) to remember the Gulf of Tonkin incidents. Signal intelligence declassified by the National Security Agency in 2005 reveals that Americans were the first to fire (warning shots unreported at the time) in the first incident and the second reported incident – as we already knew – never took place. The USS Maddox took a single bullet hole. No Americans were injured. But records doctored to support claims of a second attack gave the Johnson administration a blank check to escalate the Vietnam war. Nearly 60,000 Americans and countless numbers in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia lost their lives in the aftermath. Because of leaks, Americans did not have to wait forty years to find out about the lies behind nonexistent WMDs, prisoner abuse and government-sponsored torture. Lies and secrecy seem to have a pretty high potential for doing great harm. It’s hard to imagine what greater damage the truth can do.

And now some reaction to the reaction to the WikiLeaks document release.

The Independent of London:

Beyond the inadvisability of giving unlimited access to diplomatic cables to plainly unreliable employees, the leaks so far have done remarkably little harm to the reputation of the US internationally. But the apparent marshalling of corporate America, assorted showboating legislators and, quite possibly, techno-savvy “patriots” acting as guerrilla deniers of service in an attempt to harass WikiLeaks out of existence may be what, in the end, does the real harm. The country’s over-reaction is looking increasingly like that of a bully who, having had his nose put slightly out of joint, is determined to batter the upstart into a pulp. If America wanted to convince the entire online world that it has no sense of perspective, the past few days have been a triumph. Talk of boycotts is now in the air.

Daniel Ellsberg has already started one:
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Dec
17

Obama Just Ran Out Of Slack

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The media was quick to declare the Obama honeymoon over this summer. Yet supporters exhilarated by Barack Obama’s stunning win in November 2008 were still willing to cut him a lot of slack. That slack just ran out.

(Cross-posted from Campaign for America’s Future and today’s TomPaine.com)

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Dec
11

Opposable Thumbs

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thumbsup200If you’ve been paying attention to the site in the last few days, you’ll notice that some wacky little thumb buttons have appeared beneath each person’s post. Thumbs can be useful things: they’ve allowed humans to operate tools, like Playstation; they’re good for sticking in dykes and in pies; there’s a rule named after them; they show up in gladiator movies; they’re essential for hitchhiking; they hurt like hell when you whack them with a hammer; and, it’s really hard to blow up a balloon (much less tie off the end) without them.

But what do these buttons mean in the context of this site? Hell if we know. Do they indicate one’s agreement with a post or simply an appreciation for its quality? Are they informative at all…or merely useful for diffusing boredom and frustration — the blog equivalent of bubble wrap?

Green thumb, red thumb…Red thumb green. Green thumb, up thumb! Up thumb green! Red thumb, bad thumb…Thad thumb thad. Good thumb, Up thumb! Bad poem, bad.

We welcome your thoughts on this very important matter.

Categories : Technical Crap, Torture
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Dec
01

The Elephant’s Graveyard

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I’ve gotten a lot of guff for my post last week handicapping the Republican congressional primary field here in the 11th…not for what I predicted so much as the fact that the prediction appeared here in this pinko e-rag and under my own shiny new byline. You see, for today’s Republicans, this is a betrayal of the first order: “Thou shalt not lie with liberals as with conservatives: it is an abomination!”

Of course, there are so many orders of betrayal among local Republicans these days it’s kind of hard to keep track anymore.

Having worked for Republican candidates all my life and professionally for the last three years here in Asheville — heck, above my screen hangs a picture of me and President Reagan at a White House Christmas Party and another of me and President George H.W. Bush at a private BBQ on the south lawn of the White House; I could go on, but you get the idea — I can honestly say that I can’t see this happening again anytime soon. The Republican Party I knew for so many years has gone off the rails — effectively destroyed here locally from within — by sanctimonious bigots, religious zealots, misanthropic doctrinaire Randians, and most importantly by piss-poor, unelectable candidates.

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Apr
23

Torture Memo – The Song

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The entire torture affair is a terrible chapter in our American history. This song captures the angst. Via BoingBoing:

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Categories : International, Torture
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