… in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave? Sure it can. At least We Meant Well seems to think so. Anybody able to confirm this? If so, comment away.
All insurance claims, including date, service, meds, units, all meta data, who you saw and why automatically goes to the government. This has been going on since 2003.
Assume it all automatically goes into the MSA (M=N) database and to every law enforcement fusion (z=s) center. Assume it is linked to your drivers license file.
Let me assure you that a “national ID” has nothing to do with a card, chip, barcode, magnetic strip, etc. It is all about the data on file and how it is linked together. The card, chip, barcode, RFID, whatever, is merely how the data is expressed.
According to a former naval officer in our armed forces who is also a former U. S. president, President Carter, the United States is no longer a functioning democracy.
According to Chalmers Johnson, a former Asian expert and CIA consultant turned public intellectual, we can be either a democracy or an empire, but not both.
Former U. S. Army colonel and now public intellectual Andrew Bacevitch explains why we can have either a functioning democracy or a large standing army and worldwide bases (that is, an empire), but not both.
Another public intellectual, Tony Judt, has written that we can have either a democracy or high income and wealth inequality, but not both.
Then there is humble me, up in NW Connecticut. What do I care?
But … I am getting worried about black helicopters landing on our little plot of land, probably bringing down the bluebird and wren houses we’ve set up out there. Hey, I am an American. Now, I know we Americans have enemies abroad, but I found out that I am being monitored by the national government, here in my quiet corner, according to information released by the renegade government operative Edward Snowden.
Also, last week I learned that there are 78 “fusion centers” across my country, operated by “state and local authorities,” a group including “dozens of officials from police and fire departments, federal agencies, and [this is especially intriguing] private companies.” (New York Times.) The centers have been funded by “hundreds of millions of dollars” from the Department of Homeland Security and “other federal agencies” as well as state governments…
This “wide net” — which seems mostly to have captured information from public social media such as Facebook — was notably employed to track the doings of the dreaded Occupy movement, which began to use the ultimate tool to undermine our nation’s security: peaceful public assembly for protest (initially, in this case, against the financial system as being undemocratic). At least Occupy didn’t target shopping.
But then came this tidbit, some Orwellian and wryly amusing thoughts (New York Times again) from a flunky at Homeland Security. Saying that the fusion centers play an important role in helping law enforcement and emergency responders understand how to protect people [which “people” would that be?] during “large public events,” she continued that the centers are required [yeah, right] to protect privacy and civil liberties. More: Agencies receiving Homeland Security grants must [or else what?] follow guidelines similar to those adopted by that department, which forbid (oh, dear me!) the collection of information “solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the U.S. Constitution, such as the First Amendment-protected freedoms of religion, speech, press, and peaceful assembly and protest.” Cue up the Star Spangled Banner.
However, the Times article goes on to catalog a number of instances that directly contradict that functionary’s reassuring rhetoric. Two of many examples of activities hoovered up by the centers: “yoga, faith & spirituality classes,” and the potential threats outlined in a report prepared by the International Council of Shopping Centers [!!], as implemented by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
This latter item, like many of the others, was focused on the Occupy movement, in particular “its attitudes towards [sic] retail,” as well as a group of people who declared, on a website, that they would “intentionally forgo the [Black Friday] shopping frenzy.” Well, that last ugly bit of subversion does get America where it hurts, although I do wonder what James Madison would have to say about that threat?
I read, too, that the CIA has its own “venture capital arm,” called In-Q-Tel, which has invested in at least one private intelligence-gathering firm, called Palantir Technologies. Palantir is hired by all sorts of corporations and “other entities” to create and search “innovative” databases culled from disparate, “counterintuitive” areas of the lives of Americans. The Palantir executives are reportedly losing sleep over the possibility that “the government” may use Palantir capabilities to track its own citizens. Not to worry, guys; whatever put that notion into your noodles? ( For all the money we pour into the CIA and the NSA, I do wonder why they feel the need to reach outside for this effort. Maybe we taxpayers should privatize the CIA and the NSA to Palantir and the Private Army Formerly Known As Blackwater.)
I see these initiatives — and I would bet that there are others of which We the People do not know — as illustrating a central “tension” (aka contradiction) in present-day America: the constant reference to the principles on which the nation was founded, contrasted with the never-slaked thirst for that corrosive social obsession: Control. Control and fear — themes pervasive throughout the World’s Sole Remaining Superpower (per Condoleeza). Have these drives taken us to the point beyond which the overriding fear is of ... ourselves?
Thank God Almighty, the 1% is free at last! The Kochsucking majority on the Supreme Court just ruled that money speaks louder than words — your words anyway:
(CNN) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down current limits on the total amount individual donors can make to political campaigns…
The 5-4 ruling could have an immediate impact on November's congressional midterm elections, and add another layer of high-stakes spending in the crowded political arena.
Scalia Thomas & Roberts LLC, the legal branch of the Republican Party, thus returns us to the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Constitutional precedent for today’s ruling is to be found in the three fifths compromise, which took imaginary votes away from slaves and awarded them to their masters.
…but it makes up for that by being useless:
[FISA court judge John] Bates’ heavily redacted opinion suggests that the collection of the internet and email metadata from Americans in bulk provided only minimal relevant information to FBI for generating terrorism investigation leads, the entire purpose of the program. Bates questioned, as a “threshold concern”, the government’s willingness to represent its activities to the Fisa court it cites as the principal check on its surveillance powers.
We’re Number One again! Aren’t you proud?
Juvenile life without parole is banned in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every single country in the world except three: Somalia, South Sudan and the United States. In Somalia and South Sudan, there are no known cases of people serving a life without parole sentence for a crime committed as a minor. In the U.S., there were around 2,500 as of 2008, according to a Human Rights Watch tally.
Here’s Sean Wilentz, in Monday’s New York Times:
The Republicans in the House of Representatives who declare that they may refuse to raise the debt limit threaten to do more than plunge the government into default. They are proposing a blatant violation of the 14th Amendment, which states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law” is sacrosanct and “shall not be questioned.”And here’s a comment from Marsha in Arizona:
Yet the Obama administration has repeatedly suppressed any talk of invoking the Constitution in this emergency. Last Thursday Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said, “We do not believe that the 14th Amendment provides that authority to the president” to end the crisis. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew reiterated the point on Sunday and added that the president would have “no option” to prevent a default on his own.
Obama won’t uphold his Constitutional responsibilities BECAUSE he wants the same things as the Republicans...cuts to “entitlements”...and this way, he can blame the other “guys”.
House Republicans threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling — that is, force a repudiation of debts already accrued — would violate that ‘fundamental principle’ of the Constitution.
Surely the lawyers advising and defending the White House, let alone the president, know as much. Refraining from stating this loudly and clearly, and allowing Congress to slip off the hook, has been a puzzling and self-defeating strategy, leading to the crippling sequester and the politics of chronic debt-ceiling crisis. More important, by failing to clarify the constitutional principles involved, the administration has neglected to do its utmost to defend the Constitution.
I hope Marsha is wrong. I hope, I hope. But why, then, did President Obama publicly throw away one of his aces before the betting began?
From Jennifer Senior’s interview of Justice Anthony Scalia in New York Magazine:
Flogging. And what I would say now is, yes, if a state enacted a law permitting flogging, it is immensely stupid, but it is not unconstitutional. A lot of stuff that’s stupid is not unconstitutional. I gave a talk once where I said they ought to pass out to all federal judges a stamp, and the stamp says — Whack! [Pounds his fist.] — STUPID BUT — CONSTITUTIONAL. Whack! [Pounds again.] STUPID BUT — CONSTITUTIONAL! Whack! — STUPID BUT CONSTITUTIONAL … [Laughs.] And then somebody sent me one.
From the Constitution of the United States, Article [IX]:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Flagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping (Latin flagellum, “whip”) the human body. Specialised implements for it include rods, switches, the cat o’ nine tails and the sjambok.
…to find that spying is going on in here:
The employees even had a code name for the practice — “Love-int” — meaning the gathering of intelligence on their partners.
Dianne Feinstein, a senator who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, said the NSA told her committee about a set of “isolated cases” that have occurred about once a year for the last 10 years. The spying was not within the US, and was carried out when one of the lovers was abroad.
Here, via Naked Capitalism, is a Marine colonel on how to build a police state right under our cop-loving and soldier-sniffing eyes:
My best friend, who’s a SWAT officer in Nashua, who came to Iraq with me to train the Iraqi police, sent me an email with a picture of him in the media on the streets of Watertown, MA wearing the exact same combat gear that we had in Iraq, only it was a different color. And the way we do things in the military, it’s called task organization: You take a command, and then you attach units to it in order to accomplish the mission. What’s happening is that Homeland Security is pre-staging gear, equipment, consistent: What they’re trying to do is use standardized vehicles, standardized equipment. I saw a picture in the Boston Globe during the Marathon Bombing where there was a state police officer — Actually, there were two officers. They both had identical helmets, flak jackets, weapons, everything I wore in Iraq, only it was all blue. The officer on one side had a big patch on his back that said “MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE.” Another officer next to him, his patch said “BOSTON POLICE.”
And so what we’re doing here, and let’s not kid about it, we’re building a domestic army and we’re shrinking the military because the government is afraid of its own citizens. The last time more than ten terrorists were in the same place at one time was September 11, and all these vehicles in the world wouldn’t have prevented it, nor would it have helped anybody. So, I don’t know where we’re going to use this many vehicles and this many troops; Concord is just one little cog in the wheel. We’re building an Army over here and I can’t believe that people aren’t seeing it. Is everybody blind?
By all means read this whole, terrifying article in the New York Times by Todd Miller. An individual presenting with the same symptoms as our nation would be diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and confined appropriately.
In 2012, a majority of the more than 364,000 people arrested by Border Patrol agents nationwide were migrant workers crossing the border. Agents did not capture or arrest a single international terrorist.…
The Border Patrol buildup in the aftermath of 9/11 was unparalleled. In the 10-year period following 9/11, the United States spent a staggering $90 billion on border enforcement.
In 2012, the Migration Policy Institute reported that immigration and border enforcement spending totaled almost $18 billion. That is 24 percent more than the $14.4 billion combined budgets in the last fiscal year of the F.B.I., the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives…
Almost one-third of all agents have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s no wonder that more and more people in the 100-mile zone from across the political spectrum view the Border Patrol as an occupying army.
…this is what President Obama does to helpless men 88 times a day. No doubt he does it for what he considers to be the greater good: protecting the rest of his agenda from the “national security” cowards who predominate in Congress and the electorate. In some cosmic weighing of the scales, he may be right. Or not.
Still, this is what President Obama does to helpless men 88 times a day. Every day.
If you’re reading Bad Attitudes, you already know this. But it can’t be said too often. A major point — perhaps the major point — of our criminal “justice” system is to keep the niggers in their place. It’s criminal, all right, our justice. Since the founding of the nation, the “law” in law and order has been systematically perverted to preserve that old natural “order” so beloved by Chief Justice Roger Taney and spelled out by him in Dred Scott v. Sandford .
I know personally people like doctors, lawyers, elected officials, teachers, architects, and accountants (in addition to the waiters, musicians, bartenders, comedians, and people of leisure) for whom not being high is an extreme rarity. In the broadest sense, I am acquainted with hundreds of users – and probably more people who I don't realize are users.
This bothers me not at all, since I give zero shits about whether people smoke weed. What does strike me as odd, though, is that for all the (predominantly white) people I know who use regularly, I know very few people who get arrested for anything drug related. Perhaps that is because, despite surveys showing that nearly identical percentages of black and white Americans use marijuana, new data shows that blacks are 400% more likely to get arrested for marijuana-related offenses. You're shocked, I know.
Notice that this does not say blacks are four times as likely to use marijuana, or be in possession of it, or sell it, or anything of the sort. They are four times more likely to be arrested and charged. The reason, I submit, is that the entire point of the War on Drugs is to put black males in prison. This isn't a bug; it's a feature…
Sure, the dumbass white kids from the suburbs can spend all of mom and dad's money on blow and bad acid and expensive weed for four years in college, but if there's weed to be found in the crappy black neighborhood they'll move heaven and Earth to find it. Ethan might be selling his mom's Vicodin out of their 4000 square-foot home in Barrington, but the crime is Curtis selling dimebags behind the convenience store.
Here’s your monthly reminder to go immediately to New York Magazine and read Frank Rich’s new column. An excerpt:
My own issues with Zero Dark Thirty (a slack second hour, a two-dimensional heroine) have nothing to do with its opaque position (if any) on the usefulness (or not) of torture in pursuing leads to bin Laden. Where the film really stands on that point may never be conclusively adjudicated. But its success does resolve the far more serious question of where most Americans stand on torture four years after George W. Bush disappeared into the witness-protection program: They don’t mind it.
The anguish Zero Dark Thirty has aroused on op-ed pages simply has not spread to the broader public. Moviegoers cheer bin Laden’s death (who wouldn’t?) without asking too many questions about how we got there. This is hardly the movie’s fault. The public reaction to Zero Dark Thirty is consistent with the quiet acquiescence of most Americans, Democrats included, to the Obama administration’s embrace of drone warfare (civilian casualties notwithstanding) and domestic surveillance…
The movie’s popularity offers confirmation, if any is needed, that, for the first time since the Vietnam War, it’s a Democratic president who is presiding over — and countenancing — a national shift to the right on national security.
How could I feel but naked, unprotected and helpless when I learned this just now on Yahoo News? What’s an old white man to do when Obama’s Panzers come to round up his guns and haul him before the death panels?
There is no restriction on the sale of bullets in the United States, except for armor-piercing rounds, which can only be bought by law enforcement, said Ginger Colbrun, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
From Jill Lepore’s chilling article on gun laws in this week’s New Yorker:
This issue has been delivering voters to the polls since 1970. Conservatives hope that it will continue to deliver them in 2012. Keene, in his lifetime, has witnessed a revolution. “It’s not just the conservative political victories, the capture of the Republican Party, the creation of a conservative intellectual élite,” he said, “but the whole change in the way Americans look at government.” No conservative victories will last longer than the rulings of this Supreme Court.
One in three Americans knows someone who has been shot. As long as a candid discussion of guns is impossible, unfettered debate about the causes of violence is unimaginable. Gun-control advocates say the answer to gun violence is fewer guns. Gun-rights advocates say that the answer is more guns: things would have gone better, they suggest, if the faculty at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Chardon High School had been armed. That is the logic of the concealed-carry movement; that is how armed citizens have come to be patrolling the streets. That is not how civilians live. When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left.
Very little indeed. George Carlin once wrote, “Living in the South was never an option — the main problem being they have too much respect for authority; they’re soldier-sniffers and cop-lovers.” And now, with a big boost from Osama bin Laden, the South has at last won the Civil War. Local police, the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, the military, the courts, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security (Heimat Sicherheit in the original German), the prison industry, Blackwater and its mercenary ilk, all have joined hands in the great work of penning us in for our own good. It’s going remarkably smoothly: turns out most of us welcome the barbed wire and feel safe inside it. Turns out we are a nation of bottoms.
Add this to your list of things you always suspected were true. It’s from Ted McLaughlin at The Rag Blog. Turns out that those amazing drug-sniffing dogs are no more amazing than Clever Hans, the Counting Horse.
The researchers took 18 drug dog teams to a church, where it is likely no drugs or explosives had ever been placed in the past. The cops were told there might be up to three target scents in any one of four rooms. If they saw a piece of red construction paper in the room, that indicated where a target scent was placed.
The first room was left untouched. The second room had a piece of red construction paper on a cabinet. The third room had two sausages and two tennis balls placed as decoys. The fourth room had the decoy scents and the red paper. However, none of the rooms had any drugs or explosives.
There shouldn’t have been any alerts, but, in fact, handlers indicated their dog had alerted in every room. There were more alerts in rooms with red paper (which piques the cop’s interest) and no corresponding increase in rooms with sausages and tennis balls (which would pique a dog’s interest).
In other words, at best, dogs are responding to the subtle non-verbal cues of their masters to find drugs or explosives where the human thinks there should be drugs or explosives. The cop suspects you have pot so his body language makes the dog alert. At worst, the cop is purposefully cuing his dog to alert when he wants a handy excuse to violate your Fourth Amendment rights.
Before we go all warm and fuzzy over Vaughn R. Walker, the federal judge who just knocked down Prop 8, remember this. He may have a soft spot in his heart for gays, but he is a vicious, torture-loving son of a bitch when it comes to helpless prisoners. Tell me that holding four women’s eyes open and daubing their eyeballs with pepper spray isn’t torture. Go ahead, tell me.
More on the good judge here.
Spencer Ackerman brings us this etymological note from Joint Task Force Guantánamo:
Interrogator #2 also described other techniques allowed for interrogators at Bagram that appeared abusive. ”We could play music, yes sir. … Loud music, yes.” A report about Khadr contemporaneous with Interrogator #2’s time in Bagram said Khadr was “sedated” during an interrogation. And Interrogator #2 chafed when Jackson asked if Bagram interrogators could use “stress positions,” replying that they were cleared to use something called “safety positions.”
“Well, first it was called stress positions, wasn’t it?” Jackson asked. “Yes, sir,” Interrogator #2 replied.
That raised Parrish’s interest: “Is there a difference?”
Interrogator #2 replied, “No, sir.”
What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote — and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas…
Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer’s command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected…
The weapon she used to slice the Arizona voter rolls was a 2004 law, known as “Prop 200,” which required proof of citizenship to register. It is important to see the Republicans’ latest legislative horror show, sanctioning cops to stop residents and prove citizenship, as just one more step in the party’s desperate plan to impede Mexican-Americans from marching to the ballot box.
[By the way, no one elected Brewer. Weirdly, Barack Obama placed her in office last year when, for reasons known only to the Devil and Rahm Emanuel, the President appointed Arizona’s Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano to his cabinet, which automatically moved Republican Brewer into the Governor’s office.]
…and incorporated himself…
From a New York Times editorial:
Under the three-strikes law, a man named Gary Ewing was sentenced to 25 years to life for shoplifting three golf clubs from a golf pro shop.
Mr. Ewing challenged his sentence before the Supreme Court as a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. By a 5-to-4 vote, with Justice Kennedy in the majority, the court rejected the challenge. The dissenters were right that Mr. Ewing’s sentence was so disproportionate to his crime that it should have been declared unconstitutional.
It’s not that the court is insensitive to excessive punishments. It has repeatedly thrown them out — when they are against corporations. In 2003, the year the court rejected Mr. Ewing’s case, it overturned a $145 million punitive damage award against the State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company as so excessive that it violated the 14th Amendment due process clause.
Thanks to Common Dreams and Sara Robinson who reminds us about fascism and how a country arrives there and where we are on that road and what to do about it :
We’ve arrived. We are now parked on the exact spot where our best experts tell us full-blown fascism is born. Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we’re slowly creeping across the final line beyond which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.
Woody reminds of of an earlier time. And goads us into moving in the direction of light and sunshine. But will we before it’s too late?
Ma, that’s not where we want to go.
Robert Stein at Connecting the Dots:
The perception of a growing gulf between the American military and the White House stirs echoes of the 1964 movie, Seven Days in May, a what-if about a conspiracy to unseat a President led by the head of the Joint Chiefs who considers him too soft on America’s enemies…
What we face in the Middle East is a slow-motion Seven Days in May, an undermining of the elected Commander-in-Chief that was dramatized as unthinkable in the last century. It shouldn’t be thinkable now.
From the Associated Press:
“The assumption is that the (methods) are without effect on memory, or indeed facilitate the retrieval of information from memory,” O’Mara said.
But overwhelmingly, scientific literature shows the opposite: Chronic stress and trauma — the likely result of the CIA’s methods, particularly for long-term prisoners, according to O’Mara — can damage the hippocampus, the part of the brain that integrates memory.
The list of techniques the CIA used included prolonged sleep deprivation — six days in at least one instance — being chained in painful positions, exploitation of prisoners’ phobias, and waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning that President Barack Obama has called torture. Three CIA prisoners were waterboarded, two of them extensively.
Those methods cause the brain to release stress hormones that, if their release is repeated and prolonged, may result in compromised brain function and even tissue loss, O’Mara wrote.
He warned that this could lead to brain lobe disorders, making the prisoners vulnerable to confabulation — in this case, the pathological production of false memories based on suggestions from an interrogator. Those false memories mix with true information in the interrogation, making it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is fabricated.
Waterboarding is especially stressful “with the potential to cause widespread stress-induced changes in the brain, especially when these are repeated frequently and intensively,” O’Mara wrote.
I have a fat and constantly growing file of FBI stupidity, inefficiency, incompetence, bribery, theft, entrapment, perjury, burglary, and murder. But this — this — still surprised. To think of such a thing requires a mind of vileness beyond the imagination of decent people. To carry it out is unspeakable.
…But Boyd, a 41-year-old mother of five and U.S.-born convert to Islam, reserved her sharpest comments for what she called a cruel trap that law enforcement authorities set up to get her out of her house Monday while agents scoured it for documents after the arrest of her husband, two sons and four other men.
Boyd, whose family lives in the Johnston County community of Willow Spring, described a harrowing experience Monday afternoon when she answered the door to find a man she thought was a family friend wearing a shirt that appeared to be bloodied. He told her that Daniel and their three sons, Dylan, Noah and Zakariya, were in a serious car crash. He asked her to get into a Highway Patrol cruiser that would take her to Duke Hospital, where they were being treated.
Boyd summoned her daughter and pregnant daughter-in-law. They wrapped their heads in scarves, grabbed their Qurans and flew out the door. For Boyd, it was a particularly painful experience. Her 16-year-old son, Luqman, died in a car crash near their home in 2007.
When they arrived at Duke Hospital, the cruiser took them to a construction site at the rear of the facility. A man dressed as a doctor came out and asked whether she was the wife. When she said yes, he extended his hand. She told him she does not shake men’s hands. He then grabbed her wrist and handcuffed her.
“I’m not a doctor. I’m an agent and your family is not in the hospital,” he told her. “You’re being detained, and you need to cooperate with us.”
Boyd estimates she was then surrounded by 30 agents who frisked her and asked whether she had weapons or weapons of mass destruction…
U.S. District Attorney George E. B. Holding declined to respond to Boyd’s version. “I am sticking to the four corners of the indictment. We try our cases in court and won’t go back and forth before then,” he said Tuesday.
Holding, you will be unsurprised to learn, is a piece of legal litter left over from the George W. Bush administration. He is a fat rich kid who owes his job to that unspeakable embarrassment from North Carolina, the late Senator Jesse Helms.
One of Obama’s most puzzling failures has been leaving so many George Holdings in their U.S. Attorney jobs, bad aftertastes from the most disgraceful period in the history of the Justice Department. When you move into a new house, it’s a good idea to clear out the old owner's garbage.
Nephew Will Doolittle’s column in today’s Glens Falls Post-Star:
The point of social institutions, especially legal institutions, is to impose uniformity and objectivity on social interactions that would otherwise be personal and unpredictable.
When Mario Cuomo was governor of New York, and debating the death penalty, which he opposed, he would propose a scenario where a member of his own family was killed during a robbery, making the criminal eligible for a first-degree murder charge.
Would he want that murderer executed? Would he want to kill him with his own hands?
Yes, Cuomo would say, but, for the good of all, the legal system would not allow him a personal revenge.
Victims are prohibited from punishing their victimizers, except through the offices of the state. That’s how order is maintained.
When I have criticized Bush-era officials for engaging in torture, the most consistent response from readers has been, “What if your child were in danger?”
Let’s say my child were kidnapped and, by some fantastic set of circumstances, one of the kidnappers was sitting in my kitchen and I believed that, by torturing him, I could save my child — would I do it?
I probably would, which is no justification for legalizing torture.
It is our capacity for violence that makes laws forbidding it necessary, unless, of course, you think torture is fine.
If torture is fine, then, as Jesse Ventura asked recently, why didn’t we torture Timothy McVeigh to find out who helped him in the Oklahoma City attack? Why not torture murderers for the names of their accomplices? Why not torture prisoners of war for information about our enemies?
If, as Dick Cheney asserts, the end of squeezing information out of suspected al-Qaida terrorists justified the means of torturing them, then, surely, torture is worth doing in other circumstances where American lives are threatened.
We should have tortured prisoners we captured during the Vietnam War, for example, to find out what they knew about our enemy’s plans.
We should have tortured Squeaky Fromme after she tried to shoot Gerald Ford, to find out if any other members of the Manson family were planning to attack the president (one of them was).
We should torture teens caught plotting Columbine-style attacks to make sure no co-conspirators are left at large.
The question is not whether torture works. Let’s say it does. The question is whether the costs of employing torture outweigh the benefits of any information you glean. I think they do.
…you guys have got a lot to talk about. For instance, does this sound familiar?
[Rev. Robert G.] Certain remembers how easily his Vietnamese captors justified crossing the line with him. They said American prisoners weren’t covered by the Geneva Convention.
“They said we were not prisoners of war because there was no legal declaration of war,” Certain says. “Therefore we were air pirates and they could treat us anyway they felt."
Once again Noam Chomsky brings us back to reality in this essay. I’m posting this minutes before President Obama’s address on closing our prison at Guantánamo Bay. We will see what we will see.
None of this is to say that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld et al. did not introduce important innovations. In ordinary American practice, torture was largely farmed out to subsidiaries, not carried out by Americans directly in their own government-established torture chambers.
As Allan Nairn, who has carried out some of the most revealing and courageous investigations of torture, points out: “What the Obama [ban on torture] ostensibly knocks off is that small percentage of torture now done by Americans while retaining the overwhelming bulk of the system’s torture, which is done by foreigners under U.S. patronage. Obama could stop backing foreign forces that torture, but he has chosen not to do so.”
Obama did not shut down the practice of torture, Nairn observes, but “merely repositioned it,” restoring it to the American norm, a matter of indifference to the victims. “[H]is is a return to the status quo ante,” writes Nairn, “the torture regime of Ford through Clinton, which, year by year, often produced more U.S.-backed strapped-down agony than was produced during the Bush/Cheney years…”
An argument can be made that implementation of the CIA’s “torture paradigm” never violated the 1984 Torture Convention, at least as Washington interpreted it. McCoy points out that the highly sophisticated CIA paradigm developed at enormous cost in the 1950s and 1960s, based on the “KGB’s most devastating torture technique,” kept primarily to mental torture, not crude physical torture, which was considered less effective in turning people into pliant vegetables.
McCoy writes that the Reagan administration then carefully revised the International Torture Convention “with four detailed diplomatic ‘reservations’ focused on just one word in the convention’s 26-printed pages,” the word “mental.” He continues: “These intricately-constructed diplomatic reservations re-defined torture, as interpreted by the United States, to exclude sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain — the very techniques the CIA had refined at such great cost.”
The Rude Pundit is shocked, shocked— You can tell because he got through an entire paragraph without potty-mouthing.
But what doesn’t come through immediately is the answer to a simple question: why? Why did the Bush administration commit and allow (and encourage, if not force others to commit) what are, seemingly without a doubt, treaty-busting crimes? Because, see, you read something like footnote 10 on page 2 and you come across this line: “According to Gonzales, the ‘positive’ consequences of setting aside the Third Geneva Convention include ‘preserving flexibility’ and ‘substantially reduc[ing] the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act,’” and you realize that, whatever the motivation of the people involved, they didn’t care. And they didn’t care for a simple reason to answer that simple question: the Bush administration thought it was the beginning of an ascendant Republican reign and that they’d never be investigated.
Scott Horton over at Harper’s No Comment Blog is rightly agonizing over the fact that we have a torture enabler and what some have seriously referred to as a monster sitting on the Federal Bench. This “subject” ( I use the term here to properly refer to this individual as a prosecutor or police offer would do when an accused is referred to in court) sits on a federal bench judging others who are guilty of much lesser crimes. After all, torturers and torture enablers were routinely hanged by Allied Courts at Nuremburg and in the Pacific Theater after World War II. American court officials routinely participated in these proceedings.
Some may think all of this is quite complicated, but I find it simple since the solution to resolving the problem is quite simple. I am of the opinion that simple problems can be resolved with simple solutions.
Therefore I propose a remedy to the Bybee problem, a problem that every decent lawyer knows is a black eye on the Federal Judiciary and will remain so for years to come if not remedied. I am therefore making an extremely modest proposal which I propose should be taken seriously, despite my labeling this post as partly snark.
The US needs an official representative from our esteemed judiciary to view the proceedings in Spain to ensure that they are carried out in a fair manner. I am sure the Spanish courts would be happy to oblige us if we were to choose the proper emissary. If I were the presiding judge or court official who could carry out the task of assigning the court official to engage in this duty, I would immediately assign this task to a new judge. Since Judge Bybee would have intimate knowledge of what the proceedings were about, he should be sent immediately to Spain to fulfill his judicial duties.
Of course, this might involve the devil and the deep blue sea, rocks and hard places, frying pans and fires and dozens of other things and places that go together like crude oil mixes with water. However, those are individual problems that at least one individual will have to deal with.
However this proposal is not without precedent. Robert Houghwout Jackson was sent to participate in the Nuremberg trials. Why should Judge Bybee not likewise be assigned a task in another country along the same lines? Younger judges should be given the traveling assignments in my opinion and Judge Bybee fills the bill for this assignment perfectly.
I am of the opinion that Judge Jay S. Bybee should be given this assignment forthwith, with Hillary Clinton at the State Department making proper accommodations for his stay, preferably in a five star hotel, for as long as those fine accommodations last. And if free accommodations are given by the Spaniards to one of our own, the Federal Budget would be that much better off. Allowing such an emissary diplomatic immunity is beyond the scope of this modest assignment of course, so that should definitely not be given as it is definitely not needed due to our emissary’s somewhat limited assigned duties. A few select CIA agents might be assigned the task of ensuring the judge’s security.
This assignment should be a mandatory assignment. Refusal to do one’s duty as a judge would of course mean impeachment.
Or Judge Bybee could spare himself and everyone else great embarrassment for years to come by doing the right thing. And he and all right thinking Americans know exactly what that is.
Mr. Obama, are you listening? Some of your former supporters are getting the opinion that you are going to end up letting the Europeans take care of American problems. If we don’t deal with letting the rule of law determine what happens to the torturers and their enablers, then we can expect the pattern and the behavior to repeat itself.
I hope to be dead by then and I don’t and won’t have any children to worry about what they may have to endure when the cycle repeats. Others are not so lucky.
We now know that CIA torturers waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed precisely 183 times and Abu Zubaydah 83 times. That comes to 266 times in all. To get a full sense of what lies behind this number then, you must multiply what you will read below by 266.
I posted it on September 14, 2006, and repost it now to remind us of the exact nature of the crimes committed by Bush, Cheney, Addington, Libby, Tenet, Bybee, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Yoo and the many others in a chain of command that stretched directly from the Oval Office to the secret overseas torture chambers of the CIA. None of these criminals will ever be punished, because our part of the world doesn’t work that way. This isn’t Chile or Germany or Cambodia, after all.
Being of unsound stomach, I tuned out TV’s Monday wallow in the guilty pleasures of 9/11 and only just now came across Matt Lauer’s disturbing interview of Bush, a president.
The president’s body language comes straight from the barroom. He stands too close — into Lauer’s space, almost in his face. Since Bush is on TV, he can’t engage in the usual shoving ritual of the perpetually adolescent male. His jabbing finger, never quite making contact, has to do the job for him. Lauer stands his ground but does not jab back. It would cost him his job, as both men well know.
Lauer can use his words, though. And so he brings up the matter of waterboarding, a form of torture which Bush uses on suspected terrorists. But Bush, as both men also well know, can’t admit to that on TV. So the president, of course, lies. But then — twice, in the same prepared words — he goes on to tell us why he does the thing he doesn’t do:
I’m not going to talk about techniques that we use on people. One reason why is because we don’t want the enemy to adjust …
I’m not going to tell you specifically what’s done because I don’t want the enemy to adjust.”
Adjust? How can the enemy adjust? Grow gills?
Since the torturer Bush won’t tell us specifically what he has done, let’s turn to somebody to whom it was done half a century ago. This is from a 1958 book called The Question. The author, a French newspaper editor in Algeria named Henri Alleg, had already resisted a month of hideous torture at the hands of his own country’s paratroopers, including having his testicles burned. The worst was yet to come:
A few moments later L— came into the room. Twenty-five years old, short, sunburnt, pomaded hair, small forehead. He came up to me, smiling, and said, “Ah! So you’re the customer? Come with me…”
L— now laid on the ground a black plank, sweating with humidity, polluted and sticky with vomit left, no doubt, by previous “customers.”
I lay down on the plank. L—, with the help of another man, attached me by the wrists and ankles with leather straps fixed to the wood…
Together they picked up he plank to which I was attached and carried me into the kitchen. Once there, they rested the top of the plank, where my head was, against the sink. L— fixed a rubber tube to the metal tap which shone just above my face. He wrapped my head in a rag, while Captain D— said: “Put a wedge in his mouth.”
With the rag already over my face, L— held my nose. He tried to jam a piece of wood between my lips in such a way that I could not close my mouth or spit out the tube. When everything was ready, he said to me: “When you want to talk, all you have to do is move your fingers.”
And he turned on the tap. The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could.
But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably,
“That’s it! He’s going to talk,” said a voice.
The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed. Befuddled by the air I was breathing, I hardly felt the blows.
“Well, then?” I remained silent. “He’s playing games with us. Put his head under again!”
This time I clenched my fists, forcing the nails into my palm. I had decided I was not going to move my fingers again. It was better to die of asphyxia right away. I feared to undergo again that terrible moment when I had felt myself losing consciousness, while at the same time I was fighting with all my might not to die.
I did not move my hands, but three times I again experienced this insupportable agony. In extremis, they let me get my breath back while I threw up the water.
The last time, I lost consciousness.
M. Alleg, shown below in a 2004 photo, never broke under the torture and was sent away to ten years in prison, from which he escaped and fled to Czechoslovakia.
In August of 2006 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a Justice Department lawyer named Steven G. Bradbury confessed his confusion over certain obscure terms used in the Geneva Conventions:
Although many of the provisions of Common Article 3 prohibit actions that are universally condemned, such as “murder,” “mutilation,” “torture,” and the “taking of hostages,” it is undeniable that some of the terms in Common Article 3 are inherently vague. For example, Common Article 3 prohibits “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment,” a phrase that is susceptible of uncertain and unpredictable application.
Bradbury was being too modest, however. More than a year before, he had already settled on at least one thing that does not constitute humiliation. Here it is, from a memo in May of 2005 to John A. Rizzo, a lawyer for the Central Intelligence Agency:
If the detainee is clothed, he wears an adult diaper under his pants. Detainees subject to sleep deprivation who are also subject to nudity as a separate interrogation technique will at times be nude and wearing a diaper.
If the detainee is wearing a diaper, it is checked regularly and changed as necessary. The use of the diaper is for sanitary and health purposes of the detainee; it is not used for the purpose of humiliating the detainee, and it is not considered to be an interrogation technique. The detainee’s skin condition is monitored, and diapers are changed as needed so that the detainee does not remain in a soiled diaper.…
This makes the matter plain. Forcing a prisoner to defecate in diapers while his jailers watch is not done with intent to humiliate, but simply to keep the man clean and healthy.
Bradbury does not address the possibility of collateral humiliation because for him intent is the main thing at issue. I find this argument convincing, and plan to use it if I am ever charged with murder for shooting Mr. Bradbury through the heart while intending merely to perforate his bowels.
…and the Honorable Jay S. Bybee is perhaps up around the gills somewhere, behind such moral vacuums as George Tenet, Richard Cheney and, at the very tippy-top where the hook ought to go but won’t, George W. Bush.
Following his spell as a torture enabler at the Justice Department the Honorable Bybee was appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with the enthusiastic support of Senator Harry Reid and Senator Charles Schumer. I think we should all know more about the Honorable Bybee, and I will supply it later. Meanwhile, from The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew, according to former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum…
Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said…
The legal basis for this treatment is uncertain, but lawyers at C.I.A. headquarters were in constant touch with interrogators, as well as with Mr. Bybee’s subordinate in the Office of Legal Counsel, John C. Yoo, who was drafting memos on the legal limits of interrogation…
See? The Peruvians can do it.
LIMA, Peru — A special tribunal convicted former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori of murder and kidnapping on Tuesday and sentenced him to 25 years in prison, saying he authorized a government death squad during the Shining Path insurgency.
The 70-year-old former leader, who remains popular for rescuing Peru from the brink of economic and political collapse in the early 1990s, was convicted of what the court called “crimes against humanity,” including 25 murders by a military hit squad.
Presiding judge Cesar San Martin told a hushed courtroom there was no question Fujimori authorized the creation of the Colina unit, which the court said killed at least 50 people during its 15 months as the state crushed the fanatical Shining Path rebels.
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Bush has spread his filth from Bagram and Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo all the way back home to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Watch the girl holding the flower — not violent, not impeding in any way the slow march of the cops, anonymous behind their beetle masks — but merely holding out a flower.
Watch the vicious little shit in blue amuse himself by spraying her in the face with pepper spray. Now watch the same cowardly torturer, still safe and unthreatened behind his armor and his gun, as he delivers another long dose of agony, this one even more gratuitous, on the bare back of the helpless girl as she retreats in pain.
And be proud you’re an American.
We have unquestionably descended into a true fascist state. Amy Goodman, the journalist all of us in the left blogosphere admire and respect, along with a large group of other peaceful protesters exercising their right to free speech were arrested in the last few days in St. Paul, Minnesota. Video of the Nazi fascist goons arresting our journalist friend appears below. Glenn Greenwald has more on the many stories.
I suppose the feeling that I have now is that which some Germans felt on the night of Kristallnacht. We now know that they will come for the liberals first. Weep for what your country has become. And call your Senators, Congresssman, and elected officials tomorrow. The descent into hell has just begun. Who will be next?
[UPDATE: As recommended on the Democracy Now website in their news release, I just called the Mayors office to speak to Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman’s office at 651-266-8535. I got an answering machine which stated that the mailbox was full. I then called the Ramsey County Jail to ask about the status of the arrested peaceful protesters and to demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and all the other peaceful protesters in the County jail. After a long wait after being put on hold, I finally spoke to someone who did not identify herself. After briefly inquiring about the journalists, the person at the jail curtly said “Amy has been released”. I then asked "What about the other peaceful protesters”. At that point, the person who answered the phone hung up the phone in my face.
I urge everyone to keep making those inquiries requested by Democracy Now, even if you have to wait till late into the night to get through, and continue the pressure tomorrow. We have stood by too long and let this country descend into a state of fascism. The Communist Chinese who we heard so much criticism about from our mainstream media during the Olympics have no reason to change their ways. The example being set in this country shows not only a denial of the right to peacefully protest, but there is a crude violence shown by our own law enforcement that even the Chinese rarely engage in. The only thing the Chinese can learn by our example is to be teach their own law enforcement officials to engage in even more cruelty than they are currently familiar with. The video speak for itself. I don’t even need to tell you this. You can see it with your own eyes.
Update II: More photos of the goons in action at Open Left. The horror show seems to be spreading thoughout the net. This story will unquestionably make the history books. If not in this country, in other foreign countries to prove we are indeed a fascist state.
When the rest of the world sees the photos and videos, American will never again be respected anywhere in the world, not that most of the respect we once had has been destroyed in the last eight years already. But we MUST document this horror to the rest of the world. It is the only way to have any chance at all of preventing it from ever happening again.
A Smirking Chimp commenter by the handle of genboomxer hits us where it hurts.
There is a hypocritical duality in our American culture. We want a saint for president; we want someone with confidence and experience. We want the “Daddy” ideal. On the other hand we want someone who’s not afraid to play dirty to give us what we want. We are the children who idolize “Daddy” as long as we don’t know he’s cheating.
Politically we are one of the most immature countries. We run our domestic and foreign policies like an amoral adolescent with a car, a shotgun and a case of beer on a Saturday night who goes on a rampage, who then shows up for church on Sunday to repent our sins to show everyone that deep-down we’re really good.
A more concise statement of the American character is hard to find. When we’re disappointed in our leadership we blame it on them, as if we had no part in making it happen.
So I guess you wouldn’t be surprised to find the same person pointing to an old Bill Moyers show called “The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis”. It’s just as true now, and just as relevant, as when it was made. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Moyers remains unsurpassed. You kinda get the feeling he’s still trying to make up for the whole LBJ thing, though it’s hard to imagine that he had the power to fix it. Probably LBJ was just smart enough to make him the front man, because Moyers is so clearly a moral person in the best sense of the term.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. military is segregating violent Iraqi prisoners in wooden crates that in some cases are not much bigger than the prisoners.
As a boy I was a great reader of the English adventure writer Percival Christopher Wren. He is remembered today only as the author of the book on which the movie Beau Geste was based, but he wrote many more books about the French Foreign Legion.
Life was hard in Wren’s Foreign Legion. Mess up and you spent the day with a rock-filled pack on your back, double-timing around the parade ground in the North African sun.
Really mess up and the sergeants put you in a stress position called the crapaudine, or locked you inside a box no bigger than a refrigerator where you would stay until you went mad.
I was terrified and yet fascinated. Could people be so cruel to one another? Did such evil really exist outside of books? Later I learned that it once had — in the chain gangs of our own South, where it was called the “hot box.” Imagine a citizenry so primitive, so low, so depraved, so ignorant, so devoid of humanity, as to permit such things!
The chain gangs were history by then, although fairly recent history. But before long, as fear of various Others made us not brave and strong but small and mean, the chain gangs came back. The cancer of prisons spread and metastasized. The land of the scared was becoming the home of a vast corporate gulag.
All the while we sat by and cheered, fat and ignorant and frightened, until now now we have at last what Jimmy Carter in his innocence once promised us — a government as good as the American people themselves.
Now we have our very own hot boxes in our very own colonies and most of us must be just fine with that. After all, none of this is the fault of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, those nasty amoral morons who rule in our name. If our vote could be won by compassion, humility, the rule of law and a preference for peace, they would hide their disgust and try to deliver. No, the draft-dodging duo is the effect, not the cause.
The cause is those nasty amoral morons who put our two warhogs in the White House, and who then, after taking a good, long, four-year look at the results, chose to leave them there.
We built those boxes, and if there were a God in heaven we would be in them ourselves.
In comments in a previous post, Aitch Jay mentioned that he had taken a Support the Troops bumper sticker and wrote in Bring ‘em home on it and promptly had the sticker stolen when he was visiting down South. Since both of our Presidential candidates seem to want our troops to continue fighting, McCain in Iraq and Obama in Afghanistan, this bumper sticker is about as non partisan as you can get.
Personally, I just keep a Habitat for Humanity bumper sticker on my car based on the theory that it is the one sticker most likely to convince a police officer to give me a break if I’m stopped at a speed trap or something like that, since Habitat is supported by most folks on both sides of the political spectrum. But if you want one in Black that says Bring ‘em Home here’s where to get one. And at least you’ll be supporting the economy (but not the troops as far as I know). The site also has a number of other liberal/Democrat bumper stickers of all sorts so go take a look. All stickers sold by this company are said to be made in America. And besides, six states have passed laws to outlaw the sales of one of this company’s T-shirts. These laws are about as clear a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as I know of.