Tag: TMC Politics

US Foreign Policy: Ignoring the Revolutions

In case you missed it because the American MSM mostly buried it, Tunisia had a revolution overthrowing it’s US backed dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia with most of his family. The upheaval arouse from the streets out of the frustrations of a well educated public that is suffering with high unemployment and skyrocketing prices for basics. The streets protesters were joined by the police and the military. The “revolution” is spreading across Africa to Egypt with major protests in the streets condemning the rule of ailing President Hosni Mubarak and his hand pick successor, his businessman son. Inspired by the Tunisian revolution, Egypt poverty stricken youths have taken to the streets demanding the end of Mubarak’s 30 year rule.

For decades, Egypt’s authoritarian president, Hosni Mubarak, played a clever game with his political opponents.  

He tolerated a tiny and toothless opposition of liberal intellectuals whose vain electoral campaigns created the facade of a democratic process. And he demonized the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood as a group of violent extremists who posed a threat that he used to justify his police state.

But this enduring and, many here say, all too comfortable relationship was upended this week by the emergence of an unpredictable third force, the leaderless tens of thousands of young Egyptians who turned out to demand an end to Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Now the older opponents are rushing to catch up.

“It was the young people who took the initiative and set the date and decided to go,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Wednesday with some surprise during a telephone interview from his office in Vienna, shortly before rushing home to Cairo to join the revolt.

ElBaradei, who has been targeted for assassination by Mubarak supporters, is returning to Egypt today. in his  statement issued prior to his departure, ElBaradei has some disparaging comments about Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton:

   When Egypt had parliamentary elections only two months ago, they were completely rigged. The party of President Hosni Mubarak left the opposition with only 3 percent of the seats. Imagine that. And the American government said that it was “dismayed.” Well, frankly, I was dismayed that all it could say is that it was dismayed. The word was hardly adequate to express the way the Egyptian people felt.

   Then, as protests built in the streets of Egypt following the overthrow of Tunisia’s dictator, I heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assessment that the government in Egypt is “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people”. I was flabbergasted-and I was puzzled. What did she mean by stable, and at what price? Is it the stability of 29 years of “emergency” laws, a president with imperial power for 30 years, a parliament that is almost a mockery, a judiciary that is not independent? Is that what you call stability? I am sure not. And I am positive that it is not the standard you apply to other countries. What we see in Egypt is pseudo-stability, because real stability only comes with a democratically elected government..

   If you would like to know why the United States does not have credibility in the Middle East, that is precisely the answer…

(emphasis mine)

Now, it has spread to one of the poorest Mideastern countries, Yemen, as their youth take to the streets to protest their government.

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Yemen, one of the Middle East’s most impoverished countries and a haven for Al Qaeda militants, became the latest Arab state to witness mass protests on Thursday, as thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in the capital and other regions to demand a change in government. . . . . .

The demonstrations on Thursday followed several days of smaller protests by students and opposition groups calling for the removal of President Ali Abdallah Saleh, a strongman who has ruled this fractured country for more than 30 years and is a key ally of the United States in the fight against the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda. . . . . .

Yemen’s fragile stability has been of increasing concern to the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a visit to Sana earlier this month, urged Mr. Saleh to open a dialogue with the opposition, saying it would help to stabilize the country. His current term expires in two years, but proposed constitutional changes could allow him to hold onto power for longer.

How many despotic regimes will the US continue to bolster? For how long? US policy in the region has been on the wrong track for decades. Time to reassess is coming fast.

Two Polls: Keep Your Hands Off Social Security

The New York Times reports on a poll that shows while “Americans overwhelmingly say that in general they prefer cutting government spending to paying higher taxes”

Yet their preference for spending cuts, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch the most people and also are the biggest drivers of the government’s projected long-term debt.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans choose higher payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security over reduced benefits in either program. And asked to choose among cuts to Medicare, Social Security or the nation’s third-largest spending program – the military – a majority by a large margin said cut the Pentagon. . . . . .

Asked what Congress should focus on, 43 percent of Americans say job creation; health care is a distant second, cited by 18 percent, followed by deficit reduction, war and illegal immigration.

If Medicare benefits have to be reduced, the most popular option is raising premiums on affluent beneficiaries. Similarly, if Social Security benefits must be changed to make the program more financially sound, a broad majority prefers the burden fall on the wealthy. Even most wealthy Americans agree.

Meanwhile, Social Security Works  has a series of slides assembled from past polls that clearly indicate that Americans don’t trust President Obama’s handling of Social Security. In fact, as Richard (RJ) Eskow points out in the article, they trust him even less that they trusted George W. Bush.

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The Republican privatization attempt was thought to have contributed significantly to that party’s Congressional losses in 2006. Yet the president refuses to say that he won’t cut Social Security, and he continues to have kind words for the reckless, inhumane, and unneeded proposals of his Deficit Commission co-chairs (the Commission was unable to agree to a plan).

In this climate, with these numbers, any attempt by the president to cut Social Security could only be described in one phrase: Political malpractice. Is that where he’s headed? Or will he surprise us all by delivering a stirring, unequivocal defense of Social Security? After all the suspense and fear over this issue, that would be a political moment for the ages.

But if he’s going to have a change of heart, he better act fast. The damage is already considerable. As Social Security Works explains, the 20-point advantage Democrats had on this issue for the last 15 years has evaporated, and trust in President Obama is roughly half of what it was for President Clinton on the same issue. Obama’s performance is even worse among those much-sought-after independent voters. Only 18 percent of them trust him on this issue.

It won’t bode well for the Senate Democrats either:

It would be comforting to be able to say that this is all a misunderstanding and that the president will keep his promise to defend Social Security. But we can’t do that. His silence about Social Security, especially after Harry Reid’s stemwinding defense of the program, is disturbing. Reid and other members of the Senate and House are on the front line, and any attempt by Obama to triangulate and propose “bipartisan” cuts will devastate them. That’s why there are reports like The Hill‘s of a strategic split between the president and Democrats in Congress: They’re afraid he’s going to sell them out for a personality-driven reelection campaign that suits his needs, not his party’s or the country’s.

Obama will be committing political suicide and taking the Senate Democrats with him if he doesn’t start listening to his base, now.

Human Rights: A Quaint & Obsolete Relic

Bradley Manning’s detention conditions got worse this week. He is now being held in total isolation in the brig at the Quantico, VA Marine Base. As has been reported by his friend David House, the only visitor he is allowed besides his lawyer, Manning’s mental and physical condition has been deteriorating steadily during his seven month long detention. Manning has no history violence or disciplinary infractions and that he is a pre-trial detainee not yet convicted of any offense.

Last Friday Jane Hamsher reported on Manning’s detention and a complaint that has been filed protesting his abuse:

For over five months, Bradley Manning has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch at the Quantico Brig against the recommendations of three forensic psychiatrists. Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, has filed an Article 138 Complaint under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, asserting that this represents an abuse of Brig Commander James Averhart’s discretion.

Coombs’ complaint was filed after the Brig Commander placed Manning under “suicide risk” and MAX custody earlier this week, which made his conditions dramatically worse. Glenn Greenwald broke the story about the inhumane conditions of Manning’s pre-trial confinement last month, shortly before the New York Times reported that the Justice Department strategy regarding Wikileaks was to “persuade” Manning to testify against Julain Assange.. . . . .

Bradley Manning has not been convicted of anything. Abusing his mental health classification while attempting to “persuade” him to testify against Julian Assange has alarming echoes of the techniques used to elicit false confessions from terrorist suspects.  It should alarm everyone that we could be watching pre-trial coersion becoming acceptable American shores.  If so, we can all wave goodbye to “innocent until proven guilty.”

Today Jane, accompanied by David House, went to Quantico to visit Manning and deliver a protest petition to brig officials. Instead they were detained at the gate and harassed by the MP’s who readily admitted they were ordered to do so.

Between 1:00 – 1:30 MPs took their IDs and made them sign a form that they could not deviate to the brig or else they would be considered trespassing. At this time, one of the MPs asked for Hamsher’s auto insurance card. MP Gunnery Sgt. Foster informed Hamsher that her car would be towed after declining to accept a digital copy of Hamsher’s insurance card. House and Hamsher offered to drive off the base but were denied, despite being detained only ten feet inside the base’s perimeter. The MPs then took the Social Security numbers, phone numbers and addresses of House and Hamsher.

Around 1:40 the tow truck arrived and MPs instructed House and Hamsher to leave their vehicle, informing them that their vehicle would be searched. At 2:00 pm House observed military officers arriving and entering the MP outpost which oversaw their detainment. House expressed concern that he would miss Manning’s visiting hours but was told that he could neither exit nor move forward to the base. No explanation for House and Hamsher’s detainment was provided until, and they were held until 2:50 when they were informed they could leave the base. They were detained for two hours up until Manning’s visitation time period expired at 3:00 pm.

House and Jane have visited Manning in the past but not since Amnesty International filed a complaint to Defense Secretary Robert Gates calling for an investigation into the conditions of Manning’s confinement. The Amnesty International complaint came on the heals of the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Mendez, submitting a formal inquiry about the conditions of Manning’s detention. House was banned today from seeing Manning. One of the question now is will he be banned in the future because of his reports on Manning’s condition under these harsh conditions.

I look around at the reports about the resumption of the military commissions at Guantanamo and the new policies on the use of Miranda in terrorist interrogations and I wonder is this still the United States? What happened to our principles of justice, not that they ever favored the underprivileged? Is this country turning into the new Soviet Russia?

Military Commissions to Increase at Guantánamo and More . . .

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Obama continues to make Dick Cheney proud.

U.S. Prepares to Lift Ban on Guantánamo Cases

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is preparing to increase the use of military commissions to prosecute Guantánamo detainees, an acknowledgment that the prison in Cuba remains open for business after Congress imposed steep new impediments to closing the facility.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is expected to soon lift an order blocking the initiation of new cases against detainees, which he imposed on the day of President Obama’s inauguration. That would clear the way for tribunal officials, for the first time under the Obama administration, to initiate new charges against detainees.

Charges would probably then come within weeks against one or more detainees who have already been designated by the Justice Department for prosecution before a military commission, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi accused of planning the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Yemen; Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi accused of plotting, in an operation that never came to fruition, to attack oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz; and Obaydullah, an Afghan accused of concealing bombs.

The rules for admissible evidence that these commission operate under are far loser than a civilian court.

Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft explains:

One of those expected to be recharged and tried is Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who was captured in 2002. Al-Nashiri was originally charged by the Bush Administration with participating in the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. He was facing the death penalty. The Obama Administration moved to dismiss the charges against in in 2009. Al-Nashiri’s co-defendants were moved to federal court. Why wasn’t Al-Nashiri? The obvious answer is because the evidence against him was obtained by torture. His lawyer, Lt. Com. Stephen Reyes says:

“Nashiri is being prosecuted at the commissions because of the torture issue,” Mr. Reyes said. “Otherwise he would be indicted in New York along with his alleged co-conspirators.”

Most of those who will be charged and face the death penalty are not prosecutable in a civilian court because not only is all of the evidence against them was obtained through torture but the detainees themselves were tortured. President Obama and Attorney General Holder are prosecuting the wrong people. They should be trying Bush and Cheney who have both publicly confessed to personally authorizing torture.

And if you the average American citizen thought you were safe from this abuse, think again:

Obama administration keeps new policy on Miranda secret

The Justice Department has a new policy for terrorism interrogations — but officials won’t publicly release it

The Obama administration has issued new guidance on use of the Miranda warning in interrogations of terrorism suspects, potentially chipping away at the rule that bars the government from using information in court if it was gathered before a suspect was informed of his right to remain silent and to an attorney.

But the Department of Justice is refusing to publicly release the guidance, with a spokesman describing it in an interview as an “internal document.” So we don’t know the administration’s exact interpretation of Miranda, even though it may have significantly reshaped the way terrorism interrogations are conducted.

If Bush was bad, Obama is taking it to new levels.

Military Commissions to Increase at Guantánamo and More . . .

Obama continues to make Dick Cheney proud.

U.S. Prepares to Lift Ban on Guantánamo Cases

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is preparing to increase the use of military commissions to prosecute Guantánamo detainees, an acknowledgment that the prison in Cuba remains open for business after Congress imposed steep new impediments to closing the facility.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is expected to soon lift an order blocking the initiation of new cases against detainees, which he imposed on the day of President Obama’s inauguration. That would clear the way for tribunal officials, for the first time under the Obama administration, to initiate new charges against detainees.

Charges would probably then come within weeks against one or more detainees who have already been designated by the Justice Department for prosecution before a military commission, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi accused of planning the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Yemen; Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi accused of plotting, in an operation that never came to fruition, to attack oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz; and Obaydullah, an Afghan accused of concealing bombs.

The rules for admissible evidence that these commission operate under are far loser than a civilian court.

Jerralyn Merrick at Talk Left explains:

One of those expected to be recharged and tried is Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who was captured in 2002. Al-Nashiri was originally charged by the Bush Administration with participating in the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. He was facing the death penalty. The Obama Administration moved to dismiss the charges against in in 2009. Al-Nashiri’s co-defendants were moved to federal court. Why wasn’t Al-Nashiri? The obvious answer is because the evidence against him was obtained by torture. His lawyer, Lt. Com. Stephen Reyes says:

“Nashiri is being prosecuted at the commissions because of the torture issue,” Mr. Reyes said. “Otherwise he would be indicted in New York along with his alleged co-conspirators.”

Most of those who will be charged and face the death penalty are not prosecutable in a civilian court because not only is all of the evidence against them was obtained through torture but the detainees themselves were tortured. President Obama and Attorney General Holder are prosecuting the wrong people. They should be trying Bush and Cheney who have both publicly confessed to personally authorizing torture.

And if you the average American citizen thought you were safe from this abuse, think again:

Obama administration keeps new policy on Miranda secret

The Justice Department has a new policy for terrorism interrogations — but officials won’t publicly release it

The Obama administration has issued new guidance on use of the Miranda warning in interrogations of terrorism suspects, potentially chipping away at the rule that bars the government from using information in court if it was gathered before a suspect was informed of his right to remain silent and to an attorney.

But the Department of Justice is refusing to publicly release the guidance, with a spokesman describing it in an interview as an “internal document.” So we don’t know the administration’s exact interpretation of Miranda, even though it may have significantly reshaped the way terrorism interrogations are conducted.

If Bush was bad, Obama is taking it to new levels.

Damning Praise for Obama from “Dead Eye” Dick

Damning, indeed.

Cheney: Obama has learned that Bush policies were right

By Daniel Strauss

01/17/11 05:18 PM ET

President Obama has “learned from experience” that some of the Bush administration’s decisions on terrorism issues were necessary, according to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

In his first interview since undergoing major heart surgery last July, Cheney said he thinks Obama has been forced to rethink some of his national security positions now that he sits in the Oval Office.

“I think he’s learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate. So I think he’s learned from experience. And part of that experience was the Democrats having a terrible showing last election.”

Cheney also asserted that Obama has learned that the prison at Guantanamo Bay simply cannot be closed, despite the promises he made while campaigning for the White House.

“I think he’s learned that he’s not going to be able to close Guantanamo,” Cheney said. “That it’s – if you didn’t have it, you’d have to create one like that. You’ve got to have some place to put terrorists who are combatants who are bound and determined to try to kill Americans.”

Cheney made the comments about Obama in an interview that is set to air Tuesday on NBC’s “Today.” The interview was Cheney’s first since before he underwent heart surgery in July. Doctors introduced a device into his heart that pumps blood from the ventricle chamber to his aorta.

From a “dead man walking”

The New Drinking Game: Anthony Weiner’s “Half Time Report”

We may have lost Alan Grayson to a teabagger but we still have Anthony Weiner calling the plays and the players at half time in the HCR bill repeal debates in the House. Sometimes the House provides some really great entertainment.

WEINER: There have basically been three formations of the argument by the Republicans. First, they start by making things up, you kind of have to wonder if any of them actually read the bill…”130,000 new agencies” – NOT TRUE. “New IRS agents” – NOT TRUE. “Death Panels” – NOT TRUE. “Members aren’t covered” – NOT TRUE. “No Tort Reform in it” – NOT TRUE. You know, I want to just advise people watching at home playing that now popular drinking game of “you take a shot whenever Republicans say something that is not true,” please assign a designated driver, this is going to be a long afternoon!

If this “game” continues over the next two years, the need for liver donors is going to increase exponentially.

MLK: Be True to What You Said on Paper

“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered this speech in support of the striking sanitation workers at Mason Temple in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968 – the day before he was assassinated

“Gangstas”, Goldman and Twitter

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Which Is More “Gangsta,” 50 Cent’s Twitter Stock Pitch or Goldman’s Facebook Deal?

Music was Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s second career. News reports say he began dealing crack at the age of twelve, after the murder of his coke-dealer mother. Early tracks like “Ghetto Quran” and “How to Rob” reflect a brutal, street-hustling life, and Jackson has the bullet wounds to match. He’s talented, wildly successful, and I sure wouldn’t mess with him.

But when he starts mixing social media with pumped-up investment pitches, 50 Cent is moving into Goldman Sachs territory. “Fitty” reportedly earned millions for touting a stock on Twitter, without disclosing that he owned shares in the company. How does that stack up against Goldman’s own social media deal with Facebook? When you move into the stock market, you’re going where the real gangstas roll. . . . . .

“Ok ok ok my friends just told me stop tweeting about HNHI so that we can get all the money. Hahaha check it out its the real deal.”

50 Cent about a marginal stock all weekend and into early Monday, calling it “BIG MONEY” and saying “you can double your money right now.” The effect was mindblowing.

Jackson’s credited with moving the stock of a company called HNHI by $50 million dollars in one day, even though its own auditor reportedly “expressed concerns about its financial future.” Fitty didn’t mention that he held 30 million shares of the stock, which he picked up for $750,000 last fall. Yesterday’s surge reportedly netted him somewhere between $8.7 million and $10 million. No wonder so many news accounts repeated the name of his hit album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’.

HNHI increased in value by about 200%. Even after it dropped more than 23% today, Jackson was way ahead of the game. Fitty’s attorneys presumably got a little worried, because the disclaimers started appearing late Monday: “HNHI is the right investment for me it might not be for u! Do ur homework,” “I own HNHI stocks thoughts on it are my opinion. Talk to your financial advisor …”

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