March 3, 2009 archive

There’s A Spectre Haunting The Blogosfera

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

My friend Claudia, who is a wonderful writer, has a piece up at her blog and at Huffpuff, in which she asks the eternal, dreaded question for writers, “Am I getting paid for my work?”  The answer, as you probably expect, isn’t good:

Twice in the past week, I’ve heard the same bad news: two media outlets for whom I’d written articles informed me that they would not be paying me for the writing I had submitted.

Please join me below.

Four at Four

  1. Good news! The LA Times reports Obama boosts endangered species protection. President Obama will undo a last-minute rule change by the Bush administration that will “instruct federal agencies to once again consult with endangered-species experts before moving ahead with construction projects”.

    “Obama will issue the decision in a presidential memorandum, effectively bypassing the lengthy public comment process traditionally required for changing a rule.” However the morons in the business community are “protesting, saying the change will hamper critical road-building and other projects needed to jump-start the economy.”

Four at Four continues below the fold with bad news: Bernanke on AIG and the U.S. economy, Bush administration legal opinions, Russia reaction to missile ‘shield’ and Iran diplomancy offer, and Marine One compromised. Whee!

An Open Letter to MoveOn.org

As one of MoveOn’s 3.2 million members and a participant of some years’ standing in MoveOn vigils, living room events, online activities, etc., I opened yesterday’s MoveOn email from Nita Chaudhary with considerable interest. It was entitled, simply, “Iraq.”

My interest quickly turned to shock and then anger.

Your letter does a grave, grave disservice to the anti-war movement in this country. And it does so just when the movement, already fatigued after six years of protest, is facing a whole new set of challenges and not having an easy time adjusting.

One big problem with your letter is that it treats a Presidential promise to have all troops out of Iraq by the beginning of 2012 (almost three years from now) as a clear sign that the war is all but over, even though not a single soldier has been withdrawn yet and the killing and dying continue apace. Accompanied by a slide show of images of anti-war protest, it is valedictory in tone:

We wanted to take a moment to reflect on the work that you’ve done over the last six, dark years–trying first to prevent the war before it happened and then working tirelessly to end it–to thank you, sincerely, for all you have done.

This moment is possible because of you, and millions of people like you across our movement.

The email immediately goes on to urge us to contribute to a fund to help injured veterans, as if that was the main thing left to worry about. Yes, there’s a vague cautionary note further in: “Of course our troops aren’t home yet” and a grudging recognition that Congress is right to “raise questions” about the pace of withdrawal.

Letter to Leahy: What the Citizens Already Know About Torture

On the eve of the formation of his Truth Commission tomorrow, please copy and paste this letter to Senator Leahy’s e-mail address here. If you are a constituent, please use this address. The more people (YOU) who mail it, the more impact it will have. Please include the link  to it https://docudharma.com/show… so that Senator Leahy can peruse the links within the story. Thank you.

Dear Senator Leahy,

While we thank you for being the only government official to stand up and challenge the crimes of the last eight years, we are also deeply concerned about the idea of ONLY a ‘fact finding’ commission. And so we want you to know.

We The People are watching.

As you prepare to open your Truth Commission on Torture and other Bush Administration crimes, you will be pressured from many sides to cover-up, gloss over or completely omit some of the horrible and shocking facts. Facts that will lead to prosecutions when officially recognized by your Commission. This open letter is to let you know that we citizens are already aware of many of them. As well as to let you know that we will be watching your Commission VERY carefully, to make sure that no cover-ups or omissions are allowed. Among those watching will be the nearly 45,000 citizens who have already signed The Petition for a Special Prosecutor for Bush War Crimes, as well as the nearly 45,000 people who have signed your petition for a Truth Commission.

We are here, we are watching, and we intend to raise the alarm if your commission does not do it’s job thoroughly, openly, and well. As both you and we know, if your Commission does it’s job and formally exposes the truth……prosecutions will be necessary. At the highest levels of the Bush Administration, where the authorization and planning of the Bush Torture Conspiracy originated.

We The People know that government commissions are often where truth goes to die, so lest you be tempted to let that happen, here is just some of what the citizens already know of the truth.

We know that torture started BEFORE there was the ‘cover’ of the ludicrous Yoo and Bybee memos. That they were written to ‘fit’ the law to what had already been done.

We know from Gitmo guard Brandon Neely’s testimony that torture at Gitmo was not just routine, but standard operating procedure.

We know that General Geoffrey Miller imported the torture techniques from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib and that he ‘took the fifth’ when questioned on torture.

We know from the General Toguba’s report that torture at Abu Ghraib was sytematic, routine and approved. Approved at the highest levels of the Bush Administration. And that it included the following:

…Intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:

a. Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;

b. Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;

c. Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;

d. Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

e. Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear;

f. Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;

g. Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;

h. Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture; …

j. Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female soldier pose for a picture;

k. A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;

l. Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee …

These findings are amply supported by written confessions provided by several of the suspects, written statements provided by detainees, and witness statements. …

In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses (ANNEX 26):

a. Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;

b. Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol;

c. Pouring cold water on naked detainees;

d. Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;

e. Threatening male detainees with rape; …

g. Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.”



We know that the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib have been covered-up:


What is shown on the photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib prison that the Pentagon has blocked from release?

….

A Republican Senator suggested the same day they contained scenes of “rape and murder.” Rumsfeld then commented, “If these are released to the public, obviously it’s going to make matters worse.”

We know that women and children were tortured, and that they were used a weapons in the torture of their loved ones.

We know from the Senate Armed Services Report that


…. ….”former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba” and “that Rumsfeld’s actions were ‘a direct cause of detainee abuse’ at Guantanamo and ‘influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques … in Afghanistan and Iraq'” — raises an obvious and glaring question:  how can it possibly be justified that the low-level Army personnel carrying out these policies at Abu Ghraib have been charged, convicted and imprisoned, while the high-level political officials and lawyers who directed and authorized these same policies remain free of any risk of prosecution?   The culpability which the Report assigns for these war crimes is vast in scope and unambiguous:

 

The executive summary also traces the erosion of detainee treatment standards to a Feb,. 7, 2002, memorandum signed by President George W. Bush stating that the Geneva Convention did not apply to the U.S. war with al Qaeda and that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or legal protections.

   “The president’s order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment,” the summary said.

   Members of Bush’s Cabinet and other senior officials participated in meetings inside the White House in 2002 and 2003 where specific interrogation techniques were discussed, according to the report.

The policies which the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously concludes were authorized by Bush, Rumsfeld and several other top Bush officials did not merely lead to “abuse” and humiliating treatment, but are directly — and unquestionably — responsible for numerous detainee murders.  Many of those deaths caused by abusive treatment have been formally characterized as “homicides” by autopsies performed in Iraq and Afghanistan (see these chilling compilations of autopsy findings on detainees in U.S. custody, obtained by the ACLU, which reads like a classic and compelling exhibit in a war crimes trial).

Yes Senator, we know that Under the Bush Torture Conspiracy MANY detainees were tortured to death.

We know that the former President of the United States has admitted authorizing torture.

We know that the former Vice-President of the United States has admitted authorizing torture.

We know that the former Secretary of Defense of the United States has been implicated in torture by the U.S. Senate.

We know that waterboarding has been authorized by these officials and has taken place, and that the Attorney General has stated unequivocally that waterboarding is torture.

We know that the top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military has tortured.

We know that both U.S. laws and binding treaties have been violated by the Bush Torture Policies.

We know then, that this constitutes a criminal conspiracy to violate both U.S. laws and binding treaties.

What we don’t know is why with all of these reports and evidence we need a Truth Commission instead of a Special Prosecutor to move directly against the Bush Torture Conspiracy.

We do know that the attorneys of the same caliber of integrity as those who wrote these shocking memos falsely giving the President what amounts to dictatorial powers…powers under which he authorized torture…will try to weasel their clients out of the accountability and justice they deserve.

We know that further cover-ups will be attempted.

And we want YOU to know that we know, that we are watching, and that we will NOT let these crimes go unpunished, by your Commision or by the Department of Justice.

I Was Wrong On Bank Nationalization

No one likes to admit that they were wrong. This seems doubly true on here on the great inter-toobs, but the fact is that the Dog was wrong. It is only in one case (at least he is only going to cop to one case right now!) but it is a pretty major issue that we face right now. What is this issue? It is the case for nationalizing failing Banks. When this was first discussed, the Dog perhaps like a lot of others, assumed that we were talking about a complete and total take over of the banking system by the Federal Government. That would be something akin to the Venezuelan government taking over their oil industry.  

From DoJ to CIA: Wiretapping, Torture, Stonewalling & Obstruction of Justice

Two stories from today’s news highlight the hubris of the U.S. executive branch as regards its assumed right to conduct unrestrained surveillance of its citizens, and engage in torture in violation of all laws.

Both Emptywheel at Firedoglake and Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com have done a stellar job tracking the Cheneyesque descent (H/T EW) of the Obama Justice Department when it comes to the question of executive privilege over classified material, especially when it comes to the courts. We already have witnessed the spectacle of the U.S. pressuring a British court on the suppression of documents in the Binyam Mohamed case.

A Return to Diplomacy

From the New York Times yesterday.

President Obama sent a secret letter to Russia’s president last month suggesting that he would back off deploying a new missile defense system in Eastern Europe if Moscow would help stop Iran from developing long-range weapons, American officials said Monday.

The letter to President Dmitri A. Medvedev was hand-delivered in Moscow by top administration officials three weeks ago. It said the United States would not need to proceed with the interceptor system, which has been vehemently opposed by Russia since it was proposed by the Bush administration, if Iran halted any efforts to build nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles…

Mr. Obama’s letter, sent in response to one he received from Mr. Medvedev shortly after Mr. Obama’s inauguration, is part of an effort to “press the reset button” on Russian-American relations, as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. put it last month. Among other things, the letter discussed talks to extend a strategic arms treaty expiring this year and cooperation in opening supply routes to Afghanistan…

Mr. Medvedev said Sunday that he believed the Obama administration would be open to cooperation on missile defense.

“We have already received such signals from our American colleagues,” he said in an interview posted on the Kremlin Web site. “I expect that these signals will turn into concrete proposals. I hope to discuss this issue of great importance for Europe during my first meeting with President Barack Obama.”

 

Docudharma Times Tuesday March 3

How Close Was America

To A Dictatorship?

Just Read The John Yoo Memos  




Tuesday’s Headlines:

US Muslims: young, diverse, striving

Taliban rivals unite to fight US troop surge

National election dates set as India faces crisis of corruption

Putin and Medvedev factions locked in Kremlin financial power struggle

German car firm ‘used hair from Auschwitz’

President Joao Bernardo Vieira of Guinea-Bissau assassinated by army

Darfuris flee on eve of Bashir case

Iran arrests US journalist ‘after she bought wine’

For Saudi liberals, a ripple of hope in a sea of tradition

Cuban shake-up claims key figures

Obama Offered Deal to Russia in Secret Letter



By PETER BAKER

Published: March 2, 2009


WASHINGTON – President Obama sent a secret letter to Russia’s president last month suggesting that he would back off deploying a new missile defense system in Eastern Europe if Moscow would help stop Iran from developing long-range weapons, American officials said Monday.The letter to President Dmitri A. Medvedev was hand-delivered in Moscow by top administration officials three weeks ago. It said the United States would not need to proceed with the interceptor system, which has been vehemently opposed by Russia since it was proposed by the Bush administration, if Iran halted any efforts to build nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles.

The officials who described the contents of the message requested anonymity because it has not been made public. While they said it did not offer a direct quid pro quo, the letter was intended to give Moscow an incentive to join the United States in a common front against Iran. Russia’s military, diplomatic and commercial ties to Tehran give it some influence there, but it has often resisted Washington’s hard line against Iran.

Sri Lankan cricket team attacked by gunmen

Up to 12 gunmen sprayed team bus with bullets as it was driven to the Gadaffi stadium in Lahore

Saeed Shah in Islamabad

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 3 March 2009 07.52 GMT


Gunmen today carried out a commando-style attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team and their police escort in Lahore, Pakistan, injuring up to six of the visiting players.

In scenes reminiscent of the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November, up to 12 gunmen attacked with heavy weapons, spraying the Sri Lankan team bus with bullets as it drove to the Gadaffi stadium in Lahore, witnesses and cricket officials said.

Several players were reported to have received “superficial” injuries. Other early reports said five policemen were killed and three injured.

Sri Lankan media, quoting the sports minister, said four players – Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavithana – suffered minor injuries in the attack. Other reports said six had been hurt.

 

USA

In Free-Fall, Stocks Hit Lowest Mark Since ’97

Markets Sink Globally as Government Actions Fail to Reassure Investors

By Neil Irwin

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 3, 2009; Page A01


The global financial rout worsened yesterday, driving U.S. stocks to their lowest level since 1997 amid deepening questions about whether governments around the world are being forceful enough in combating the economic crisis.

There was no single cause for yesterday’s sell-off, which sent each of the major indicators down at least 4 percent, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing below 7000 for the first time in 12 years. Investors were shaken by another government rescue of insurance giant American International Group, which said it would take on $30 billion more in public money after reporting the largest quarterly loss in U.S. history. The markets were also absorbing news from the weekend from famed investor Warren E. Buffett, who said the economy will be “in shambles” this year and who reported the worst investment returns in the 44 years he has run Berkshire Hathaway.

The Laptop in Waist-land

Holy cannolli and guacamole.

No wonder we bloggers tend towards growing slightly fluffy. How long have you been blogging from bed? I mean, I do realize that this thing called a “laptop” is not a new invention to most of you.  I remain as culture shocked as a country dog discovering city fire hydrants. “Wow, I can leave my mark here. And here. And here too! There is a Dog!”

Although the bed thing is overrated. Unless you have the flexibility of a 12 yr old, and do NOT have a slipped disc, the lying on your tummy arched up on elbows to type is over quicker than a DOJ self-investigation.  The propped on pillows against the headboard, with the thing on your knees is OK, but it isn’t officially “lying in bed”… its more like sitting up slouchily. (yes i make up words) That leaves the side lay, but again, the one arm head prop leaves only one hand with which to type.  This must be the favored position of the guy who invented spell check. All I need now is a mini-fridge and one cup coffemaker, and I’d never leave the room.

Talk about fat, lazy Americans. What a hoot.

I used to have to actually GET UP and run room to room when I live blogged something on TV. Now even that meager exercise is a thing of the past. I do suppose it is self-limiting though. The day my belly overhangs the mousepad clickers, I will have to do something.

No small wonder webcams have become passe. I don’t want to see your morning breathed, hair mussed, jammy wearing, lazy ass, fluffy growing, bed lying self any more than you want to see me now. I like my illusions, and the control of only letting the finished product out.

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning

A Thousand Cuts

Sharing Health

In a fair world

a just world

a world balanced

for sharing

rather than greed

we wouldn’t need

to worry

that someone else

getting healthy

would harm us

We wouldn’t seek

to capture

the value of their health

fearing that it would

diminish our own benefit

When can we arrive

in that place?

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–February 6, 2009

Late Night Karaoke

Change My Stride  

What is this all about?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

                                                                                                 Declaration of Independence

1776

Has our form of Governance become destructive to the majority?  If so how shall we work to change our government?  What would a future with a different form of government, economy, social order look?  Where is our current governance taking us?

Once a week I publish an installment in the story.  This is followed by the Concepts Behind the Fiction section.  This section is filled with information and links for you to investigate.

About a week after I publish on this site, I will publish on The Daily Kos, Z Communications and here.  Check my Links button on my website to connect to one of these discussions. These posting will happen simultaneously and on a Saturday or Monday afternoon (depending on which day of the week I have off from my paying job).  The day of the posting will be announced on my website. I will make myself available to moderate a discussion and for comments and questions during that time.

A running Post of what readers think are the most important issues for our future and how to get to the future we want will then be created as part of these discussions.

If you are coming to this blog in the middle then check out the Characters List and the Plot Summary pages.

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