Saturday, November 03, 2007
Former DOJ Official Tested the Method Himself, in Effort to Form Torture Policy
By JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG and ARIANE de VOGUE
Nov. 2, 2007—
A senior Justice Department official, charged with reworking the administration's legal position on torture in 2004 became so concerned about the controversial interrogation technique of waterboarding that he decided to experience it firsthand, sources told ABC News.
Daniel Levin, then acting assistant attorney general, went to a military base near Washington and underwent the procedure to inform his analysis of different interrogation techniques.
After the experience, Levin told White House officials that even though he knew he wouldn't die, he found the experience terrifying and thought that it clearly simulated drowning.
Levin, who refused to comment for this story, concluded waterboarding could be illegal torture unless performed in a highly limited way and with close supervision. And, sources told ABC News, he believed the Bush Administration had failed to offer clear guidelines for its use.
Bush Administration Blocked Critic
The administration at the time was reeling from an August 2002 memo by Jay Bybee, then the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, which laid out possible justifications for torture. In June 2004, Levin's predecessor at the office, Jack Goldsmith, officially withdrew the Bybee memo, finding it deeply flawed.
When Levin took over from Goldsmith, he went to work on a memo that would effectively replace the Bybee memo as the administration's legal position on torture. It was during this time that he underwent waterboarding.
In December 2004, Levin released the new memo. He said, "Torture is abhorrent" but he went on to say in a footnote that the memo was not declaring the administration's previous opinions illegal. The White House, with Alberto Gonzales as the White House counsel, insisted that this footnote be included in the memo.
But Levin never finished a second memo imposing tighter controls on the specific interrogation techniques. Sources said he was forced out of the Justice Department when Gonzales became attorney general.
Critics Decry Waterboarding as Torture
Critics say waterboarding should never be used.
According to retired Rear Adm. John Hutson, "There is no question this is torture -- this is a technique by which an individual is strapped to a board, elevated by his feet and either dunked into water or water poured over his face over a towel or a blanket."
The legal justification of waterboarding has come to the forefront in the debate swirling around Michael B. Mukasey's nomination for attorney general.
While Democrats are pressing him to declare waterboarding illegal, he has refused to do so. He calls it personally "repugnant," but he is unwilling to declare it illegal until he can see the classified information regarding the technique and its current use.
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service yesterday released a report challenging President Bush’s Middle East counterterrorism strategy, noting that “[d]emocratization…may actually undermine U.S. security interests and exacerbate the terrorism problem”:
[T]here may be potential threats from groups or individuals aligned with other extremist causes or ideologies. Some wonder whether the emphasis on a single front in the war on terror might leave the country vulnerable to surprise attacks from groups that have been overlooked. […]
The Strategy does not include a discussion and contingency plan for a scenario in which one does not “win.” […]
There is heavy emphasis in the 2006 Strategy on democratization as a means of countering terrorism. Viewed in the context of the mixed success of fledgling democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan and the persistence of autocratic regimes among U.S. allies in the Middle East, the credibility and effectiveness of this strategic thrustmay merit scrutiny.
In a speech in Dallas today, Vice President Cheney confidently declared that “a free democratic Iraq will be a strategic partner in the heart of the Middle East, helping us fight and win the war on terror.”
Friday, November 02, 2007
It’s been a discouraging week when it comes to the right and torture. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page argued that waterboarding doesn’t necessarily constitute “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment of U.S. detainees. The National Review’s Rich Lowry argued, in Matt Yglesias’ words, that “torture a defining value of the American conservative movement.”
But a discussion on CNN the other day, featuring Republican “strategist” Rachel Marsden, takes the cake.
BLITZER: What do you think about this issue of water boarding, torture and the attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey?
CAFFERTY: I think — I feel sorry for Michael Mukasey. I think he’s trying to tread a minefield laid down for him by that sycophantic little yes weasel Alberto Gonzales. He wrote the memo in secret saying the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to American military when it came to enemy combatants. Who wrote secret memos saying the president of the United States didn’t have to follow the FISA court laws when it came to spying on Americans.
That kind of subterfuge of the American rule of law is an entirely separate issue from whether or not water boarding is torture or whether or not surveillance under these conditions or those conditions is a good idea. Now Mr. Mukasey can’t say waterboarding is torture because if he does, liability sudden accrues to a whole lot of folks and who knows what the consequences are. Meanwhile, Gonzales is wandering around happy as a clam. He ought to be in jail for what he did. […]
MARSDEN: Well, I think we have to define torture. One man’s torture is another man’s CIA-sponsored swim lesson.
She didn’t appear to be kidding.
And who is Rachel Marsden, and why is CNN putting her on the air to share these absurdities? I’m glad you asked.
Consider this report from the New York Post in May:
Security officers hastily escorted “Red Eye” contributor Rachel Marsden out of Fox News Channel’s Midtown headquarters yesterday for bizarre and erratic behavior. “She’s out of her [bleeping] mind. She was doing crazy stuff,” a spy told us. The brown-haired hottie is notorious in Canada, where authorities say she falsely accused a university swim coach of sexual harassment and harassed a Vancouver radio personality. A Fox News rep had no comment.
As Josh Marshall noted, “Now, consider that one for a second. Just how bizarre and erratic does a Fox pundit have to be? Right? CNN sure knows how to pick’em.”
I’d only add that Marsden’s “swim lesson” remark wasn’t the only gem of the interview. A few minutes prior, in the same CNN appearance, she explained:
“I think George Bush is doing fine. Looking back in the rear-view mirror, I think history will prove him right. Like I said, everything looks better in the rear-view mirror. People hated Reagan when he was in office. People hated Joe McCarthy and they said he was wrong about what he was doing. Turned out based on Verona Project that he was right. So I think history will prove George Bush right as well.”
Hmm. A far-right strategist that was allegedly too erratic for Fox News is welcome on CNN to defend McCarthyism and waterboarding, as if they were mainstream ideas.
The mind reels.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Y'know what objecting to torture is, don't you? Monday morning quarterbacking, that's all:
“There is a culture of concern about where Monday-morning quarterbacking could lead to,” Mr. Chesney said. If Mr. Mukasey declared waterboarding illegal, “it would make it politically more possible to go after interrogators in the future,” he said. “Whether it would change the legal equities is far less clear.”Just to make this clear: When Dershowitz and other moral relativists were making the case for putting bamboo splints under the fingernails of people who are as capable of feeling excrutiating pain as themselves, I, along with the the entire civilized world, denounced torture under all circumstances. That was long before Bush set up the organized and extensive American torture network that is still working overtime to destroy this country. There was no second-guessing on our part. We saw torture for what it was long before Bush strapped the first prisoner down to be waterboarded.
Bush claims that if we don't give him the right to make people scream out in sheer agony at what American officials physically inflict on them, he will not be able to keep you and me safe. George W. Bush is completely full of shit. I am prepared to accept whatever risk that goes along with living in a country that doesn't ever torture its enemies. Because I know that there is no such risk, that in fact torturing people places a country at greater risk, morally and existentially, than not. Whatever the reasons he has for torturing people, he is not doing it for the good of ordinary Americans and I reject his insinuation that either my fellow Americans or myself are somehow the reason he feels he must indulge in such perversions.
A word about Bush-hating seems appropriate right about now. It is a subject which deeply concerns so many thoughtful members of the cowardly, fainting classes, ie, Republicans and the mainstream press. When people like me speak out in disgust at what this sick man is doing, it is cause for moral outrage - at the person speaking out! As if hating Bush was in any way morally comparable to the deliberate inflicting of mind-damaging pain on another human being! To those folks, we need to spell it out:
What Bush and his henchmen have done, and what they are presently doing is, in fact, truly hateful, if that word has any meaning at all. But not only are Bush's actions capable of being hated by all reasonable people (and deserve to be). They are also acts which themselves are full of hate and sadism. There's another thing I hate:
Bush will go down in history as the torture president. I hate that this country ever had a president who made the torture of human beings official government policy.
Fire is a natural part of California’s ecosystems. For nearly five centuries - since the first European “discoverers” encountered the Native residents of California -self-serving lies by the most powerful have been a perennial feature of California’s political ecology.
Power’s servants found elegant - even divine - excuses for the enslavement and extermination of the state’s First Peoples.
In The Age of “Discovery”, Europeans sailed off killing and looting because it was what God them to do. How could they know? Well, God’s representative to the (Catholic) world - the guy who just happened to get a big hunk of the treasure - the Pope said all this killing and looting was part of saving souls. The Pope’s servants in California were so concerned about souls they built a whole chain of missions slave labor camps spaced a day’s ride apart - just so none of the Indians’ heathen souls would be too far from salvation - or the service of the Spanish Crown.
For Drake, he knew his work was Divine ’cause Her Majesty the Queen - the gal who got the big hunk of Drake’s looted treasure - said all this killing and looting was part of her Divine Right of Queens.
Up the Coast at Fort Ross, the Russians who forced the Pomo Indians into enslavement (by murdering the men and taking the women and children and women for rape and work camps) killed and stole for the sacred glory of the Tsar.
After word of the gold strike at Sutter’s mill spread in 1848, goldseekers from all over America (and the rest of the planet) flooded California - bringing diseases for which Native California had no immunity. In seeking their sacred metal, the 49′ers poured across California - bringing infectious diseases unknown to the First Peoples - or their immune systems.
In our sacred duty to civilize Native Californians - part of that whole Manifest Destiny gig - US Army troops pitched in, vigorously assisting the locals in killing and subjugating the pesky Natives resisting forced labor, rape, and slavery.
In May of 1850, a detachment of Army regulars led by Capt. Nathaniel Lyon entered the Clear Lake area to punish the Indians….. Unable to find the band of slaves who had fled, they attacked a small Pomo village, Badonnapoti, on an island on the north side of the lake — later called Bloody Island by the Pomo.
Men, women, and children, unable to flee, were massacred by the U.S. Army there. On their way home, the troops continued their bloody actions, massacring every Indian group they encountered — mostly Pomo groups. …
The Northern Californian which covered it differently, told of “Indiscriminate massacre of innocent Indians — Women and children butchered” covering the details of the brutal Bloody Island slaughter with hatchets and axes of 188 peaceful men, women and children in their villages. The youthful editor, western short-story writer Bret Harte, then had to flee ahead of a lynch mob, which smashed his printing press for daring to tell the truth about it.
The massacre and round-ups of the Pomo took place …. just 1 year after the U.S. took control of California, after its victory in the Mexican war.
When it comes to fine words and lofty ideologies to justify heinous deeds, the rest of the world ain’t got nothin’ on California.
Jonestown; massacre of the Pomos at Bloody Island; the Manson cult’s murders; UFO suicide cults….
If some whacko somewhere on our unhappy planet can invent a religious excuse for mayhem and murder, true believers somewhere in the Golden State will rush to the next cult - and start the killing.
Or re-start the killing, to be more precise.
Which brings us to the modern-day cultist Frank Knight.
Frank Knight is a truly fortunate cultist - his cult belief makes a few people whole pile of money.
And those few people love them their Frank Knight.
And those few people sacrifice us - using his cult as the excuse for a merciless ideology of greed and mass killing through neglect and violence.
In her comprehensive work The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein observes:
Knight, one of the founders of of Chicago School economics, thought professors should “inculcate” in their students the belief that economic theory is a “sacred feature of the system”, not a debatable hypothesis.
Ahh - a religious theory cloaked as an economic belief.
What a perfect closed system - impermeable to rational assessment or disproof.
But what does the God of the Market have to do with the SoCal infernos?
I mean - everyone knows SoCal has Santa Anas and wildfire, right?
Yep - they do.
In fact, wildfires are such a certainty the former San Diego Fire Chief quit two years ago - he couldn’t get the funds he needed to protect the city through CA’s political processes
April 5, 2006
San Diego Fire Chief Jeff Bowman said there wasn’t enough time or money to fix the city’s broken fire system.
In announcing his resignation yesterday, Bowman said he was tired, frustrated, worried about his health and ready to leave.
He said he would step down June 30.
Ron Saathoff, president of the San Diego City Fire Fighters Union, said in a statement: “Firefighters, and all of San Diego, are better served because of Chief Bowman’s efforts.”
Almost since the day he took over four years ago, Bowman was clear on one thing: A community constantly at risk for a deadly wildfire should be better prepared for a major disaster. He said it to just about anyone who would listen.
After the 2003 wildfires, Bowman publicly ripped city officials for underfunding the department. “This city has not prepared itself for even day-to-day events,” he said during a meeting with The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board. “We did not have enough resources to handle the fire. For a county with the risk that this one has, I’m absolutely amazed at the lack of resources.”
Bowman, whose firefighters ran out of batteries for portable radios while battling the flames, took a similar tone five months ago when a reporter asked about the wildfire season.
“This is the most understaffed fire agency I’ve ever seen,” he said of a department with 875 firefighters and 45 stations.
He said the city should have 20 more fire stations, which would cost $100 million to build and equip. It would take an additional $40 million a year to operate them.
“So when you start adding all that up, that begins to explain why it’s not being done today,” he said.
Gee - just four years ago in San Diego, the Cedar fire (and firestorm) killed 22 people and caused huge economic losses. Why wouldn’t the stridently pro-business types who infest San Diego politics (and the City and County governments) spend the money to keep business going strong? Because the Club For
Greed Growth will spank them - hard:
Club for Growth President Stephen Moore, head of a 6,000-member group that is frequently at odds with Republican strategists who favor pragmatism over ideology.
“If there is any single role that Club for Growth plays, it is to hold Republicans accountable for votes that betray the Republican agenda,” said Moore, who hopes to discover and nurture the next generation of Ronald Reagans. “We think we play an important role in disciplining the party.”
Frequently that means challenging a Republican incumbent or candidate who is backed by the party’s establishment but does not support the club’s vision of tax and budget cuts, Social Security privatization and free trade.
The club targets primary races, where the dollars go farther and the group’s conservative ideology is more in tune with hard-core Republican voters, Moore said.
“We have a lot of members who are more driven by ideology than party,” Moore said during an interview in his office, rented from a Washington law firm. “We think we are starting to change the culture of the party.”
The club spent more than $2 million in 2000 in 17 races, winning 10 of them. This year it has backed about a dozen candidates in primaries and will support a total of about 20.
With a membership list dominated by Wall Street financiers and executives, Club for Growth expects to become even more influential under new campaign finance regulations that limit soft-money donations to parties.
It models itself after Emily’s List, the liberal group that raises money mostly for Democratic candidates favoring abortion rights, by “bundling” donations to its hand-picked candidates. It asks members to write checks to the candidate but send them to club headquarters in Washington, which then passes them on.
That allows the club to be responsible for far more in donations than it otherwise would be allowed, boosting its clout and, Moore hopes, spreading its influence.
“We’re trying to let candidates know that if they ever voted for a tax increase, we’ll never support them and in fact we’ll work to defeat them,” he said. “We’re trying to get the word out to even the lowest grass-roots level that if you’re a Republican you aren’t allowed to vote for taxes.”
But what does the Club For
Greed Growth have to do with jolly ‘ol Grover Norquist and his bathtub?
The Club for Growth (which shares an office with Americans for Limited Government) is an offshoot of the Cato Institute (which was founded by the Kochs, who also created Citizens for a Sound Economy, predecessor of Freedomworks), and was originally headed up by Stephen Moore, former Director of Fiscal Policy at Cato. The Club for Growth has a history of funneling contributions to candidates hand-picked by Tom DeLay. Paul Jacob of US Term Limits (which also shares an office with Washington initiative backer Americans for Limited Government and has been involved in Oregon term limits efforts), Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform , and Pat Toomey (and predecessors) of the Club for Growth are very clearly connected, both personally and philosophically.
The Club for Growth Founders Committee includes Brent Bozell, an in-law to William F. Buckley, of National Review, where former Club For Growth President Stephen Moore is a contributing editor (Moore also was chief economist and assistant to Dick Armey when Armey chaired Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, and Dick Armey is Co-Chair of Freedomworks, formerly Citizens for a Sound Economy and backer of Oregon initiatives). Norquist’s ATR offices were the weekly meeting place for Tom DeLay’s K Street Project. Obviously, these groups are really the same characters operating through several interconnected entities.
….at the Club for Growth, for example (the group that shares the same address as Americans for Limited Government): One board member, Lawrence Kudlow, came from the Bear Stearns investment bank, known for money laundering. (Incidentally, Kudlow also is the economics editor for National Review Online.)
But what does Grover have to do with California and the CA Rethugs?
Norquist–president of Americans for Tax Reform and arguably Washington’s leading right-wing strategist–is rushing from meetings on Capitol Hill to strategy sessions with antitax activists. One minute he’s putting the finishing touches on planned demonstrations in Washington and all fifty state capitals on tax-return filing day; the next he is juggling appearances on right-wing talk-radio shows and stints on MSNBC and Fox. And, as he has for nearly eight years, Norquist is coordinating the agenda for his signature event, the regular “Wednesday meeting” that draws more than a hundred representatives of conservative groups to a standing-room-only conference room at his organization’s L Street offices.
A Harvard-educated intellectual and self-conscious student of the left, over the past decade Norquist has eclipsed such older stalwarts as Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation, David Keene of the American Conservative Union and Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation to emerge as the managing director of the hard-core right in Washington. But while firmly planted on the extreme end of the political spectrum, Norquist has also built a solid working alliance with the Fortune 500 corporate elite and its K Street lobbyists. “What he’s managed to do is to chain the ideological conservatives together with the business guys, who have money, and to put that money to work in the service of the conservative movement,” says Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future, who’s repeatedly clashed with Norquist. [snip]
Graduating just in time to sign up with the burgeoning tax-revolt movement in the late 1970s, Norquist did a stint with the National Taxpayers Union and then returned to Harvard for graduate school. Trekking back to Washington after Ronald Reagan was elected, Norquist took over as executive director of the College Republicans, a post that brought him into contact with the rising stars of a new generation of right-wing activists, many of whom are his allies today. After a couple of interim stops, in 1986 Norquist was tapped by President Reagan’s White House to run an ad hoc group called Americans for Tax Reform, an in-house operation to build support for the 1986 tax bill. Soon afterward, Norquist took ATR private, and he has run it ever since.
Norquist used to do some work as a lobbyist–at one point he was on a $10,000-a-month retainer for Microsoft and at another he lobbied on behalf of the Seychelles, an island republic in the Indian Ocean–but those ventures brought him bad publicity and he no longer takes private clients. Instead, he draws a retainer as a consultant and strategist for a lobbying firm he helped to found, Janus-Merritt Strategies, which represents Seagram, BP, Universal Studios and a wide range of Mexican industrial groups.
Norquist has also organized seventeen conservative groups under the umbrella of the American Conservative Union to support Bush’s plan, even though most of them, including ATR and ACU, would prefer even more sweeping tax cuts.
Norquist serves on the ten-person executive council of the Tax Relief Coalition, set up by the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the US Chamber of Commerce. More than 700 corporations and trade associations have joined the Tax Relief Coalition, with eighty paying $5,000 each to be part of its steering committee. The group divvies up responsibility for lobbying individual members of the House and Senate as individual pieces of the package move forward.
Gee. Grover cut his teeth with the National Taxpayers Union on his way to be ED for the College Rethugs…and then was hand-picked by the Reaganites for further mayhem.
Now what does the NTU have do with CA politics and buying fire trucks and aircraft?
Pro-tax cut Activities:
NTU’s main focus is lobbying Congress. NTU bills its congressional scorecards as “the only
scorecard that grades Senators and Representatives on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy,
including taxes and regulation.”
Upper Brackets: The Right’s Tax Cut Boosters
Right-wing foundations that help fund NTUF include: Scaife, John M. Olin and JM Foundations.
Quotes about NTU:
“My Administration came to Washington to achieve many of the goals shared by the National
Taxpayers Union – Reduction of income taxes rates, control of government spending…NTU’s
support for the across-the-board tax rate reduction and income tax indexing helped pave the way
for Congressional adoption during the first years of this Administration.”
Former President Ronald Reagan
“The National Taxpayers Union…is the Grand-daddy of the tax revolt organizations.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“After Howard Jarvis’ victory on California’s landmark Proposition 13 tax-limitation referendum
in 1978, the NTU helped to convert the victory into national momentum for the Reagan agenda.”
Now who cares about Prop 13 and Howard Jarvis, anyway?
“It is an absolute truth — had we had more air resources we would have been able to control this fire” Orange County Fire Authority Chief Chip Prather said.
Local firefighters — who saw support from the state and other outside agencies Tuesday for the first time, including four air tankers, two helicopters and more than 100 firefighters — were told not to expect many more resources in the near future.
“We put in a request for a lot of outside resources that just plain are not available,” Capt. Stephen Miller said. “As you’re seeing what’s going on in Southern California, everybody’s stretched pretty thin.”
Even firefighters on the scene were occasionally pulled back because of the blaze’s unpredictable behavior.
Early Tuesday, firefighters from Station 16, a tight-knit volunteer station in Modjeska, stopped at the mouth of the canyon with tears in their eyes, helpless as their and their neighbors’ homes were threatened by flames.
Well, OC Fire Authority Chief Prather, for one.
For another, SD Fire Chief Bowman - the fellow who retired last year ’cause SD pols wouldn’t push for taxes.
Prop 13 not only holds megacorps’ property taxes at absurdly low levels, but also requires a 2/3 super majority to pass local special spending districts - like fire districts.
Thanks, Howard Jarvis, Grover, and Club for Greed Growth.
After all, Southern Californians - all 22 million of ‘em - are far less important than your free-market cult.
Ahhulnd sure thinks so - he falls right into line with Grover and the Club for Greed Growth:
What Ahhnuld failed to mention is that he vetoed four bills that would have increased staffing and fire resources after the Cedar Fire, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. A fifth bill, signed by Schwarzenegger, requires local governments to first submit safety plans to the California Department of Forestry and will not take effect until 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported in a May 20, 2007 article titled “Fire danger acute as 2003 lessons fade.” …..
The same story cited Dallas Jones, former director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and current official with California Professional Firefighters union. Jones damned Schwarzenegger for failing to provide additional firetrucks. “How many years are we since the ’03 fire siege?” he asked, “and so far, nothing.”
Other unfulfilled recommendations made to Schwarzenegger by his Blue Ribbon Fire Commission include replacement of aging fire helicopters, increasing staffing to assure four person crews on each state fire engine sent to major wildfires, and nighttime air drops.
A national contract fleet of heavy air tankers has fallen from 41 to 16 in the last five years, with aging aircraft deemed unsafe and grounded. The state firefighting fleet has not replaced two air tankers that crashed, the L.A. Times reported.
CNN reports that only 1,500 National Guard have been sent to assist Californians during the current wildfire crisis—less than 1/10 of the state’s 20,000 National Guard members. Clearly having the bulk of our National Guards forces deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan have hindered emergency response here at home.
Some improvements have been made since the Cedar Fire, including coordination with the military to help combat fires, but even those are inadequate. Four Marine helicopters at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station are equipped with buckets to fight San Diego’s fires—but remain grounded because Cal Fire officials insist the choppers can’t fly without state fire crew spotters on board – and there are none available. Not even Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), former chair of the House Armed Service Committee has yet been able to resolve this bureaucratic SNAFU.
So even when outside aircraft may be available, Cal Fire doesn’t have enough money to get spotters on all the planes.
Nice you can find time to listen to the Club For
Too bad you couldn’t bother to listen to your own Blue Ribbon Fire Commission.
But the Commission’s merely concerned about our survival.
By vetoing firefighting funds and pleasing the the Club For
Greed Growth and the anti-tax cult, Ahhnuld’s working for his survival - as a pol.
Just as SD pols on the city and County level, CA pols on the State level, and pols on the Federal level have learned to do.
You see, for the Chicago School, their enforcers in the Club for
Greed Growth, and the uber-wealthy families still bitter about the New Deal, our lives are just a game.
They seek plenty - and beyond - for their families.
That’s why Ahhnuld lives in Brentwood, not Compton.
For the rest of us, the cult of the free-market means no spare capacity - ever. In the cult’s world, any unused capacity in the public sector is evil.
If you’ve been to an ER, you’ve seen the consequences of no surge capacity and forty years of deliberate disinvestiment under the free-market cult.
If you live in Southern California, you’re smelling the consequences of no surge capacity and forty years of deliberate disinvestment. The wealthiest state in the nation can easily afford enough Cal Fire staff to put on every outside plane available in time of crisis. The wealthiest state in the nation can afford to purchase and maintain a far larger fleet of firefighting aircraft -and enough firefighters and equipment and supplies and stations so that every fire season is not a desperate effort to spread too few brave men and women over too many fires.
And California is still wealthy enough to reclaim her rightful place as leading the nation is school funding and academic performance - as well as transportation and infrastructure.
But so long as Grover Norquist and the Club For
Greed Growth threaten craven pols like Ahhnuld to put their next election ahead of our own welfare, it won’t happen.
And so long as any greedy billionaire can buy enough airtime to fool one-third of our poorly educated voters into acting against our own welfare, we’ll have an uphill fight.
Yet - as expensive as the free-market cult tells us taxes may be -
the price of doing nothing will remain catastrophe and conflagration.
Which - if you’re Grover, the Club for Greed Growth, or Arnold - is all in a day’s work.
Justice. Westboro Babtist Church of Hate to pay father of fallen soldier $11 Million.
By ALEX DOMINGUEZ, Associated Press Writer
Wed Oct 31, 6:23 PM ET
A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict Wednesday against a fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets military funerals out of a belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.
Albert Snyder of York, Pa., sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.
The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.
Snyder's attorney, Craig Trebilcock, had urged jurors to determine an amount "that says don't do this in Maryland again. Do not bring your circus of hate to Maryland again."
Church members routinely picket funerals of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, carrying signs such as "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates fags."
A number of states have passed laws regarding funeral protests, and Congress has passed a law prohibiting such protests at federal cemeteries. But the Maryland lawsuit is believed to be the first filed by the family of a fallen serviceman.
The church and three of its leaders — the Rev. Fred Phelps and his two daughters, Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis, 46 — were found liable for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress.
Even the size of the award for compensating damages "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," according to financial statements filed with the court, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett noted.
Snyder claimed the protests intruded upon what should have been a private ceremony and sullied his memory of the event.
The church members testified they are following their religious beliefs by spreading the message that soldiers are dying because the nation is too tolerant of homosexuality.
Their attorneys maintained in closing arguments Tuesday that the burial was a public event and that even abhorrent points of view are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and religion.
Earlier, church members staged a demonstration outside the federal courthouse. Church founder Fred Phelps held a sign reading "God is your enemy," while Shirley Phelps-Roper stood on an American flag and carried a sign that read "God hates fag enablers." Members of the group sang "God Hates America" to the tune of "God Bless America."
Snyder sobbed when he heard the verdict, while members of the church greeted the news with tightlipped smiles.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
On CBS’ Face The Nation this past Sunday, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) commented on Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey’s refusal to classify waterboarding as torture, saying that he is “convinced” the technique “is clearly illegal under domestic and international law.”
“I hope he will give a direct answer to that question” and “embrace” the view that it is torture, said Graham:
I am urging him that he needs to come forward. … I don’t think you have to have a lot of knowledge about the law to understand this technique violates Geneva Convention common article three, the War Crimes statutes, and many other statutes that are in place. So I do hope that he will embrace that.
Graham changed his tune yesterday, however, after Mukasey again refused to explicitly say whether he believed the interrogation technique was torture, instead calling it a “hypothetical.” Graham said in interviews that he was “heartened” by Mukasey’s letter and that it “helped his cause“:
I think Judge Mukasey did himself some good with this letter. He helped his cause with me.
As CNN’s Ed Henry pointed out yesterday, with the careful wording of his letter, Mukasey “essentially” dodged “the question of whether legally waterboarding is torture.” Instead, his letter said only that it was “over the line” and “repugnant” on “a personal basis.”
Watch an example of Mukasey’s “hypothetical” technique here.
I think we need extensive assurances. But as I carefully read Judge Mukasey’s letter, I don’t know how much more he could say than what he has said, considering the exposure to people in collateral circumstances and considering the impossibility of predicting what may be faced with respect to a future potential danger, if the so-called ticking bomb hypothetical were to reach fruition.
UPDATE II: Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced today that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its vote on Mukasey on Thursday, Nov. 8.
#1 Reason why Donnybrooke is NOT a contibutor to "The Obfuscation Report."
Lance Armstrong And Ashley Olsen Spotted Making Out
NY Post | Page Six | October 31, 2007
Ashley Olsen has a new, older man. The 21-year-old twin showed up to the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel Monday night with Tory Burch's ex, Lance Armstrong, 36. Our bar spy said, "They came together with a group of friends. Ashley drank red wine, sat on his lap and they were making out all night. They left together around 2 a.m." Armstrong has been spending more time in town since he bought a home here.
Read more here
A Noun, A Verb and 9/11. Joe Biden sums up Rudy Giuliani's sentences.
And the irony is, Rudy Giuliani, probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency, is here talking about any of the people here. Rudy Giuliani... I mean, think about it! Rudy Giuliani. There's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun, a verb, and 9/11. There's nothing else! There's nothing else! And I mean this sincerely. He's genuinely not qualified to be president."
Monday, October 29, 2007
Mitch McConnell's "No Contributor Left Behind" Tour Continues. Earmarks 25 million for corrupt defense firm. Votes against health care for kids.
FIRM UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR BRIBERY
By John Cheves
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is pushing $25 million in earmarked federal funds for a British defense contractor that is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and suspected by American diplomats of a "longstanding, widespread pattern of bribery allegations."
McConnell tucked money for three weapons projects for BAE Systems into the defense appropriations bill, which the Senate approved Oct. 3. The Defense Department failed to include the money in its own budget request, which required McConnell to intercede, said BAE spokeswoman Susan Lenover.
BAE is based in Great Britain but has worldwide operations, including a Louisville facility that makes naval guns and employs 322. McConnell has taken at least $53,000 in campaign donations from BAE's political action committees and employees since his 2002 re-election. United Defense Industries, which BAE purchased two years ago, pledged $500,000 to a political-science foundation the senator created, the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville.
In June, BAE confirmed that the Justice Department is investigating possible corruption in its Saudi Arabian deals. According to British media reports, BAE set up a slush fund with hundreds of millions of dollars in a Washington, D.C., bank to bribe Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan in order to win weapons contracts. Bandar, who heads the Saudi National Security Council, has denied the allegation.
BAE cannot discuss the allegation, Lenover said.
"We can't really comment on it because it's an ongoing investigation," Lenover said. "We're continuing to cooperate."
Since BAE publicly disclosed the federal investigation, causing its stock to drop nearly 8 percent, its chief executive officer has announced his retirement earlier than expected and the company retained Britain's former lord chief justice to lead an internal ethics review.
Although the current controversy focuses on Saudi Arabia, internal records from the U.S. State Department reveal that diplomats also have worried about how BAE won weapons contracts in South Africa, Austria, Tanzania and Qatar.
In a 2002 briefing memo, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Janice Bay told a colleague to "ask what the British government has done to investigate allegations of bribery by BAE, not only in connection with recent projects, but in connection with older contracts for which bribe payments may still be ongoing."
"This volume of allegations about one company would have triggered a Department of Justice Criminal Division long ago," Bay wrote. Bay's memo, and other State Department documents related to BAE, are posted on the Web site of the British newspaper The Guardian.
The British Serious Fraud Office later opened its own investigation of BAE's Saudi deals. But Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered the case closed last year, citing potential damage to British-Saudi relations and possible disclosure of military secrets.
Justice Department spokeswoman Jaclyn Lesch said she could not comment on, or confirm, her agency's investigation. In 2002, BAE and another defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, agreed to pay the Justice Department $6.2 million to settle a False Claims Act case involving defective equipment they sold to the Navy.
McConnell spokesman Don Stewart did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Ethics watchdogs say they're surprised McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, would continue to give earmarks and take donations from a corporation in hot water with his own government. McConnell should keep his distance, said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
"Most politicians decide that a scandal is a good time to stop doing business with a company, at least until the scandal is over," Sloan said. "Particularly when we're talking about a criminal investigation over bribery. You would think that a member of Congress would want to steer clear of anyone accused of bribery."
Even without the scandal, it looks bad for a senator to earmark federal money for a corporation, as compared to a public university or a local government in his state, said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center in Washington.
"Why did they need special favors from Senator McConnell instead of going through the usual open competition and budgeting process at the Pentagon?" Boehm asked.
Nor should McConnell take donations from a company to which he steers federal funds, said Boehm, a former Republican congressional aide.
"Contributions from entities that directly benefit from earmarks are a bad idea," he said. "There's a big difference between a company that just likes your general ideas and a company that stands to benefit from one or more transactions that you're making on their behalf using public money."
McConnell's earmarks include $12.2 million for five-inch Naval gun mount overhauls; $8 million for Naval destroyer weapons modernization; and $4.8 million for ammunition pallets for Naval ships.
The defense appropriations bill awaits action by a Senate-House conference committee that will iron out differences between bills from the two chambers before sending one bill to President Bush for his signature. Members of the conference have not been chosen, but McConnell sits on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that controls defense spending.
Labels: Ditch Mitch '08
God Hates the Colorado Rockies. "God's Team" Colorado Rockies Swept by Heathen Red Sox.
"God's Team" loses world series in 4 games. This New York Times piece suggests that while biblical morality is stressed in the locker room (no Playboy magazines allowed), religious minorities and non-religious players aren’t ostracized. Still, the Christian focus is undeniable, according to one pitcher:
Even if the Rockies are not consciously doing it, reliever Matt Herges, playing for his seventh organization, said the team had the highest concentration of devout Christians he had seen during his nine major league seasons.The Rockies’ clean, Christian locker room isn’t news to many of us.
The God of the Universe took time off recently to favor the Colorado Rockies with a playoff berth. He evidently thought this took precedent over war, pestilence, and disease around the globe. Indeed, He works in mysterious ways.
Now he must Hate the Colorado Rockies because they lost 4 straight games to those blue staters from Massachusetts.
In America’s darkest hour, Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged the nation not to succumb to “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” But that was then.
Today, many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns.
Consider, for a moment, the implications of the fact that Rudy Giuliani is taking foreign policy advice from Norman Podhoretz, who wants us to start bombing Iran “as soon as it is logistically possible.”
Mr. Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and a founding neoconservative, tells us that Iran is the “main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11.” The Islamofascists, he tells us, are well on their way toward creating a world “shaped by their will and tailored to their wishes.” Indeed, “Already, some observers are warning that by the end of the 21st century the whole of Europe will be transformed into a place to which they give the name Eurabia.”
Do I have to point out that none of this makes a bit of sense?
For one thing, there isn’t actually any such thing as Islamofascism — it’s not an ideology; it’s a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn’t. And Iran had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 — in fact, the Iranian regime was quite helpful to the United States when it went after Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan.
Beyond that, the claim that Iran is on the path to global domination is beyond ludicrous. Yes, the Iranian regime is a nasty piece of work in many ways, and it would be a bad thing if that regime acquired nuclear weapons. But let’s have some perspective, please: we’re talking about a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut, and a government whose military budget is roughly the same as Sweden’s.
Meanwhile, the idea that bombing will bring the Iranian regime to its knees — and bombing is the only option, since we’ve run out of troops — is pure wishful thinking. Last year Israel tried to cripple Hezbollah with an air campaign, and ended up strengthening it instead. There’s every reason to believe that an attack on Iran would produce the same result, with the added effects of endangering U.S. forces in Iraq and driving oil prices well into triple digits.
Mr. Podhoretz, in short, is engaging in what my relatives call crazy talk. Yet he is being treated with respect by the front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination. And Mr. Podhoretz’s rants are, if anything, saner than some of what we’ve been hearing from some of Mr. Giuliani’s rivals.
Thus, in a recent campaign ad Mitt Romney asserted that America is in a struggle with people who aim “to unite the world under a single jihadist Caliphate. To do that they must collapse freedom-loving nations. Like us.” He doesn’t say exactly who these jihadists are, but presumably he’s referring to Al Qaeda — an organization that has certainly demonstrated its willingness and ability to kill innocent people, but has no chance of collapsing the United States, let alone taking over the world.
And Mike Huckabee, whom reporters like to portray as a nice, reasonable guy, says that if Hillary Clinton is elected, “I’m not sure we’ll have the courage and the will and the resolve to fight the greatest threat this country’s ever faced in Islamofascism.” Yep, a bunch of lightly armed terrorists and a fourth-rate military power — which aren’t even allies — pose a greater danger than Hitler’s panzers or the Soviet nuclear arsenal ever did.
All of this would be funny if it weren’t so serious.
In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration adopted fear-mongering as a political strategy. Instead of treating the attack as what it was — an atrocity committed by a fundamentally weak, though ruthless adversary — the administration portrayed America as a nation under threat from every direction.
Most Americans have now regained their balance. But the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up — perhaps because fear of terrorists maps so easily into the base’s older fears, including fear of dark-skinned people in general.
And the base is looking for a candidate who shares this fear.
Just to be clear, Al Qaeda is a real threat, and so is the Iranian nuclear program. But neither of these threats frightens me as much as fear itself — the unreasoning fear that has taken over one of America’s two great political parties.