We are the 99%

April 30, 2009

They're Going After Hannah Montana??

From Americablog:
On the heels of the hate crimes vote in the House - a vote where the religious right claimed that laws against murder would somehow stop them from verbally criticizing gays - the religious right has just launched a campaign against Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus simply for saying that Jesus loves everyone, including gay people.
The story has something to do with someone called Perez Hilton, the Miss USA Pageant and that twitter thing.

By way of the Gay Rights section of change.org, we learn that Cyrus was tweeting Hilton:
Miley: I believe that EVERYONE deserves to be happy. That’s all I’m saying ;)

Perez: A lot of controversy over your answer, which is silly. I think you answered the question better than Miss California!

Miley: What was her answer??? Cause what I said is the truth. Everyone deserves to love and be loved and most importantly smile :)

Miley: thx! U know what I get crap for whatever I do but you asked me an honest question and I gave an honest answer! So whatevs!!! :)

Perez: I’m sad that people use God and religion as an excuse 2 hate, discriminate and deny gays & lesbians full equality under the law.

Miley: ya thats lame! God’s greatest commandment is to love. And judging is not loving. That’s why Christians have such a bad rep. <3>
Sparking Michael A Jones, the blogger at change.org, to write:
I love it. Now let's wait for the American Family Association or the National Organization for Marriage to start boycotting Hannah Montana. I'm sure it's coming.
Well, here it is. Monica Cole director of OneMillionMoms (a Project of the American Family Association) sent this out:
Such statements will send the wrong message to our children who are influenced by this teenage megastar. Parents need to realize that Cyrus is not the positive role model she was once thought to be.
Followed with a link to "Take Action" and send Cyrus a letter.

C'mon. MILEY CYRUS??

Condoleezza Rice: No Torture

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was taped at Stanford University recently in off-the-cuff discussion of torture. The video:


The full text can be found here.

I'd like to start about 4 minutes in to the video. The discussion is swirling around torture and the questioner points out that the US didn't torture any German POW. To which Secretary Rice says:
And we didn't torture anybody here either. Alright?
When it was pointed out that there was torture at Guantanamo Bay, Rice became rather patronizing:
No, no dear, you're wrong. Alright. You're wrong. We did not torture anyone. And Guantanamo Bay, by the way, was considered a model "medium security prison" by representatives of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe who went there to see it.
Dear? Oh, to be called "dear" by an accused war criminal! Anyway, while Rice instructs her interrogator to "do your homework," she evidently hasn't done her own.

Here's the report about how Guantanamo is a "model" prison:
Inmates at Guantanamo Bay prison are treated better than in Belgian jails, an expert for Europe's biggest security organization said on Monday after a visit to the controversial U.S. detention center.

But Alain Grignard, deputy head of Brussels' federal police anti-terrorism unit, said that holding people for many years without telling them what would happen to them is in itself "mental torture."

"At the level of the detention facilities, it is a model prison, where people are better treated than in Belgian prisons," said Grignard.

And here's OSCE's "clarification" about Monsier Grignard:

The OSCE Spokesperson said that, in the light of these reports, he wished to make it clear the Organization itself had not sent an expert to Guantanamo: "The person quoted in several of the stories as "an OSCE expert", Professor Alain Grignard, accompanied the delegation despatched by the Parliamentary Assembly, based in Copenhagen, but he was not employed or commissioned by the OSCE."

Without commenting on the views expressed by any members of the delegation at the press conference in Brussels, he added that the statements should therefore not be taken as being made on behalf of the 55-nation body, which is headquartered in Vienna. [emphasis added]

In fact, Anne-Marie Lizin, Special Representative of the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, issued a report on June 30, 2006 that notes:
...that the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility is continuing to seriously tarnish the reputation of the United States in the world and enabling its enemies to devalue the fight against terrorism by substantiating the idea that it is incompatible with respect for the rule of law and for human rights. (page 18)
And:
In consequence of the foregoing, [Lizin] recommends to the US authorities that they announce as soon as possible the disbandment of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility by publicizing in July 2006 an accurate and detailed timetable for the transfer of the detainees and for the organization of the practical modalities of the closure. (page 19) [emphasis added]
And yet Secretary Rice said the OSCE said it was a "model" prison.

Perhaps, dear, you should do YOUR homework.

Then there's this:
Now, the ICRC also had access to Guantanamo, and they made no allegations about interrogations at Guantanamo.
Interesting, here's what the ICRC DID say about Guantanamo bay:
The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
And finally when asked whether she considered waterboarding torture, she replied:
...by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture.
There you have it. Didn't work for Nixon. It shouldn't work for Bush.

Investigate and prosecute the torture.

April 29, 2009

The Inhumane Pain's On The Dock In Spain

From the Huffington Post:
A Spanish judge opened a probe into the Bush administration over alleged torture of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, pressing ahead Wednesday with a drive that Spain's own attorney general has said should be waged in the United States, if at all.

Judge Baltasar Garzon, Spain's most prominent investigative magistrate, said he is acting under this country's observance of the principle of universal justice, which allows crimes allegedly committed in other countries to be prosecuted in Spain.

He said documents declassified by the new U.S. government suggest the practice was systematic and ordered at high levels of the US government.
And look at this:
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking with reporters in Berlin before the investigation was announced, did not rule out cooperating with such an investigation.

"Obviously, we would look at any request that would come from a court in any country and see how and whether we should comply with it," Holder said.

"This is an administration that is determined to conduct itself by the rule of law and to the extent that we receive lawful requests from an appropriately-created court, we would obviously respond to it," he said.

Asked if that meant the U.S. would cooperate with a foreign court prosecuting Bush administration officials, Holder said he was talking about evidentiary requests, and would review any such request to see if the United States would comply.
I'll bet there'll be some back-peddling on this last part.

Don't Know Much 'Bout History (Part II)

Remember when Representative Michele Bachman thought it "interesting" that the previous influenza outbreak occurred under a "Democrat President"?

Even though it took place under the previous REPUBLICAN President.

Well on the same day, she made another gaffe. And our friends at Talking Points Memo bring you the video:


Here's what TPM posted (be sure you're sitting down when you read this, the uncontrolled giggles might make you fall). The set-up:
On Monday night, our friends at Dump Bachmann reported, Bachmann took to the House floor and paid tribute to the economic policies of Calvin Coolidge and the "Roaring 20s" (the era that ended with a massive monetary contraction and the Great Depression). One particular line really does stand out, though -- saying Franklin Roosevelt turned a recession into a depression through the "Hoot-Smalley" tariffs.
And then the analysis:
Here's what really happened: When Franklin Roosevelt took office, unemployment was already about 25%. And the tariff referred to here was actually the Smoot-Hawley bill, co-authored by Republicans Sen. Reed Smoot of Utah and Rep. Willis Hawley of Oregon, and signed into law by President Herbert Hoover. [emphasis in original]
Hoot-Smalley, Smoot-Hawley. What difference does it make??

No wonder the GOP's devolving into a regional minority party

Keep Specter Honest Facebook Page

An astute reader just sent me this from the dailykos. Seems that there's a new facebook page out there. It's called Keep Specter Honest. The description:
Now that Sen. Arlen Specter's switching to be a Democrat, let's keep the pressure on him so he votes like a PENNSYLVANIA Democrat and not a "conservadem" from Nebraska or the South.

What They're Saying

CNN:
Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party on Tuesday, saying he has found himself increasingly "at odds with the Republican philosophy."

"This is a painful decision. I know I'm disappointing many of my colleagues," he said at a news conference announcing the move. "The disappointment runs in both directions.
O'Toole of the Post-Gazette:
Sen. Arlen Specter has represented the Republican Party in the Senate longer than any other Pennsylvanian in history. His decision to abandon the GOP, while greeted with a collective "good riddance" by many conservatives, is the latest blow to a party battered by repeated losses in Pennsylvania and across the nation.
Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

"I don't have to say anything to (my constituents)," said Sen. Arlen Specter in an impromptu Tuesday gathering outside his Capitol Hill office shortly after releasing a statement that he would leave the Republican Party after 43 years, become a Democrat and slink away from a certain and humiliating defeat in next year's GOP primary against Pat Toomey.

"They said it to me," the five-term senator of Philadelphia said.

That's right. Republicans told Arlen Specter to go to hell. And by all accounts, that's where he's going -- to an expected filibuster-proof Senate that, thanks to one of the most unprincipled men ever to serve in that august body, now will have carte blanche to further its dangerously socialist agenda.

Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Sen. Arlen Specter's announcement yesterday that he will cross the aisle to join the Democrats was the latest expression of independence that has been his hallmark as a legislator.

For the Democratic Party, starting with President Barack Obama, it was a show of confidence on Mr. Specter's part. For the senator, it was his decisive support for the president's economic stimulus package that was probably the watershed. That measure was passed only because Mr. Specter and fellow Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, endured their party's wrath and a threatened loss of GOP campaign funds. Mr. Specter, however, clearly saw the action as necessary if the economy was to get the sharp push it needed toward recovery. It was the right position for the country and definitely right for Pennsylvania.

The Republican response to his vote was probably the other half of the genesis of Mr. Specter's decision to leave. For many in the GOP, not only had Mr. Specter committed a sin, but he also had given them a chance to eliminate him in the 2010 primary. The very party whose latest presidential nominee tried to market himself as a maverick is now at a fork in the road -- does it seek a return to the majority or a bid for ideological purity?

Erik Kleefield of Talkingpointsmemo:
So Specter's problem wasn't that he's not a conservative, but that he's not conservative enough for a shrinking GOP. And if he's not a complete right-winger, his only real choice is to be a Democrat.

And that's where politics seems to be right now: The right-wing nuts versus everyone else. Specter is on the more conservative end of the "everyone else" category, but being a Democrat now offers him more chance for political success (and sane, rational discourse) than the other option.

Dan Balz at the WashingtonPost:
How much more can the Republicans take? Demoralized, shrinking and seemingly lacking an agenda beyond the word "no," Republicans today saw their ranks further thinned with the stunning news that Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter is switching parties and will run for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat.

Specter is worried about his own survival -- and particularly a primary challenge from the right. Many in the GOP might say good riddance. After supporting President Obama's stimulus package, Specter was persona non grata in his own party. So it may be easy for some Republicans to conclude that they are better off without people like Arlen Specter.

But his defection is a reminder that the Republican Party continues to contract, especially outside the South, and that it appears increasingly less welcome to politicians and voters who do not consider themselves solidly conservative. Northeast Republicans have gone from an endangered species to a nearly extinct species. Republicans lost ground in the Rocky Mountains and the Midwest in the last two elections. That's no way to build a national party.

Rush Limbaugh:
This is all about the fact he faces a strong primary challenge. He wouldn't be changing parties if there were no Pat Toomey out there, if there weren't anybody challenging him on the Republican side. He doesn't want to lose his upcoming election. This does not say anything bad about the Republican Party.

This is good. This is good. Toomey doesn't have to spend a lot of money now on a primary, a bruising primary. Specter -- I mean, there's no guarantee Specter's going to get the Democrat nomination in the primary. He's got to -- he's got to secure that. So it's -- it's -- any time you have, you know, liberals leaving the Republican Party, rather than trying to change the party to become liberal, it's a good thing! I wish more people who are not really Republicans, who claim to be liberal Republicans, do the same thing!

Senator Olympia Snowe in the New York Times:
Senator Specter indicated that his decision was based on the political situation in Pennsylvania, where he faced a tough primary battle. In my view, the political environment that has made it inhospitable for a moderate Republican in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of a deeper, more pervasive problem that places our party in jeopardy nationwide.
And:
We can’t continue to fold our philosophical tent into an umbrella under which only a select few are worthy to stand. Rather, we should view an expansion of diversity within the party as a triumph that will broaden our appeal. That is the political road map we must follow to victory.
However wise those words are, I can't imagine the call to expand the diversity of the GOP coming from a moderate New England republican (and how many of those are left??) will get any traction in the Limbaugh party.

April 28, 2009

George Bush on March 17, 2003


War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, “I was just following orders.”

(h/t to Think Progress)

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE



Tell me that when The Powers That Be promised Arlen Specter that they'd clear the way for him to win the Democratic primary in 2010, that they also got some promises from him -- and that they made him sign it in blood -- cause Arlen is real good at pulling that football away at the last moment.
.

Don't Know Much 'Bout History


Representative Michele Bachman said:
I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence.
Uh...not so much. From the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages:
A quick look at the swine flu scare in the 1970s brings up some interesting facts Bachmann seems to have missed that discredits even this "interesting coincidence". The first cases that spurred the swine flu vaccinations actually happened in 1976 under Republican President Gerald Ford when some Fort Dix soldiers became ill. Carter continued the vaccinations when he took office.
(h/t to Talking Points Memo)

Oh, the irony!


First, it took a Republican to switch parties for Pennsylvania to get a pro choice senator.


And speaking of choice, once again, Pennsylvanians will have little to no choice in their Democratic primary vote for US Senator -- the fix is in.

[sigh]
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Shribman on Torture

This weekend David M. Shribman, the executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted a column on torture.

Well not exactly on torture, but on why the Obama Administration should "look to the future, not to the past" and just let it go.

He begins with some historical precednts:
When Thomas Jefferson succeeded John Adams, a contest that put America on such a different footing that it is remembered today as the Revolution of 1800, he did not seek to put members of the Adams administration on trial. When Warren G. Harding followed Woodrow Wilson in the White House in 1921, he did not put Edith Galt Wilson on trial for usurping the office of the presidency after Wilson's stroke. When Bill Clinton ended a dozen years of Republican rule in 1993, he did not try to prosecute Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush for deceiving the Congress over the Iran-Contra affair.
For the record, as far as I know none of the above list was accused of torture.

In any event, while Shribman fails to mention a specific charge that the Jeffersonians could have charged the Adamsians with, the rest of his argument rests on the notion that since Harding failed to charge Wilson's widow with "usurpation" (or whatever the charge would have been) and since Clinton failed to prosecute Bush and Reagan for Iran-Contra (and so on), then the Obama should let George Bush and Dick Cheney get away with torture. He sums it up with a creatively constructed and properly punctuated alliteration:
Here presidents and parties do not criminalize the policies of their predecessors.
Implying that elsewhere, presidents and parties DO criminalize their predecessors' policies. A banana republic perhaps? That's a cheap shot, as we all know.

What Shribman fails to recognize (or perhaps what he's avoiding) is the simple fact that torture is a crime. A big one. A violation of federal and international law whose punishment is, and of right ought to be, severe.

I find this next sentence unintentially funny:
That is why the nascent effort to investigate and perhaps prosecute members of the Bush administration is a dramatic departure from American tradition.
Bill Clinton was impeached for the very serious charge of perjury as he was caught in a lie about the fellatio he'd received from a woman who wasn't his wife. The Bush administration is accused (at least in the court of public opinion) of okaying the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" that the International Committee of the Red Cross has already deemed "constituted torture."

Perjury about fellatio was serious enough for multi-million dollar investigation but "American tradition" demands that serious allegations of torture get a pass.

Perhaps if Monica Lewinsky were waterboarded...

That snarky digression it leads me to the fundamental flaw in the next section of Shribman's column:
This is no defense of torture nor of the tactics the Bush administration may have used in recent years; press accounts of those episodes that emerged late last month were shocking. But far below the surface of the noisy Washington and cable-television conversation is a quieter but very serious debate, sparked by the circulation in elite legal circles in recent days of an Internet version of a forthcoming article in the Yale Law Journal that argues that "all interrogation methods allegedly authorized since 9/11, with the possible exception of waterboarding, have been authorized before."

This article, by William Ranney Levi, is significant as much for its intellectual provenance as it is for its contents. Mr. Levi, part of one of the most distinguished legal families in the nation, exposed his argument to the rigorous review of several leading legal minds, conservative and liberal, some of whom doubtlessly disagree with him.

He cites consultations with Jack L. Goldsmith, the conservative Harvard law professor who resigned from the Bush Justice Department and later expressed qualms over the Bush anti-terrorism legal rationale; Harold H. Koh, the dean of the Yale Law School and a leading human rights activist who has been nominated by Mr. Obama to be legal adviser to the State Department; Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, a Stanford law professor in the Obama inner ring; and Martin S. Lederman, a Georgetown law professor and fierce Bush critic who is the president's choice for a leadership position in the powerful and prestigious Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department.

The meaning of all of this is not that the Bush policies were smart, prudent, moral or effective. They may not have been any of those things. The meaning, however, is that the Bush policies were legally plausible. [emphasis added]

I bolded and italicized the phrase regarding waterboarding in the event it would have been missed otherwise. Now look at Shribman's argument again while telling yourself: But they did waterboard.

So Shribman's whole argument of letting it slide because there's been enough precedent for Bush's policies to be legally plausible are crushed under:
They waterboarded.
The US has already prosecuted waterboarding (in Texas recently and against Imperial Japan 6 decades ago). How's that for precedents?

And he insults his audience (meaning you and me) by insisting on calling this a "policy" dispute. This is not about taxes or spending or who'd make a good Supreme Court nominee.

It's about a crime. One that happened hundreds of times. One that happened in our name and one that to "protect" us.

There's a reason the UN Convention Against Torture exists. We can't have the high moral ground if we let the torture go. Indeed, we're in violation of international law if we do.

Arlen Specter's Statement

From PoliticsPA:
April 28, 2009

Statement by Senator Arlen Specter

I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.

I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. I thank specially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance.

I am not making this decision because there are no important and interesting opportunities outside the Senate. I take on this complicated run for re-election because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania's economy.

I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election. Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle.

While each member of the Senate caucuses with his Party, what each of us hopes to accomplish is distinct from his party affiliation. The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation. And no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation.

My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords' switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.

Whatever my party affiliation, I will continue to be guided by President Kennedy's statement that sometimes Party asks too much. When it does, I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.

Update on Specter's Switch

From The Politico:
Republican Senate leaders Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Jon Kyl of Arizona are in an emergency meeting in the Capitol right now discussing the party switch, which would be a devastating blow to a party barely hanging on to a 41-vote minority in the Senate. Specter has long been a moderate Republican and a thorn in his party's side, but his move to switch parties is a surprising maneuver. Specter trails badly in GOP primary polls and he may have a better chance to win as a Democrat in his home state.
Poor guys. The minority party in the Senate just got minority-ier.

Specter to Switch Parties

This just in:

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, according to sources informed on the decision.

Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota. (Former Sen. Norm Coleman is appealing Franken's victory in the state Supreme Court.)

Specter as a Democrat would also fundamentally alter the 2010 calculus in Pennsylvania as he was expected to face a difficult primary challenge next year from former Rep. Pat Toomey. The only announced Democrat in the race is former National Constitution Center head Joe Torsella although several other candidates are looking at the race.

Wow.

UPDATE: There's more from the Fix:
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning.

Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota. (Former Sen. Norm Coleman is appealing Franken's victory in the state Supreme Court.)

"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary," said Specter in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."

He added: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."

Specter as a Democrat would also fundamentally alter the 2010 calculus in Pennsylvania as he was expected to face a difficult primary challenge next year from former Rep. Pat Toomey. The only announced Democrat in the race is former National Constitution Center head Joe Torsella although several other candidates are looking at the race.
Wow.

Equal Pay Day Rally


WHAT: The 2009 Equal Pay Day Rally
WHEN: TODAY! Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at Noon
WHERE: Mellon Square Park in Downtown Pittsburgh map
SPONSOR
: The Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania
RSVP: info@wgfpa.org


County to study gender wage gap:

Studies have consistently shown that women make about 20 percent less than their male peers in the workplace nationally, Ms. Arnet said, and in Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh, they make about 30 percent less.

[snip]

This afternoon's rally will be an important reminder for both proponents of equal pay and for regional elected leaders, said Elizabeth Waickman of the Women & Girls Foundation.

"Ensuring fair wages means ensuring women and girls are equally valued in the work force and our region," said Ms. Waickman, an organizer of the rally. She added that Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and County Council and City Council Presidents Rich Fitzgerald and Doug Shields will be the key speakers, among others.

.

Swine! Edition


First, came Rove:
Rove mocked spending on flu preparedness
Then his lapdogs:
Republican Senators killed funding for flu pandemic control

$870 million in money to improve the Center for Disease Control's ability to handle a possible flu pandemic was removed from the economic stimulus bill Congress passed in February, largely at the behest of Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

[snip]

Collins and Specter, along with Sen. Ben Nelso (D-NE) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), were at the core of a group of "moderate" Senators arguing that the stimulus bill was too large, and sought out to slash funding for various programs before passage of the final bill. Sen. Specter argued that funding pandemic control through the emergency supplemental package would be "inappropriate."
Collins even crowed about it on her web site and all over the media:


Even though Reuters reports it's already having an effect on the economy:
Oil prices fell more than 4 percent to below $50 a barrel as investors feared a new blow to an already fragile global economy if trade flows are curbed and manufacturing is hit.

The MSCI world equity index fell 1 percent, and U.S. stocks were down in choppy trading.
And now, who couldn't see this coming?
Conservative media baselessly blame swine flu outbreak on immigrants

Conservative media personalities have baselessly blamed Mexican immigrants for spreading swine flu across the border, despite the fact that several reports have indicated that U.S. swine flu patients had recently traveled to Mexico.
* Yes, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) described the funding as "little porky things" but, he's always been a bit of an asshole and it was the Republicans who led the charge.
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April 27, 2009

Something to Ponder...

From McClatchy:
The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to recently declassified Justice Department memos.

That undercuts assertions by former vice president Dick Cheney and other former Bush administration officials that the use of harsh interrogation tactics including waterboarding, which is widely considered torture, was justified because it headed off terrorist attacks.
But...that would mean that Cheney and other former Bush administration officials were...lying??

What will we tell the children?

April 26, 2009

Jack Kelly Sunday

It was inevitable. In this week's column, Jack Kelly spins torture.

He starts, in all places, with the posthumous decapitation of Oliver Cromwell and the "bill of attainder" that led to it. Then he points out:
For obvious reasons, the American colonists were not fond of this aspect of the British legal system. Article 1, section 9, clause 3 of the Constitution declares: "No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed."
Do you know what else it says in Article 1, section 9 of the US Constitution? This is the sentence immediately above the one Jack patriotically parrots:
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
Funny how Jack Kelly never got around to writing a column defending Habeas Corpus when George W. Bush named Yaser Esam Hamdi an enemy combatant and effectively suspended his Habeas Corpus rights.

But I digress.

Back to Jack the flack and hack:
U.S. law forbids "torture," which is defined as "an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain and suffering."
First let me say kudos to Jack Kelly for recognizing that US Law forbids torture. Though it is somewhat unsettling to see that word in the quotation marks. Is there an issue to be resolved before he removes the ironical puncuation marks? His next paragraph explains things:
But what constitutes "severe physical or mental pain and suffering?" Most of us recognize as torture actions which maim or kill, such as the breaking of bones, pulling of fingernails, electrodes to the genitals, etc. But some on the left want to define as "torture" anything that makes a terror suspect temporarily uncomfortable, such as sleep deprivation, having to listen to heavy metal rock, exposure to cold or simulated drowning.
I like this part:
But some on the left want to define as "torture" anything that makes a terror suspect temporarily uncomfortable...
Who? Jack conveniently doesn't say. It could be someone famous or it could be someone babbling at Jack on the bus. He doesn't do us the courtesy of filling us in on who "some" are. He does, though, list some things he considers "temprarily uncomfortable" and obviously not "torture":
...sleep deprivation, having to listen to heavy metal rock, exposure to cold or simulated drowning.
Let's start with this from the BBC:
Sleep deprivation is not like torture - it is a form of torture, a tactic favoured by the KGB and the Japanese in PoW camps in World War Two.
So both the KGB and the Japanese in WWII? Huh.

There's more - to that list we can add Saddam Hussein.

Take a look: In this CRS report from 2004, we learn that The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that U.S. POWs during the First Gulf War were tortured in Iraq:
The torture inflicted included severe beatings, mock executions, threatened castration, and threatened dismemberment. The POWs were systematically starved, denied sleep, and exposed to freezing cold. [emphasis added.]
This is how we protect democracy, Jack? By emulating the KGB, Imperial Japan and Saddam Hussein's Iraq? What great company to be in.

And Jack's spinning a bit more by including the part about listening to "heavy metal rock." It's used in conjunction with sleep deprivation. From the BBC:
The US's Psychological Operations Company (Psy Ops) said the aim was to break a prisoner's resistance through sleep deprivation and playing music that was culturally offensive to them.
So it's not just popping in a Metallica CD. It's using Metallica to keep the detainees awake. And since we already know that sleep deprivation is torture, most anything can be utilized during that process:
Heavy metal music and popular American children's songs are being used by US interrogators to break the will of their captives in Iraq.

Uncooperative prisoners are being exposed for prolonged periods to tracks by rock group Metallica and music from children's TV programmes Sesame Street and Barney in the hope of making them talk.
Now that's just sad - Barney and Elmo being a part of torture. Sheesh, is NOTHING sacred?

What's left is the waterboarding. Here's John McCain from a campaign stop in 2007:
[F]ollowing World War II war crime trials were convened. The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which they were convicted was waterboarding.
From Politifact, McCain continues:
"If the United States is in another conflict ... and we have allowed that kind of torture to be inflicted upon people we hold captive, then there is nothing to prevent that enemy from also torturing American prisoners."

McCain is referencing the Tokyo Trials, officially known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as "water cure," "water torture" and "waterboarding," according to the charging documents. It simulates drowning.

R. John Pritchard, a historian and lawyer who is a top scholar on the trials, said the Japanese felt the ends justified the means. "The rapid and effective collection of intelligence then, as now, was seen as vital to a successful struggle, and in addition, those who were engaged in torture often felt that whatever pain and anguish was suffered by the victims of torture was nothing less than the just deserts of the victims or people close to them," he said.

Can't be any plainer than that, Jack. Waterboarding (or "simulated drowning" as you euphemistically call it) is torture. The US executed Japanese war criminals for waterboarding and yet Jack wants us to think that it's just meant to be nothing more than something that's "temporarily uncomfortable."

Jack's next part is simply incredible:
The "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on a handful of al-Qaida bigwigs were derived from what U.S. pilots and special forces personnel undergo in SERE training (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape). Few in their right minds would describe the SERE course -- through which thousands have passed without ill effect -- as "torture." But in this country, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Many on the left, however, wish to criminalize policy differences.
The SERE training, once you actually look at it, was set up to aid servicemen and women in the event that they're tortured by waterboarding. Inherent in the idea is that waterboarding is torture. To use the training used to resist the torture as evidence that waterboarding isn't torture is truly tortured logic.

John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

Let's be clear. Torture is immoral. Advocating it is immoral. Covering it up is immoral. Giving it a pass is immoral.

These are not "policy differences." It's also illegal (as Jack rightly points out) and so these are criminal acts.

Prosecute the war crimes.

"green coal"

Gingrich adds new term to coal industry’s propaganda lexicon: ‘green coal.’

Hahahahahahahahahaha

[sob]

.

April 25, 2009

The JPRA: It's Torture and It's UNRELIABLE

The JPRA is the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency and its job, according to its Mission Statement is to:
Shape Personnel Recovery for the Department of Defense and enable commanders, forces, and individuals to effectively accomplish their Personnel Recovery responsibilities.
And as defined by the US Military:
Personnel recovery is the term for military, civil, and diplomatic efforts to obtain the release or recovery of captured, missing, or isolated personnel from uncertain or hostile environments and denied areas.
So these folks are the experts.

The Washington Post is reporting:
The military agency that provided advice on harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as "torture" in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon's chief lawyer and warned that it would produce "unreliable information."

"The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel," says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.
The WaPost goes on to say that:
[T]he document offers the clearest evidence that has come to light so far that technical advisers on the harsh interrogation methods voiced early concerns about the effectiveness of applying severe physical or psychological pressure.
The 2-pager is here.

From the intro:
This discussion is not intended to address the myriad legal, ethical, or moral implications of torture; rather, this document will seeks to describe the key operational considerations relative to the use of physical and psychological pressures.
And the the essense of the memo:
The primary objective of interrogation within the context of intelligence is the collecting of timely, accurate, and reliable information. The question that should immediately come to mind is whether the application of physical and/or psychological duress will enhance the interrogator's ability to achieve this objective. The requirement to obtain information from an uncooperative source as quickly as possible-in time to prevent, for example, an impending terrorist attack that could result in loss of life-has been forwarded as a compelling argument for the use of torture. Conceptually, proponents envision the application of torture as a means to expedite the exploitation process. In essence, physical and/or psychological duress are viewed as an alternative to the more time consuming conventional interrogation process. The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate intelligence. History and a consideration of human behavior would appear to refute this assumption. [Emphasis added.]
This would seem to put the kibosh on the old, "If the only way to get the info quickly on a terror plot that's sure to kill your wife is to torture a terrorist, would you allow it?" canard, doesn't it?

But there's another downside to torture:
Another important aspect ofthe debate over the use oftorture is the consideration of its potential impact on the safety ofU.S. personnel captured by current and future adversaries. The unintended consequence ofa U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel. While this would have little impact on those regimes or organizations that already employ torture as a standard means of operating, it could serve as the critical impetus for those that are currently weighing the potential gains and risks associated with the torture ofU.S. persons to accept torture as an acceptable option.
This was sent up the chain of command in July of 2002. They knew torture didn't work back then.

Investigate and prosecute the torture.

The President Today



The text can be found here.

Saturday Morning Animation

From my friend AllenMez:

April 24, 2009

Al Gore, Today.

Via Thinkprogress:


The transcript can be found here. Gore finishes with:
It is on the front page of the New York Times today, by Andrew Revkin. They themselves conducted review and found a science about it's valid. And to the point you made a moment ago: they verified in their own studies that man-made global warming is raising temperatures and causing this crisis. Like Bernie Madoff, and they lied about it in order to make money. And they themselves profited. The ceo of the largest got a onetime payment of $400 million. Now, again, those who have trusted them and believed them are due an apology. These corporations ought to apologize to the American people for conducting a massive fraud for the last 14 years.
The article Gore's talking about is here. Here's how it begins:
For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming.

“The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.

But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.

“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.
How did they do it? Glad you asked:
Environmentalists have long maintained that industry knew early on that the scientific evidence supported a human influence on rising temperatures, but that the evidence was ignored for the sake of companies’ fight against curbs on greenhouse gas emissions. Some environmentalists have compared the tactic to that once used by tobacco companies, which for decades insisted that the science linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer was uncertain. By questioning the science on global warming, these environmentalists say, groups like the Global Climate Coalition were able to sow enough doubt to blunt public concern about a consequential issue and delay government action.

George Monbiot, a British environmental activist and writer, said that by promoting doubt, industry had taken advantage of news media norms requiring neutral coverage of issues, just as the tobacco industry once had.

“They didn’t have to win the argument to succeed,” Mr. Monbiot said, “only to cause as much confusion as possible.”

Of the Global Climate Coalition, the Union of Concerned Scientists had this to say in January, 2007:
A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists offers the most comprehensive documentation to date of how ExxonMobil has adopted the tobacco industry's disinformation tactics, as well as some of the same organizations and personnel, to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue. According to the report, ExxonMobil has funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science
So this is nothing new.

April 23, 2009

Torture Update

We are going to follow the evidence, follow the law and take that where it leads. No one is above the law. - Attorney General Eric Holder
Yesterday, via CNN.

Later in the piece there's this:

Holder also repeated assurances the Obama administration had given CIA interrogators who employed the controversial techniques that they would not be charged.

"The president's comments were consistent with what we've said all along. Those who, in good faith, followed legal guidance they were given will not be prosecuted or investigated," Holder said.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who earlier in the day released a newly declassified timeline -- compiled when he was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- of how the approval for the controversial interrogation techniques played out, said he agreed that CIA operatives shouldn't face prosecution.

Now about that timeline (an excerpt is here and the full list is here.)

The AP is reporting:
A new document indicates the CIA first proposed waterboarding alleged al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah to top Bush administration officials in mid-May 2002, three months before the Justice Department approved the interrogation technique in a secret legal opinion.
Specifically (from the Washington Post):

July 17, 2002 "Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) met with the National Security Adviser, who advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaida. This advice, which authorized CIA to proceed as a policy matter, was subject to a determination of legality by OLC."

July 24, 2002 "OLC orally advised the CIA that the Attorney General had concluded that certain proposed interrogation techniques were lawful and, on July 26, that the use of waterboarding was lawful."

Aug. 1, 2002 "OLC issued three documents analyzing U.S. obligations with respect to the treatment of detainees. Two of these three documents were unclassified: an unclassified opinion interpreting the federal criminal prohibition on torture, and a letter concerning U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture."

Before hearing from the OLC, then-National Security Director Condolezza Rice approved the waterboarding. A week after that, the OLC "orally advised" the CIA it was OK and then a week and a day after that, it was in writing.

More from the AP:
The new timeline shows that Rice played a greater role than she admitted last fall in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The narrative also shows that dissenting legal views about the severe interrogation methods were brushed aside repeatedly.

So she lied? Someone in the Bush Administration lied about the torture they approved?

What a shock.

McClatchy notes:
A newly declassified narrative of the Bush administration's advice to the CIA on harsh interrogations shows that the small group of Justice Department lawyers who wrote memos authorizing harsh interrogation techniques were operating not on their own but with direction from top administration officials, including then-Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

At the same time, the narrative suggests that then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell were largely left out of the decision-making process.

Senator Rockefeller issued a statement with the release of the chronology. From the LATimes:
"The records of the CIA demonstrate that the lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel did not operate in a vacuum," Rockefeller said in a statement. That office is the Justice Department entity that issued many of the key opinions endorsing the CIA's techniques. "The then-vice president and the national security advisor are at the center of these discussions."
Investigate and prosecute the torture. It's the law.

April 22, 2009

Earth Day


As we celebrate Earth Day today, it's good to remember our own canaries in the coal mine: The victims of the Donora Smog of 1948.

From Wikipedia:

The Donora Smog of 1948 was an historic air inversion pall of smog that killed 20 and sickened 7,000 people in Donora, Pennsylvania, United States, a mill town on the Monongahela River 24 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

The smog first rolled into Donora on October 27, 1948. By the following day it was causing coughing and other signs of respiratory distress for many residents of the community in the Monongahela River valley. Many of the illnesses and deaths were initially attributed to asthma. The smog continued until it rained on October 31, by which time 20 residents of Donora had died and approximately a third to one half of the town's population of 14,000 residents had been sickened. Sixty years later, the incident was described by The New York Times as "one of the worst air pollution disasters in the nation's history." Even ten years after the incident, mortality rates in Donora were significantly higher than those in other communities nearby.

Sulfur dioxide emissions from U.S. Steel's Donora Zinc Works and its American Steel & Wire plant were frequent occurrences in Donora. What made the 1948 event more severe was a temperature inversion, in which a mass of warm, stagnant air was trapped in the valley, the pollutants in the air mixing with fog to form a thick, yellowish, acrid smog that hung over Donora for five days. The sulfuric acid, nitrogen dioxide, fluorine and other poisonous gases that usually dispersed into the atmosphere were caught in the inversion and accumulated until the rain ended the weather pattern.

Researchers analyzing the event have focused likely blame on pollutants from the zinc plant, whose emissions had killed almost all vegetation within a half-mile radius of the plant. Dr. Devra L. Davis, director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, has pointed to autopsy results showing fluorine levels in victims in the lethal range, as much as 20 times higher than normal. Fluorine gas generated in the zinc smelting process became trapped by the stagnant air and was the primary cause of the deaths.

[snip]

Preliminary results of a study performed by Dr. Clarence A. Mills of the University of Cincinnati and released in December 1948 showed that thousands more Donora residents could have been killed if the smog had lasted any longer than it had, in addition to the 20 humans and nearly 800 animals killed during the incident.

[snip]

The Donora Smog marked one of the incidents where Americans recognized that exposure to large amounts of pollution in a short period of time can result in injuries and fatalities. The event is often credited for helping to trigger the clean-air movement in the United States, whose crowning achievement was the Clean Air Act of 1970, which required the United States Environmental Protection Agency to develop and enforce regulations to protect the general public from exposure to hazardous airborne contaminants.

[Emphasis added]

It's fitting that another old steel town is in the news today as the Post-Gazette reports that, "Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, who is part of the ad campaign and is scheduled to testify at a hearing on the cap and trade issue in Washington, D.C., today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee."

Fetterman has been appearing in print and TV ads by the the Environmental Defense Action Fund (EDAF). The theme of these ads is "Carbon Caps=Hard Hats" and "is aimed at promoting a cap on carbon emissions by linking such controls to the creation of new jobs in blue-collar industries, like steel."

The TV spots are running from April 12 through May 8 in Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Missouri, New Hampshire, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

You can view the Fetterman ad here if you haven't viewed it already (I've seen it running on the Sunday morning political shows) :


I also am compelled to add how nice it is that under the Obama Administration the Environmental Protection Agency is actually back to working on protecting the environment.
.

The Report

The Senate Armed-Services Committee issued a report today. It's title is "Inquiry to the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody" and it describes what was done in our name.

From the Executive Summary:
The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of "a few bad apples" acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority. This report is a product of the Committee's inquiry into how those unfortunate results came about.
Senator Levin says of the report:
Today we're releasing the declassified report of the Senate Armed Services Committee's investigation into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. The report was approved by the Armed Services Committee on November 20, 2008 and has, in the intervening period, been under review at the Department of Defense for declassification.

In my judgment, the report represents a condemnation of both the Bush administration's interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse - such as that seen at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan - to low ranking soldiers. Claims, such as that made by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz that detainee abuses could be chalked up to the unauthorized acts of a "few bad apples," were simply false.

The truth is that, early on, it was senior civilian leaders who set the tone. On September 16, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney suggested that the United States turn to the "dark side" in our response to 9/11. Not long after that, after White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales called parts of the Geneva Conventions "quaint," President Bush determined that provisions of the Geneva Conventions did not apply to certain detainees. Other senior officials followed the President and Vice President's lead, authorizing policies that included harsh and abusive interrogation techniques.

And from McClatchy:
The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.
And because there was no link, the interrogations got harsher.

Investigate torture. It's the law.

April 21, 2009

The Zelikow Memo

Philip Zelikow was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's policy representative to the NSC Deputies Committee and he had access to the torture memos released this week. According to this article in Foreign Policy magazine, he signed some security agreements that barred him from publicly discussing the memos while they were classified.

He writes:
[I]n 2005, I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn't entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable. My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views. They did more than that: The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department's archives. [emphasis added.]
He discussed the memos:
Weakest of all is the May 30 opinion, just because it had to get over the lowest standard -- "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" in Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture. That standard was also being codified in the bill Senator John McCain was fighting to pass. It is also found in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, a standard that the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 does apply to these prisoners. Violation of Common Article 3 is a war crime under federal law (18 U.S.C. section 2441), a felony punishable by up to life imprisonment. (The OLC opinions do not discuss this law because in 2005 the administration also denied the applicability of Common Article 3.)
The danger of the Bush-era opinions:
The underlying absurdity of the administration's position can be summarized this way. Once you get to a substantive compliance analysis for "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" you get the position that the substantive standard is the same as it is in analogous U.S. constitutional law. So the OLC must argue, in effect, that the methods and the conditions of confinement in the CIA program could constitutionally be inflicted on American citizens in a county jail.

In other words, Americans in any town of this country could constitutionally be hung from the ceiling naked, sleep deprived, water-boarded, and all the rest -- if the alleged national security justification was compelling. I did not believe our federal courts could reasonably be expected to agree with such a reading of the Constitution.

Anyone have any idea why the Bush administration would want to destroy all copies of The Zelikow memo?

Obama "Open" To Torture Investigation

From the AP:
Widening an explosive debate on torture, President Barack Obama on Tuesday opened the possibility of prosecution for Bush-era lawyers who authorized brutal interrogation of terror suspects and suggested Congress might order a full investigation.

Less than a week after declaring it was time for the nation to move on rather than "laying blame for the past," Obama found himself describing what might be done next to investigate what he called the loss of "our moral bearings."

His comments all but ensured that the vexing issue of detainee interrogation during the Bush administration will live on well into the new president's term. Obama, who severely criticized the harsh techniques during the campaign, is feeling pressure from his party's liberal wing to come down hard on the subject. At the same time, Republicans including former Vice President Dick Cheney are insisting the methods helped protect the nation and are assailing Obama for revealing Justice Department memos detailing them.

The players:
The three men facing the most scrutiny are former Justice Department officials Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury. Bybee is currently a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Yoo is a professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

It might be argued that the officials were simply doing their jobs, providing legal advice for the Bush administration. However, John Strait, a law professor at Seattle University said, "I think there are a slew of potential charges."

Those could include conspiracy to commit felonies, including torture, he suggested.

Bybee also could face impeachment in Congress if lawmakers were so inclined.

While it's not as important as lying about oral sex, conspiracy to commit torture is a big deal.

Torture Update

From the NYTimes:
Pressure mounted on President Obama on Monday for more thorough investigation into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration, even as he tried to reassure the Central Intelligence Agency that it would not be blamed for following legal advice.
The pressure?
...human rights activists, Congressional Democrats and international officials pressed for a fuller accounting of what happened. Senator Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote Mr. Obama asking him not to rule out prosecutions until her panel completed an investigation over the next six to eight months.
And:
The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to release its own report after two years of looking at the military’s use of harsh interrogation methods. And the Democratic chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees are pushing for a commission to look into the matter. At the same time, the administration faces pressure from abroad. Manfred Nowak, the United Nations’ chief official on torture, told an Austrian newspaper that as a party to the international Convention against Torture, the United States was required to investigate credible accusations of torture.
Then there's:
Others pushing for more investigation included Philip D. Zelikow, the former State Department counselor in the Bush administration. On his blog for Foreign Policy magazine and in an interview, Mr. Zelikow said it was not up to a president to rule out an inquiry into possible criminal activity. “If a Republican president tried to do this, people would be apoplectic,” he said.

Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr., who was chief counsel to the Church Committee, the Senate panel that investigated C.I.A. abuses in the 1970s, said Mr. Obama was “courageous” to rule out prosecutions for those who followed legal advice. But he said “it’s absolutely necessary” to investigate further, “not for the purpose of setting blame but to understand how it happened.”
Here's something else from Zelikow:
I am not eager to see any government officials prosecuted for crimes because of their zeal to protect their country. But crimes committed for worthy motives are still crimes, and we have institutions to sort this out.

So has anyone beside me found it troubling that President Obama is making announcements on who should be prosecuted for possible crimes? Whatever one's view of the matter, didn't the administration ardently announce its dedication to depoliticizing the Department of Justice? So why is it proper for the president to tell Attorney General Eric Holder what he should conclude?
He then posits 5 possibilities:
  1. No unlawful conduct
  2. Unlawful conduct but with a credible defense
  3. Unlawful conduct with an inadequate defense
  4. Unlawful conduct, no defense, but Obama pardons
  5. No pardon, but Obama tells AG Holder what legal options he has.
His conclusion:
Can you imagine what folks would say if a Republican president exercised option #5? I wish President Obama would just play this straight. He also does no favor to suspects if he politicizes the question of their innocence.
Investigate. Prosecute. Do it publicly and fairly. It's the American way. It's also the law.

April 20, 2009

Some thoughts on tonight's debate

  • If we were back a year ago during the Democratic primary presidential debates, my inbox would have been full already with emails from the candidates' campaigns spinning the debate. Luke, what are you spending that million+ on?

  • Someone: Please tell Ms. Robinson to look into the camera (she did get much better as the debate went on).

  • Dowd: You had my grandmother at hello (actually, she mentioned something about "children are our future," "teacher," "school board," etc.) .

  • Joe Arpaio?!? Really, Wendy? From Wikipedia:
    - From 2004 through November 2007, Arpaio was the target of 2,150 lawsuits in U.S. District Court and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts; 50 times as many prison-conditions lawsuits as the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined.

    - Family members of inmates who have died or been injured in jail custody have filed lawsuits against the sheriff’s office. Maricopa County has paid more than $43 million in settlement claims during Arpaio's tenure.

    - In 2004, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office SWAT team led a raid on an Ahwatukee home in a gated subdivision, looking for illegal weapons. No illegal weapons were found, but during the raid, the house burned down, SWAT officers forced a dog back into the building where it subsequently died, and an armored vehicle rolled into a neighbor's parked car as a result of brake failure.
    Wendy if that doesn't grab you, you might want to click on this link and read the part where Arpaio's deputies arrested Village Voice Media executives and Phoenix New Times editors and where a reporter for the Phoenix New Times, was surrounded and intimidated by Arpaio's deputies while trying to examine public records at the City of Phoenix public records counter. But then again, you seem really hopped up on the whole chain gang idea. Bob, please have a talk with Wendy.

  • Mayo: Nice question about the mayor making his schedule public -- too bad he never answered it.

  • I agree with Anthony:
    7:56 Luke just mentioned O'Connor. God, give me strength.

    7:57 Isn't it comforting to know what Luke now admits--that he wasn't ready to be mayor when O'Connor died. So in 3 more years, is he going to admit that he wasn't ready in 2009, either?

    UPDATE: Other Burghosphere reactions to the debate:

    Pittsburgh Comet

    Tunesmith & Anthony

    Infinonymous
    .
  • More On Mike Turzai

    I just wanted to fill out some background on the comments from this blog post.

    From Roll Call:

    By most accounts, Turzai’s 1998 bid for the seat against then-Rep. Ron Klink (D) was a less-than-stellar campaign. He lost to Klink, 36 percent to 64 percent, in a district that two years later gave 50 percent of the vote to Bush.

    During that first campaign for the 4th district seat, Turzai was derailed by two major publicity mishaps. Two of his supporters got into an altercation with Klink on the sidewalks of Pittsburgh while trying to videotape him for a negative campaign advertisement. Klink also blasted Turzai for sending a helicopter to take aerial footage of his home as an invasion of his privacy.

    Here's the P-G story from 1998. First the helicopter story:
    In the past few days, campaign workers for Republican Mike Turzai have flown over U.S. Rep. Ron Klink's Westmoreland County home in a helicopter and have twice attempted to videotape him.
    But the bigger story was the stalking:
    The second videotaping incident Downtown on Wednesday prompted calls to Pittsburgh police, with each political camp saying its supporters had been accosted by people from the other side.

    Turzai said yesterday that his supporters were only trying to force Klink to give them some straight answers to a "series of questions" on legitimate campaign issues when they approached him with a video camera and microphone outside the Duquesne Club, Downtown.

    But Klink's chief of staff, Joseph Brimmeier, said sex was the only subject of the only questions asked by the two men from the Turzai camp who came after him and Klink.

    "'Ron, tell us about your sexual affairs, Ron, tell us who you're having sex with on your staff ...' that's all they were asking," Brimmeier said.

    TO BE COMPLETELY FAIR, Turzai apologized for the conduct of his campaign workers a few days later:

    Saying "we were wrong to do what we did," Republican congressional candidate Mike Turzai apologized to his opponent, U.S. Rep. Ron Klink, for allowing his campaign workers to accost Klink at public appearances and attempt to videotape Klink and his home.

    In a news conference last night at his Cranberry campaign headquarters, a somber, husky-voiced Turzai read a brief statement in which he apologized to Klink and Klink's family for the conduct of his campaign workers over the past week. He also said he regretted not apologizing sooner.

    "In all earnestness, I've wanted to do this since last week, but I didn't. I have no excuses. We were wrong to do what we did," Turzai said, reading from handwritten notes scrawled on a yellow legal pad. "I am fully responsible for the actions of this campaign, and I regret what happened. While I assumed responsibility last week, I didn't apologize and I should have."

    This was ten years ago, by the way.

    This Just In (Part II), Progress Pittsburgh PAC Endorsments

    Progress Pittsburgh PAC (P2PAC) announced their endorsements for the May 19th primary. This is the first time that P2PAC has endorsed candidates.

    As they put it:
    P2PAC develops, supports, and helps to elect candidates who demonstrate vision, progressive values, and electability. It considers candidates whose districts touch the City of Pittsburgh, and supports candidates that will make good, progressive leaders at higher levels of government.

    [snip]

    These endorsements represent four races where a group of dedicated citizens can make a MAJOR impact on the race. While there are other candidates that support the progressive ideals of social and economic justice (Amanda Green, Bill Peduto, and Patrick Dowd are three who met with us that come to mind), we are confident that your money and your time will be invested wisely, should you choose to support the candidates below.
    Their endorsements:
  • Natalia Rudiak, City Council District 4, http://www.nataliarudiak.com/

  • Robert Daniel Lavelle, City Council District 6, http://www.lavelleforcouncil.com/

  • Susan Banahasky, Magisterial District Judge 5-3-10, http://www.susanformagistrate.com/

  • Hugh McGough, Court of Common Pleas, http://www.mcgough4judge.com/
  • P2PAC will have a Happy Hour this Tuesday, April 21, 6-8pm, 900 Cafe & Lounge, 900 Western Ave, North Side to celebrate their endorsed candidates and to talk about how you can make a difference in these races.

    You can contribute to P2PAC here.
    .

    Pittsburgh Democratic Candidate Mayoral Debate Tonight!

    lil_mayor_luke

    A reminder that the first Pittsburgh Democratic Candidate Mayoral Debate will be broadcast tonight:

    Monday, April 20, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on WTAE-TV Channel 4.

    All three Democratic primary candidates -- Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Councilman Patrick Dowd and Carmen Robinson -- will be participating.

    WTAE's Andrew Stockey is the moderator and panelists will include WTAE's Wendy Bell, Bob Mayo and Sheldon Ingram and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review police reporter Jill King Greenwood.

    More info and question submission @ WTAE.
    .

    Turzai Vs Altmire??

    From The Trib's "Whispers" column:

    Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, the House minority whip, reportedly is considering challenging U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, for the 4th Congressional District seat next year.

    The National Republican Congressional Committee has had discussions with Turzai about running against Altmire, the Washington, D.C., newspaper Roll Call reported.

    Turzai, spotted at the NRCC annual dinner last month, thus far has declined to discuss the report.

    So who's Mike Turzai?

    He won State Senate Orie's House seat easily in 2001:
    Republican Mike Turzai was the comfortable winner over Thomas Dancison in yesterday's special election to fill a vacant North Hills seat in the state House.

    The victory, by the impressive if not unexpected margin of more than 3-to-1, was a political resurrection for the Bradford Woods lawyer, who was buried in a landslide in a well-funded attempt to oust former U.S. Rep. Ron Klink from his 4th District congressional seat in 1998.

    Via Votesmart.org, he's been given an "ANTI" rating from Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania while the Commonwealth Foundation gives him a score of 89 and the NRA Political Victory Fund gave him an A.

    April 19, 2009

    This Just In...

    Via e-mail:
    The 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club has endorsed Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd for Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh.

    All three Democratic mayoral candidates—Dowd, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Carmen Robinson—spoke to club members and answered questions at the club's annual endorsement meeting today at the Schenley Park Ice Skating Rink.
    What's this "club" you ask? Here's some info:
    The Club, which is not affiliated with the Democratic Committee of Allegheny County, is the oldest independent Democratic club in the country. Its endorsements are printed in a Voters Guide and mailed to likely Democratic voters in the ward. The endorsements are also posted at the club's website.
    The rest of the endorsements (Corrected List):

    Allegheny County Sheriff

    Bill Mullen

    City Council

    District 8

    William Peduto

    School Board

    District 1

    Sharene Shealey

    District 5

    No Endorsement

    Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice

    Jack Panella

    Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge

    Anne E. Lazarus

    John Younge

    Kevin Francis McCarthy

    Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge

    Linda S. Judson

    Barbaba Behrend Ernsberger

    Court of Common Pleas Judge

    Susan Evashavik Dilucente

    Joe Williams

    Alex Bicket

    Hugh Fitzpatrick McGough
    Just in...

    UPDATE: An astute reader e-mailed me to let me know that the link I provided to the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club was incorrect (it's correct now) and the list of endorsees was incorrect (that's been corrected too). In my defense, I took everything from the press release sent to me.