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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 08/23/2009 - 08/30/2009
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Friday, August 28, 2009

Detained at 12, held and tortured at Guantánamo for 6 1/2 years, released without charge

my country, land of the free...

from al jazeera english...

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So much for "change we can believe in"...

i was one of the first victims of this odious policy... on 1 june 2006, my laptop, digital camera, memory card, dvd's, flash drive and cd's were seized by the ice in san francisco on my arrival from frankfurt... they held them for three weeks before sending them back... reason...? forensics... HA...!
The Obama administration will largely preserve Bush-era procedures allowing the government to search -- without suspicion of wrongdoing -- the contents of a traveler's laptop computer, cellphone or other electronic device, although officials said new policies would expand oversight of such inspections.

The policy, disclosed Thursday in a pair of Department of Homeland Security directives, describes more fully than did the Bush administration the procedures by which travelers' laptops, iPods, cameras and other digital devices can be searched and seized when they cross a U.S. border. And it sets time limits for completing searches.

But representatives of civil liberties and travelers groups say they see little substantive difference between the Bush-era policy, which prompted controversy, and this one.

"It's a disappointing ratification of the suspicionless search policy put in place by the Bush administration," said Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. "It provides a lot of procedural safeguards, but it doesn't deal with the fundamental problem, which is that under the policy, government officials are free to search people's laptops and cellphones for any reason whatsoever."

i retained the receipt i was given by the ice so that i could pull it out on the off-chance it ever happened again... i kept it in my laptop case which, during a visit with the family of friends in salta, argentina, was peed in by the family cat... needless to say, i had to get a new laptop case but i still have the receipt, complete with vile cat pee smell, in a sealed baggie in the new laptop case... every time i pass through u.s. customs, it's at the ready... i eagerly await the wrinkled nose of the customs officer when he opens that little bag...!

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Three big banks now hold $3 of every $10 on deposit in the U.S. while the little fish continue to die off

the "too big to fail" banks are, gosh and golly sports fans, now even BIGGER thanks to the strategy pursued by those who supposedly have the common good of the citizenry at heart... HA...!

check the stats in the last paragraph...

When the credit crisis struck last year, federal regulators pumped tens of billions of dollars into the nation's leading financial institutions because the banks were so big that officials feared their failure would ruin the entire financial system.

The crisis may be turning out very well for many of the behemoths that dominate U.S. finance. A series of federally arranged mergers safely landed troubled banks on the decks of more stable firms. And it allowed the survivors to emerge from the turmoil with strengthened market positions, giving them even greater control over consumer lending and more potential to profit.

J.P. Morgan Chase, an amalgam of some of Wall Street's most storied institutions, now holds more than $1 of every $10 on deposit in this country. So does Bank of America, scarred by its acquisition of Merrill Lynch and partly government-owned as a result of the crisis, as does Wells Fargo, the biggest West Coast bank. Those three banks, plus government-rescued and -owned Citigroup, now issue one of every two mortgages and about two of every three credit cards, federal data show.

leapin' lizards, batman...! that essentially means that you and i are now officially wholly-owned subsidiaries of the banksters...

meanwhile, the smaller fish continue to die off...

Regulators seized 45 firms during the first half of the year. In the past two months they have closed 36 more, including regional powerhouses Colonial Bank of Alabama and Guaranty Bank of Texas. The FDIC said Thursday that it counted 416 banks at risk of failing as of the end of June, a 36 percent increase from the first quarter. As with the cost of failures, the number was the highest since the early 1990s, when regulators were dealing with the aftermath of the savings and loan crisis and excessive lending for commercial development.

In recent quarters, the failures have forced the FDIC to spend more money than it collects. Banks use money from depositors to make loans. As a result, when a bank fails, much of the depositors' money is no longer in the vaults, and some of it is tied up in loans that will never be repaid. The FDIC was created by Congress to replace the missing money -- up to $250,000 in each account, under current rules.

The insurance fund held $45.2 billion at the end of June 2008. It held $13 billion at the end of March. The agency has warned that the balance could reach zero by the end of the year.

oh, but never fear... between you and i and our deep pockets, the treasury can always print more money to hand out...
Should the FDIC need even more money, the agency can borrow from the Treasury Department, then repay the government with fees collected from banks in years to come.

and what about the economic recovery that all the punditocracy is crowing about...? not so much...
[I]n an indication that the industry has not turned the corner, the share of troubled loans increased even more quickly. A trend that began with distressed mortgage lending has long since spread to other categories including credit card lending, loans to small businesses, and -- now deteriorating most rapidly -- loans for commercial real estate development.

kinda warms your heart, doesn't it...? in the mad dash of our controllers and handlers to preserve the status quo - the status quo of the super-rich and powerful elites, that is - we've ended up not only preserving the status quo, we've significantly bolstered it... heckuva job, tim... heckuva job, ben... heckuva job, larry... heckuva job, hank...

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Note to DOJ Special Prosecutor John Durham: the "Decider" is the one ultimately accountable

david swanson in antemedius...
On April 11, 2008, ABC News produced a video interview of Bush during which he was asked about meetings his top subordinates had held to approve specific instances of torture. Bush said: "And yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved." The National Security Council's Principals Committee, which held the meetings, included Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet, and Attorney General John Ashcroft. In the same interview, Bush defended the use of the drowning torture on prisoner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, saying: "We had legal opinions that enabled us to do it. And no, I didn't have any problem at all trying to find out what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed knew."

On January 11, 2009, Fox News aired a video interview of Bush in which he admitted personally authorizing the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, saying: "One such person who gave us information was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. … And I’m in the Oval Office and I am told that we have captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the professionals believe he has information necessary to secure the country. So I ask what tools are available for us to find information from him and they gave me a list of tools, and I said are these tools deemed to be legal? And so we got legal opinions before any decision was made."

Does anyone else verify this? Well, how about John Yoo and Dick Cheney? On January 29, 2009, John Yoo, a former official in the Office of Legal Counsel who had drafted secret memos authorizing torture, published an article in the Wall Street Journal with the headline "Obama Made a Rash Decision on Gitmo," in which he wrote: "On the advice of his intelligence advisers, the president could have authorized coercive interrogation methods like those used by Israel and Great Britain in their antiterrorism campaigns. (He could even authorize waterboarding, which he did three times in the years after 9/11.)"

On May 10, 2009, former Vice President Cheney appeared on the CBS News television program "Face the Nation." Asked what Bush had known about torture methods, Cheney replied, "I certainly, yes, have every reason to believe he knew -- he knew a great deal about the program. He basically authorized it. I mean, this was a presidential-level decision. And the decision went to the president. He signed off on it."


OK, but did Bush put his approval down in writing anywhere? He certainly did. On Sept. 17, 2001, Bush produced an executive order authorizing the CIA to set up unacknowledged detention facilities around the world. For years after this date, prisoners in these facilities were not identified to the International Committee of the Red Cross or provided due process. On February 7, 2002, Bush produced a Memorandum for the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, Chief of Staff to the President, Director of Central Intelligence, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the subject of "Humane Treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees." In this memorandum, Bush "determined" that "none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world," and "[C]ommon article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees," and "[T]he Taliban detainees are unlawful combatants and, therefore, do not qualify as prisoners of war under article 4 of Geneva," and "al Qaeda detainees also do not qualify as prisoners of war."

and, btw, here's a copy of that 7 february memo...

Page 1
Page 2

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

The health care public option for dummies

i just ran across this on daily kos...

thanks to engio and andy lubershane at youtube via tunesmith at daily kos...

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Greenwald on Obama and Congressional Democratic impotence in the face of their corporate owners

more finely-honed glenn observations...
[T]here is one principal reason that Blue Dogs and "centrists" exert such dominance within the Party: because the Party leadership, led by the Obama White House, wants it that way and works hard to ensure it continues.


[T]he White House and President -- along with key party institutions such as the DCCC -- will use their vast resources to keep Blue Dogs and "centrists" in office and crush any efforts from within the party to unseat them.

It's hard to overstate how many promising potential primary challengers with whom we've spoken -- highly energized and impressive members of City Councils or County Commissions or state legislatures or just private citizens -- who are eager to run against their corporate-owned Democratic Congressional incumbent but are deterred by one primary fear: that Obama and the Party infrastructure will undercut their efforts by actively supporting the Blue Dog incumbent. That fear is particularly pronounced for potential African-American challengers in districts where the corporate-serving "centrist" incumbent is wildly out of step with the interests and views of the typical (and sometimes overwhelmingly African-American) Democratic voter. Such potential challengers anticipate that Obama will intervene on behalf of the Blue Dog against the progressive challenger -- as he's done before -- and sabotage not only their primary challenge but perhaps their future viability as a candidate in their community and district.


[T]he central fact in American political life is that the same narrow factions continue to control our political process regardless of which party is in control...


Obama himself has been a major beneficiary of this process -- helping Democrats to be the leading recipient of corporate money -- and key Obama allies like Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer have built their power bases through servitude to corporate interests. The very idea that Obama is valiantly struggling to cleanse the party of its corporate and centrist dominance, yet is just haplessly and helplessly unable to do so, is ludicrous beyond words.


[I]t's not possible to reasonably deny that the Democratic Party is how it is because that's how its leaders, including Obama, want it to be. Their actions permit no other conclusion. Indeed, one potential bright side with what's happening with the health care debate -- the Party's total devotion to the health care and drug industries despite huge majorities and a massive electoral mandate -- is that these truths have become so glaring that it is finally forcing even the most "sensible" Democratic partisans ... to recognize how fundamentally flawed the Party is.


If the Democratic Party is to become a meaningful alternative, free from corporate control, that will happen not because party leaders such as Obama cause it to happen. Instead, it will only occur from efforts on the part of Democrats to cease support for, and begin working to eject, those elements which keep the Party beholden to the same interests as the ones who own and control the so-called "other party."

i believe i mentioned in the previous post that i thought glenn had become increasingly strident in his perspectives... i should have mentioned that i believe that's a very good thing as he seems to be edging closer and closer to what i believe is the core truth about our government and the bulk of our economy in the u.s. and, indeed, in most of the rest of the world: our fates are controlled by a very small group of extraordinarily wealthy and powerful interests that are obsessively devoted to staying that way...

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Our Constitution and our founding principles are inclusive, not exclusive, and that includes terrorists

i've been remiss in not posting very much from glenn greenwald lately... no surprise to anyone, he's been very vocal and articulate, in his customary fashion, on the torture debate... his salon column from tuesday is a brilliantly rational argument for accountability, the rule of law, and a return to the principles our founders...

here's the money graf...

The Right today argues that condemning torture is wrong because the people who were tortured were just Terrorists -- barely human -- and they deserve no defense, not even the force of law. Thomas Paine argued as a first principle that those devoted to liberty "must guard even his enemy from oppression." Could the contrast be any more stark?

glenn has consistently been one of the most passionate, well-grounded defenders of the founding principles and constitutional guarantees of anyone in the punditocracy... i've also noticed a gradual increase in his stridency over the past years, again no surprise given the gravity of the issues we're seeing out there...

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I never thought my country would be the proprietor of a bona fide chamber of horrors [UPDATE: Jonathan Turley]

guess what...? everything those of us who have been paying attention THOUGHT has been happening has ACTUALLY been happening...

sometimes i'd really rather be wrong, dontcha know...?

As the session begins, the detainee stands naked, except for a hood covering his head. Guards shackle his arms and legs, then slip a small collar around his neck. The collar will be used later; according to CIA guidelines for interrogations, it will serve as a handle for slamming the detainee's head against a wall.

After removing the hood, the interrogator opens with a slap across the face -- to get the detainee's attention -- followed by other slaps, the guidelines state. Next comes the head-slamming, or "walling," which can be tried once "to make a point," or repeated again and again.

"Twenty or thirty times consecutively" is permissible, the guidelines say, "if the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question." And if that fails, there are far harsher techniques to be tried.

Five years after the CIA's secret detention program came to light, much is known about the spy agency's decision to use harsh techniques, including waterboarding, to pry information from alleged al-Qaeda leaders. Now, with the release late Monday of guidelines for interrogating high-value detainees, the agency has provided -- in its own words -- the first detailed description of the step-by-step procedures used to systematically crush a detainee's will to resist by eliciting stress, exhaustion and fear.

lovely, eh...? and that ain't all...
In 2002, Iraqi Bisher al-Rawi, a permanent resident of Great Britain, was detained by local and CIA officials in the airport in the Republic of Gambia where he had legitimate, work-related business. Mr. al-Rawi recalls of his captors, detailed in In a court filing dated August, 2007, by the ACLU on behalf of five detainees who had been in US custody, or under US authority at various times:
“Then, without speaking, one of his escorts began to gently rub Mr. al-Rawi’s feet as they waited. The kindness of the gesture took Mr. al-Rawi by surprise and seemed to be almost apologetic in nature. Although he could have no idea of what was about to unfold, it was at this point that Mr. al-Rawi became convinced that something awful was about to happen.

After some time, the two Gambian officials stood up and, with Mr. al-Rawi between them, began to walk forward. They released him momentarily but then he was immediately grabbed from behind by two other men and dragged into a small, dark room located somewhere on the perimeter of the airport. In this room, several men and women – hooded and using flashlights to guide them – removed Mr. al-Rawi’s handcuffs and shackles, cut off all his clothes, and dressed him in diapers and different clothing. His handcuffs and shackles were replaced with new ones that were part of some sort of restraining harness. Something was then placed in or around his ears that impaired his hearing and both a blindfold and goggles were placed over his eyes. Mr. al-Rawi was then roughly manhandled on board a waiting aircraft, and once inside was restrained on a stretcher-like platform. For the duration of flight Mr. al-Rawi was unable to move or change position. He was also denied access to food, water, or a toilet. It was all he could do to keep himself from screaming.”

kinda makes the chills run up and down my spine...

as does this...

From the same ACLU legal filing comes the detention of Ahmed Agiza, a 45-year-old pharmacist and Egyptian citizen who had sought asylum in Sweden in 2000 to escape retribution for filing a lawsuit against the Egyptian government. The legal action was a result of torture Mr. Agiza endured while being interrogated about associations of a relative, and through no dubious or illegal actions of his own.

Declared to be a security risk, with no reason given to him or his appointed legal representative, Mr. Agiza was ordered to leave Sweden, and was met by US officials upon his expulsion. He recalls the encounter:

“All of the men wore dark hoods and were dressed in civilian clothes,” the report states. “Mr. Agiza was brought into a small room. There the men conducted a physical search, forcibly sliced off his clothes, including his underwear, inserted suppositories into his rectum, fitted him with a diaper, dressed him in overalls, blindfolded him, and placed a hood over his head. One of the men photographed the whole process.”

land of the free and home of the brave depraved...


jonathan turley on olbermann last night via raw story...
“It’s a very curious mandate,” law professor Jonathan Turley told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann on Tuesday. “I don’t see how he can possibly do what Holder’s asking him to do. … The question here is whether [Special Prosecutor John] Durham will have the leeway — and, frankly, the courage — to recognize the obvious.”

“It’s a bizarre thing for a professional prosecutor to do,” explained Turley, “to go in and say, ‘I’m going to look at a program that’s based on what is a well-defined war crime, and I’m going to see if any of these people went beyond what was authorized by people who were talking about a war crime.’”

“He’s got what are all the elements of a crime,” Turley emphasized, “including dead bodies, by all reports, and the question is, is he going to go after those sort of low-lying fruit targets who went too far, or is he going to go after the people who really set this thing in motion.”

yes, it IS bizarre but at least it's at least a tiny step in the right direction, something that wouldn't have had a snowball's chance in hell pre-obama...

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


every which way i turn, it's nothing but crap, crap and more crap... crappy news rolling in from all over the world, a laptop that died, in-your-face commercials on tv punctuating episodes of relatively crappy shows... maybe tomorrow will be better...

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Another small step - a torture prosecutor

brother tim's comment on my previous post about the small step of releasing the names of detainees to the icrc openly voices his skepticism...
They may throw out a couple of bones, like they do to us, but there'll be no meat on them.

however, i'll still take a small, positive step, even though it may be relatively meaningless, to yet another clearly negative one... for my own mental health, i can't afford to discount even the smallest steps in the right direction...
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has decided to appoint a prosecutor to examine nearly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated anti-torture laws and other statutes when they allegedly threatened terrorism suspects, according to two sources familiar with the move.

Holder is poised to name John Durham, a career Justice Department prosecutor from Connecticut, to lead the inquiry, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not complete.

Durham's mandate, the sources added, will be relatively narrow: to look at whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of current and former CIA personnel who may have broken the law in their dealings with detainees. Many of the harshest CIA interrogation techniques have not been employed against terrorism suspects for four years or more.

The attorney general selected Durham in part because the longtime prosecutor is familiar with the CIA and its past interrogation regime. For nearly two years, Durham has been probing whether laws against obstruction or false statements were violated in connection with the 2005 destruction of CIA videotapes. The tapes allegedly depicted brutal scenes including waterboarding of some of the agency's high value detainees. That inquiry is proceeding before a grand jury in Alexandria, although lawyers following the investigation have cast doubt on whether it will result in any criminal charges.

after 8 years of bush and going on 8 months of heavy-duty disappointment in obama, yes, i'm grasping at straws...

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Releasing detainee names to the ICRC - a step in the right direction

from the nyt...
In a reversal of Pentagon policy, the military for the first time is notifying the International Committee of the Red Cross of the identities of militants who were being held in secret at a camp in Iraq and another in Afghanistan run by United States Special Operations forces, according to three military officials.

The change begins to lift the veil from the American government’s most secretive remaining overseas prisons by allowing the Red Cross to track the custody of dozens of the most dangerous suspected terrorists and foreign fighters plucked off the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Under the new policy, the military must notify the Red Cross of the detainees’ names and identification numbers within two weeks of capture, a notification that before happened only after a detainee was transferred to a long-term prison. The option to seek custody extensions has been eliminated, a senior Pentagon official said.

marcy still sees some problems but hopes this means we're getting out of the "disappearance" business...
It sounds like ICRC gets the names and ID numbers of detainees, but not yet the access to talk to them. If so, then there is still not an outside monitor on detainee conditions.


But if we could be sure we were getting out of the disappearances business that would be small progress.

a step forward is still a step forward and can perhaps lead to making sure the following horror is a thing of the past...
A Central Intelligence Agency inspector general’s report set to be released Monday provides new details about abuses that took place inside the agency’s secret prisons, including details of how C.I.A. officers carried out mock executions and threatened at least one prisoner with a gun and a power drill.


It is a violation of the federal torture statute to threaten a detainee with imminent death.

i'm relatively sure, despite many recent revelations, we're only seeing the tip of a very large iceberg...

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