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Lawyers Group Targets Ex-Pentagon Counsel For Sanctioning Torture

Sunday, April 19, 2009

By William Fisher
The Public Record


Lawyers who reject President Barack Obama’s decision not to seek prosecution of officials who may have participated in the torture of terror-suspect prisoners are seeking justice through another avenue: Sanctions against government lawyers who created the “enhanced interrogation” policies of former President George W. Bush.

Their first target is former Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes II. The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has filed a complaint against Haynes, asking the State Bar of California to investigate him and revoke his status as Registered In-House Counsel. Haynes is now an attorney with Chevron Corp. in San Ramon, Calif.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a similar complaint is being prepared in Pennsylvania against former Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo, the University of California Berkeley law professor, for his role in drafting the legal guidelines that approved enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding during his service in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) during the Bush Administration.

Marjorie Cohn, President of the NLG, told us, “The lawyers who provided the high Bush officials with 'legal' cover were participants in formulating the policy of torture and cruel treatment. They should be the targets of criminal investigations and should also be disbarred for their ethical violations.”

She also noted that the complaint filed with the Pennsylvania state bar against John Yoo “has been put on hold pending the release of the report of the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which is apparently highly critical of Yoo, Jay Bybee and Stephen Bradbury, authors of the torture memos."...(Click for remainder.)

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The Bigots' Last Hurrah

By Frank Rich
The New York Times


WHAT would happen if you crossed that creepy 1960s horror classic “The Village of the Damned” with the Broadway staple “A Chorus Line”? You don’t need to use your imagination. It’s there waiting for you on YouTube under the title “Gathering Storm”: a 60-second ad presenting homosexuality as a national threat second only to terrorism.

The actors are supposedly Not Gay. They stand in choral formation before a backdrop of menacing clouds and cheesy lightning effects. “The winds are strong,” says a white man to the accompaniment of ominous music. “And I am afraid,” a young black woman chimes in. “Those advocates want to change the way I live,” says a white woman. But just when all seems lost, the sun breaks through and a smiling black man announces that “a rainbow coalition” is “coming together in love” to save America from the apocalypse of same-sex marriage. It’s the swiftest rescue of Western civilization since the heyday of the ambiguously gay duo Batman and Robin.

Far from terrifying anyone, “Gathering Storm” has become, unsurprisingly, an Internet camp classic. On YouTube the original video must compete with countless homemade parodies it has inspired since first turning up some 10 days ago. None may top Stephen Colbert’s on Thursday night, in which lightning from “the homo storm” strikes an Arkansas teacher, turning him gay. A “New Jersey pastor” whose church has been “turned into an Abercrombie & Fitch” declares that he likes gay people, “but only as hilarious best friends in TV and movies.”...(Click for remainder.)

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Spanish Judge Allows 'Bush Six' Torture Case To Remain Open

By William Fisher
The Public Record


Human rights advocates who were critical of President Barack Obama’s decision not to prosecute Central Intelligence Agency operatives who tortured war-on-terror prisoners are hailing a Spanish judge’s order to pursue a criminal investigation into the actions of six Bush administration lawyers for providing legal cover for torture – despite a recommendation from his prosecutors that the case not go forward.

Late last week, Spain's attorney general, Candido Conde-Pumpido, recommended that the judge, Baltasar Garzón, should dismiss the complaint, brought by human rights lawyers. On Friday, the judge resisted pressure with a decision to proceed with the case.

The crusading investigative judge is the same official who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998.

The attorney general encouraged the judge to let sleeping Bush Administration officials lie. According to a report by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), Conde-Pumpido said that Garzón’s proposed criminal investigation into the actions of former Bush officials for possible violations of international law has “no merit.”

The court is considering criminal action against six former Bush administration officials for reported torture at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, The Americans named in the accusation include former U.S. attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales; former Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo; former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington; former Justice Department official Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.

It alleges the men gave legal cover to torture by claiming that the U.S. president could ignore the Geneva Conventions. The case was brought by human rights lawyers....(Click for remainder.)

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Jobless Rate Climbs in 46 States, With California at 11.2%

By Stu Woo and Sudeep Reddy
The Wall Street Journal


California and North Carolina in March posted their highest jobless rates in at least three decades, as unemployment increased in all but a handful of states during the month, the Labor Department said Friday.

California's unemployment rate jumped to 11.2% in March, while North Carolina rose to 10.8%, the highest for both since the U.S. government began a comprehensive tally of state joblessness in 1976.

The state-by-state employment figures showed only a few states avoiding the deterioration seen nationwide. Unemployment rose in 46 states during the month, and 12 states plus the District of Columbia posted unemployment rates in March that were significantly higher than the 8.5% nationwide figure the government released earlier this month.

The chief economist for California's finance department, Howard Roth, said the state's unemployment rate hasn't been this high since reaching 11.7% in January 1941. The highest level on record in California is 14.7% in October 1940, he said....(Click for remainder.)

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Torture Memos Are Not Just Sick, They're Also Full of Lies

By Jeffrey Kaye
The Public Record


Reading the just released August 1, 2002 memo by John Yoo (reportedly ghosting for Jay Bybee, then Assistant Attorney General of the United States, and now an Appeals Court Judge for the Ninth Circuit), to John Rizzo, then Acting General Counsel for the CIA, on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, is a surreal experience. There is so much that is strange and awful in it, it's hard to know where to begin.

But one thing that struck me right off the bat was the similarity of the statistics presented in the early part of the memo with the statement of Dr. Jerald Ogrisseg, a psychologist with Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, United States Joint Forces Command, before the Senate Committee on Armed Services on June 17, 2008.

Let's review some of the relevant text.

Yoo/Bybee write, "This letter memorializes our previous oral advice, given on July 24, 2002, and July 26, 2002, that the proposed conduct would not violate this prohibition." The prohibition referred to is the U.S. torture statute, Section 2340A, Title 18 of the U.S. Code.

In his statement, Ogrisseg states that July 24, 2002 was the date of his memorandum “Psychological Effects of Resistance Training.” Dr. Ogrisseg was then still a psychologist working for the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) at the United States Air Force Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Only a few days after filing his report with the commander of Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, the parent Pentagon organization for all the military SERE programs, on July 29 he became a civilian SERE psychologist, with a number of various duties....(Click for remainder.)

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Weak Tea

By Jamison Foser
Media Matters


For all the media attention devoted to this week's so-called "tea party" protests, the most striking thing is what wasn't mentioned.

When a group of colonists in Boston dumped a bunch of tea in the harbor in 1773, they had an unambiguous grievance: They had no say in the tax policy to which they were subject. "No taxation without representation" became one of the central rallying cries of the American Revolution and continues to represent a concept so basic most Americans probably take it for granted.

As for this week's tea parties, few people seemed to have any idea what, exactly, the events were meant to protest.

Even Fox News, which served as both quarterback and head cheerleader for the protests, had trouble explaining what the attendees were upset about, and what they wanted. They were angry, Fox told us -- but angry at what? Some were angry about taxes, or (typically unspecified) spending, or Washington, or (purely imaginary) attempts to repeal the Second Amendment. Others just seemed angry at the wind. In Texas, some members of the "Party of Lincoln" even began talking about seceding from the United States.

One thing was clear: They were angry. Fox News' Neil Cavuto made that clear during an exchange with Bill O'Reilly: "They're annoyed at everybody. ... There is a palpable rage here. ... These people are ticked. ... These were a lot of average folks who said they were sick of it. ... They're just very angry. This is a populist rage. ... They don't like being laughed at. They don't like being joked about. They're average folks who want to just be treated like average Americans who are angry." (Presumably, the people who don't like being laughed at were not the people who walked around with bags of tea dangling from the frames of their glasses.)...(Click for remainder.)

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What if Fox News Threw a Tea Party and Nobody Came?

By Media Matters

While millions of people were scrambling to make it to the post office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, far, far fewer showed up at Fox News' Tax Day Tea Parties. Media Matters for America extensively documented the incessant promotion of the tea parties by Fox News and its anchors and contributors. In fact, in the 10 days leading up to the protests, Fox News aired 107 ads promoting them. And in addition to encouraging its viewers to attend the protests, Fox News announced that viewers who couldn't attend could attend "a virtual tax day tea party" at TheFoxNation.com.

Well, tax day arrived, and Fox News didn't disappoint. Reporting from a protest in Boston, Fox Business Network anchor Cody Willard stated, "I'm on your side. I'm trying to take down the Fed." He also asked, "Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?" At a protest in front of the Alamo, Glenn Beck hosted unofficial NRA head Ted Nugent, who played guitar while Beck interviewed Joe Horn, who was identified by a Fox News graphic as having "shot 2 illegals burglarizing home." Of course, Beck wasn't covering the protest so much as leading it. Meanwhile, John Gibson expressed his "hope[]" that "millions of people" would participate in the protests, while Neil Cavuto appeared to inflate the numbers at the rally he was attending in Sacramento. Cavuto stated of the Sacramento tea party: "They were expecting 5,000 here, it's got to be easily double, if not triple that." However, moments earlier, before Cavuto went on the air, a microphone caught Cavuto stating to a producer "There's gotta be 5,000" -- not "double, if not triple" that number.

Geraldo Rivera was not impressed, asserting, "The grand total of all of the tea party demonstrators" was less than the number "at that immigration rally in 2006 in the city of Chicago alone." Rivera added that the immigration rally was a "truly spontaneous demonstration," while the tea parties "may have had aspects of spontaneity."...(Click for remainder.)

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Obama Stands Nuremberg on its Head

By Mike Farrell
The Huffington Post


Obama Stands Nuremberg on its Head 4/18/09

President Obama's decision to spare CIA torturers from prosecution stands the Nuremberg principles on their head. 'Good Germans who were only following orders' are not exempt from the bar of justice. Individuals must be held responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Justice Robert Jackson, Chief United States Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, declared in his opening statement to the Tribunal that the men charged "represent sinister influence that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. They are," he said, "living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power."

The arrogance and cruelty of CIA officers who torture and brutalize helpless prisoners is not expunged because "they carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice." Attorney General Holder says it's "unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department," but he fails to note these very CIA agents requested said authority in order to engage in what all but the most insidious parsing of legal thought recognizes as torture....(Click for remainder.)

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Fox News Market Analysis: Blame for Bears, Credit Tea Parties for Bulls

By Media Matters

Six weeks after saying that "[s]ome are calling" the Dow Jones industrial average's then-downward trend President Obama's "bear market," and asking, "Is it?" host Brenda Buttner introduced the April 18 edition of Fox News' Bulls & Bears by saying: "Call it a tea party rally. Wall Street's sure partying, up six weeks in a row. The bulls came out about the same time these guys started to shout, saying no to big government, big taxes, and big bailouts. Will that keep investors saying yes to stocks?" Buttner went on to ask the show's panel: "[A]fter months on its back, the market comes back the same time Americans fight back against big government. Is that a coincidence?" During the segment, Fox News on-screen text read: "Stocks Rally As 'Tea Party' Rallies Take Nation By Storm" and "Stocks Rally As 'Tea Parties' Catch Fire; Coincidence?" Buttner was not alone in suggesting that Obama was responsible for the stock market's poor performance even though the Dow Jones average was on a downward trajectory months before his inauguration; indeed, several of Buttner's Fox News colleagues referred to an "Obama bear market" in early March.

On March 7, Buttner introduced Bulls & Bears by stating: "On Main Street, more jobs wiped out; the unemployment rate now the highest in a quarter century. On Wall Street, more wealth wiped out; the Dow diving 6 percent this week, and now down 20 percent since President Obama moved into the White House. Some are calling it his bear market. Is it?" Buttner then asked contributing market analyst Tobin Smith: "[I]s this now President Obama's bear market?" Smith responded, "Boy, it is," adding, "[T]his idea that we can do everything all at one time with an unlimited, you know, budget is scaring the bejesus out of people, and until we get coherency, you know, I'm afraid that it's down 5,000, and then it's going to be his catastrophe."...(Click for remainder.)

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The Daily Left: Right-Wing Extremism More Dangerous Than Terrorism

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Media Verdict Is In: Fox News Driving Force Behind Tea Parties

By Media Matters

In their coverage of the April 15 tea-party protests, major national news outlets joined numerous local media in noting that Fox News was a driving force behind the tea parties. For example, on the April 15 edition of CNN Newsroom, media critic and Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz said, "I don't think I've ever seen a news network throw its weight behind a protest like we are seeing in the past few weeks with Fox and these tea parties."

As Media Matters for America documented, despite describing their reports as "fair and balanced," Fox News hosts aggressively promoted the protests and encouraged viewers across the country to get involved; hosts and guests, including those on Fox Business Network, engaged in inflammatory rhetoric during their coverage of the protests on April 15. From April 6 to April 15, the network aired 107 commercial promotions for its coverage of the tea-party protests, featured at least 20 segments about the protests, directed viewers to a "virtual tea party" on FoxNation.com, and repeatedly described the protests as "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties." During the lead-up to the April 15 protests, tea-party organizers also used the planned attendance of several Fox News hosts to promote their protests.

Fox News' promotion of the tea parties has not gone unnoticed, and the consensus that Fox News played a key role goes is shared by national and local media alike. Dozens of articles about tea parties in various cities reported that Fox News and its hosts helped influence, start, or turn out participants to local protests. In numerous cases, these reports quoted local participants or organizers stating they were motivated to join or start protests because of Fox News. As the Albany Times Union put it in an April 15 editorial, "This manufactured movement has been provided a sense of legitimacy and momentum by Fox News."...(Click for remainder.)

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Sen. Whitehouse: If Republicans Filibuster Johnsen, I'll Be Ready

By Brian Beutler
Talking Points Memo


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) just held a conference call with reporters to discuss the nomination (and threatened filibuster) of Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's designated chief of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Council.

Whitehouse is a member of the Judiciary Committee and has repeatedly spoken out on Johnsen's behalf. Though it's uncertain whether Republicans will ultimately seek to block Johnsen's nomination, Whitehouse is prepared in the event that they do. "I actually have a little bit of ammunition gathered in the event that I happen to be...on the floor defending this," Whitehouse said.

Whitehouse is armed with a surfeit of statements from a number of Republican senators, including one by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) who once said that no presidential nomination should ever be filibustered

Whitehouse said he hasn't yet spoken with the remaining four Republican members of the Gang of 14--John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME)--to ask if they still adhere to the principle that presidential nominees should receive a floor vote....(Click for remainder.)

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FOX Noise Personalities Continue to Ignore Bush Admin. Role to Slam Obama DHS

By Media Matters

During the April 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, while discussing an intelligence assessment from the Department of Homeland Security, titled, "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," Fox News strategic analyst Ralph Peters stated, "I do believe that there are people within the Obama administration, on that bizarre Hollywood-Harvard access -- axis -- who really have a disdainful view of our troops." Referring to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Peters said: "[F]or her, every soldier is a potential [Timothy] McVeigh." But neither host Bill O'Reilly nor Peters note that the DHS assessment cited a 2008 FBI report -- authored during the Bush administration -- as evidence that "some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups." In an April 15 article, Politico's Jen DiMascio reported that the FBI report had "similar findings" but "generated little controversy or coverage."

Referring to the DHS report on the Factor, O'Reilly asserted: "This is the bottom line on this: The federal government has changed from a conservative-oriented federal government under the Bush administration to a liberal-oriented federal government under Obama." He later added: "So, of course, these people, instead of saying, you know, we might have some Muslim problems, maybe there's a little cell somewhere talking to Pakistan and getting orders. No, it's the Glenn Beck guys, but we don't really have any evidence. But this is what's on their mind because that's the way they think." Similarly, during the April 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report, White House correspondent Wendell Goler uncritically quoted Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-TX) assertion that "it looks like, to me, they're engaging in some kind of political profiling when it comes to conservatives, and that's what really disturbs me as much as anything else."...(Click for remainder.)

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Right-Wing Ass Monkey, Tom DeLay's Version Of Texas Secession At Odds With History, The Constitution

By Brian Beutler
Talking Points Memo


Yesterday, in a truly bizarre appearance on Hardball with Chris Matthews, former Texas Rep. (and House Majority Leader) Tom DeLay said something which rang false.
Texas was a republic. It joined the Union by treaty. There's a process in the treaty by which Texas could divide into five states. If we invoke that, and the last time it was voted on was 1985, the United States Senate would kick us out and nullify the treaty because they're not going to allow 10 new Texas senators into the Senate. That's how you secede.
Much of this seemed, to us, to be incorrect. So we did some research, checked in with some experts, and concluded that, indeed, there are a number of basic errors here.

First, Texas did not join the Union by treaty. They joined by joint resolution of Congress. According to Dr. Felix D. Almaraz, a professor of Texas history at the University of Texas, San Antonio, DeLay is correct that Texas can, in theory, divide into as many as four additional states (five total) and has tried and failed to do so from time to time. But if it did, it would result in eight (not 10) senators, and they wouldn't be from Texas, except, perhaps, by birth. They'd be the two senators from each of the (up to) four new states....(Click for remainder.)

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Turd Blossom In The Mirror

When Karl Rove and Mike Gerson hate on Obama, they're hating on themselves.

By Jonathan Chait
The New Republic


The depiction of Barack Obama that has emerged from some quarters of the American right is that of a Bush-like figure. He is irresponsibly running up deficits and covering them up with budgetary gimmickry. Under the guise of healing rhetoric, he ruthlessly pressures fellow partisans in Congress to toe the line. He is "filling White House ranks with former lobbyists," and his administration is devolving into general incompetence. And he has given unprecedented, Rove-like power to his political Svengali, David Axelrod. Oddly enough, the author of all these particular criticisms is Rove himself.

A similar portrait of Obama has emerged from the pens of Michael Gerson, the former Bush speechwriter, and Peter Wehner, Bush's former "director of strategic initiatives," a job that essentially entailed coordinating GOP agitprop. The Bush veterans have systematically discovered that every flaw associated in the public mind with their hero turns out to be a defining trait of Obama. I am not a trained psychologist, but some form of projection seems to be at work.

A couple of weeks ago, a Pew poll found that the partisan gap in President Obama's approval rating had reached a historic high. Rove leaped to point to this scrap of data ("no president in the past 40 years has done more to polarize America"), as did Gerson and Wehner. The concept of a polarized electorate assumes some rough parity between the two parties and a president hovering around 50 percent approval--as was the case with Bush around the time of his reelection, when the media would routinely describe him as "polarizing." Obama retains approval ratings around 60 percent, where they have held stable for the last month, with high approval among independents. His low approval rating among Republicans is mostly a function of the fact that the party has shrunk to a pungent, highly conservative core. Pew found that about a quarter of the population identifies as Republican, down from one-third in 2004....(Click for remainder.)

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What a Difference a Day Makes

By Al Giordano
The Field




Yesterday’s banner headline on Trinidad and Tobago’s daily Guardian (see below) was “Chávez vs. Obama.”

Today’s is above.

Ponder that for a moment.

Also today, the Venezuelan President said aloud he wants to restore his country’s Ambassador to the US (and, it follows, restore a US Ambassador to Caracas.)

Meanwhile, the foreign policy wonk community and US media has finally figured out what was evident to many of us for the past two years that candidate and then President Obama had been calling for easing the US embargo of Cuba. As Ginger Thompson and Alexei Barrionuevo report from Port of Spain for the New York Times:
…the crack in the door Mr. Obama had opened for new engagement with Cuba felt more like unlocking a floodgate.

For the first time, some diplomats said, the question being asked was when — not whether — the next move will be made…

Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the small but significant shift in policy has set off a chain reaction of expectations that the White House may have trouble controlling. “This is starting to feel as if the ground is moving beneath our feet,” she said.
(Click for remainder.)

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Wyden's Vision for Health Care Reform Begins With Making Sure Everyone is Covered

By Ivan Oransky
60 Second Science @ Scientific American


SEATTLE -- If the U.S. wants real health care reform, it needs to make everyone is covered. The way to pay for that coverage? Limiting the tax-exempt status of health insurance premiums, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said yesterday at the annual meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Wyden's Healthy Americans Act -- co-introduced with Republican Robert Bennett of Utah -- would require all Americans except those covered by Medicare or in the military to buy a health insurance policy. (The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib has an excellent summary of the bill here; you can see Wyden discuss the plan here and read the full text here.)

Here are the basics: The government would pay the costs for those at or below the poverty line, and that subsidy would decrease as a family's income increased. Employers would still be welcome to provide coverage, but if they didn't, each employee would get a check for the amount that coverage his or her coverage would cost. But as the WSJ's Seib points out, employers "would pay a fee -- a tax, really -- for each employee to help fund those federal subsidies to help families buy their policies."

How those numbers work out, and just what percentage of this insurance "rebate" check would be taxable for the employees who got them, remains to be seen, particularly as Congressional committee members mark up the bill and make changes. But Wyden is convinced that whatever health care reform costs, it will pay for itself. And the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agrees with him -- to a point. They'll "score" some of the cost savings he's claiming for his bill, but not others, particularly those directed at prevention -- eg lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Overall, however, the CBO says the proposal will in fact pay for itself....(Click for remainder.)

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Was Waterboarded 183 Times in One Month

By emptywheel
Firedoglake


I've put this detail in a series of posts, but it really deserves a full post. According to the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.

On page 37 of the OLC memo, in a passage discussing the differences between SERE techniques and the torture used with detainees, the memo explains:
The CIA used the waterboard "at least 83 times during August 2002" in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.
Note, the information comes from the CIA IG report which, in the case of Abu Zubaydah, is based on having viewed the torture tapes as well as other materials. So this is presumably a number that was once backed up by video evidence.

The same OLC memo passage explains how the CIA might manage to waterboard these men so many times in one month each (though even with these chilling numbers, the CIA's math doesn't add up)....(Click for remainder.)

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Salazar Reviews 'Midnight' Endangered Species Rule

By Susan Montoya Bryan
Associated Press via The Denver Post


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says he will make a decision in the coming weeks on whether to overturn a controversial Bush administration regulation that limits the reach of the Endangered Species Act.

The outgoing administration finalized a rule in December that allows federal agencies to issue permits for mining, logging and other activities without consulting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service about endangered wildlife and plants.

President Barack Obama signed a memorandum in March to put the regulation on hold pending a review. Any action on the rule has to be taken by May 9. Salazar expects to make a decision before that.

"We have concerns about it and because of those concerns we're taking a very extensive review of the rule," he told The Associated Press during a visit Friday to Albuquerque.

Salazar stopped at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History to celebrate the recent signing of a massive public lands bill that sets aside millions of acres in several states as wilderness. He told the crowd that energy and climate change will be the most difficult issues facing the nation's leaders in the years to come.

Environmental groups have sent more than 72,000 petitions to Salazar, urging him to overturn the Bush "midnight rules," specifically the rule that makes consultation optional rather than mandatory—as it had been for the last 35 years—and a rule that says greenhouse gases cannot be restricted in an effort to protect polar bears from global warming....(Click for remainder.)

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Obama To Ask Agency Heads For Budget Cuts

By Will Lester
Associated Press via The Huffington Post


WASHINGTON — Families are making tough decisions about their money and so too will their government, President Barack Obama said Saturday, promising that spending cuts are coming _ and soon.

At a Cabinet meeting Monday, the president will ask department and agency heads for specific proposals for trimming their budgets.

"If we're going to rebuild our economy on a solid foundation, we need to change the way we do business in Washington. We need to restore the American people's confidence in their government _ that it is on their side, spending their money wisely, to meet their families' needs," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address, released while he attended the Summit of the Americans in Trinidad.

To help achieve his goal of an efficient government, Obama announced the appointment of Jeffrey Zients, a founder and managing partner of the investment firm Portfolio Logic, as chief performance officer. Zients, who also will serve as deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget, will work to streamline processes and cut costs.

On that front, Obama gave notice he wants to act quickly....(Click for remainder.)

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Meghan McCain: "Old School" Republicans Are "Scared Shitless"

By Sam Stein
The Huffington Post


Speaking to an affectionate crowd of Log Cabin Republicans on Saturday evening, Meghan McCain ridiculed the party her father headed this past election, declaring that "old school Republicans" were "scared shitless" of the changing landscape.

The Senator's daughter, who has quickly become something of an iconic figure in the gay conservative community since the end of the election, took repeated shots at the GOP for its antiquated mores.

"I feel too many Republicans want to cling to past successes," said McCain. "There are those who think we can win the White House and Congress back by being 'more' conservative. Worse, there are those who think we can win by changing nothing at all about what our party has become. They just want to wait for the other side to be perceived as worse than us. I think we're seeing a war brewing in the Republican Party. But it is not between us and Democrats. It is not between us and liberals. It is between the future and the past."

Later, she called out those officials in the Republican tent who insist that tactical improvements, technology and brass-knuckle politicking are the path back to relevance.

"Simply embracing technology isn't going to fix our problem," she said. "Republicans using Twitter and Facebook isn't going to miraculously make people think we're cool again. Breaking free from obsolete positions and providing real solutions that don't divide our nation further will. That's why some in our party are scared. They sense the world around them is changing and they are unable to take the risk to jump free of what's keeping our party down."...(Click for remainder.)

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Buy Texas on eBay

By Lisa Derrick
La Figa




Chuck Norris a gift with purchase?
The great state of Texas is for sale.  All proceeds will go towards paying off the national debt of the United States of America.  Must sell before she secedes!   You’ll receive the whole state including all sports teams.  Historic sites include the Alamo, Lyndon Johnson’s boyhood home, Bishop’s Palace, and so many more.  Think of the income opportunities.  The state is also plentiful in both hunting and fishing sites. As an added benefit you can make all your friends real, Texas Rangers.  How about that!
And folks are interested--there's been 12 bids and a savvy question:
A question was posed by a potential buyer: Can Texas is moved?

Answer: Yes, Shipping is extra but please consult your local zoologist and botanist in the geographic zone you wish to move Texas to as many of her plants and animals do not do well outside their native climate range. In other words, there are no refunds on dead cactus and prairie dogs.
(Click for original.)

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Should we start planning for the Texas Republic?


By Annie Lowrey
Foreign Policy Magazine


Here at FP, we don't always pay much attention to U.S. domestic policy, obviously, and the tax-day tea parties confused us a bit. Why weren't the protesters dressed up as Native Americans (like in the Boston Tea Party) or Mad Hatters? Weren't top-bracket taxes higher under Reagan?

Regardless, we've glommed onto a U.S. domestic issue which suggests a foreign-policy disaster: the U.S. state of Texas threatening to secede. Texas Governor Rick Perry, angered, like the tea-bag-partiers, over Obama's spending and tax policies, has implied that Texas might leave the Union.

So what would Texas look like as a foreign country?

It would be the world's thirteenth largest economy -- bigger than South Korea, Sweden, and Saudi Arabia. But its worth would crater precipitously, after NAFTA rejected it and the United States slapped it with an embargo that would make Cuba look like a free-trade zone. Indeed, Texas would quick become the next North Korea, relying on foreign aid due to its insistence on relying on itself.

On the foreign policy front, a seceded Texas would suffer for deserting the world superpower. Obama wouldn't look kindly on secessionists, and would send in the military to tamp down rebellion. If Texas miraculously managed to hold its borders, Obama would not establish relations with the country -- though he might send a special rapporteur. (We nominate Kinky Friedman.)...(Click for remainder.)

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After-Tax Income 1979 - 2006

Doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what's happening here.



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Will We Pass Our Nuremberg Trial, or Will We Protect Our Little Eichmanns?

By Kirk James Murphy, M.D.
Firedoglake


The "torture memos" released Thursday show us how America's gulags systematically and deliberately committed torture -- a war crime -- under explicit policies of the Bush White House Office of Legal Counsel. President Obama's decision to release the torture memos is a major step forward for the rule of law. The memos describe a major chapter in depravity. They also show that highly educated professionals in law, medicine, and psychology willingly, actively participated in implementing torture -- a war crime -- along with CIA and military personnel. Under international treaties the US has ratified, we are obligated to prosecute torture -- a war crime. When Obama announced Thursday that he would not prosecute line officers who were just following orders "in good faith" to commit torture -- a war crime -- he ensured America will continue to violate international human rights law. He also kicked the Nuremberg Principles in the teeth. What will we do?

Outside of the Bushies' DOJ or Harvard Law, regular people know "just following orders" is not a valid defense for war crimes. Using fancier words, Nuremberg Principle IV states the same thing:
"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
Just in case Harvard Law doesn't cover the Nuremberg Principles, we need to remind Obama:
Principle I

Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.

Principle II

The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.

Principle III

The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.
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Local, State Agencies Lack Resources to Ensure Food Safety

Congress Must Fix System, Report Says

By Lyndsey Layton
The Washington Post


Local and state health officials trying to prevent food illness outbreaks are stymied by scarce resources, weak leadership from the federal government and bureaucratic barriers, according to a new study public health experts released yesterday.

While much of the current debate about improving food safety has focused on federal agencies -- the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- the bulk of food safety work is performed by about 3,000 local and state agencies, which handle everything from inspections of restaurants, food processing plants and grocery stores to detecting outbreaks and removing unsafe products from stores.

But those agencies are struggling, and Congress must reengineer the national system, according to an analysis by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, based on consultations with health experts, consumer groups and food executives nationwide....(Click for remainder.)

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Tony Perkins' Special Rights

By John Aravosis
AMERICAblog


Hey, I appreciate an effeminate homophobe as much as the next guy, but Tony Perkins, the head of the anti-civil-rights group Family Research Council, crosses a line when he outright lies. Which is far more often than he should for someone who claims to be a Christian.

The issue is hate crimes legislation. And more specifically, why Tony Perkins already has hate crimes legislation protecting him. And why he hasn't renounced it.

You see, US has has had hate crimes law for decades. They cover race, religion and national origin. The hate crimes bill you keep hearing about, the past couple of years, isn't new legislation. It's a new amendment to OLD legislation that would simply add gender, disability and sexual orientation to the already-existing hate crimes law.

Regardless of your view on hate crimes laws, since the US already has such a law, shouldn't it cover everybody? Why does Tony Perkins get special rights that you and I don't have? When I see Tony Perkins send out an action alert about the hate crimes amendments, and spread outright lies, it still surprises me, even though I know that the religious right bigots have no honor. Here is what Perkins wrote today:
Adding "sexual orientation" to thought crimes legislation gives one set of crime victims a higher level of protection than it gives to people like you and me. [emphasis added]

ALL people deserve to be protected from crime, not just certain groups.
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Maddow: Response Ability

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The Torturers’ Manifesto

By The New York Times

To read the four newly released memos on prisoner interrogation written by George W. Bush's Justice Department is to take a journey into depravity.

Their language is the precise bureaucratese favored by dungeon masters throughout history. They detail how to fashion a collar for slamming a prisoner against a wall, exactly how many days he can be kept without sleep (11), and what, specifically, he should be told before being locked in a box with an insect — all to stop just short of having a jury decide that these acts violate the laws against torture and abusive treatment of prisoners.

In one of the more nauseating passages, Jay Bybee, then an assistant attorney general and now a federal judge, wrote admiringly about a contraption for waterboarding that would lurch a prisoner upright if he stopped breathing while water was poured over his face. He praised the Central Intelligence Agency for having doctors ready to perform an emergency tracheotomy if necessary.

These memos are not an honest attempt to set the legal limits on interrogations, which was the authors' statutory obligation. They were written to provide legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country's most basic values.

It sounds like the plot of a mob film, except the lawyers asking how much their clients can get away with are from the C.I.A. and the lawyers coaching them on how to commit the abuses are from the Justice Department. And it all played out with the blessing of the defense secretary, the attorney general, the intelligence director and, most likely, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney....(Click for remainder.)

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U.S. Boycotts Racism Conference, Says it 'Singles Out' Israel

By Scott Spoerry
CNN


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States is boycotting a U.N. conference on racism next week over a document that "singles out" Israel in its criticism and conflicts with the nation's "commitment to unfettered free speech," the U.S. State Department said Saturday.

 The Obama administration made the decision not to attend the Durban Review Conference in Geneva "with regret," a State Department statement said.

Two months ago, the administration had warned that it would boycott the conference if changes were not made to the document to be adopted by the conference. In recent weeks, discussions over the document have fueled several revisions, but the changes to the language didn't meet U.S. expectations, the statement said.

The current draft is "significantly improved," but "it now seems certain these remaining concerns will not be addressed in the document to be adopted by the conference next week."

State Department officials say the document contains language that reaffirms the Durban Declaration and Programme of Actions from the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, which the United States has said it won't support. The 2001 document "prejudges key issues that can only be resolved in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians," the statement said....(Click for remainder.)

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