Topsail Island. Photo by joanneleon. January, 2013
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News and Opinion
Why I Won't Be Voting for Jack Lew for TreasuryDamn. I guess that some more conservatives are now going to figure out that Colbert is not one of them. He's blowing his cover! :)
by Bernie Sanders
As a supporter of the president, I remain extremely concerned that virtually all of his key economic advisers have come from Wall Street. In my view, we need a treasury secretary who is prepared to stand up to corporate America and their powerful lobbyists and fight for policies that protect the working families in our country. I do not believe Mr. Lew is that person.
We don't need a treasury secretary who thinks that Wall Street deregulation was not responsible for the financial crisis. We need a treasury secretary who will work hard to break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions so that Wall Street cannot cause another massive financial crisis.
We don't need a treasury secretary who will advise the president that he should negotiate with the Republicans to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We need someone who is going to strengthen these programs.
Colbert to NRA’s LaPierre: ‘You, sir, are f*&ked in the head’If the Dem leadership calls for cuts to earned benefits/entitlement programs, we'll probably see some movement on some social issues or other issues to compensate for their fealty to the 1% and Wall Street to try to keep the base from fracturing and keep people believing that they are not the left-wing of the Corporatist party, somehow. It gets harder all the time. The NRA set are not their campaign funders anyway.
On Wednesday night’s edition of “The Colbert Report,” host Stephen Colbert talked about recent gun safety measures that the government has proposed and how they prove that the real victims in America’s shooting tragedies are guns themselves. He also directed some stinging words to the NRA head Wayne LaPierre.
Colbert opened the segment by saying that sometimes he thinks it would be better just to move to an armed citadel somewhere, because “make no mistake, they are coming for our guns.”
He continued, “And we freedom-loving gun-lovers are totally defenseless. Other than, you know, the guns.”
Joe Biden: Obama prepared to use executive action on gun controlPretty good article by Spencer Ackerman on Zero Dark Thirty and the guy who illegally destroyed the torture tapes and was protected and walked away scot free (and was cleared by the CIA to write about pro-torture book, got media interviews, etc.) and how uncomfortable he now is with the depiction of torture in the movie. Keep in mind that Ackerman was the earliest defender of Zero Dark Thirty though and he's also the guy who now admits that he was drawn into the Petraeus mythology and only years later came to his senses.
President Barack Obama is considering the use of an executive order to restrict access to guns or ammunition in the wake of nationwide revulsion in the US over the Connecticut school shootings, vice-president Joe Biden said Wednesday.
Such a move would be deeply controversial in the gun lobby, but Biden said the president was determined to explore every legislative avenue.
CIA Official Who Destroyed Torture Tapes Squirms at Zero Dark Thirty AbuseArticle by Scott Shane. No comment. It looks like they did not allow any comments on the online version of this article either. It was online on 1/9 and in print on 1/10.
Jose Rodriguez thinks the new movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden is “well worth seeing.” But the retired CIA veteran has reservations about its gut-churning portrayal of the CIA’s treatment of detainees. Which is rich, coming from the man who destroyed the video footage documenting many of those brutal agency interrogations.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post on Friday, the former chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and its clandestine service takes issue with Zero Dark Thirty’s torture scenes. Those scenes are admittedly hard to watch. They show terrified, disoriented and bloodied detainees kept awake for days on end by having their arms painfully suspended from the ceilings of secret jails; stuffed into tiny wooden boxes when they don’t cooperate with their inquisitors; and waterboarded on soiled mattresses while interrogators bark questions. They also largely match up with the minimal public disclosure of how the post-9/11 program actually operated.
New Evidence Expected in WikiLeaks CaseCharles Pierce.
FORT MEADE, Md. — Military prosecutors preparing to try Pfc. Bradley Manning said on Wednesday that they would introduce evidence that Osama bin Laden requested and received from a Qaeda member some of the State Department cables and military reports that Private Manning is accused of passing to WikiLeaks.
The prosecutors also said they would present logs of Internet chats in February 2010 between Private Manning and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, including one in which the two men appeared to be “laughing” together about a New York Times article. The March 17, 2010, article said that the Pentagon had listed WikiLeaks as a threat to military operations and security.
The military judge hearing the case, Col. Denise Lind, said Private Manning’s trial would be postponed until at least June 3 to allow consideration of classified information that may be used. The trial is expected to take roughly six weeks.
Colonel Lind, the judge, asked a prosecutor a hypothetical question: If Private Manning had given the documents to The New York Times rather than to WikiLeaks, would he face the same charges?
“Yes, ma’am,” said the prosecutor, Capt. Angel Overgaard.
ON THE MATTER OF BRADLEY MANNING
This case is a mess, legally, ethically, morally and every other way. We are to believe through this ruling that Manning was treated more rigorously than was necessary and that his treatment was more excessive that legitimate government interests demanded, but that nobody in authority ordered it, nobody in authority countenanced it, and that nobody in authority will be called to account for it. It just happened, like a power outage, or a problem with the plumbing and, if there was somebody ordering it, or countenancing it, or in authority over it, it was all for Manning's good, anyway. Both things cannot be true. If Manning's treatment was more rigorous than was necessary and that it exceeded what was required to meet legitimate government interests, then it cannot have been done for Manning's benefit, and somebody ordered the excesses and somebody countenanced them and somebody carried them out.
We do not have to be children here. Bradley Manning could have been confined in conventional imprisonment and brought to a simple trial. The only reason to drag this case out, and to engage in the conduct that Colonel Lind described, was to coerce him into implicating other people. Nothing else makes any possible sense. We are not required to disengage our brains in cases like this. We are repeatedly encouraged to do so, however.
Iraq: Virginia contractor pays $5.28m to tortured Abu Ghraib inmatesIf the reports that I have read are correct about the identity of the character named "Maya" in this movie, played by Jessica Chastain, then Bigelow and Boal have lionized a woman who traveled to Poland just so that she could be a spectator while Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was tortured though she had no legitimate reason to be there. Jane Mayer's book notes that her reason for going was that "she thought it would be cool" and was later reprimanded by her bosses who told her that it was not supposed to be entertainment. She also pressed for an innocent German man to be kidnapped and tortured even though her colleagues disagreed with her belief that he was a terrorist (and it turned out that he wasn't). When informed by the German government that he was a legitimate tourist, she refused to have him released. Her colleagues went up the chain of command to make that happen but in the end he was held in a torture cell for five months. Instead of being sanctioned for that, she was promoted. She (referred to as "red-headed thirtysomething supervisor later promoted to Deputy Chief ") and her colleague were responsible for refusing to allow information about two future 9/11 hijackers from being sent to the FBI, and then the CIA lost track of them, leading to one of the most serious 9/11 intelligence failures. FBI agents recommended that CIA torturers should be arrested. This movie turns her into a heroine.
A US defense contractor has paid $5.28 million to 71 former inmates of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq after its subsidiary was sued for conspiring to torture detainees there between 2003 and 2007.
The Associated Press reportedthat the case, involving Engility Holdings Inc. of Chantilly, Virginia, marked the first "successful effort" by former US detainees to collect money from a defense contractor.
A second contractor, CACI, was expected to go to trial over similar allegations this summer, the AP wrote.
2013 Critics Choice Award WinnersRetired Col. Pat Lang predicts that Afghanistan will be a repeat of Iraq where they refuse to grant immunity to our troops and we withdraw all of them in 2014. Now nobody talks about how we were considering sending troops back to Iraq when the situation in Syria heated up and nobody talks about whether or not we will still fund godknowshowmany mercenaries after 2014. I don't even know if we did send troops back to Iraq. Nobody talks about how many CIA and/or special forces or mercenaries we have there either. In any case, I hope that we do withdraw all of our troops from Afghanistan and the only (big) question I have about it is that if we know we're pulling out completely (whatever the definition of that is) then why not speed it all up? I guess the answer is that we pledged to train 350K Afghan forces but that number has disappeared from the Pentagon reports now and the matter of training Afghan forces has become very complicated since the insider attacks became more frequent and as the ratio of Afghan forces to NATO forces continues to increase, what will happen with the risk of insider attacks? Will they decrease because what the Afghan forces really want is for our troops to leave their country or will our troops just become even more vulnerable to such attacks?
Jessica Chastain - "Zero Dark Thirty"
Zero Dark Thirty
There will be no SOFA in AfghanistanI picked up this link from a guy whose perspective I am pretty sure that I don't agree with very much, who seems to be a guy who does not want to leave Afghanistan. But this piece is very worth reading, imho. And for the record, if I believed that our motives in Afghanistan were even half as noble as the person who linked this article and the person who wrote this article do, I would feel a lot different about it, though would still be conflicted because of the mess we are dealing with at home and the huge critical issues we are not tending to while supposedly helping the women and the people of Afghanistan and the Afghan forces. Again, nonetheless, this anecdote is interesting.
There is very little chance that the Afghan government will agree to post 2014 legal extra-territoriality for foreign troops in their country.
For some reason the US foreign policy establishment refuses to understand that for Muslim populations and governments it is not possible to accept the apparent superiority of the law of a non-Muslim country on their soil. This is a religious issue. Islam is a seamless garment. In Islam all aspects of life are welded together into a seamless whole. Islam is centered on law as the essence of the submision of man to God. To allow "infidel" law to be applied as being in some sense a symbol of the superiority of the infidel power is simply unacceptable to Muslims.
Everything you need to know about Afghanistan in one anecdoteNot news. Pro Publica reported this months ago, maybe earlier, but it's in the spotlight again. I wonder what kind of avalanche of reporting might happen now that the election is over and some progressive media are no longer censoring themselves... as much.
For those who’ve followed my Twitter feed (@AhmadShuja), I tend to decry pundits or parachute humanitarians/journalists who write about Afghanistan in broad, general strokes. I’m particularly wary of the pervasive tactic of using one interaction or episode in their time here to explain “Afghanistan.”
Today I’ll break my own taboo and relate this short but illustrative anecdote.
The story revolves around two little girls in a Kabul neighborhood. I found them involved in a heated exchange one cold morning about a subject I couldn’t figure out. But their dialogue was fascinating and particularly telling of who they were and what they valued. I walked past them just in time to catch the following bit of exchange: [...]
Obama Administration Interrogating Terror Suspects Locked Up Abroad (Again)It's a little late for this now and the CIA is a rogue agency so what are the chances of them following an executive order, or the chances that some other secret law or secret Memorandum of Notification (MON) won't be issued... but I guess it's always worth trying and putting this on the record so that it will at least be harder for them to do something like this again. But an executive order from a U.S. president is not going to convince the Pakistani people now or at any time in the near future, that's for sure. They will not trust and they will hate the United States for generations. Even Gen. McChrystal has recently admitted that. We've got "generational enemies" all across the Middle East and all over the world now, mostly due to murderous drone programs, vicious torture, wars of aggression and all kinds of war crimes.
Remember rendition? Many people believe the practice of having terrorism suspects interrogated overseas was supposed to end when George W. Bush left office. But President Barack Obama said he'd end torture, not renditions—and last week, the Washington Post reported that they're still happening. That's true in some sense, but as Mother Jones and others have reported, the Obama administration's use of foreign regimes to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects has avoided Bush-style renditions in favor of a different practice known as proxy detention.
Law professor and national security expert Steve Vladeck explained the difference between the Bush and Obama renditions on the Lawfare blog last week. The two most famous cases of Bush-era extraordinary rendition are those of Maher Arar and Khaled El-Masri, two men whom, as Vladeck noted, "were illegally sent by the United States to third-party countries where they could be interrogated (and tortured) in a manner that would have been unlawful if conducted by U.S. officials." The case in the Post story is different, in that it involves arrests by local authorites who later transferred the detainees to the United States, and that there's no torture alleged. This case indeed involves prisoner transfers from one country to another, but the details are completely different. The Post story, Vladeck argued, "is equating apples to oranges in a context in which nuance matters."
An Executive Order That Could Save Children Here and AbroadA bit slow on the uptake are the Republicans with this damage control piece. There are some interesting data in there too and info about things that were going on in the background before their profoundly stupid move of cancelling that vote and before Hurricane Christie came through. You do have to hand it to Christie. He's very smart politically (except when he snaps out during press conferences and insults journalists or citizens of NJ, or has them hauled out of the room by state police, or uses police helicopters to go to his son's baseball games!). His biggest problem pre-Sandy was his horrendously underestimated state revenues that that he cooked up to sell his slasher budgets, and the chickens were coming home to roost. Unemployment rate and the worsening of unemployment in NJ was one of the worst in the nation. He wants to run for president and he needs some D votes and a lot of Independent votes to make that happen. The Republicans (most anyway, I think) already love him. The Republican Congress has an approval rating lower than herpes (seriously!). So he went after them. And he can cover up his budget woes and unemployment problems with the work that result from the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy and there might be some other money that will help sure up the finances, I don't know. Plus, he gets to play superhero. His approval rate in NJ is now 73%. I don't know how fleeting that will be. I am willing to bet that there are a lot of temporary pats on the back in that number and that it won't be very long before he pisses people off again. Hell, even I was willing to stand with him temporarily and I can't stand the guy and have been known to get in battles with him on Twitter (he answers sometimes and fights dirty btw). Anyway, what's the downside of him attacking his own party here? None that I can see. But they have long memories so maybe it will bite him at some point. I doubt it.
Amanda and I wrote before the New Year about the tragic violence against vaccination workers in Pakistan who were doing vital work in the struggle to completely wipe out polio worldwide. Their deaths were linked to allegations that the CIA had used a vaccine campaign as part of intelligence gathering operations in the country. I’d like to propose a specific policy action by the US government that might marginally reduce the risk of such attacks –and their knock-on effect in terms of more kids dying, stalled progress in the battle to wipe out infectious diseases worldwide and sickness in the United States.
But the sad events in Pakistan and Afghanistan are only the latest in a line of setbacks for the battle against infectious disease linked to allegations of US intelligence services using vaccination programs as part of operations. Not least, efforts to contain a polio outbreak in Kano, Nigeria in 2003 that might have put us on the path to global polio eradication by now were derailed when imams and local political leaders called for a boycott of the polio vaccination campaign. They claimed (without evidence) that the vaccine program was part of a U.S. sterilization plot.
Given that, a declaration by the US that public health interventions will not be used to gather intelligence could play a vital role in tipping the balance towards successful polio eradication –and enhance US national security. Such a declaration has been proposed in a letter sent to President Obama this Monday signed by the deans of America’s top public health schools. I suggest this could be modeled on –and inserted into– Executive Order 12333 which mandates that “No element of the Intelligence Community shall sponsor, contract for, or conduct research on human subjects except in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services,” and bans engagement in or conspiracy towards assassination and actions intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.
Henninger: Hurricane Christie
The governor howls at the Republicans who were trying to help him.
The New York Times pumped the tale of betrayal to the top of its front page. "Fury in G.O.P. as House Stalls Hurricane Aid. Northeast Republicans Lash Out at Boehner." Google GOOG -0.42% searchers were directed to "watch Peter King explode at his own party." Make no mistake, Gov. Christie has just delivered his second poison pill to a major GOP candidacy: Any Republican who runs in New York City's mayoral campaign this November will have the governor's GOP-sellout statements thrown in his face.
Problem is, in virtually every respect, the betrayal story is wrong. House Republicans on the Appropriations Committee have been working for weeks to move a ton of money to the devastated Northeast. Indeed, within a day of learning more about this effort, Peter King, no shrinking violet, walked back his initial comments about Mr. Boehner and the party.
But Gov. Christie was back for more Tuesday in his State of the State speech: "New Jersey, both Republicans and Democrats, will never stand silent when our citizens are being short-changed."
Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest
Charles Pierce on Bradley Manning's trial: "a mess, legally, ethically, morally and every other way." bit.ly/VT9JDA— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) January 9, 2013
Missed this one over the weekend:
Assad's speech today was delusional & utterly meaningless. #Syria— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) January 6, 2013
@mann_naseh By 2030? Let's see how the country manages the post 2014 years. Pak #13 on last year's FP failed states index.— Simon Klingert (@simon_klingert) January 7, 2013
Kagans bang war drum. I reference Batman's nipples. Kagans: Continuing Their Case for Constant Conflict wp.me/p2MKzd-1X1— Gary Owen (@ElSnarkistani) January 10, 2013
In a log of an internet chat, Bradley Manning & Assange laugh about a NY Times article. Changes everything. nytimes.com/2013/01/10/us/…— Peter Hart (@peterfhart) January 10, 2013
My only prob with trillion dollar coin idea is that I'm fairly sure we'd end up with a law giving it to Goldman Sachs.— Hunter (@HunterDK) January 9, 2013
Downside of platinum coin idea: Once struck, it can only be destroyed by the fires of Mount Doom.— daveweigel (@daveweigel) January 9, 2013
PEOPLE YOU CANNOT WRITE A RETROSPECTIVE OF TIM GEITHNER'S TIME AS TREASURY SEC. AND NOT MENTION THE HUGE HAMP/HOUSING #FAIL.— Andy Kroll (@AndrewKroll) January 10, 2013
The science of why comment trolls suck: mojo.ly/VRebDz— Andy Kroll (@AndrewKroll) January 10, 2013
10,000 Maniacs - These Are Days
Remember when progressive debate was about our values and not about a "progressive" candidate? Remember when progressive websites championed progressive values and didn't tell progressives to shut up about values so that "progressive" candidates can get elected?
Come to where the debate is not constrained by oaths of fealty to persons or parties.
Come to where the pie is served in a variety of flavors.
"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." ~ Noam Chomsky