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Longwood Gardens.  February, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.



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A sorry state of the union. And after all that populist rhetoric during the 2012 campaign.  I'm not going to try to excerpt.  Just putting this out there for your reading pleasure.  From ProPublica.

A Reading Guide on Obama’s Latest Appointments

Here's our guide to some of the people that could be Obama's new right-hand men and women, and some of the best stories about them.

When Harry Reid sabotaged filibuster reform, I said I would not listen to any more whining about Republican obstruction in the Senate. Their gentleman's agreement was ridiculous. Dems use the filibuster to make sure that more liberal Senators are shut down.  They can take all the whining about this judge and shove it until they reform the filibuster. The blame for this falls squarely on Reid and the Dem leadership all the way to the top, who work to please their owners and their right-wing president.  It just falls flat.  Republicans are obstructionists. What is new about that?  Are they going to stop?  NO.
Give Caitlin Halligan an up-or-down vote

CAITLIN J. HALLIGAN has been waiting to become a federal circuit judge ever since President Obama nominated her — in 2010. Since then, she has languished in Senate confirmation hell, repeatedly renominated but refused a simple up-or-down vote. On Wednesday, Democrats tried to break the unjustifiable impasse. Once again, Republicans successfully filibustered, denying a qualified nominee a fair shot at a seat on the bench and leaving the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit short-staffed.

The GOP’s abuse of the filibuster is bad for the country, for many of the reasons Republicans were eager to spell out when Democrats unfairly blocked President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. Since the last time Ms. Halligan faced a GOP filibuster, the D.C. Circuit has lost another judge, leaving four vacancies. Yet it is the forum for some of the nation’s weightiest legal disputes, involving a wide range of federal matters — from Environmental Protection Agency regulations to detentions at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

Word.

From earlier this week.

Britain and US asked to release secret torture reports
Allies accused by human rights lawyer of covering up the truth on kidnapping and torture of terrorist suspects

A UN human rights advocate has called on Britain and the US to release confidential reports into the countries' involvement in the kidnapping and torture of terrorism suspects, accusing them of "years of official denials, sophistry and prevarication" to cover up the truth.

In a speech to the UN human rights council in Geneva introducing a report on the issue, Ben Emmerson, a British barrister who is the UN's special rapporteur on protecting human rights within efforts to combat terrorism, demanded that Britain publish the interim findings of a report by a retired judge, Sir Peter Gibson, into the involvement of MI5 and MI6 in the removal and mistreatment of terrorist suspects.

In a response delivered at the council, British officials said the government was "looking carefully at the contents of the report by the Gibson inquiry on its preparatory work, with a view to publishing as much of it as possible". There was no word on when this might happen.

Emmerson also asked the US to release a similar report by the Senate's select committee on intelligence into the CIA's secret detention and interrogation programme.

The torture report finds that torture is not effective for getting reliable information and that it did not lead to finding bin Laden. This is one of the reasons why I objected so strongly to Zero Dark Thirty.  All through Brennan's confirmation hearings, he seemed to agree with this perspective. The Senate Intel committee agreed with it.  Yet Mark Boal insisted that his screenplay was based on first hand accounts, clearly people who believe that torture did lead to finding bin Laden, and perhaps who still endorse torture, as "enhanced interrogation".  This is stunning, especially given all of the things going on around the world related to torture investigations, all of the information coming out of late, articles being written, documentaries made, etc.  Some of them were made from information that is not new but instead timed to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, some of them based on first-hand information from people who have never been interviewed before, some based on information contained in the Wikileaks dumps from several years ago.

But look what's happening now with that torture report -- suddenly we are finding out that members of the CIA are objecting to it, disagreeing with its main conclusion.  This causes an ache in the pit of my stomach when I read it, just as the idea of Brennan in a position of such power does.  Not that he didn't have power before as a right-hand man of the president.  But running the agency, having a big (dark) budget and a huge organization under his control seems so much worse.  BTW, this story makes me believe even more that ZDT was pro-torture CIA propaganda.  I'd also like to know who the U.S. official quoted anonymously in the WSJ article is, revealing CIA objections to the report.  Why does he/she not have enough courage to go on the record?  I remind you that during his hearings, Brennan would not say that waterboarding was torture.  From emptywheel:

The Script Opposing Declassification of the Torture Report Continues to Roll Out

Sure enough, the very day after Brennan won confirmation, WSJ reports that CIA is not done with their review yet, but they disagree with the report’s findings.

The report examines the details of conditions under which each detainee was held and interrogated, the quality of the information provided and the accuracy of how the CIA described the program to other officials and lawmakers. It included 20 recommendations, officials said.

The report assesses the utility of information from interrogations in 20 cases and concludes that it wasn’t useful; the CIA disputes that conclusion in all but one or two of those assessments, officials said.

The CIA is objecting to the majority of the report, a senior intelligence official said.

“The overall objection was the report basically says we never in any instances got good information from this program,” another U.S. official said. “To anyone who has worked at the CIA on this issue, that’s not true.”

Even CIA officers who opposed the interrogation program acknowledge that the agency obtained useful information, the U.S. official said.

[...]
Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the single “senior intelligence official” from which the CIA’s perspective is represented is Brennan. Because it has been clear throughout he was working from a script that would lead to a real, probably unsuccessful, struggle to declassify the report.

And that script is rolling out precisely as expected.

For the record, while we are disputing things, I would like to dispute that this program is "now-closed".  If torture is continuing but the people doing the torturing were trained by US forces, are funded by the US, and are local police/militias, is the program really closed?
CIA Head Faces Squeeze Play

WASHINGTON—The Central Intelligence Agency is disputing a highly critical congressional report on its now-closed detention and interrogation program, officials said, putting its new director on a collision course with Congress.

Symbolic?
John Brennan Sworn in as CIA Director Using Constitution Lacking Bill of Rights

According to the White House, John Brennan was sworn in as CIA Director on a “first draft” of the Constitution including notations from George Washington, dating to 1787.
[...]
That means, when Brennan vowed to protect and defend the Constitution, he was swearing on one that did not include the First, Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendments — or any of the other Amendments now included in our Constitution. The Bill of Rights did not become part of our Constitution until 1791, 4 years after the Constitution that Brennan took his oath on.

"The case is steadily building... The calls for the past to be confronted are fast approaching a critical mass."
UN demands prosecution of Bush-era crimes

Ben Emmerson -- the rapporteur -- who also asked for the British government to hand over its version of the same report as well -- said that the time has come to account for criminal behavior -- no matter the source.

'Bush-era torture scandals haunt US'
An analyst says a series of scandals have exposed the CIA and Bush initiated torture centers and human rights justice is knocking at their door.

U.N.’s Drone Inquisitor: CIA Torture Was an ‘International Conspiracy of Crime’

As his inquiry into U.S. drone strikes gets underway, the United Nations special rapporteur for counterterrorism and human rights has stepped up his rhetoric against the agency he’ll inevitably investigate. The CIA’s torture program was at the center of an “international conspiracy of crime,” he told a U.N. panel on Tuesday.

Really a fascinating article, with text, photos and video.
Getting to the Bottom of It All
Michael Becker, a doctoral student at McGill University, was a scientific diver on an expedition to Lake Untersee in Antarctica.

To even get into the lake is a feat of accomplishment and a trick of clever engineering. Just the thought of trying to chip a dive hole through 10-foot thick lake ice could give you tendinitis long before you get your feet wet.

During the early days of Antarctic diving in the late-1970s, the expedition leader Dale Andersen and a few clever people working in the Dry Valley region of Antarctica came up with an ingenious way of getting through the ice. They modified an industrial-strength steam cleaner to circulate boiling hot liquid through a closed-circuit piece of copper tubing. All a would-be diver had to do was place the tubing inside a small hole drilled in the ice and wait for magic to happen as the hole slowly formed over two days.
[...]
It’s not just these cyanobacterial mats that thrive in Lake Untersee.

There is a diverse world of bacteria and viruses that inhabit their own unique sections of the water column all the way from the lake surface to over 500 feet below. These areas are far beyond our range capacity as scientific divers, and so we must rely on a different technique to sample these distant creatures.





Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


Evening Blues
The Sequester: Lies, Damned Lies, and Libel Against Critics on the Left
Warren continues the assault. Why does Holder still have a job?
Mayor Jean Quan Confirms Her Status as an Asshole
Greece is for Greeks. Neo-Nazis: We will turn immigrants into soap
Baltimore PD fined 1K for stalking videographer suing them
Nevada returns to add gender identity to hate crimes law





The Who Pinball Wizard 12.12.12. Sandy relief concert
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