‘These people belong in a prison cell.’

by matttbastard

Re: revelations in the newly released Senate Armed Services Committee report on US torture that the Bush admin began planning the program in 2001 and that torture was utilized to gin up a link between Iraq and al-Qaida, what Radley Balko said:

So they tortured Gitmo detainees to get information, which turned out to be false, to build support for a war they had already made up their mind they would wage.

And keep in mind, these decisions were made by political appointees. Not JAGs, not military generals, not even veteran CIA agents (most people in all three positions actually opposed these policies). They were made by neocon warmongers with little to no actual military or interrogation experience who hadn’t the slightest idea what they were doing.

These people belong in a prison cell. To excuse them is to say that no abuse of power should be punishable so long as you can come up with some tortured justification about how you were only trying to protect the country.

The headline to a recent op-ed by Simon Jenkins (h/t Sarah) bottom-lines things perfectly:

‘Cheney and the apologists of torture distrust democracy.’

Special prosecutor NAO.

Related: Hilzoy on the ‘”perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm” that helped put the CIA torture program into action (although ‘ignorance’ seems to be a bullshit excuse):

This is what happens when we stop demanding minimal competence in our Presidents; when we start caring more about who we would rather have a beer with than, oh, who would be most likely to seek out the best advice and listen to all sides of an argument before making an important decision, or whose judgment we can trust. We end up with people who toss aside our most fundamental values because someone who has never conducted an interrogation before thinks it might be a good idea, and no one bothers to do the basic background research on what he proposes.

Of course, keep in mind what Nell points out (and Balko implicitly recognizes) in this must-read post:

One of the most persistent and discouraging themes that crops up in discussions of torture is the question of whether it “works” or not. The people engaging this question make a fatally wrong assumption: that the goal of torturers is the same as that of legitimate interrogators — to get reliable information useful for active, circumscribed military operations or police investigations.

But torture does something else altogether, and is designed to do so: it extracts false confessions. These confessions, along with the agony of the torture itself, serve the goals of limitless, lawless “war”: to humiliate and break opponents, to divide them from supporters, to terrify those not actively in opposition into staying inactive, and, most importantly, to justify the operations of the dirty war within which torture takes place: commando raids, assassinations, spying, kidnaping, secret and/or indefinite (and unreviewable) detention, and further torture.

The mistaken assumption that those in the previous administration who set the torture policy were motivated solely by an urgent need for information has several other bad effects. It reinforces the absurd ticking-bomb hypothetical that allows so many people to justify torture to themselves. It provides a noble-sounding excuse for the officials who promoted torture, making it harder for citizens to muster the will to hold them legally accountable for their crimes: “They were just trying to keep the country safe.”

The euphemism of “enhanced interrogation” for torture was chosen by both the Nazis and the Bush-Cheney regime exactly because of its propaganda value in reinforcing this false picture: It’s just legitimate questioning that goes a little further. An error of enthusiasm, if you will. An understandable mistake, a policy difference that we sure don’t want to criminalize, looking backward with our 20-20 hindsight.

But, as useful as these effects are to the torturing regime, the most important role of the spurious linkage with intelligence-gathering and interrogation is as a screen: It hides the role of torture in creating and expanding the dirty war itself.

Flashback: Via Democracy Now: Mark Benjamin and Katherine Eban on Mitchell Jessen & Associates, the shrinks who transformed SERE into CIA torture (yes, torture).

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Rachel Re: The New Poll Tax

by matttbastard

h/t Ezra Klein.

Related: For more on the problems some fear US voters may face tomorrow, see The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, and Steve Benen, who says “[v]oting problems in [the US] have reached the point at which they cannot be ignored” and that “these ridiculously long lines should embarrass officials into action.” Also see Sylvia/M with details on how early voting across the nation has been plagued with incidents of vote suppression.

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Elizabeth May on the Sidelines

by matttbastard

For most of the day on Monday, the front page of Progressive Bloggers was absolutely dominated by one topic: the decision rendered by the consortium of Canadian broadcasters to deny Green Party leader Elizabeth May a spot in the national leadership debate.  The consortium, a coalition of 5 Canadian broadcasters that controls participation in the debate, claims that despite the Greens having reached the bar set last election (having a sitting MP, controversial former Liberal candidate, Blair Wilson, in Parliament), 3 of the 4 other parties have threatened to pull out of the debate if May is allowed to participate.  The Globe quotes NDP spokesperson Brad Lavigne as stating “[The NDP] said we would not accept the invitation to participate because the Greens did not have an elected [emphasis mine] member of Parliament and that Ms. May had endorsed [Liberal leader Stephane] Dion as prime minister”. 

The Conservatives offered a similar line of spin: May is running in Nova Scotia (specifically, in star cabinet minister Peter MacKay’s riding) unopposed by a Liberal candidate, and, according to the Globe, “could throw her support to [the Liberals] at the end of the campaign.”  Indeed, as noted by the Globe, May has already raise some eyebrows by sending out a mass email in which she pledged support to a Liberal candidate running against Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Regardless, the Greens are, obviously, fuming at what they see as the latest round of Calvinball on the part of Canada’s broadcast gatekeepers, with May calling yesterday’s announcement “anti-democratic, closed door, backroom decision making” while astutely pointing out that the other national party leaders and broadcast executives involved “are all men”–a sharp jab at the blatant disparity in gender on display among the principles involved, optics that may play more of a factor in today’s post-Clinton/Palin political landscape than in recent electoral contests.

Yours truly has in the past been critical of May and the Greens’ own arguably ‘anti-democratic’ maneuvers to gain a foothold in Parliament, be it by courting Wilson or via friendship arrangements made with Dion and the Liberals.  With that said, the other national leaders (including Stephane Dion, who, despite his party’s claim of support for the Greens’ inclusion, said yesterday that “I would like her to be there, but I will not participate if Stephen Harper is not there”–not exactly a ringing endorsement for “fairness”) are betraying obvious fear of what may be the wild card party of the 2008 election campaign.  Support for the Green Party has been steadily increasing in key ridings, and could provoke a split on the left (and, thanks to the Greens’ classical liberal economic platform, potentially bleed Conservative votes in environmentally-conscious BC) if the party can successfully court Canadian voters beyond the Greens’ standard constituency. 

As former Liberal strategist Scott Reid observes, “[i]f [May] successfully assembles a coalition that adds disaffected voters to her environmentalist basse, she could become a green Ross Perot–stealing support from others, altering the campaign’s core narrative and unpredictably affecting the result.”  May claims that she doesn’t care who Canadians vote for, as long as they vote, but it goes without saying that she is going to fight to get as many votes cast her way; it makes sense, then, that the 4 other party leaders want to limit May’s national exposure as much as possible.  However, by placing May and her party front and centre in what has fast become the first media firestorm of the 2008 election campaign, the scheme seems to have backfired spectacularly. 

Whatever happens, it seems apparent that Elizabeth May has emerged as a serious political player, and, come October 14th, may indeed prove to be, in the words of Reid, “the most dangerous woman in Canada.”

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System System System

by matttbastard

Before being given an up-close and personal introduction to the undercarriage of the Obama campaign bus, the ScaryAngry(Insubordinate)Pariah preached some serious gospel this past Thursday:

[Obama’s] a politician, I’m a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. But they’re two different worlds. I do what I do. He does what politicians do.

And what do politicians do? They shake hands with the devil:

The same Beltway lobbyists, corporate donors and public relations firms, the same weapons manufacturers, defense contractors, nuclear power companies and Wall Street interests that give Clinton and John McCain money, give Obama money. They happen, in fact, to give Obama more. And the corporate state, which is carrying out a coup d’état in slow motion, believes it will prosper in Obama’s hands. If not, he would not be a viable candidate. We have come full circle, back to the age of the robber barons and railroad magnates of the late 19th century who selected members of corrupt state assemblies to be their pliable senators and congressmen and sent them off to Washington to do their bidding.

There have been some important investigations into Obama’s links with major corporations, including Ken Silverstein’s November 2006 article “Barack Obama Inc: The Birth of a Washington Machine” in Harper’s magazine. Newsweek has also detailed many of Obama’s major corporate contributors. Obama’s Leadership PAC includes John Gorman of Texas-based Tejas Securities, a major supporter of Senate Democrats as well as the Bush presidential campaigns. It includes Winston & Strawn, the Chicago-based law and lobbying firm. It also includes the corporate law firms Kirkland & Ellis, and Skadden, Arps, where four attorneys are fundraisers for Obama as well as donors. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Henry Crown and Co., an investment firm that has stakes in industries ranging from telecommunications to defense, are all funding the Illinois senator.

Individual contributors to Obama come from major lobbyist groups such as those of Jeffrey Peck (whose clients include MasterCard, the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) and Rich Tarplin (Chevron, the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers). Exelon, a leading nuclear plant operator, based in Illinois, is a long-time donor to the Obama campaign. Exelon executives and employees have contributed at least $227,000 to Obama’s campaigns for the United States Senate and for president. Two top Exelon officials, Frank M. Clark, executive vice president, and John W. Rogers Jr., a director, are among his largest fundraisers. Obama has also accepted more than $213,000 from individuals (and their spouses) who work for companies in the oil and gas industry, and two of Obama’s bundlers are senior oil company executives who have raised between $50,000 and $100,000. I could go on, but you get the point.

Obama, as you will see if you examine his voting record, has repeatedly rewarded those who reward him. As a senator he has promoted nuclear energy as “green.” He has been lauded by the nuclear power industry, which is determined to resume building nuclear power plants across the country. He has voted to continue to fund the Iraq war. He opposed Rep. John Murtha’s call for immediate withdrawal. He refused to join the 13 senators who voted against confirming Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state. He voted in July 2005 to reauthorize the Patriot Act. He did not support an amendment that was part of a bankruptcy bill that would have capped credit card interest rates at 30 percent. He opposed a bill that would have reformed the notorious Mining Law of 1872. He did not support the single-payer health care bill HR676, sponsored by Reps. Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers. He supports the death penalty. He worked tirelessly in the Senate in 2005 to pass a class-action “reform” bill that was part of a large lobbying effort by financial firms, which make up Obama’s second-biggest single bloc of donors. The law, with the Orwellian title the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), would effectively shut down state courts as a venue to hear most class-action lawsuits. This has long been a cherished goal of large corporations as well as the Bush administration. It effectively denies redress in many of the courts where these cases have a chance of defying powerful corporate challenges. It moves these cases into corporate-friendly federal courts dominated by Republican judges. Even Hillary Clinton voted against this naked effort to allow corporations to carry out flagrant discrimination, consumer fraud and wage-and-hour violations.

Even I’m finding it hard to be comforted by the (far from baseless) assertion that an Obama (or a Clinton) administration would be “better” than one helmed by John Sidney McSame.  This is not to say that I’m coming out for Nader (gah!), nor am I encouraging people to sit out the general or waste their vote on a third party vanity candidate.  But I can’t help but lament the sad-yet-undeniable fact that the only viable options American voters have to choose from are all feeding from–and eagerly refilling–the same corporate trough.

Sweet Jesus, I hate this goddamn election.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

The 47% Solution

by matttbastard

So 52.6% of eligible voters decide to cast ballots; only 39% choose to even touch the question of electoral reform (rejecting it with 63% of ’em aginnit). The Liberals are awarded a ‘historic’ majority because 65% of said 52.6% thought John Tory was the engineer of a big Blue train wreck and were loathe to give him the opportunity to derail the entire province (Howard who?) Oh, and the Greens receive 8%, nearly tripling their share of the popular vote in 2003 — and getting zero seats in return.

Bottom line: almost half the electorate had better things to do.

Tell me again how the status quo is just hunky dory?

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers