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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World's happiest Countries? Left Leaning Social Democracies (Not USA); Becoming the 'Enemy'; Clean Air Would Save Millions, more (posted 05/12/09)

- Cleaner Air From Reduced Emissions Could Save Millions of Lives "Researchers predict that 100 million early deaths could be prevented by cutting global emissions by 50% by 2050 [of course fossil fuel corporations are trying to fight this by spreading doubt about the dangers of their actions, because it means less profits for them]"

- Becoming What We Seek to Destroy "We are morally no different from the psychopaths within the Taliban, who Afghans remember we empowered, funded and armed during the 10-year war with the Soviet Union. Acid thrown a girl's face or beheadings? Death delivered from the air or fields of shiny cluster bombs? This is the language of war. It is what we speak. It is what those we fight speak... We are the best recruiting weapon the Taliban possesses."

- Massacre Puts War Trauma Under the Spotlight "We know from repeated Congressional investigations and hearings that the military has knowingly sent soldiers with physical and mental health diagnoses and severe symptoms back to the war zones. In some cases, the service members killed themselves or others," he said.

More than 230 active soldiers, airmen and marines committed suicide last year - the highest military suicide statistic in nearly 30 years. In January, more U.S. soldiers killed themselves than died in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

In November 2006, a New York National Guardsman was arraigned in a military court on charges of murdering two officers in an explosion at one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces.

According to the non-partisan Rand Corporation, approximately 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, while another 320,000 have sustained a traumatic brain injury, physical brain damage often caused by roadside bombs and mortars."




World's Happiest Countries? Social Democracies
Published May 11 2009 at CommonDreams.org

image
A new report shows that happiness levels are highest in northern European countries, (social democracies that provide free healthcare, nationalized institutions to help prevent things like our economic meltdown, etc. Generally all the things that American republicans hate). Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands rated at the top of the list, ranking first, second and third, respectively.

The US? As expected, the United States failed to make the top 10 but ranked among the highest for obesity and child poverty.
Sean

US Kills Hundreds of Civilians, Survivors Vow Revenge; Climate Change Displacements Happening Now; School Prayer Bad, more (posted 05/08/09)

- Dear God, Stop Brainwashing Children "The prayer-enforcers offer a few arguments in their defence. At first, they claim it instils "moral values" in children. The scientist Gregory S Paul produced a detailed study in 2005 to find out if rates of murder and rape went up as levels of religion went down. He found the exact opposite. On detailed international comparisons, the more religious a country is, the more likely you are to be stabbed or raped there."

- Climate Change Displacement Has Begun - but Hardly Anyone Has Noticed "The first evacuation of an entire community due to manmade global warming is happening on the Carteret Islands"

- NY Trial to Decide Shell's Role in Nigerian Deaths "A civil trial that will judge any involvement by oil giant Royal Dutch Shell in the executions of protesters in Nigeria will start this month in New York City, more than 13 years after their deaths."

- White House Silence Paved Way for 'Cramdown' Crash Obama breaking campaign promise after campaign promise: "The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), would have empowered bankruptcy judges to reduce, or "cramdown," the terms of primary mortgages, allowing some struggling homeowners to avoid foreclosure. Obama supported the measure on the campaign trail last year, and endorsed it again in February as he unveiled his anti-foreclosure plan. Yet in the days before Thursday's Senate vote, the silence emanating from the White House was palpable"

- More Than One Million Flee Pakistan Fighting, Says UN "A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says the fighting between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban has led to massive displacement in the area. [thanks to the US wasting time in Iraq, the Taliban has regained strength and Afghanistan and Pakistan]"

- Government Could Destroy Records in Hundreds of Guantanamo Cases "The Bush administration had for years fought the captives' right to bring habeas lawsuits, and the end of the cases seemed nowhere in sight. [sounds like why everyone hated Saddam Huseein, eh?]



The main story below was published yesterday (May 7). Today the US military admits it was lying. The following is from DemocracyNow.org news:

Backtracking on Initial Claims, Pentagon Admits Afghan Civilians Killed by US Bombs

The Pentagon has acknowledged for the first time Afghan civilians were killed by US bombs earlier this week. The toll from Monday's bombing in Farah province remains unknown, with estimates topping 100 civilians, including many women and children. On Thursday, a Pentagon official admitted to the New York Times initial US claims of Taliban grenades causing the deaths were "thinly sourced." Local residents have said the damage was far too extensive for any Taliban weapon to cause. On Thursday, hundreds of Farah residents protested outside the provincial governor's office demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops. Three demonstrators were wounded after Afghan police officers opened fire.

After US Strikes, Afghans Describe 'Tractor Trailers Full of Pieces of Human Bodies;' Obama Readies 21,000 More Troops
As rage spreads in Afghanistan after US bombing that killed up to 130 people, unnamed Pentagon officials are spinning another cover-up. Defiant Obama moves ahead with troop increase.
by Jeremy Scahill
Published on Thursday, May 7, 2009 by RebelReports

As President Barack Obama prepares to send some 21,000 more US troops into Afghanistan, anger is rising in the western province of Farah, the scene of a US bombing massacre that may have killed as many as 130 Afghans, including 13 members of one family. At least six houses were bombed and among the dead and wounded are women and children. As of this writing reports indicate some people remain buried in rubble. The US airstrikes happened on Monday and Tuesday. Just hours after Obama met with US-backed president Hamid Karzai Wednesday, hundreds of Afghans-perhaps as many as 2,000- poured into the streets of the provincial capital, chanting "Death to America." The protesters demanded a US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

[An Afghan child looks at the rifle of a US soldier on patrol in Naray, eastern Kunar province on April 13, 2009. Afghans chanted "Death to America" and demanded US troops leave Afghanistan as mobs threw stones at government offices Thursday in a violent protest against civilian deaths, witnesses said. (AFP/File/Liu Jin)]An Afghan child looks at the rifle of a US soldier on patrol in Naray, eastern Kunar province on April 13, 2009. Afghans chanted "Death to America" and demanded US troops leave Afghanistan as mobs threw stones at government offices Thursday in a violent protest against civilian deaths, witnesses said. (AFP/File/Liu Jin)
In Washington, Karzai said he and the US occupation forces should operate from a "higher platform of morality," saying, "We must be conducting this war as better human beings," and recognize that "force won't buy you obedience." And yet, his security forces opened fire on the demonstrators, reportedly wounding five people.

According to The New York Times:







In a phone call played on a loudspeaker on Wednesday to outraged members of the Afghan Parliament, the governor of Farah Province, Rohul Amin, said that as many as 130 civilians had been killed, according to a legislator, Mohammad Naim Farahi. Afghan lawmakers immediately called for an agreement regulating foreign military operations in the country.
"The governor said that the villagers have brought two tractor trailers full of pieces of human bodies to his office to prove the casualties that had occurred," Mr. Farahi said. "Everyone at the governor's office was crying, watching that shocking scene."
Mr. Farahi said he had talked to someone he knew personally who had counted 113 bodies being buried, including those of many women and children. Later, more bodies were pulled from the rubble and some victims who had been taken to the hospital died, he said.
The US airstrikes hit villages in two areas of Farah province on Monday night and Tuesday. The extent of the deaths only came to public light because local people brought 20-30 corpses to the provincial capital. If the estimates of 130 dead are confirmed, it would reportedly be the single largest number of deaths caused by a US bombing since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initially "apologized" Wednesday for the civilian deaths and Obama reportedly conveyed similar sentiments to Karzai when they met in person, later in the day Clinton's spokesperson, Robert Wood, framed her apology as being based on preliminary information and, according to AP, said they "were offered as a gesture, before all the facts of the incident are known." By day's end, the Pentagon was seeking to blame the Taliban for "staging" the massacre to blame it on the US. Last night, NBC News's Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said military sources told him Taliban fighters used grenades to kill three families to "stage" a massacre and then blame it on the US.

The senior US military and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, spoke in general terms: "We have some other information that leads us to distinctly different conclusions about the cause of the civilian casualties," he said. McKiernan left the specific details of the spin to unnamed officials.

According to The Washington Post, "A U.S. defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that 'the Taliban went to a concerted effort to make it look like the U.S. airstrikes caused this. The official did not offer evidence to support the claim, and could not say what had caused the deaths." Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, a senior Defense official who did not want to be identified "said late Wednesday that Marine special operations forces believe the Afghan civilians were killed by grenades hurled by Taliban militants, who then loaded some of the bodies into a vehicle and drove them around the village, claiming the dead were victims of an American airstrike. A second U.S. official said a senior Taliban commander is believed to have ordered the grenade attack."

As the AP reported, "it would be the first time the Taliban has used grenades in this way."
While the Pentagon spins its story, the International Committee of the Red Cross has stated bluntly that US airstrikes hit civilian houses and revealed that an ICRC counterpart in the Red Crescent was among the dead. "We know that those killed included an Afghan Red Crescent volunteer and 13 members of his family who had been sheltering from fighting in a house that was bombed in an air strike," said the ICRC's head of delegation in Kabul, Reto Stocker. "We are deeply concerned by these events. Tribal elders in the villages called the ICRC during the fighting to report civilian casualties and ask for help. As soon as we heard of the attacks we contacted all sides to warn them that there were civilians and injured people in the area."

Read the entire ICRC statement here.

The Times, meanwhile, interviewed local people who contradict the unnamed US Defense officials' version of events:
Villagers reached by telephone said many were killed by aerial bombing. Muhammad Jan, a farmer, said fighting had broken out in his village, Shiwan, and another, Granai, in the Bala Baluk district. An hour after it stopped, the planes came, he said.
In Granai, he said, women and children had sought shelter in orchards and houses. "Six houses were bombed and destroyed completely, and people in the houses still remain under the rubble," he said, "and now I am working with other villagers trying to excavate the dead bodies."
He said that villagers, crazed with grief, were collecting mangled bodies in blankets and shawls and piling them on three tractors. People were still missing, he said.
Mr. Agha, who lives in Granai, said the bombing started at 5 p.m. on Monday and lasted until late into the night. "People were rushing to go to their relatives' houses, where they believed they would be safe, but they were hit on the way," he said.
In her earlier statement regarding the bombing, Clinton told Hamid Karzai "there will be a joint investigation by your government and ours."

But before that investigation began, the Pentagon was already using its unnamed officials to blame the Taliban. It also bears remembering that the US track record of thoroughly "investigating" US massacres is pathetic. The UN said there was convincing evidence that last year's US attack on the village of Azizabad in western Afghanistan killed 90 civilians, but the military only acknowledged 30 civilian deaths.

Standing between Hamid Karzai and Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday, Obama said the US would "make every effort" to avoid civilian deaths in both countries (which are regularly bombed by the US). But as he was making those remarks, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was arriving in Kabul on Wednesday "to make sure that preparations were moving forward for the troop increase and that soldiers and Marines were getting the equipment they needed."

Jessica Barry, a spokesperson for the ICRC said, "With more troops coming in, there is a risk that civilians will be more and more vulnerable."

Sean

Support for Torture Strong with Christians; US Soldiers told to "Hunt People for Jesus" (posted 05/05/09)

- Survey: Support for Torture Strong with Church-going Christians "The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey... White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it"


- Obama Returns to Bush Era on Guantánamo "Both admissions indicate that when it comes to Guantánamo, it is beginning to appear that the much-vaunted change promised by Barack Obama on the campaign trail has actually involved nothing more than imposing a closing date on Guantánamo while maintaining the Bush administration's approach to the men still held there."

- The 'Best and the Brightest'? Spare Me "According to Richard Haass, the former Bush administration official who now heads the Council on Foreign Relations, prosecuting former Bush administration lawyers who argued that torture was legal under domestic and international law would deter talented Americans from careers in public service". [The same argument has been applied to the banking industry, that has destroyed countless families across the US and world after the recent financial meltdown. In other words, in order to run the USA, you need to break the laws and harm people, and if you face consequences for these crimes then the US can't operate.]

- Advisor: 'US Needs to Call off Drone Strikes in Pak "The top adviser to the US army chief in Afghanistan, David Kilcullen, has observed that the US drone strikes in Pakistan are creating more enemies than eliminating them, and hence, needed to be called off."



US Soldiers in Afghanistan Told to "Hunt People for Jesus... So We Get Them into The Kingdom"
Military officials at Bagram are caught on tape urging US soldiers to evangelize in the Muslim country.
by Jeremy Scahill
Published on Monday, May 4, 2009 by RebelReports


New video evidence has surfaced showing that US military forces in Afghanistan have been instructed by the military's top chaplain in the country to "hunt people for Jesus" as they spread Christianity to the overwhelmingly Muslim population. Soldiers also have imported bibles translated into Pashto and Dari, the two dominant languages of Afghanistan. What's more, the center of this evangelical operation is at the huge US base at Bagram, one of the main sites used by the US military to torture and indefinitely detain prisoners.

In a video obtained by Al Jazeera and broadcast Monday, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him."
"The special forces guys - they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down," he says.

"Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."

The translated Bibles appear to be the New Testament. According to Al Jazeera, US soldiers "had them specially printed and shipped to Afghanistan." On the tape, one soldier describes how his church in the US helped raise money for the bibles. Al Jazeera reports that "What these soldiers have been doing may well be in direct violation of the US Constitution, their professional codes and the regulations in place for all forces in Afghanistan." The US military officially forbids "proselytising of any religion, faith or practice." But, as Al Jazeera reports:
[T]he chaplains appear to have found a way around the regulation known as General Order Number One.
"Do we know what it means to proselytise?" Captain Emmit Furner, a military chaplain, says to the gathering.
"It is General Order Number One," an unidentified soldier replies.
But Watt says "you can't proselytise but you can give gifts."
Trying to convert Muslims to any other faith is a crime in Afghanistan. The fact that the video footage is being broadcast on Al Jazeera guarantees that it will be seen throughout the Muslim world. It is likely to add more credence to the perception that the US is engaging in a war on Islam with neo-crusader forces invading Muslim lands.

Former Afghan prime minister Ahmed Shah Ahmedzai told Al Jazeera there must be a "serious investigation," saying, "This is very damaging for diplomatic relations between the two counties." Sayed Aalam Uddin Asser, of the Islamic Front for Peace and Understanding in Kabul, told the network: "It's a national security issue ... our constitution says nothing can take place in Afghanistan against Islam. If people come and propaganda other religions which have no followers in Afghanistan [then] it creates problems for the people, for peace, for stability."

A US military spokesperson, Major Jennifer Willis, denied that the US military has allowed its soldiers to attempt to convert Afghans and said comments from sermons filmed at Bagram were taken out of context. She said the bibles were never distributed. "That specific case involved a soldier who brought in a donation of translated bibles that were sent to his personal address by his home church. He showed them to the group and the chaplain explained that he cannot distribute them," she said. "The translated bibles were never distributed as far as we know, because the soldier understood that if he distributed them he would be in violation of general order 1, and he would be subject to punishment."

The video footage was shot about a year ago by documentary filmmaker Brian Hughes, who is also a former US soldier. "[US soldiers] weren't talking about learning how to speak Dari or Pashto, by reading the Bible and using that as the tool for language lessons," Hughes told Al Jazeera. "The only reason they would have these documents there was to distribute them to the Afghan people. And I knew it was wrong, and I knew that filming it ... documenting it would be important."

The broadcast of this video comes just days after a new poll of White Americans found that, in the US, church going Christians are more likely to support the use of torture than other segments of the population. The Pew Research Center poll found: "White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified - more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did."

This is certainly not the first scandal where US military forces or officials have been caught on tape promoting an evangelical Christian agenda. Perhaps the most high-profile case involved Lieut. Gen. William Boykin, who was a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence under Bush. Boykin was part of Donald Rumsfeld's inner circle at the Pentagon where he was placed in charge of hunting "high-value targets." Boykin was one of the key U.S. officials in establishing what critics alleged was death-squad-type activity in Iraq.
In October 2003, Boykin was revealed to have gone on several anti-Muslim rants, in public speeches, many of which he delivered in military uniform. Since January 2002, Boykin had spoken at twenty-three religious-oriented events, wearing his uniform at all but two.

Among Boykin's statements, he said he knew the U.S. would prevail over a Muslim adversary in Somalia because "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Boykin also charged that Islamic radicals want to destroy America "because we're a Christian nation" that "will never abandon Israel." Our "spiritual enemy," Boykin declared, "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus."

As for President Bush, Boykin said, "Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this." In another speech, Boykin said other countries "have lost their morals, lost their values. But America is still a Christian nation." He told a church group in Oregon that special operations forces were victorious in Iraq because of their faith in God. "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to impress upon you that the battle that we're in is a spiritual battle," he said. "Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army."
Watch Al Jazeera's report here

Sean

PROOF that republicans are idiots (posted 04/28/09)

Conservative Colbert viewers not in on the joke

According to an article published in The International Journal of Press/Politics, both liberals and conservatives find The Colbert Report (a comedy TV show on the Comedy Channel) funny, but the two groups differ in their perception of Stephen Colbert's actual ideological allegiances. The report states:
Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism.

HA, this is just too hilarious!

Sean

Republican Torture Killed more People than 9/11 Attacks; Torture Used to Try and Justify Republican War; more (posted 04/27/09)

CIA Official: No Proof Harsh Techniques Stopped Terror Attacks "The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to recently declassified Justice Department memos."

Torture Used to Try to Link Saddam with 9/11 "[The lying republicans are claiming that] "enhanced techniques" on Zubaydah yielded the identification of Mohammed and an alleged radioactive bomb plot by Jose Padilla. But FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, who interrogated Zubaydah from March to June 2002, wrote in the New York Times thatZubaydah produced that information under traditional interrogation methods, before the harsh techniques were ever used......Why, then, the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush's illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to a newly released report of the Senate Armed Services Committee. That link was never established."

Fatal New Flu Strain Threatens Mexico, US "Mexican and U.S. health officials searched on Saturday for signs an outbreak of a new flu strain is spreading further, after it killed up to 68 people in Mexico and infected eight in the United States."

Radiation From 1960s Nuclear Tests Is Still Hurting My Family "After decades of campaigning by veterans, and shameful prevarication on behalf of successive governments, the nuclear test guinea pigs have made significant progress in recent months towards receiving the compensation and war pensions many argue they deserve."

Water Controversies Boil Over "In coming years, 46 nations risk violent conflict over water and climate-related crises, and 56 other countries face political instability, according to a study by International Alert, a British advocacy group. The United Nations says water wars may be more likely in the future than wars over oil."

Activists Serve Blackwater With 'Statement of Foreclosure for Moral Bankruptcy' " We stand here today as citizens who live in solidarity with and in service to fellow citizens who struggle with joblessness, homelessness, and inadequate wages. We are here to stop the flow of billions of tax dollars to the privatization of our military and the miniaturization of our police by companies like Blackwater; a company that is responsible for: Killing innocent Iraqi civilians, Smuggling weapons illegally into Iraq, Tax evasion, Illegal possession of firearms ."

Money For Nothing "There's a palpable sense in the financial press that the storm has passed: stocks are up, the economy's nose-dive may be leveling off, and the Obama administration will probably let the bankers off with nothing more than a few stern speeches. Rightly or wrongly, the bankers seem to believe that a return to business as usual is just around the corner.We can only hope that our leaders prove them wrong, and carry through with real reform. In 2008, overpaid bankers taking big risks with other people's money brought the world economy to its knees. The last thing we need is to give them a chance to do it all over again."



Torture? It Probably Killed More Americans than 9/11
A US major reveals the inside story of military interrogation in Iraq

Published on Sunday, April 26, 2009 by the Independent/UK
by Patrick Coburn

The use of torture by the US has proved so counter-productive that it may have led to the death of as many US soldiers as civilians killed in 9/11, says the leader of a crack US interrogation team in Iraq.

"The reason why foreign fighters joined al-Qa'ida in Iraq was overwhelmingly because of abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and not Islamic ideology," says Major Matthew Alexander, who personally conducted 300 interrogations of prisoners in Iraq. It was the team led by Major Alexander [a named assumed for security reasons] that obtained the information that led to the US military being able to locate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa'ida in Iraq. Zarqawi was then killed by bombs dropped by two US aircraft on the farm where he was hiding outside Baghdad on 7 June 2006. Major Alexander said that he learnt where Zarqawi was during a six-hour interrogation of a prisoner with whom he established relations of trust.

Major Alexander's attitude to torture by the US is a combination of moral outrage and professional contempt. "It plays into the hands of al-Qa'ida in Iraq because it shows us up as hypocrites when we talk about human rights," he says. An eloquent and highly intelligent man with experience as a criminal investigator within the US military, he says that torture is ineffective, as well as counter-productive. "People will only tell you the minimum to make the pain stop," he says. "They might tell you the location of a house used by insurgents but not that it is booby-trapped."

In his compelling book How to Break a Terrorist, Major Alexander explains that prisoners subjected to abuse usually clam up, say nothing, or provide misleading information. In an interview he was particularly dismissive of the "ticking bomb" argument often used in the justification of torture. This supposes that there is a bomb timed to explode on a bus or in the street which will kill many civilians. The authorities hold a prisoner who knows where the bomb is. Should they not torture him to find out in time where the bomb is before it explodes?

Major Alexander says he faced the "ticking time bomb" every day in Iraq because "we held people who knew about future suicide bombings". Leaving aside the moral arguments, he says torture simply does not work. "It hardens their resolve. They shut up." He points out that the FBI uses normal methods of interrogation to build up trust even when they are investigating a kidnapping and time is of the essence. He would do the same, he says, "even if my mother was on a bus" with a hypothetical ticking bomb on board. It is quite untrue to imagine that torture is the fastest way of obtaining information, he says.

A career officer, Major Alexander spent 14 years in the US air force, beginning by flying helicopters for special operations. He saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, was an air force counter-intelligence agent and criminal interrogator, and was stationed in Saudi Arabia, with an anti-terrorist role, during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some years later, the US army was short of interrogators. He wanted to help shape developments in Iraq and volunteered.

Arriving in Iraq in early 2006 he found that the team he was working with were mostly dedicated, but young, men between 18 and 24. "Many of them had never been out of the States before," he recalls. "When they sat down to interrogate somebody it was often the first time they had met a Muslim." In addition to these inexperienced officers, Major Alexander says there was "an old guard" of interrogators using the methods employed at Guantanamo. He could not say exactly what they had been doing for legal reasons, though in the rest of the interview he left little doubt that prisoners were being tortured and abused. The "old guard's" methods, he says, were based on instilling "fear and control" in a prisoner.

He refused to take part in torture and abuse, and forbade the team he commanded to use such methods. Instead, he says, he used normal US police interrogation techniques which are "based on relationship building and a degree of deception". He adds that the deception was often of a simple kind such as saying untruthfully that another prisoner has already told all.

Before he started interrogating insurgent prisoners in Iraq, he had been told that they were highly ideological and committed to establishing an Islamic caliphate in Iraq, Major Alexander says. In the course of the hundreds of interrogations carried out by himself, as well as more than 1,000 that he supervised, he found that the motives of both foreign fighters joining al-Qa'ida in Iraq and Iraqi-born members were very different from the official stereotype.

In the case of foreign fighters - recruited mostly from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and North Africa - the reason cited by the great majority for coming to Iraq was what they had heard of the torture in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. These abuses, not fundamentalist Islam, had provoked so many of the foreign fighters volunteering to become suicide bombers.

For Iraqi Sunni Arabs joining al-Qa'ida, the abuses played a role, but more often the reason for their recruitment was political rather than religious. They had taken up arms because the Shia Arabs were taking power; de-Baathification marginalised the Sunni and took away their jobs; they feared an Iranian takeover. Above all, al-Qa'ida was able to provide money and arms to the insurgents. Once, Major Alexander recalls, the top US commander in Iraq, General George Casey, came to visit the prison where he was working. Asking about what motivated the suspected al-Qa'ida prisoners, he was at first given the official story that they were Islamic Jihadi full of religious zeal. Major Alexander intervened to say that this really was not true and there was a much more complicated series of motivations at work. General Casey did not respond.

The objective of Major Alexander's team was to find Zarqawi, the Jordanian born leader of al-Qa'ida who built it into a fearsome organisation. Attempts by US military intelligence to locate him had failed despite three years of trying. Major Alexander was finally able to persuade one of Zarqawi's associates to give away his location because the associate had come to reject his methods, such as the mass slaughter of civilians.

What the major discovered was that many of the Sunni fighters were members of, or allied to, al-Qa'ida through necessity. They did not share its extreme, puritanical Sunni beliefs or hatred of the Shia majority. He says that General Casey had ignored his findings but he was pleased when General David Petraeus became commander in Iraq and began to take account of the real motives of the Sunni fighters. "He peeled back those Sunnis from al-Qa'ida," he says.

In the aftermath of his experience in Iraq, which he left at the end of 2006, Major Alexander came to believe that the battle against the US using torture was more important than the war in Iraq. He sees President Obama's declaration against torture as "a historic victory", though he is concerned about loopholes remaining and the lack of accountability of senior officers. Reflecting on his own interrogations, he says he always monitored his actions by asking himself, "If the enemy was doing this to one of my troops, would I consider it torture?" His overall message is that the American people do not have to make a choice between torture and terror.

Sean

Right-leaning Media; Obama Ignores Law; Oil Industry ignores own scientist's findings and then lies about Climate Change (posted 04/24/09)

- Media Behavior and the Torture 'Debate' "Any policy that Beltway elites dislike is demonized as coming from "the Left" or -- in this case (following Karl Rove) -- the "hard Left." Media stars recite that claim regardless of how widely accepted the belief is in American public opinion and regardless of whether there is anything "leftist" about the view in question. For years, withdrawing from Iraq was demonized as the view of the "left" even though large majorities of Americans favored it. "
 
- Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate The New York Times is reporting an influential energy industry coalition went ahead with an aggressive lobbying campaign to refute the idea that greenhouse gas emissions cause global warming in direct contradiction to the conclusion of its own scientists. In an internal 1995 report, scientists at the so-called Global Climate Coalition write the link between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming is "well established and cannot be denied." Financed by large corporations and trade groups representing oil, coal and auto interests, the "coalition" spent millions of dollars trying to refute that very idea over the next several years.

- Wildfires Add to Speed of Global Warming "One of fire's most significant contributors to global warming are the thousands of acres deliberately torched each year - particularly in the tropics - to clear forested land for farms [to raise MEAT for food]"



Reclaiming America's Soul
by Paul Krugman


"Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past." So declared President Obama, after his commendable decision to release the legal memos that his predecessor used to justify torture. Some people in the political and media establishments have echoed his position. We need to look forward, not backward, they say.

No prosecutions, please; no investigations; we're just too busy.

And there are indeed immense challenges out there: an economic crisis, a health care crisis, an environmental crisis. Isn't revisiting the abuses of the last eight years, no matter how bad they were, a luxury we can't afford?

No, it isn't, because America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for. "This government does not torture people," declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it.

And the only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible.

What about the argument that investigating the Bush administration's abuses will impede efforts to deal with the crises of today? Even if that were true - even if truth and justice came at a high price - that would arguably be a price we must pay: laws aren't supposed to be enforced only when convenient. But is there any real reason to believe that the nation would pay a high price for accountability?

For example, would investigating the crimes of the Bush era really divert time and energy needed elsewhere? Let's be concrete: whose time and energy are we talking about?

Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, wouldn't be called away from his efforts to rescue the economy. Peter Orszag, the budget director, wouldn't be called away from his efforts to reform health care. Steven Chu, the energy secretary, wouldn't be called away from his efforts to limit climate change. Even the president needn't, and indeed shouldn't, be involved. All he would have to do is let the Justice Department do its job - which he's supposed to do in any case - and not get in the way of any Congressional investigations.

I don't know about you, but I think America is capable of uncovering the truth and enforcing the law even while it goes about its other business.

Still, you might argue - and many do - that revisiting the abuses of the Bush years would undermine the political consensus the president needs to pursue his agenda.

But the answer to that is, what political consensus? There are still, alas, a significant number of people in our political life who stand on the side of the torturers. But these are the same people who have been relentless in their efforts to block President Obama's attempt to deal with our economic crisis and will be equally relentless in their opposition when he endeavors to deal with health care and climate change. The president cannot lose their good will, because they never offered any.

That said, there are a lot of people in Washington who weren't allied with the torturers but would nonetheless rather not revisit what happened in the Bush years.

Some of them probably just don't want an ugly scene; my guess is that the president, who clearly prefers visions of uplift to confrontation, is in that group. But the ugliness is already there, and pretending it isn't won't make it go away.

Others, I suspect, would rather not revisit those years because they don't want to be reminded of their own sins of omission.

For the fact is that officials in the Bush administration instituted torture as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt to extract "confessions" that would justify that war. And during the march to war, most of the political and media establishment looked the other way.

It's hard, then, not to be cynical when some of the people who should have spoken out against what was happening, but didn't, now declare that we should forget the whole era - for the sake of the country, of course.

Sorry, but what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions - not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws.
We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn't about looking backward, it's about looking forward - because it's about reclaiming America's soul.

Sean

Bush/Cheney/all republicans sent US troops to Prison for Administration's Actions (posted 04/23/09)

There was a good segment on yesterday's "Countdown with Keith Olberman" on MSNBC. He has Former Brig. General Janis Karpinski on speaking about how 5 years ago Bush and Cheney (and ALL republicans) were denying torture, and allowed several US troops to be imprisoned for their treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. However, now, after the Bush Torture Memos have been released, Cheney (and all republicans) are admitting to torture and the very acts that these people were imprisoned for, that were denied 5 years earlier.




Why many members of the military vote republican is a mystery to me.

Sean

Obama's Torture Problem and Right Wing Pandering; Monty Python on Torture; more (posted 04/23/09)

- Obama Plays Hamlet; Shredders Hum "Retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, told Frontline on December 13, 2005 that "up to 100 detainees had died while in detention. Of that 100, some 27 have been declared officially homicides." Those running Bush administration interrogations are no doubt aware by now that the War Crimes Act (18 U.S. Code 2441) passed by a Republican-controlled Congress in 1996 provides that the death penalty can be given to those responsible for the deaths of detainees.... And yet, the President Obama struck not an angry, but rather a defensive tone on the recent release of the four torture documents issued by the Mafia-style lawyers of the Justice Department. " 


- Israeli Forces 'Can't Clear Themselves' "data collected by Israeli human rights organisations shows that many civilians were killed in Gaza not due to 'mishaps' but as a direct result of the military's chosen policy implemented throughout the fighting."
 
- Impeach Jay Bybee "Torture memo author Jay Bybee, who outlined procedures for inflicting cruel and unusual punishments on prisoners in U.S. custody, should of course be impeached and removed from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals bench."

- Dozens of Prisoners Held by CIA Still Missing, Fates Unknown "Last week, we pointed out that one of the newly released Bush-era memos inadvertently confirmed that the CIA held an al-Qaeda suspect [1] named Hassan Ghul in a secret prison and subjected him to what Bush administration lawyers called "enhanced interrogation techniques." The CIA has never acknowledged holding Ghul, and his whereabouts today are secret. But Ghul is not the only such prisoner who remains missing. At least three dozen others who were held in the CIA's secret prisons overseas appear to be missing as well. Efforts by human rights organizations to track their whereabouts have been unsuccessful, and no foreign governments have acknowledged holding them."

- Obama Caves to Right-wing in Boycotting UN Anti-Racism Conference "In boycotting the United Nations conference on racism, the Obama administration demonstrated that just because an African American can be elected president doesn't mean the United States will be any more committed than the Bush administration in fighting global racism. Rejecting calls by liberal Democratic members of Congress, leading human rights groups, Pope Benedict XVI, and most of the international community to participate, the Obama administration instead gave into pressure by Congressional hawks and other anti-UN forces by joining a handful of other nations refusing to participate in the historic gathering....By contrast, the right wing applauded Obama's decision."


Free the Torturers - and the Rapists Too!If Dick Cheney can trumpet the 'success' of his torture policies without fear of retribution, why can't us ordinary criminals?


I am over the moon about President Obama's recent publication of the Bush administration's torture memos. They come as a breath of fresh air for those of us banged up in Cook County Jail.

Obama's announcement that "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past" is the most reassuring news most of us here have heard in a long time.

Speaking as a multiple rapist and serial killer, I welcome the president's clear view that "this is a time for reflection, not retribution". Absolutely. We have indeed been "through a dark and painful chapter in our history" (in my case 17 years in the super-secure lockdown facility).

Now people may say that it is not safe to let me out, especially as I have never expressed any remorse for my actions and indeed have every intention of reoffending as soon as I possibly can.

But then has ex-vice president Dick Cheney ever expressed any remorse for killing a million or more Iraqis? Has he ever said that he wouldn't torture more people all over again if he had half the chance?

Quite the reverse. He has gone on record trumpeting how successful his torture policies have been. "I find it a little bit disturbing," Cheney said on Fox News, that "they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort ... There are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity."

Speaking for myself and my fellow sadists here in Cook County, I cannot tell you how cheered we all were by Cheney's defence of his torture techniques.

And hasn't the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, announced on no less a programme than ABC's This Week that "It's not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back" out of "any sense of anger and retribution"?

Bang on the money, Emanuel. How heartily we concur with your sentiments, and look forward to the day when you will unlock our cell doors and let the light of day shine on all us poor, unrepentant sinners.

And didn't the president himself tell employees at the CIA not to be discouraged by what's happened in the last few weeks? "Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes," he told them. "That's how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States and that's why you should be proud to be members of the CIA."

Yes! All of us here in Cook County Jail have made mistakes. That's why we're here. I made the mistake of brutally attacking somebody or other in broad daylight in a busy street. But I've learnt from that. That's what makes me proud to be American. Now I want to move forward - particularly forward out of Cook County Jail.

And I have every confidence that if Obama and Emanuel are prepared to let the likes of Cheney be free to wander the streets of our capital unmolested by petty laws and restrictions, they will apply the same standards to us rapists and killers.

For surely he intends to apply this spirit of forgiveness and non-retaliation to all criminals - not just those in politics.

Sean

War as Entertainment; US Air Strikes Kill Mostly Kids and Woman; Top 10 Enemies of Health Care (posted 04/16/09)

US Air Raids in Iraq Hit Mostly Women and Children "Air strikes and artillery barrages have taken a heavy toll among the most vulnerable of the Iraqi people, with children and women forming a disproportionate number of the dead....39 per cent of those killed in air raids by the US-led coalition were children and 46 per cent were women. Fatalities caused by mortars, used by American and Iraqi government forces as well as insurgents, were 42 per cent children and 44 per cent women." 


Top Ten Enemies of Single Payer "[Apart from the corporate sponsored politicians] the majority of doctors, nurses, small businesses, health economists, and the majority of the American people - according to recent polls - want a Canadian-style, single payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital, national health insurance system. Inside the [Washington DC] beltway cesspool/hot tub, the corrupt elite will have none of it..... The will of the American people is being held up by a handful of organizations and individuals who profit off the suffering of the masses.... Remember, virtually the entire industrialized world - save for us, the U.S. - makes it a crime to allow for-profit health insurance corporations to make money selling basic health insurance."
 
NSA's Intercepts Exceed Limits Set by Congress "The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews."

Across the United States, Waters in Crisis "Over the last years, up to 60 percent of lakes, rivers, streams, and drinking water sources across the United States have lost crucial environmental protections at the hands of polluters, developers, and the [conservative] U.S. Supreme Court."

War as Entertainment
by Robert C. Koehler
Published on Thursday, April 16, 2009 by CommonDreams.org

OMG, pirates! Headlines around the country squealed with glee as our Navy SEALS - the Easter SEALS - took out the Somalian baddies, freed the newest American hero and helped President Obama with the "dodging of a PR bullet," as USA Today put it.

Meanwhile, "Pirates around the Indian Ocean vowed revenge," the New York Daily News chimed in, letting us know that we could have an exciting new war on our hands, as speculation continues that at least one of the old ones will be cancelled (someday). And if you think this sounds kind of like reality TV, well, it is. E! Online reported that "Spike TV has closed a deal with the U.S. Navy to chronicle pirate-hunting special forces in a new reality show, 'Pirate Hunters: USN.'"

So fasten your seatbelts, America. This is why we maintain an annual defense budget of more than half a trillion dollars - to protect ourselves from "heavily armed but untrained and antsy youths," as Defense Secretary Robert Gates described them. The War on Pirates: an idea that's win-win-win. Military recruitment will soar; the dying media will rejuvenate (or at least go into remission) as it reports the play-by-play; and a depressed, fragmented nation will reunite around an enemy it can probably beat.

"It was," according to the Daily News, "something Hollywood could have scripted: three sharpshooters on the fantail of a destroyer, wearing night vision goggles as dusk settled over the sea, each drew a bead on one of the three teenage pirates standing 100 feet away in a pitching lifeboat aiming weapons at a bound (Capt. Richard) Phillips."

Excuse me, Hollywood?

The consensus reporting of this small but complicated crisis was transparent on this particular point. Hollywood not only could have but might as well have written this script. The plot is formulaic: a context (war) waiting for a pretext (outrage). The forces of inappropriate, mutually beneficial collusion are always churning, and the pirate story allowed them to consummate an unholy marriage in the nation's media outlets, which are ever prepared to pander for profit.

Here's my rule of thumb: Whenever the defense and entertainment industries seem to join hands - whenever the blood of dead Third Worlders is publicly cheered without restraint or the least compunction, and the activity is called patriotism - the only flag we ought to be waving is a red one.

One reason why war is a nonsensical "solution" to almost every problem the world is grappling with is that these problems tend to be interconnected and deeply tangled up at their roots. To bring serious firepower to bear on a random manifestation of this tangled mass of trouble does nothing but make matters worse.

A responsible media would have investigated and reported on some of the causes of Somalian piracy and given us a far more troubling story: the story of a country whose people became vulnerable to the world's worst predators - us, the civilized First World - after its last legitimate, or quasi-legitimate, government collapsed in 1991.

"Its 9 million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas," Johann Hari wrote recently on Huffington Post.

Consider that, shortly after the devastating tsunami of December 2004, a United Nations report noted that people along Somalia's northeastern coast had begun suffering from "far higher than normal cases of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding, abdominal hemorrhages and unusual skin infections," according to a story in the Times of London from March 2005. These were diseases "consistent with radiation sickness."

Two European companies, it turns out - one in Italy, one in Switzerland - had "contracted" with local Somalian warlords to dump the toxic waste of Europe into Somalia's waters. The industrial and hospital garbage included radioactive uranium, lead, cadmium and mercury, the Times reported. The companies paid the warlords $8 a ton for dumping privileges; in Europe, proper disposal and treatment of such waste would have cost as much as $1,000 a ton.

When the tsunami hit, the waves ripped open the leaky barrels of toxic waste and the Horn of Africa became an environmental disaster site. Starving, desperate Somalians - who had already seen fishing rights in their waters sold on the international market, depriving them of food and income - now inherited a toxic hell Europe would never have bequeathed on itself. And the world community didn't give a damn. Some Somalians, having run out of options, turned to piracy to survive, and perhaps extract a little revenge.

But none of this matters, right? The script is already written, the contract is signed and production is about to begin. Let's go to war, boys! Arrrrr . . .

Sean

Fake Tax outrage; US Creates Havoc in Latin America, and more! (posted 04/15/09)

Obama's South American Reality Check "Barack Obama needs to face up to the fact that existing US policies have caused havoc throughout South America" 


Fake Teabaggers Are Anti-Spend, Anti-Government: Real Populists Want to Stop Banks from Plundering America "And whatever the Tea Party organizers scream today while standing on tea boxes, their sponsors at FreedomWorks have no intention of ending the plunder. Instead, FreedomWorks and its clients want to ensure more of the national wealth is at their disposal -- which for them means more deregulation, lower taxes for the rich, fewer government programs for distressed homeowners and no pricey national health insurance.
The suckers in the Tea Party movement have no idea that while their anger is genuine, they're doing the king's bidding, not their own."

USA Drone Attacks Spur Militants in Pakistan "The U.S. program of drone aircraft strikes against higher-ranking officials of al Qaeda and allied militant organizations, which has been touted by proponents as having eliminated nine of the 20 top al Qaeda leaders, is actually weakening Pakistan's defence against the insurgency of the Islamic militants there by killing large numbers of civilians based on faulty intelligence and discrediting the Pakistani military, according to data from the Pakistani government and interviews with senior analysts."

Will Obama Block Release of Key Bush-Era Torture Memos? "As has been pointed out by several diligent journalists, human rights lawyers and critics, President Obama has continued-and continued defending-some of the Bush administration's most repressive "War on Terror" policies, although Obama prefers to not use that term anymore"

The Real Boston Tea Party was an Anti-Corporate Revolt "CNBC Correspondent Rick Santelli called for a "Chicago Tea Party" on Feb 19th in protesting President Obama's plan to help homeowners in trouble. Santelli's call was answered by the right-wing group FreedomWorks, which funds campaigns promoting big business interests, and is the opposite of what the real Boston Tea Party was. FreedomWorks was funded in 2004 by Dick Armey (former Republican House Majority leader & lobbyist); consolidated Citizens for a Sound Economy, funded by the Koch family; and Empower America, a lobbying firm, that had fought against healthcare and minimum-wage efforts while hailing deregulation."

Iraqi Refugees need U.S. help, advocates say "America must invest more time, money, and human resources to help those displaced by the ongoing Iraq War, according to human rights advocates from the Washington, D.C.-based Refugees International."

US funding for Iraq, Afghan wars exceeds Bush era "As Americans prepared to pay their taxes Wednesday, a new report shows that the Obama administration's request from congress for an increase in war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the spending of the previous administration."

The Ultimate Reaping of What One Sows: Right-Wing Edition


by Glenn Greenwald
Right-wing polemicists today are shrieking in self-pitying protest over a new report from the Department of Homeland Security sent to local police forces which warns of growing "right-wing extremist activity." The report (.pdf) identifies attributes of these right-wing extremists, warning that a growing domestic threat of violence and terrorism "may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration" and "groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority."

Conservatives have responded to this disclosure as though they're on the train to FEMA camps. The Right's leading political philosopher and intellectual historian, Jonah Goldberg, invokes fellow right-wing giant Ronald Reagan and says: "Here we go Again," protesting that "this seems so nakedly ideological." Michelle Malkin, who spent the last eight years cheering on every domestic surveillance and police state program she could find, announces that it's "Confirmed: The Obama DHS hit job on conservatives is real!" Lead-War-on-Terror-cheerleader Glenn Reynolds warns that DHS -- as a result of this report (but not, apparently, anything that happened over the last eight years) -- now considers the Constitution to be a "subversive manifesto." Super Tough Guy Civilization-Warrior Mark Steyn has already concocted an elaborate, detailed martyr fantasy in which his house is surrounded by Obama-dispatched, bomb-wielding federal agents. Malkin's Hot Air stomps its feet about all "the smears listed in the new DHS warning about 'right-wing extremism.'"

It's certainly true that federal police efforts directed at domestic political movements -- even ones with a history of inspiring violence in both the distant and recent past -- require real vigilance and oversight, and it's also true that the DHS description of these groups seems excessively broad with the potential for mischief. But the political faction screeching about the dangers of the DHS is the same one that spent the last eight years vastly expanding the domestic Surveillance State and federal police powers in every area. DHS -- and the still-creepy phrase "homeland security" -- became George Bush's calling card. The Republicans won the 2002 election by demonizing those who opposed its creation. All of the enabling legislation underlying this Surveillance State -- from the Patriot Act to the Military Commissions Act, from the various FISA "reforms" to massive increases in domestic "counter-Terrorism" programs -- are the spawns of the very right-wing movement that today is petrified that this is all being directed at them.

When you cheer on a Surveillance State, you have no grounds to complain when it turns its eyes on you. If you create a massive and wildly empowered domestic surveillance apparatus, it's going to monitor and investigate domestic political activity. That's its nature. I'd love to know how many of the participants in today's right-wing self-victim orgy uttered a peep of protest about any of this, from 2005:
F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 - Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.'s investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities.
But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.
One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The documents, provided to The New York Times over the past week, came as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. For more than a year, the A.C.L.U. has been seeking access to information in F.B.I. files on about 150 protest and social groups that it says may have been improperly monitored.
The F.B.I. had previously turned over a small number of documents on antiwar groups, showing the agency's interest in investigating possible anarchist or violent links in connection with antiwar protests and demonstrations in advance of the 2004 political conventions. And earlier this month, the A.C.L.U.'s Colorado chapter released similar documents involving, among other things, people protesting logging practices at a lumber industry gathering in 2002.
The latest batch of documents, parts of which the A.C.L.U. plans to release publicly on Tuesday, totals more than 2,300 pages and centers on references in internal files to a handful of groups, including PETA, the environmental group Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers group, which promotes antipoverty efforts and social causes.
"It's clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency, from the Pentagon to N.S.A. to the F.B.I., to engage in spying on Americans," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director for the A.C.L.U.
"You look at these documents," Ms. Beeson said, "and you think, wow, we have really returned to the days of J. Edgar Hoover, when you see in F.B.I. files that they're talking about a group like the Catholic Workers league as having a communist ideology."
I was in Minneapolis and St. Paul during the 2008 GOP Convention and witnessed first-hand massive federal police raids and "preventive" arrests of peaceful, law-abiding protesters and even the violent arrests of journalists, and I don't recall any complaints from Jonah Goldberg or Michelle Malkin. I don't recall Glenn Reynolds or Mark Steyn complaining that the FBI, for virtually the entire Bush administration, was systematically abusing its new National Security Letters authorities under the Patriot Act to collect extremely invasive information, in secret, about Americans who had done nothing wrong.

Russ Feingold's efforts to place limits and abuse-preventing safeguards on these Patriot Act powers in 2006 attracted a grand total of 10 votes in the Senate -- none Republican.

Indeed, thanks to the very people who are today petulantly complaining about politically-motivated federal police actions (now that they imagine it's directed at them rather than at people they dislike), the Federal Government today has the power to eavesdrop on telephone calls and read the emails of American citizens without warrants; monitor bank records without court approval; obtain all sorts of invasive personal records, medical and financial, without Subpoenas; and obtain and store a whole host of other personal information about American citizens who have not been accused, let alone convicted, of having done anything wrong. Also thanks to them (and things like the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, the Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments Act, etc. etc), most of this is carried out without any real oversight or safeguards, left entirely to the judgment and good faith of federal officials to wield these powers carefully and for proper ends. And, better still, federal officials can hide behind sweeping claims of secrecy and National Security to prevent courts from scrutinizing what they did and determine if it was illegal (we call that "the state secrets privilege").

So what's the problem? As the National Review/Bush-following-Right has been telling us for years now, there's nothing to worry about if you've done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide. The first duty of the Government is to protect us all -- keep us safe and warm from all the scary things out there, like a Good Daddy does -- and if they need to trample on some lofty privacy ideals and so-called civil liberties concerns and supposed Constitutional safeguards, well: that's just how it is. It takes a real paranoid hysteric to think that federal government officials have nothing better to do than target domestic political opponents. And besides, what good is the Constitution if we're all dead at the hands of domestic McVeigh-like Terrorists? After all, the Constitution isn't a suicide pact.

Remember all of that? I certainly do.

This is all as laughable as it is predictable. Just a couple months out of power and they have suddenly re-discovered their fear of the Federal Government and their belief in the need to limit its powers. As I wrote in February about the Glenn Beck Movement that is taking over the Limbaugh/National Review Right:
What was most remarkable about this allegedly "anti-government" movement was that -- with some isolated and principled exceptions -- it completely vanished upon the election of Republican George Bush, and it stayed invisible even as Bush presided over the most extreme and invasive expansion of federal government power in memory. Even as Bush seized and used all of the powers which that movement claimed in the 1990s to find so tyrannical and unconstitutional -- limitless, unchecked surveillance activities, detention powers with no oversight, expanding federal police powers, secret prison camps, even massively exploding and debt-financed domestic spending -- they meekly submitted to all of it, even enthusiastically cheered it all on. . . .
But now, only four weeks into the presidency of Barack Obama, they are back -- angrier and more chest-beating than ever. Actually, the mere threat of an Obama presidency was enough to revitalize them from their eight-year slumber, awaken them from their camouflaged, well-armed suburban caves.
I can't wait until these limited-government, super-principled "conservatives" start putting these bumper stickers back on their cars:


image

For now, though, one can't help but note that these "conservatives" seem so very angry about a federal government program designed to do nothing other than protect the glorious Homeland from Terrorists. And we know that this is the purpose of the DHS program because that's what the Government said its purpose is. So what else is there to know? That's the lesson we all learned over the last eight years: Bush said that all of his secret surveillance programs were only directed at Al Qaeda, so how can anyone say otherwise?

Apparently, though, the Right has forgotten these important lessons about Trusting Our Political Leaders and instead is now embracing a newfound and quite disturbing devotion to Terrorist Rights. To borrow from Sarah Palin, they are apparently more worried about whether the Timothy McVeighs and Eric Rudolphs of the world can plan their next violent attack without interference from the DHS than they are in having the Government keep us all Safe. What kind of twisted, warped, subversive political movement prioritizes Terrorist Rights over the Safety of Americans like this?

UPDATE: In comments, e_five perfectly summarizes the Bush-following Right (as distinct from the small faction of Ron-Paul/Bruce-Fein/Bob-Barr conservatives who stayed true to their limited-government principles during the Bush era): "When they have a club in their hands, no one is more sadistic. When the club is removed, no one is more whiney." Precisely.

And Brendan Calling has some very related thoughts on this right-wing scandal du jour that are worth reading.

UPDATE II: The Right's self-victimizing outbursts are always as fact-free as they are self-pitying. Just marvel at this (h/t sysprog):

Jonah Goldberg, today:
Yes, DHS has done reports on anti-war, environmental, and other groups. But my understanding is that they didn't - and wouldn't - use the all-purpose term "left-wing" to describe those threats. . . . If the Bush administration had issued a sweeping indictment of "left-wing" groups in America, arguing that they needed to be monitored, something tells me we'd be hearing a lot about it.
From the very same Washington Times article he linked to that started the whole scandal:
In January, the same DHS office released a report titled "Leftwing extremists likely to increase use of cyber attacks over the coming decade."
That was in the precise article that he linked to. Also, the Bush Department of Energy published an April, 2001 document entitled "Left-Wing Extremism: The Current Threat."
The woe-is-us whining (this would never happen to the Left -- only us!) is just revolting.

Meanwhile, Drudge -- who never bothered objecting in the slightest to the extreme surveillance abuses under Bush -- adds fuel to the fire with big screaming headlines featuring scary pictures of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, playing the role of Janet Reno, with this warning: "She is watching you." But Drudge doesn't mention that preparation of the report began more than a year ago -- when Bush was still in office -- and that similar reports have been issued about, and actual surveillance programs directed to, so-called "Leftwing extremists." As I said, they're as fact-free as they are unprincipled, hypocritical and self-pitying.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.
Sean

The Myth of Cruelty Free animal products; Obama hides bush crimes, increases military, more (posted 04/07/09)


- Obama, the ICRC Report and Ongoing Suppression "So candidate Obama unambiguously vowed to his supporters that he would work to ensure "full accountability" for "past offenses" in surveillance lawbreaking. President Obama, however, has now become the prime impediment to precisely that accountability..." 

- Ranks of Homeless Swell as Middle Class Teeters
 

- New Budget, Not Quite a Fundamental Shift "It's false, though, because this budget perpetuates the upward trajectory of defense spending, it's higher than any of the Bush budgets that preceded it, and it increases funding for some programs that I think are a mistake," Pemberton continued.


Behind the "Cage-Free" Label

published 4/7/09 at care2.com

It's no secret that the lives of battery hens are nothing short of miserable. Multiple hens are forced to live in cramped wire cages together, like the one in the photo, with no room to move or stretch for a year or two, or until their egg laying productivity declines, at which point they're discarded as "spent" hens.

Now, so called "Cage-Free" labels for eggs are fairly common in most grocery stores, but what does that really even mean?

It's certainly nice to be provided with the alternative visual of happy hens being allowed to roam free in the sun, building nests and taking dust baths, but the truth about cage-free can make that vision seem hopelessly optimistic, if not downright delusional.

Organizations like Humane Myth and the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, want consumers to know that the lives of many cage-free hens are not really any better than those of battery hens.

Both battery and free-range hens come from hatcheries, where after chicks are sexed in both industries all the males are destroyed. Additionally they all undergo debeaking and force molting, where they're starved for about two weeks to trick their bodies into starting another egg laying cycle.

One investigation by Jewel Johnson of a cage-free farm resulted in her discovery of what the lives of 10,000 cage free hens were really like.

"The floor under my feet was cement, and the building was freezing cold with no heat in early April. I couldn't see much for hens at all down the shed…it was just too dark. All I could see was black, all I could hear was crying of hens, all I could smell was ammonia - it was a cold, black cement hell," she said.

No. The cold, black cement hell description definitely doesn't equate to the vision of happy hens in the sun. A second investigation of a Free Range Organic Egg farm wasn't any better.

You can also check out "The Faces of Free-Range Farming" video from the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary.

Of course, the ultimate solution would be for consumers to give up eggs completely, which is why it's especially great to see companies like Boca go egg-free, instead of cage-free, but will it ever work?

Or will the cage-free industry continue to profit from people who think they're making a compassionate choice?
Sean

Right Wing Media Dominates; Climate Scientists Say it's Critical to act, and more (03/19/09)

Ex-Bush Admin Official: Many at Gitmo Are Innocent Many detainees locked up at Guantanamo were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants, a former Bush administration official said Thursday. "There are still innocent people there," Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a Republican who was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, told The Associated Press. "Some have been there six or seven years." 


Leading Climate Scientist: 'Democratic Process Isn't Working' Protest and direct action could be the only way to tackle soaring carbon emissions, a leading climate scientist has said. James Hansen, a climate modeller with Nasa, told the Guardian today that corporate lobbying has undermined democratic attempts to curb carbon pollution. "The democratic process doesn't quite seem to be working," he said.

Shell Dumps Wind, Solar and Hydro Power in Favor of Biofuels Shell will no longer invest in renewable technologies such as wind, solar and hydro power because they are not economic (um, you mean they don't rake in billions in profits and allow you to control price and availability), the Anglo-Dutch oil company said today. It plans to invest more in biofuels which environmental groups blame for driving up food prices and deforestation.

Fairbanks Protesters Call for Peace on Anniversary of Iraq Invasion Today marks the sixth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Another Right-Wing Conspiracy in Washington

By Bill Press, published February 8, 2009 at http://www.washingtonpost.com

If you're looking for a break from those conservative voices that dominate talk radio, take time out today to listen to local station OBAMA 1260 AM. You'll hear the progressive voices of Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Lionel -- or, during morning drive, my own "Bill Press Show" -- providing welcome relief from the constant Obama-bashing by Rush Limbaugh and others. Unfortunately, today's the last day you'll be able to do so.

As reported by The Post [Style, Feb. 2], Dan Snyder's Red Zebra Broadcasting Co., owner of OBAMA 1260, has announced plans to jettison all progressive talk and replace it with pre-recorded financial advice programming.

The commercial use of public airwaves is supposed to reflect the diversity of the local community, but that's not how it works in Washington. On the AM dial, WMAL (630) features wall-to-wall conservative talk. So do stations WTNT (570) and WHFS (1580). For the past two years, OBAMA 1260 -- even with a weak signal that cannot be heard in downtown Washington -- was the exception. No longer. Starting tomorrow, our nation's capital, where Democrats control the House, the Senate and the White House, and where Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to one, will have no progressive voices on the air.

Or maybe one.

To mollify critics, Red Zebra has said it will add Ed Schultz to its conservative lineup on 570 AM. This means Shultz will be outgunned in this market by at least 15 conservative talkers: Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Chris Plante, Michael Smerconish, Michael Savage, Andy Parks, Fred Grandy, Bill Bennett, Monica Crowley, Bill O'Reilly, Dennis Miller and Lars Larsen. No matter how good Schultz is, that's not a fair contest -- nor a fair use of the public airwaves.

Unfortunately, what's happening in Washington reflects what has happened in one city after another across the country. In Miami, Clear Channel recently dumped progressive talk for sports: Clear Channel stations made the same move in San Diego and Cincinnati. Sacramento abandoned progressive talk for gospel music. In fact, according to a study released by the Center for American Progress and Free Press, there are nine hours of conservative talk for every one hour of progressive talk.

Why? Station owners complain they can't get good ratings or make any money with progressive talk, but that's nonsense. In Minnesota, independent owner Janet Robert has operated KTNF (950 AM) profitably for five years. In Madison, Wis., WXXM, 92.1 FM, just scored its highest ratings ever. And KPOJ in Portland, Ore., soared with progressive talk from No. 23 in market ratings to No. 1. Nationwide, progressive talkers Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller have proven that, given a level playing field, they can more than hold their own in ratings -- and make money for their stations.

In fact, the only reason there's not more competition on American airwaves is that the handful of companies that own most radio stations do everything they can to block it. In many markets -- witness Philadelphia, Boston, Providence and Houston -- they join in providing no outlet for progressive talk. In others, as in Washington, they limit it to a weak signal, spend zero dollars on promotion and soon pull the plug.

Companies are given a license to operate public airwaves -- free! -- in order to make a profit, yes, but also, according to the terms of their FCC license, "to operate in the public interest and to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of issues of public importance." Stations are not operating in the public interest when they offer only conservative talk.

For years, the Fairness Doctrine prevented such abuse by requiring licensed stations to carry a mix of opinion. However, under pressure from conservatives, President Ronald Reagan's Federal Communications Commission canceled the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, insisting that in a free market, stations would automatically offer a balance in programming.

That experiment has failed. There is no free market in talk radio today, only an exclusive, tightly held, conservative media conspiracy. The few holders of broadcast licenses have made it clear they will not, on their own, serve the general public. Maybe it's time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine -- and bring competition back to talk radio in Washington and elsewhere.

Sean