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I've gotten so sickened about this that I have been actively avoiding news on torture because Obama becomes so freaking disgusting as the days pass. But I thought you might wanna know...

On eve of receiving Nobel, Obama's DOJ files amicus brief upending Nuremberg Protocols.

"John Yoo is being defended in court this month by the Administration. Not the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration. As with the lawsuits over electronic surveillance and torture, the Obama administration wants the lawsuit against Yoo dismissed and is defending the right of Justice Department officials to help establish a torture program — an established war crime. I will be discussing this issue tonight on MSNBC Countdown.

The Obama Administration has filed a brief that brushes over the war crimes aspects of Yoo’s work at the Justice Department. Instead, it insists that attorneys must be free to give advice — even if it is to establish a torture program.
In its filing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Justice Department insists that there is "the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding the military’s detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict." Instead it argues that the Justice Department has other means to punish lawyers like the Office of Professional Responsibility. Of course, the Bush Administration effectively blocked such investigations and Yoo is no longer with the Justice Department. The OPR has been dismissed as ineffectual, including in an ABA Journal, as the Justice Department’s "roach motel"—"the cases go in, but nothing ever comes out."

The Justice Department first defended Yoo as counsel and then paid for private counsel to represent him (here). His public-funded private counsel is Miguel Estrada, who was forced to withdraw his nomination by George Bush for the Court of Appeals after strong opposition from the Democrats.

Yoo is being sued by Jose Padilla, who was effectively blocked in contesting his abusive confinement and mistreatment as part of this criminal case and in a habeas action. The Bush Administration brought new charges to moot a case before the Supreme Court could rule. The Court previously sent his case back on a technicality.
It is important to note that the Administration did not have to file this brief since it had withdrawn as counsel and paid for Yoo’s private counsel. It has decided that it wants to establish the law claimed by the Bush Administration protecting Justice officials who support alleged war crimes. They are effectively doubling down by withdrawing as counsel and then reappearing as a non-party amicus.

The Obama Administration has gutted the hard-fought victories in Nuremberg where lawyers and judges were often guilty of war crimes in their legal advice and opinions. The third of the twelve trials for war crimes involved 16 German jurists and lawyers. Nine had been officials of the Reich Ministry of Justice, the others were prosecutors and judges of the Special Courts and People’s Courts of Nazi Germany. It would have been a larger group but two lawyers committed suicide before trial: Adolf Georg Thierack, former minister of justice, and Carl Westphal, a ministerial counsellor.

Now. Where is our media? Still chasing Tiger's girlfriends? What the fuck is the point of a free press if it muzzles itself and effectively colludes with a corrupt administration? What check are they serving as?
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/UPDATE*/U.S. State Department Backpedals on Landmine Treaty

WASHINGTON, Nov 26 (IPS) - One day after the State Department announced that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama will not sign the 10-year-old treaty banning anti- personnel landmines, it insisted that Washington's policy on the issue was still being reviewed.

Human rights and disarmament activists had reacted with outrage Wednesday to Tuesday's announcement by State Department spokesman Ian Kelly that the review had concluded and that Washington "would not be able to meet our national defence needs, nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we sign the [landmine] convention".

"The administration is committed to a comprehensive review of its landmine policy," Kelly said in a written statement issued by the State Department press office Wednesday afternoon. "That review is still ongoing."

The statement did not make clear whether Tuesday's announcement had been made in error or whether the anger provoked by it had persuaded the administration to reconsider. The fact that Kelly was reading from guidance prepared in advance and presumably cleared at higher levels, however, suggested that the latter explanation was more likely.

The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL), a coalition of scores of activist groups, had called the Tuesday's announcement "shocking", while Human Rights Watch (HRW) described it as "reprehensible".

"President Obama's decision to cling to anti-personnel mines keeps the U.S. on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of humanity," said Steve Goose, the director of HRW's Arms Division, who also noted that Washington stood alone among its NATO allies in refusing to sign the treaty. MORE

Seriously US? Seriously? You are that in hock to the military industrial complex that you alone of the NATO countries refuses to ban landmines? Assholes.
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Is there anything or anyone that Obama will stand up for? I mean, if I had wanted a corperatized Republican, I'd have fucking VOTED FOR ONE. Silly me sacrificing my work study cash while at uni to help get him elected cause I believed me when he said it was about the people. I mean, Van Jones? he let go VAN JONES?????? Based on corporate astroturf group Americans for Prosperity and fucking Glenn Beck!?!?!?!This is the last fucking straw.
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Obama’s “Civil Detention System”

The Obama administration has said that it wants to create a “truly civil detention system.” Orwellian or earnest? Aarti Shahani founder of Families for Freedom and lead author of the Justice Strategies report, “Local Democracy on ICE” discusses the Obama administration’s plan and the closure of the T. Don Hutto detention center in Texas.

Will Holder Prosecute Architects of Torture Policy?

Is it possible that the Obama administration’s attempt to prosecute the crimes of the Bush administration could actually be worse than doing nothing? That’s what Andrew Sullivan concluded in response to an LA Times article suggesting that Holder will prosecute only those who went beyond the parameters outlined by the Bush administration torture memos. “This strikes me as the very very worst of all possible worlds,” writes Sullivan, “- the kind of split-the-difference pragmatism that will end up alienating everyone.”
Scott Horton, Contributing Editor at Harper’s Magazine, Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Vijay Padmanabhan, former US State Department Lawyer and a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on the Justice Department decision.
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Are you listening Americans? The press? The President? WHAT THE FUCK?????

Fer instance:
No criminal charges have ever been brought against any C.I.A. officer involved in the torture program, despite the fact that at least three prisoners interrogated by agency personnel died as the result of mistreatment. In the first case, an unnamed detainee under C.I.A. supervision in Afghanistan froze to death after having been chained, naked, to a concrete floor overnight. The body was buried in an unmarked grave. In the second case, an Iraqi prisoner named Manadel al-Jamadi died on November 4, 2003, while being interrogated by the C.I.A. at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad. A forensic examiner found that he had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs. Military pathologists classified the case a homicide. A third prisoner died after an interrogation in which a C.I.A. officer participated, though the officer evidently did not cause the death. (Several other detainees have disappeared and remain unaccounted for, according to Human Rights Watch.)
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Hullabaloo points out:

Following up on my post last week about the shall we say, friendliness between the business and national security elites, here's a story from 2006 for the wtf files:

President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations. Notice of the development came in a brief entry in the Federal Register, dated May 5, 2006, that was opaque to the untrained eye.

Unbeknownst to almost all of Washington and the financial world, Bush and every other President since Jimmy Carter have had the authority to exempt companies working on certain top-secret defense projects from portions of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act. Administration officials told BusinessWeek that they believe this is the first time a President has ever delegated the authority to someone outside the Oval Office. It couldn't be immediately determined whether any company has received a waiver under this provision.


A trip to the statute books showed that the amended version of the 1934 act states that "with respect to matters concerning the national security of the United States," the President or the head of an Executive Branch agency may exempt companies from certain critical legal obligations. These obligations include keeping accurate "books, records, and accounts" and maintaining "a system of internal accounting controls sufficient" to ensure the propriety of financial transactions and the preparation of financial statements in compliance with "generally accepted accounting principles."MORE

Think of the possibilities...

Pam'ss House Blend:

Meantime, our Obama's response to 77 members of Congress sending him a letter to ask him to help repeal DADT?Pass the hot potato

ENDA has been been introduced into the house and it includes the transgender population this time

Our heterosexual privilege knapsack

NC:Anti-bullying bill passes -- awaits Gov. Perdue's signature

In the meantime:

Obama: No apology for CIA fucking up Chile Let us look forward! Ignore history!

Q The point being that almost no Latin American nation has been free from CIA -- bloody CIA intervention, Chile being a prime example, President Bachelet being one of its victims. Is it time for a historical apology?

Well, look, I think you answered your own question right at the beginning, which is I’m interested in going forward, not looking backward. I think that the United States has been an enormous force for good in the world. I think there have been times where we’ve made mistakes. But I think that what is important is looking at what our policies are today, and what my administration intends to do in cooperating with the region.MORE

It's a good thing we don't have rationing like all those horrible European countries or people wouldn't be able to get health care when they need it...

Glenn Greenwald:

The "Neda video," torture, and the truth-revealing power of images

Obama, the Right, an defendants Rights Remember that Supreme Court ruling that defendants have no constutional right to access states evidence and request a DNA to prove their innocence? Guess who supported this? Obama's DOJ.
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breaking his promises

MSNBC: The Rachel Maddow Show - Fierce Advocate?

The Dept. Of Justice's defense?

As it generally does with existing statutes, the Justice Department is defending the law on the books in court. The president has said he wants to see a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act because it prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. However, until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.


"Note that the standard for defending a statute, once enacted, is lower than whether, in our judgment, it is constitutional," a senior administration official said. "It is whether there are arguments that can be made. The DOMA statute has been found constitutional by at least 6 courts and has never been struck down. Whatever we think, it would be pretty hard to say that there are not 'reasonable arguments' with that context."

Their idea of "reasonable arguments" and mine differ, somewhat.
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Case of Tortured U.S. Citizen Tests Obama Administration on Human Rights.

In 2 weeks, US citizen Naji Hamdan will be tried in the United Arab Emirates for "nonspecific charges of ‘promoting terrorism.’"
Last July, Hamdan was "summoned" to the US Embassy in UAE:
He drove two hours through the desert heat from Dubai to answer questions from FBI agents who had arrived from Los Angeles, where Hamdan had gone to school, started a family, built a successful auto-parts business and become a U.S. citizen.
Six weeks later, men kidnapped and rendered him from his apartment for his imprisonment in UAE, where he was tortured in a case his lawyer claims was torture by proxy, or "at the behest" of his own government:
Hamdan was told he was a prisoner of the UAE and was held in a cell painted glossy white to reflect the lights that burned round the clock, according to a note he wrote from prison. Between interrogations, he wrote, he was confined in a frigid room overnight, strapped into "an electric chair" and punched in the head until he lost consciousness.
In one session, the blindfolded prisoner recalled hearing a voice that sounded American. The voice said, "Do what they want or these people will [expletive] you up," Hamdan wrote.
The prisoner obliged, signing a confession that he later said meant only that he would do anything to make the pain stop. The case might have ended there but for Hamdan's U.S. citizenship and his American attorney's assertion that he was tortured "at the behest" of his own government.
The way he was tortured is similar to Bush’s torture program:
In criminal custody, Mr. Hamdan told both his family and the U.S. consular officer who visited him that he had been severely tortured: repeatedly beaten on his head, kicked on his sides, stripped and held in a freezing cold room, placed in an electric chair and made to believe that he would be electrocuted, and held down in a stress position while his captors beat the bottoms of his feet with a large stick. During this horrific process, he said whatever the agents wanted him to say, and those statements may now be used against him in a criminal trial in the U.A.E.
This is not be the first time that Americans asked foreign governments to render, arrest or imprison US citizens under a practice known as "proxy detention."MORE Torture roundup here

Asshole POS Democrat Joe Lieberman teamed up with Republican Graham to insert an amendment in a supplemental bill that would suppress the detainee torture pics in the name of national security Progressive Dems and pissed off progressive bloggers unite to defeat the bill.

The response? Lieberman-Graham Threaten to Shut Down Senate, Add Detainee Photo Suppresion Amendment to FDA Tobacco Regulation Bill


There are torture documents that describe in detail how the US tortured Abu Zubaydah (same guy whose torture was videotaped, and said videotapes destroyed by the CIA.) The ACLU is fighting a court case to get those things introduced into evidence. Mr Panetta is refusing. Because:
Leon Panetta: I’ve Got to Protect the Contractors from Unwarranted Invasion of Privacy


Glenn Greenwald weighs in with Defeat of Graham-Lieberman and the ongoing war on transparency

(I will point out that there are very good arguments to be made about the release of pics not being best for the detainees see here and here that are giving me a lot to think about. This, obvs., is NOT what teh adminstration is up to. They are specifically trying to avoid being brought to justice for war crimes. There can be ways to deal with the pics, like releasing them to the judges and juries for instance, blocking faces etc.)

and ABC News' interview with Lakhdar Boumedienean and our current policies

(Algerian (and Bosnian citizen) who, while living in Bosnia and working for the International Red Crescent, was arrested by the Bosnian government (at the behest of the Bush administration) shortly after 9/11 on charges of plotting to blow up a U.S. and British embassy, but was then quickly cleared by Bosnian courts of any wrongdoing and ordered released. But as he was about to be released -- in January, 2002 -- he was abducted by the U.S. military inside Bosnia and shipped to Guantanamo, where he remained without charges for the next almost 8 years, and was clearly tortured.) MORE

What the new Jim Comey torture emails actually reveal

Also: Did Obama’s New GM Chairman Spy on Americans?

WTF Monday.

Jun. 9th, 2009 12:01 am
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Massacre in Peru in the name of Free Trade

Today brings news from Peru of a massacre of indigenous people who were protesting policies set in place based on the Peru Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Remember, Obama was actually FOR the Peru FTA.

What were the protesters opposing?
People have been protesting against a government - a government policy that ignores indigenous peoples, that sees the Amazon as being unproductive and sees indigenous people as, essentially, a waste of space. What the government wants to do is open up the Amazon to private investment - they see the future of development there to be biofuel plantations, oil drilling, mining, forestry, and large corporate investments and indigenous people are just getting in the way. So what the government did when it was given powers in the context of the free trade agreement was issue a series of laws that never went through Congress, that were never consulted with indigenous people, that basically restructure land rights, taking away land from indigenous people and allow rainforest to be reclassified as agricultural land - opening a legal loophole for biofuel companies to move in with plantations, for oil companies and mining companies to be able to work in the area without the troublesome part of having to negotiate or speak to the local communities for using their lands.
About how the Peru Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. fit into this..
Unfortunately, the process of the implementation of this free trade agreement - the president was given executive powers to pass laws to implement the free trade agreement. Using that excuse, the government passed these laws that take away indigenous rights and [present] a threat to the Amazon rainforest. The government here has been standing up and saying it can't repeal the laws because they are necessary for the free trade agreement and the development of Peru, and they are positioning the indigenous people as being against Free Trade and development and using the Free Trade Agreement as an excuse for passing these laws that undermine the indigenous rights.

Result? Around 2500 protestors attacked by 500 police {warning:graphic photos] with tear gas and live bullets. Some police killed in self-defense.

Eyes on Trade has got some good stuff on the perniciousness of those blasted Free Trade Agreements.


President Obama has appointed Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG), to head the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services. Kelley is a leading proponent of "common ground" abortion reduction -- only CACG's common ground is at odds with that of Obama. While the administration favors reducing the need for abortion by reducing unintended pregnancies, Kelley has made clear that she seeks instead to reduce access to abortion. That is an extremely disturbing development, especially coming this week in the wake of George Tiller's assassination.

Under George W. Bush, the faith-based centers didn't play a policy role. But Obama has expanded the faith-based project to include a policy side, and one of its chief goals is to reduce the need for abortion. I have opposed this, because reproductive health is a public health, not a religious issue. Also problematic: It is counterproductive for Obama to appoint someone who disagrees with the administration's stance. Obama finds himself now in the difficult position of having elevated the importance of religion to making policy, and having appointed a religious figure whose opinions on policy conflict with his.

Kelley and CACG have made clear they are committed to Catholic doctrine on abortion and birth control. CACG has supported the Pregnant Women's Support Act, aimed at stigmatizing abortion and making it less accessible. In discussing legislation on reducing the need for abortion, Kelley has written that various pieces of legislation concerned with women's health "are not all perfect; some include contraception -- which the Church opposes." Never mind that more than 90 percent of American Catholics use it anyway.

As Catholics for Choice points out in its press release criticizing the pick, "the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for providing and expanding access to key sexual and reproductive health services. As such, we need those working in HHS to rely on evidence-based methods to reduce the need for abortion. We need them to believe in men's and women's capacity to make moral decisions about their own lives. Unfortunately, as seen from her work at CACG, Ms. Kelley does not fit the bill." MORE

see alsoTrojans and Horses

Re: a good health care bill?

Read this: Musing over Morning Coffee: the Public Option, this: Your (Very Special Edition) Health reform Roundup, this: How Canada got Universal Health Care AKA the story of the man voted the Greatest Canadian, Going Dutch: How I learned to love the European Welfare State, Health Care Reform: The Cost of Failure, FAIR Reports: Media quarantine on discussion of single payer health care. ANd just read this for good measure:Child Well-Being Index Foretells Hard Time For Kids

And fervently hope that this is a lie
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, recalled how Mr. Obama made a personal pledge of bipartisanship when he and Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the committee’s Democratic chairman, joined the president for a private lunch at the White House last month.
“I said, ‘Yeah, it’s a problem,’ ” Mr. Grassley said of the public plan, “and he said something along the lines of, ‘If I get 85 percent of what I want with a bipartisan vote, or 100 percent with 51 votes, all Democrat, I’d rather have it be bipartisan.’ ”

Also: WTF???? Just. What. the. FUCK???? Obama’s Pick to Lead Afghan War Linked to Abuse of Prisoners & Secret Assassination Unit Headdesk. Headdesk. HEADDESK!!!! Whatever happened to the Office of Urban Policy?
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Glenn Greenwald and Rachel Maddow step forward:

Rachel Maddow: Indefinite detention? Shame on you... President Obama

(1) What does "preventive detention" allow?
It's important to be clear about what "preventive detention" authorizes. It does not merely allow the U.S. Government to imprison people alleged to have committed Terrorist acts yet who are unable to be convicted in a civilian court proceeding. That class is merely a subset, perhaps a small subset, of who the Government can detain. Far more significant, "preventive detention" allows indefinite imprisonment not based on proven crimes or past violations of law, but of those deemed generally "dangerous" by the Government for various reasons (such as, as Obama put it yesterday, they "expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden" or "otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans"). That's what "preventive" means: imprisoning people because the Government claims they are likely to engage in violent acts in the future because they are alleged to be "combatants."
Once known, the details of the proposal could -- and likely will -- make this even more extreme by extending the "preventive detention" power beyond a handful of Guantanamo detainees to anyone, anywhere in the world, alleged to be a "combatant." After all, once you accept the rationale on which this proposal is based -- namely, that the U.S. Government must, in order to keep us safe, preventively detain "dangerous" people even when they can't prove they violated any laws -- there's no coherent reason whatsoever to limit that power to people already at Guantanamo, as opposed to indefinitely imprisoning with no trials all allegedly "dangerous" combatants, whether located in Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Western countries and even the U.S.

UPDATE IV: The New Yorker's Amy Davidson compares Obama's detention proposal to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II (as did Professor Amann, quoted above). Hilzoy, of The Washington Monthly, writes: "If we don't have enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we don't have enough evidence to hold them. Period" and "the power to detain people without filing criminal charges against them is a dictatorial power." Salon's Joan Walsh quotes the Center for Constitutional Rights' Vincent Warren as saying: "They’re creating, essentially, an American Gulag." The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch says of Obama's proposal: "What he's proposing is against one of this country's core principles" and "this is why people need to keep the pressure on Obama -- even those inclined to view his presidency favorably."Go read the rest I'll be over here laughing bitterly at the irony that it took Nixon to go to China, and it takes a Democratic President to complete the country's slide into fascism. You know, lots of people made much note of his intelligence and knowlege of Constitutional law. I think we are seeing once again that intelligence by itself sure as hell does not stop you from committing some rather evil acts.
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With Pressure Growing over Torture Pics, Obama Turns to Supreme Court to Stop Release
Today, Scott Horton posted a story at The Daily Beast, verifying the authenticity of the British paper's report:
The Daily Beast has obtained specific corroboration of the British account, which appeared in the London Daily Telegraph, from several reliable sources, including a highly credible senior military officer with firsthand knowledge, who provided even more detail about the graphic photographs that have been withheld from the public by the Obama administration.

A senior military officer familiar with the photos told me that they would likely provoke a storm of outrage if released. The well-informed source confirmed, just as reported in the Telegraph, that many of the photographs are sexually explicit, including those mentioned above. The photographs differ from those already officially released.
It took less than a day for the next turn of events. According to a CNN report, the Obama administration has made a motion to recall their request for a hold on the pictures release from the federal appeals court, and will take their request directly to the Supreme Court.
The government said it would proceed "absent intervening legislation" from Congress....
Last week, the Senate voted for the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act, which would limit the reach of the Freedom of Information Act in this instance. The House could adopt a similar provision next month as part of an omnibus spending bill.
The government has until June 9 to file its initial appeal with the Supreme Court.
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California going to hell in a handbasket: Obama calmly ignoring

Sotomayer, Prop 8 hegemony and the Courts

Pakistan Apocalypse: Don't Believe the Hype!

JUAN COLE: You know, in the past two years, the Pakistani public has demanded an end to a military dictatorship. On the grounds that it was violating the rule of law. They demanded free and fair parliamentary elections. They accomplished them. They voted the largest party they put in is the left of center or centrist secular party. They then went to the streets to demand the reinstatement of the secular civil Supreme Court. And you've had, really, hundreds of thousands of people involved in this movement for the restoration of democracy and the restoration of the rule of law. If this had happened any other place in the world, it would be reported in Washington as a good news story. Here, we've been told that it's a crisis. That it's a sign of instability and nuclear armed nation. I don't understand that.


BILL MOYERS: Who are the Taliban and what do they want? What are their goals?

JUAN COLE: What we're calling the Taliban, it's actually a misnomer. There are, like, five different groups that we're swooping up and calling the Taliban. The Taliban, properly speaking, are seminary students. They were those refugee boys, many of them orphans, who went through the seminaries or Madrassas in northern Pakistan back in the nineties. And then who emerged as a fighting force. Then you have the old war lords who had fought with the Soviet Union, and were allied with the United States. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Jalaluddin Haqqani, they have formed insurgent groups to fight the Americans now. Because they had fought the Soviet occupation, they now see an American occupation, so they've turned on the United States. They were former allies.

So we're calling them Taliban. And then you have a lot of probably disorganized villagers whose poppy crops, for instance, were burned. And they're angry. So they'll hit a NATO or American checkpoint. So we're scooping all of this up. And then the groups in northern Pakistan who are yet another group. And we're calling it all Taliban.MORE

Full Interview here

The North-West Frontier Province is 10 percent of the Pakistan population. That's where this stuff is happening. And most of it is actually happening not in the Province itself, but in the Federally Administrated Tribal Regions. Which are kind of like our Indian reservations. Only 3.5 million people live there. It's the size of, like, New Hampshire. Pakistan is a country as big as California, Oregon and Washington rolled up in one, with a population of 165 million. So to take this threat, which is a threat locally, to the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas, to parts of the North-West Frontier Province, and to magnify it and to say, "Whoa, the Pakistani government is six months from falling, the Taliban is going to get their hands on nuclear weapons." The kinds of things that are being said in Washington, are just fantastical and some kind of science fiction film. How would these guys, with the Kalashnikov machine guns, take over a country that has an army of 550 thousand? Which has tanks and artillery and fighter jets? How would they even know here the nuclear weapons are? In Pakistan, I just quoted you the Gallup Poll. People don't like Taliban, for the most part.

Obama Nominates Superfund Polluter Lawyer To Run DOJ Environment Division

Let's cut Social Security to pay for banker bailouts!You are about to be hit by another wave of disinformation about how Social Security is going broke and needs reforming (meaning, your benefits must be cut). It's not true.
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Via:[livejournal.com profile] troubleinchina

USA, Canada and the EU attempt to kill treaty to protect blind people's access to written material

Right now, in Geneva, at the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization, history is being made. For the first time in WIPO history, the body that creates the world's copyright treaties is attempting to write a copyright treaty dedicated to protecting the interests of copyright users, not just copyright owners.

At issue is a treaty to protect the rights of blind people and people with other disabilities that affect reading (people with dyslexia, people who are paralyzed or lack arms or hands for turning pages), introduced by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay. This should be a slam dunk: who wouldn't want a harmonized system of copyright exceptions that ensure that it's possible for disabled people to get access to the written word?
The USA, that's who. The Obama administration's negotiators have joined with a rogue's gallery of rich country trade representatives to oppose protection for blind people. Other nations and regions opposing the rights of blind people include Canada and the EU.

Update: Also opposing rights for disabled people: Australia, New Zealand, the Vatican and Norway.
Update 2: Countries that are on the right side of this include, "Latin American and Caribbean region including (Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Jamaica) as well as Asia and Africa."
Spread the word, tweet, blog, make noise, so that this goes through

PDF:The text of teh Treaty 11 pages

Huffington Post:

The main aim of the treaty is to allow the cross-border import and export of digital copies of books and other copyrighted works in formats that are accessible to persons who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or have other reading disabilities, using special devices that present text as refreshable braille, computer generated text to speech, or large type. These works, which are expensive to make, are typically created under national exceptions to copyright law that are specifically written to benefit persons with disabilities.


The number of accessible works is very small everywhere, relative to what "sighted" persons can read. However, in developing countries, the collections are super small, and even in the USA, access to works in languages other than English is practically non-existent.

Under the current international legal regime, there is almost no sharing of these works across borders. The treaty would change that, vastly expanding the availability of works to all persons who are blind or have other reading disabilities.

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We tortured to justify the Iraq War

Yet evidence is mounting that under Cheney’s direction, "enhanced interrogation" was not used exclusively to prevent imminent acts of terror or collect actionable intelligence -- the aims that he constantly emphasizes -- but to invent evidence that would link al-Qaida with Saddam Hussein and connect the late Iraqi dictator to the 9/11 attacks.

In one report after another, from journalists, former administration officials and Senate investigators, the same theme continues to emerge: Whenever a prisoner believed to possess any knowledge of al-Qaida’s operations or Iraqi intelligence came into American custody, CIA interrogators felt intense pressure from the Bush White House to produce evidence of an Iraq-Qaida relationship (which contradicted everything that U.S. intelligence and other experts knew about the enmity between Saddam’s Baath Party and Osama bin Laden’s jihadists). Indeed, the futile quest for proof of that connection is the common thread running through the gruesome stories of torture from the Guantánamo detainee camp to Egyptian prisons to the CIA's black sites in Thailand and elsewhere.MORE

Glenn Greenwald lay out the latest civil liberties trashing being down by our new Pres People keep yakking on about his Godliness and his constitutional lawyer background. And yet we keep getting results such as these. What is the point?

Monday - Obama administration's letter to Britian threatening to cut off intelligence-sharing if British courts reveal the details of how we tortured British resident Binyam Mohamed;
Tuesday - Promoted to military commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChyrstal, who was deeply involved in some of the worst abuses of the Bush era;
Wednesday - Announced he was reversing himself and would try to conceal photographic evidence showing widespread detainee abuse -- despite the rulings from two separate courts (four federal judges unanimously) that the law compels their disclosure;
Friday - Unveiled his plan to preserve a modified system of military commissions for trying Guantanamo detainees, rather than using our extant-judicial processes for doing so.
It's not the fault of civil libertarians that Obama did all of those things, just in this week alone. These are the very policies -- along with things like the claimed power to abduct and imprison people indefinitely with no charges of any kind and the use of the "state secrets privilege" to deny torture and spying victims a day in court -- that caused such extreme anger and criticisms toward the Bush presidency.MORE

En Tequila Es Verdad Offers more info
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little war criminal abetting ass:

We wouldn't want to inflame anti-American sentiment

We're currently occupying two Muslim countries. We're killing civilians regularly (as usual) -- with airplanes and unmanned sky robots. We're imprisoning tens of thousands of Muslims with no trial, for years. Our government continues to insist that it has the power to abduct people -- virtually all Muslim -- ship them to Bagram, put them in cages, and keep them there indefinitely with no charges of any kind. We're denying our torture victims any ability to obtain justice for what was done to them by insisting that the way we tortured them is a "state secret" and that we need to "look to the future." We provide Israel with the arms and money used to do things like devastate Gaza. Independent of whether any or all of these policies are justifiable, the extent to which those actions "inflame anti-American sentiment" is impossible to overstate.

And now, the very same people who are doing all of that are claiming that they must suppress evidence of our government's abuse of detainees because to allow the evidence to be seen would "inflame anti-American sentiment." It's not hard to believe that releasing the photos would do so to some extent -- people generally consider it a bad thing to torture and brutally abuse helpless detainees -- but compared to everything else we're doing, the notion that releasing or concealing these photos would make an appreciable difference in terms of how we're perceived in the Muslim world is laughable on its face.

Moreover, isn't it rather obvious that Obama's decision to hide this evidence -- certain to be a prominent news story in the Muslim world, and justifiably so -- will itself inflame anti-American sentiment? It's not exactly a compelling advertisement for the virtues of transparency, honesty and open government. What do you think the impact is when we announce to the world: "What we did is so heinous that we're going to suppress the evidence?" Some Americans might be grateful to Obama for hiding evidence of what we did to detainees, but that is unlikely to be the reaction of people around the world.MORE

see also:Obama's latest effort to conceal evidence of Bush era crimes

and About the Foto Flip-Flop

It's inexcusable, Obama's flip-flop on the DOD abuse photos.
Not (just) because I think he's wrong on the law and he'll probably not get Cert with SCOTUS, making this a big pose.
Rather, it's inexcusable because Obama issued new guidelines on FOIA that he now abandons:
The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.
All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.
Granted, a bunch of Generals and Colonels would undoubtedly be embarrassed by the disclosure of abuse that happened on their watch (above all--as Nell suggests--Stanley McChrystal, newly tapped to take over in Afghanistan). Granted, some of those Generals and Colonels (the aforementioned McChrystal) would probably lose their next promotion if these pictures became public. Granted, pundits speculate, abstractly, that the release of another round of torture pictures will inflame the already volatile Iraq and Afghanistan.
But those are all invalid excuses, according to President Obama's own FOIA guidelines. If you're going to set a rule, follow it yourself. http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2009/05/13/about-the-foto-flip-flop/">MORE

Isn't it interesting how "god is in the mix" when it comes on to being a homobigot, but is noticeably absent when it comes on to treating people humanely and lawfully? Refraining from breaking international law? Refusing to coddle and protect war criminals?

While we are at it

...A simple fact is being overlooked in the Bush-era torture scandal: the number of cases in which detainees have been tortured to death. Abuse did not only involve the high-profile cases of smashing detainees into plywood barriers (“walling”), confinement in coffin-like boxes with insects, sleep deprivation, cold, and waterboarding. To date approximately 100 detainees, including CIA-held detainees, have died during U.S. interrogations, and some are known to have been tortured to death.
The bottom line is that many detainee homicides in Iraq and Afghanistan were the direct result of approval and orders from the highest levels of government, and that high officials in the government are accomplices. MORE

Yeah. Talk about inciting anti-American sentiment, that. Here's a suggestion. You want to deal with anti-American sentiment cause by the fact that government and army official are torturing. murdering war criminals? PROSECUTE THEM. How about that?
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Honor and the Lack thereof
If you want an example of how disconnected our federal government is from the world that the rest of us live in, you can't do much better than to contemplate the case of Alyssa Peterson and then contrast it with the behavior of the Congress, the Senate in particular, and the President over the last few days.

As Kevin Elston of the Arizona Republic reports:

A Flagstaff soldier who in 2003 became the third woman to die in Iraq killed herself two weeks after objecting to the interrogation techniques being used on Iraqi prisoners, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Spc. Alyssa Peterson, 27, an Arabic-speaking interrogator who trained at Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona, was assigned to a unit at Tal Afar Air Base in northwestern Iraq. According to a criminal investigation report recently released by the military under the Freedom of Information Act, Peterson had been in Iraq for two weeks and participated in two interrogations in late August 2003.

She objected to interrogation techniques after the first session, the documents show, and after the second session she told her supervisor that she "could not carry out" the interrogation methods that were being used and asked to be reassigned.

Her objections came seven months before the prisoner abuse allegations at Abu Ghraib prison in central Iraq became public.

Soldier Opposed Interrogations

Greg Mitchell notes in an article at the Huffington Post:

The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been "reprimanded" for showing "empathy" for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: "She said that she did not know how to be two people; she ... could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire."

She was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. "But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle," the documents disclose.

The official report revealed that a notebook she had written in was found next to her body, but blacked out its contents.

U.S. Soldier Killed Herself -- After Refusing to Take Part in Torture

In short, Specialist Peterson was another victim of the illegal behavior of the Bush Administration and the people who supported it, and the Army did its best to cover up this fact. This young woman was apparently so disturbed by what she had experienced while interrogating Iraqi prisoners, or the isolation that had resulted from refusing to commit the crime of torture, that she took her own life. Which of those reasons it is may be impossible to find out, thanks in part to our "leadership".

And then the blogger really goes to town Go read!
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The NYT's predictable revelation: new FISA law enabled massive abuses

In The New York Times last night, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau -- the reporters who won the Pulitzer Prize for informing the nation in 2005 that the NSA was illegally spying on Americans on the orders of George Bush, a revelation that produced no consequences other than the 2008 Democratic Congress' legalizing most of those activities and retroactively protecting the wrongdoers -- passed on leaked revelations of brand new NSA domestic spying abuses, ones enabled by the 2008 FISA law. The article reports that the spying abuses are "significant and systemic"; involve improper interception of "significant amounts" of the emails and telephone calls of Americans, including purely domestic communications; and that, under Bush (prior to the new FISA law), the NSA tried to eavesdrop with no warrants on a member of Congress traveling to the Middle East. The sources for the article report that "the problems had grown out of changes enacted by Congress last July in the law that regulates the government’s wiretapping powers."


These widespread eavesdropping abuses enabled by the 2008 FISA bill -- a bill passed with the support of Barack Obama along with the entire top Democratic leadership in the House, including Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, and substantial numbers of Democratic Senators -- aren't a bug in that bill, but rather, were one of the central features of it. Everyone knew that the FISA bill which Congressional Democrats passed -- and which George Bush and Dick Cheney celebrated -- would enable these surveillance abuses. That was the purpose of the law: to gut the safeguards in place since the 1978 passage of FISA, destroy the crux of the oversight regime over executive surveillance of Americans, and enable and empower unchecked government spying activities. This was not an unintended and unforeseeable consequence of that bill. To the contrary, it was crystal clear that by gutting FISA's safeguards, the Democratic Congress was making these abuses inevitable. MORE
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The differing views of the "rule of law" in Spain and the U.S.

Scott Horton reports this morning that, in Spain, "prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five top associates [John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Doug Feith and William Haynes] over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo." Spain not only has the right under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture to prosecute foreign officials for torturing its citizens, but it -- like the U.S. -- has the affirmative obligation to do so. (Indeed, the Bush administration itself insisted just last year that the U.S. the right to criminally prosecute foreign officials for ordering acts of torture even in the absence of an accusation that any of the victims were American).
As Hilzoy argues, however, the primary obligation for these prosecutions lies with the country whose officials authorized the war crimes -- the United States:
It is a requirement of law, the law that the Constitution requires Obama, as President, to faithfully execute. He should not outsource his Constitutional obligations to Spain.
That the U.S. has the legal obligation under the U.S. Constitution, our own laws and international treaties to commence criminal investigations is simply undeniable. That is just a fact. Yet it's hard to overstate how far away we are from fulfilling our legal obligations to impose accountability on our own torturers and war criminals.
The barriers to these prosecutions are numerous, but one of the principal obstacles is that CIA Director Leon Panetta has been emphatically demanding that there be no investigations of any government officials whose conduct was declared legal by DOJ lawyers (i.e., the very individuals the Spanish are now investigating for war crimes). And it's not surprising that Panetta has taken this position given that at least two of his top deputies at the CIA are among those implicated, to one degree or another, in the torture regime, as John Sifton detailed earlier this month at The Daily Beast:

...the Spanish "advised the Americans that they would suspend their investigation if at any point the United States were to undertake an investigation of its own into these matters." As White points out, that is how war crimes investigations are intended to proceed under numerous treaty provisions by which the U.S. has bound itself: namely, the country whose officials commit the crimes have the primary obligation to investigate and hold the criminals accountable. But other treaty signatories are not only entitled, but required, to commence such proceedings if the violating country refuses or otherwise fails to do so.

Thus, the only way to object to what Spain is doing here is if one: (a) suffers from total ignorance of the basic provisions of Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture; (b) believes that the U.S. has no obligation to abide by its treaties even though the U.S. Constitution provides that such treaties are "the supreme law of the land"; and/or (c) believes that the U.S. need not abide by rules we impose on other countries, such as when we prosecuted other countries' leaders for war crimes in the past. None of those is a particularly noble excuse.MORE


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