Saturday, March 12, 2005

Army: We Beat Prisoners to Death

I'm sad to see this coming out of our armed forces.

From the AP:

Army Details Scale of Abuse of Prisoners in an Afghan Jail
By Douglas Jehl
The New York Times

Saturday 12 March 2005

Washington - Two Afghan prisoners who died in American custody in Afghanistan in December 2002 were chained to the ceiling, kicked and beaten by American soldiers in sustained assaults that caused their deaths, according to Army criminal investigative reports that have not yet been made public.

One soldier, Pfc. Willie V. Brand, was charged with manslaughter in a closed hearing last month in Texas in connection with one of the deaths, another Army document shows. Private Brand, who acknowledged striking a detainee named Dilawar 37 times, was accused of having maimed and killed him over a five-day period by "destroying his leg muscle tissue with repeated unlawful knee strikes."

The attacks on Mr. Dilawar were so severe that "even if he had survived, both legs would have had to be amputated," the Army report said, citing a medical examiner.

The reports, obtained by Human Rights Watch, provide the first official account of events that led to the deaths of the detainees, Mullah Habibullah and Mr. Dilawar, at the Bagram Control Point, about 40 miles north of Kabul. The deaths took place nearly a year before the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Among those implicated in the killings at Bagram were members of Company A of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, from Fort Bragg, N.C. The battalion went on to Iraq, where some members established the interrogation unit at Abu Ghraib and have been implicated in some abuses there.

The reports, from the Army Criminal Investigation Command, also make clear that the abuse at Bagram went far beyond the two killings. Among those recommended for prosecution is an Army military interrogator from the 519th Battalion who is said to have "placed his penis along the face" of one Afghan detainee and later to have "simulated anally sodomizing him (over his clothes)."

The Army reports cited "credible information" that four military interrogators assaulted Mr. Dilawar and another Afghan prisoner with "kicks to the groin and leg, shoving or slamming him into walls/table, forcing the detainee to maintain painful, contorted body positions during interview and forcing water into his mouth until he could not breathe."

American military officials in Afghanistan initially said the deaths of Mr. Habibullah, in an isolation cell on Dec. 4, 2002, and Mr. Dilawar, in another such cell six days later, were from natural causes. Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, the American commander of allied forces in Afghanistan at the time, denied then that prisoners had been chained to the ceiling or that conditions at Bagram endangered the lives of prisoners.

But after an investigation by The New York Times, the Army acknowledged that the deaths were homicides. Last fall, Army investigators implicated 28 soldiers and reservists and recommended that they face criminal charges, including negligent homicide.

But so far only Private Brand, a military policeman from the 377th Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Cincinnati, and Sgt. James P. Boland, from the same unit, have been charged.

The charges against Sergeant Boland for assault and other crimes were announced last summer, and those against Private Brand are spelled out in Army charge sheets from hearings on Jan. 4 and Feb. 3 in Fort Bliss, Tex.

The names of other officers and soldiers liable to criminal charges had not previously been made public.

But among those mentioned in the new reports is Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, the chief military intelligence officer at Bagram. The reports conclude that Captain Wood lied to investigators by saying that shackling prisoners in standing positions was intended to protect interrogators from harm. In fact, the report says, the technique was used to inflict pain and sleep deprivation.

An Army report dated June 1, 2004, about Mr. Habibullah's death identifies Capt. Christopher Beiring of the 377th Military Police Company as having been "culpably inefficient in the performance of his duties, which allowed a number of his soldiers to mistreat detainees, ultimately leading to Habibullah's death, thus constituting negligent homicide."

Captain Wood, who commanded Company A in Afghanistan, later helped to establish the interrogation and debriefing center at Abu Ghraib. Two Defense Department reports have said that a list of interrogation procedures she drew up there, which went beyond those approved by Army commanders, may have contributed to abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Past efforts to contact Captain Wood, Captain Beiring and Sergeant Boland, who were mentioned in passing in earlier reports, and to learn the identity of their lawyers, have been unsuccessful. All have been named in previous Pentagon reports and news accounts about the incidents in Afghanistan; none have commented publicly. The name of Private Brand's lawyer did not appear on the Army charge sheet, and military officials said neither the soldier nor the lawyer would likely comment.

John Sifton, a researcher on Afghanistan for Human Rights Watch, said the documents substantiated the group's own investigations showing that beatings and stress positions were widely used, and that "far from a few isolated cases, abuse at sites in Afghanistan was common in 2002, the rule more than the exception."

"Human Rights Watch has previously documented, through interviews with former detainees, that scores of other detainees were beaten at Bagram and Kandahar bases from early 2002 on," Mr. Sifton said in an e-mail message.

In his own report, made public this week, Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III cited the deaths of Mr. Habibullah and Mr. Dilawar as examples of abuse that had occurred during interrogations. Admiral Church said his review of the Army investigation had found that the abuse "was unrelated to approved interrogation techniques."

But Admiral Church also said there were indications in both cases "that medical personnel may have attempted to misrepresent the circumstances of the death, possibly in an effort to disguise detainee abuse," and noted that the Army's surgeon general was reviewing "the specific medical handling" of those cases and one other.

The most specific previous description of the cause of deaths of the two men had come from Pentagon officials, who said last fall that both had suffered "blunt force trauma to the legs," and that investigators had determined that they had been beaten by "multiple soldiers" who, for the most part, had used their knees. Pentagon officials said at the time that it was likely that the beatings had been confined to the legs of the detainees so the injuries would be less visible.

Both men had been chained to the ceiling, one at the waist and one by the wrists, although their feet remained on the ground. Both men had been captured by Afghan forces and turned over to the American military for interrogation.

Mr. Habibullah, a brother of a former Taliban commander, died of a pulmonary embolism apparently caused by blood clots formed in his legs from the beatings, according to the report of June 1, 2004. Mr. Dilawar, who suffered from a heart condition, is described in an Army report dated July 6, 2004, as having died from "blunt force trauma to the lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease."

Posted by crimnos @ 6:42 PM :: (0) comments

Friday, March 11, 2005

And it just keeps coming! Now the Arctic Refuge Vote is Pending

Received this via email today...I'm giving!

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NRDC Action Fund

Posted by crimnos @ 4:21 PM :: (1) comments

The Hitler Youth Revival Tour: Going Strong!

And this is just down the road from me!

So now it's disrespectful to soldiers and war and America and Bush and the flag to speak a language other than English. It's a given that teenagers aren't always the most stellar thinkers when it comes to reason, but I don't like the way this is going...

From the Miami Herald

Teen walks out of his school over multilingual pledge
A Maryland ninth-grader won't return to class until his school finishes its broadcasts of the Pledge of Allegiance in other languages for National Foreign Language Week.
The Baltimore Sun

MILLERSVILLE, Md. - A Maryland teenager is protesting his high school's decision to broadcast the Pledge of Allegiance in languages other than English during National Foreign Language Week.

Patrick Linton, a ninth-grader at Old Mill High School in Millersville, said he and some other students sat down rather than stand when the pledge was read in Russian over the school's public address system.

The 15-year-old said his teacher told him if he had a problem, he should leave the room -- so he did. And, he said, he doesn't plan to return this week.

''This is America, and we got soldiers at war,'' he said. ``When you're saying the pledge in a different language which nobody understands, that's not OK.''

School system officials said the activity would continue -- though the English version of the pledge was to be read first last week.

''This is just a way to connect what's going on in the classroom and this daily activity where we say the Pledge of Allegiance,'' said school system spokesman Jonathan Brice. The pledge was to be read in Spanish, French, Latin, Russian and German.

But Charles Linton, Patrick's father, said the use of other languages is disrespectful to the United States.

''It's like wearing a cross upside down in a church,'' said Charles Linton, who lives in Glen Burnie.

Posted by crimnos @ 3:21 PM :: (0) comments

The Human Face of Bankruptcy: The Rush to Court

From the New York Times

Bracing for a Bankruptcy Rush

Published: March 11, 2005

Milton Haynes has been struggling for more than a decade. In recent months, Mr. Haynes, 72, a widower and a retired machinist from Chatham, Ill., had started to make a small dent in repaying tens of thousands of dollars in debts.

But faced with the prospect of new bankruptcy rules - approved by the Senate late yesterday in a 74-to-25 vote - that would make it harder for someone in his situation to erase debts, Mr. Haynes met with a lawyer last night to consider a bankruptcy filing. "The news panicked me," he said. "I keep trying to pay my bills, but I keep getting deeper into debt."

After meeting with his lawyer, Mr. Haynes decided to hold off. But bankruptcy lawyers around the country say they are hearing from lots of people like Mr. Haynes, and expect to hear from many more.

Final passage of the legislation by the House, set for April, is drawing near. The measure, which has the support of President Bush, could take effect as soon as this fall. The rules would make it harder for individuals to walk away from their obligations if they can pay off at least some of their credit card bills or other debts.

"I will be sending out letters to clients saying if you have relatives or friends who are struggling, tell them not to wait," said Norma Hammes, a consumer bankruptcy lawyer in San Jose, Calif.

Supporters of the legislation, which include credit unions, banks and retailers, say that the tougher qualifying rules will curb abusive bankruptcy filings.

Consumer bankruptcy filings have been falling since the end of 2003, with a total of 1.5 million in 2004, according to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. A bankruptcy filing can leave consumers with a tarnished credit record for up to 10 years.

The most popular route for personal bankruptcy has been through Chapter 7 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code, which allows individuals and businesses to shed most unsecured debts not backed by assets, like their cars or homes.

The new legislation would make it difficult for individuals to file for Chapter 7 if their household income is greater than the median for their state. As a result, more individuals are expected to file for Chapter 13, which under the new law will require debtors to pay off at least a portion of their debts over at least five years, making it more difficult to get a fresh start.

A few studies suggest that the number of people affected will be relatively small. Some 3.5 percent of creditors who filed for Chapter 7 would be forced to shift their case to a Chapter 13 filing based on the new income standards imposed by the bill, according to a 1998 study sponsored by the American Bankruptcy Institute, a research group.

"Trying to snag debtors who really can pay is not what this bill was about," said Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who is among the loudest critics of the legislation. "This bill was about driving up costs for every family in financial trouble."

The legislation would also raise fees for filing Chapter 7 cases by 17 percent, to $245. Consumer bankruptcy lawyers say the increased paperwork required by the measure will cause their fees for Chapter 7 to rise by more than 25 percent, and the increases for the more expensive Chapter 13 filings could be even higher than that.

Some consumer bankruptcy lawyers say the new requirements will impose other burdens. Debtors will have to pull together more paperwork than previously required, including utility bills and tax returns and titles on their cars, making it increasingly time-consuming and expensive to file. Also, filers will be required to enroll in a credit counseling program to discuss alternative options, further delaying a person's ability to emerge from bankruptcy.

To qualify for Chapter 7, an individual's income would have to be less than his state's median household income. Consumer advocates say the standard is too restrictive for low- and middle-income families, given how widely the cost of living can vary from big cities to smaller communities. In New York, for example, the median is $42,432. In California the standard would be $48,113, while in Florida it would be $38,533.

Judges do have the discretion to waive the income standards in the case of extreme hardship. Still, some lawyers said, there will be individuals who, wary of relying on the courts, will be forced to make some hard decisions to meet the new standards.

"Many people could actually be forced to make an immoral decision and file for divorce," said Barbara May, a lawyer in Arden Hills, Minn. By doing so, she said, each partner would be assessed based on his or her individual income rather than as a couple.


Still, the bill leaves some room for wealthier individuals to qualify for Chapter 7. For example, certain expenses will still be exempt under Chapter 7 from the minimum income threshold. These include contractual payments secured by a home or car.

"If I am paying for a Mercedes, a vacation home, or a home in Armonk that has a high-cost mortgage, those are deducted" from the means test, said Henry Hildebrand, a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee. An older car that works fine but is already paid off, he said, does not qualify.

The legislation does not address some existing exemptions, like those for homes and "asset protection trusts" in a handful of states.

For those who do file for Chapter 13, there will be tougher standards. For example, the debtor will be obligated to make payments on the original purchase price of a car bought two and half years before a bankruptcy filing. In the past, the debtor was required only to repay loans based on the car's present value, taking depreciation into account.

Lawyers say that the easiest route in the face of the myriad changes may be for individuals to take advantage of the old system while they can. Many people will file for Chapter 7 before the law changes, said Irwin L. Zalutsky, a Chicago lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy. Already, Mr. Zalutsky said, people like Mr. Haynes who have heard about the new legislation are contacting his office to set up appointments.

Over some 14 years, Mr. Haynes accumulated $55,000 in debt on 15 credit cards. He also borrowed $2,000 on his bank credit line, has $2,800 outstanding on a home equity line of credit and has borrowed against his life insurance policy.

"I have dug myself into a hole," he said. In December, he began paying off what he owes. He bought a software program that tracks the interest rates on his credit cards and started paying off the ones with the highest rates first.

So far, Mr. Haynes has paid off $300. He is going to continue to whittle down his debts, but his situation remains tenuous.

"I am barely making it," he said.

Posted by crimnos @ 1:04 PM :: (0) comments

Negroponte Surfaces Again: His Guards Shot Calipari

There is no emoticon to express what I'm feeling...

Negroponte's Guards Shot Italian Agent
The Associated Press

Thursday 10 March 2005

Baghdad - The temporary road checkpoint where American troops mistakenly killed an Italian intelligence agent last week was set up to provide extra security for U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, a U.S. Embassy official said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, meanwhile, assured his Italian counterpart that the inquiry into the death of Nicola Calipari would clearly determine what happened, Italy's government said.

Calipari died Friday when troops at the checkpoint fired at an approaching car that was carrying Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had just been freed by Iraqi kidnappers.

"The mobile patrol was there to enhance security because Ambassador Negroponte was expected through," embassy spokesman Robert Callahan said, confirming a report that first appeared in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

It was not known if Negroponte, who was nominated last month by President Bush to be the new director of national intelligence, passed through the checkpoint before the shooting. Senior U.S. officials usually travel by helicopter to avoid attacks in Iraq, but methods are varied so as not to be predictable.

While agreeing the shooting was an accident, U.S. and Italian officials have disagreed about several aspects of the incident, including whether U.S. authorities were notified of the trip, how fast the car was traveling and whether the car ignored signals to halt.

The Italian Defense Ministry said Rumsfeld talked to Defense Minister Antonio Martino by telephone Thursday evening and promised a thorough investigation. Rumsfeld said the probe would remove "any shade of doubt and pinpoint any responsibility," the ministry said.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff, made similar assurances to Italian military commanders in a separate call, the ministry added.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that despite differing versions of what happened, "I'm sure that in a very short time every aspect of this will be clarified."

Berlusconi told Italian lawmakers that Calipari had informed an Italian liaison officer, waiting at the Baghdad airport along with an American officer, that he was heading there with a freed hostage.

Berlusconi also said the car was traveling slowly and stopped immediately when a light was flashed at a checkpoint, before U.S. troops fired on the car.

The top U.S. general in Iraq has said he had no indication Italian officials gave advance notice of the route the car was taking. The U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which controls Baghdad, said the car was speeding and refused to stop.

In Rome, Italian prosecutors conducting their own investigation into the shooting again questioned Sgrena at the military hospital where she is recovering from a shoulder wound she suffered Friday.

The shooting has been an added problem for Berlusconi, a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq who has been struggling to balance his decision to keep 3,000 soldiers in Iraq against strong anti-war sentiment in Italy.

From the New York Times.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:06 AM :: (0) comments

News for March 11th: How to Become an Indentured Servant Edition

Man, is big business on the prowl or what? First the class-action lawsuit bill, and now this. The bankruptcy bill passed the senate yesterday by a wide margin, meaning that our representatives in Congress are now completely in the hands of big business. If you’re saying there’s no proof that Americans oppose this, or that this is a partisan issue, you couldn’t be more wrong: a bipartisan (imagine that in the world of blogs!) coalition has formed amongst the blogs to oppose this horrendous bill. Check it out at

So what does this bill do? Pretty simple:

I’m okay with the part about child support. What I’m not okay with is the obligatory Chapter 13 ruling and requiring people to pay for credit counseling. This is putting another onerous debt on people who already have too many. But of course, like all bad ideas, this too will pass (the House, that is)…

Senate Passes Bill To Restrict Bankruptcy
Credit Card Business Backed Measure to Collect More Debt

By Kathleen Day
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page E01

The Senate approved a measure yesterday backed by the credit card industry that would make it harder for people to wipe out debt through bankruptcy, setting a path for quick passage of the bill by the House within weeks.

The 74 to 25 vote in favor of the bill, which would make the most significant changes in bankruptcy law in more than 25 years, was propelled by a 55-member Republican majority that voted in unison, joined by 18 Democrats and one independent.

House Republican leaders have promised to take up the bill next week and to deliver the votes to pass it. That commitment was based on the Senate keeping the bill free of major new amendments that would have undone scores of compromises made over several years in an effort to get it passed.

President Bush has said he would sign the bill. It would be the second major victory for big business in Bush's second term, after passage last month of legislation intended to curb class-action lawsuits against corporations.

More at the Washington Post.

This is some good news: Senators are looking to block a vote on Social Security should it come up. I’d like to be hopeful, but look at the guys who jumped the fence for cloture with the bankruptcy bill. I worry that Democrats are just too scattered to make a difference on this one.

Senators May Block Social Security Vote

By Charles Babington and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page A01

President Bush's bid to add individual accounts to Social Security faces such formidable opposition in the Senate that its supporters may be unable to bring it to a vote, according to a Washington Post survey of senators.

An overwhelming majority of Democratic senators said they will oppose, under any circumstances, Bush's plan to allow younger workers to divert a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into individual investment accounts that would follow them into retirement. A few others said they will not support such accounts if they require substantial government borrowing. Even many Republicans say that is inevitable because the alternative involves unacceptably large cuts in benefits or tax increases to replace the diverted taxes or both.

Combined, these Democrats form a coalition large enough -- more than 41 members -- to use delaying tactics to keep the proposal from reaching a vote in the 100-member chamber. The Post survey of the Senate's 44 Democrats and one Democratic-leaning independent indicates there are at least 42 -- and perhaps 44 -- who firmly oppose personal investment accounts, particularly if they are financed with borrowed money.

Vice President Cheney has said the Bush accounts would cost "trillions of dollars." Democrats put the price tag at $5 trillion over 20 years.

In the clearest sign yet that Bush's efforts to win bipartisan support are flagging, several Democrats whom the White House has been courting said they will not support the accounts at all. They include Sens. Thomas R. Carper (Del.) and Mary Landrieu (La.). Three other Bush targets -- Sens. Kent Conrad (N.D.), Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) -- said they will not support individual accounts financed by heavy borrowing.

More at the Washington Post.

Now to the Middle East, where efforts to tame the region continue unabated. Syria is the first one up…looks like the UN has decided to take a hard line on this, following Bush’s cue. We’ll see how it works.

Top U.N. Envoy to Present Syria With Ultimatum
Nation Must Withdraw From Lebanon or Face Isolation

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page A01

A top U.N. envoy will tell President Bashar Assad that Syria will face political and economic isolation if he does not completely and quickly withdraw from Lebanon, U.N. and U.S. officials said yesterday.

In a meeting set for tomorrow, Terje Roed-Larsen plans to inform Syria that the international community is united in insisting that Damascus comply with U.N. Resolution 1559 -- and is prepared to impose wide punitive sanctions if it does not act quickly, the officials said.

"If he doesn't deliver, there will be total political and economic isolation of his country. There is a steel-hard consensus in the international community," a senior U.N. official said.

In preparation for the diplomatic confrontation, Roed-Larsen has met over the past week with top U.S., European and Arab officials to determine the positions and parameters of action. In a final round of talks, he met yesterday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and also won backing from the Arab League in talks with its secretary general, Amr Mousa, earlier this week -- discussions aimed at leaving Syria no political escape routes, the source said.

More at the Washington Post.

I’m surprised, but not disheartened, to see that Rice is going to announce the US is backing EU policies on Iran. I’d like to see our administration pursue a diplomatic route, but I can’t help but feel that there’s an iron fist is inside this velvet glove. I can’t imagine the neocons would see this as anything other than appeasement.

U.S. to Back Europeans on Incentives for Iran
Rice to Announce Shift on Nuclear Issue

By Robin Wright and Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page A14

President Bush has decided to back European allies in their plan to offer economic incentives to persuade Iran to abandon any effort to build nuclear weapons, a sharp shift in policy for a government that had long refused to bargain for Tehran's cooperation, senior administration officials said yesterday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to announce the decision as early as today, culminating an intense negotiation over recent weeks that brought U.S. and European leaders together in their approach to Iran after a long split. By agreeing to try incentives first, U.S. officials believe they will later gain European support for taking the matter to the U.N. Security Council if talks fail.

Rice hinted at the decision yesterday before traveling to Mexico. "I think we're really coming to a common view of how to proceed," she said of her discussions with the Europeans, who have taken the lead in negotiating with Iran. "We're looking for ways to more actively support that diplomacy. But I want to be very clear that this is really not an issue of what people should be giving to Iran. This is an issue of . . . keeping the spotlight on Iran, which ought to be living up to its international obligations."

Rice said Iran would have to commit to not using its civilian nuclear power program as a cover for secret weapons development and would have to submit to intensive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. She did not discuss particular incentives, but those on the table include accelerating membership for Iran in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and permitting Tehran to purchase badly needed spare parts for its aging passenger jets.

More at the Washington Post.

Looks like I wasn’t the only one miffed at the contents of the Church Report.

Senators Question Absence of Blame in Abuse Report
By Josh White and Bradley Graham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page A17

Senators expressed dismay yesterday that no senior military or civilian Pentagon officials have been held accountable for the policy and command failures that led to detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Navy admiral who wrote the most recent review of U.S. detention policies was largely unable to say where that accountability should lie.

Vice Admiral Albert T. Church III's review of interrogation policy and detention operations did not place specific blame for the confusing interrogation policies that migrated from Washington to the battlefield, and he told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing that no high-level policy decisions directly led to the abuse. But Church said he did not interview top officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, nor did he make conclusions about individual responsibility, saying it was not part of his mission.

Still, Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, one of the officers in charge of detention operations in Iraq at the time of the abuse, said yesterday that she has been issued an administrative reprimand, the first such action against a top officer since the abuse allegations surfaced last year.

So far, only a handful of enlisted soldiers have faced courts-martial for their actions at the Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere, while others have faced administrative punishment. The main open question in the abuse cases is how far up the chain of command official discipline or criminal charges will reach.

Church's report called the development of interrogation policies for use in the fight against terrorism a series of "missed opportunities" to eliminate confusion and clearly spell out doctrine. But his report concluded that even clear policies might not have stopped dozens of abuse cases.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, said a "major gap" in Church's report and in nine other Pentagon reviews is the issue of senior-leadership responsibility for the creation of an environment that contributed to or condoned abusive behavior.

In a sparsely attended hearing -- only 10 of the 24 panel members were there -- senators from both parties, including Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), offered strong criticism of the findings. Sen. James M. Talent (R-Mo.), praising the report, said he did not "need an investigation to tell me that there was no comprehensive or systematic use of inhumane tactics by the American military, because those guys and gals just wouldn't do it."

More at the Washington Post.

And isn’t it funny how these things keep turning up, but no one’s to blame? I’m not surprised at the CIA’s involvement in the shenanigans, as they’ve been pulling this kind of crap for almost 50 years, but I am a little surprised at the Army for getting itself dragged into the mud with this.

Army, CIA Agreed on 'Ghost' Prisoners
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page A16

Top military intelligence officials at the Abu Ghraib prison came to an agreement with the CIA to hide certain detainees at the facility without officially registering them, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. Keeping such "ghost" detainees is a violation of international law.

Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, who was second in command of the intelligence gathering effort at Abu Ghraib while the abuse was occurring, told military investigators that "other government agencies" and a secretive elite task force "routinely brought in detainees for a short period of time" and that the detainees were held without an internment number, and their names were kept off the books.

Guards who worked at the prison have said that ghost detainees were regularly locked in isolation cells on Tier 1A and that they were kept from international human rights organizations.

Jordan, in a statement that was included in the abuse investigation of Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, said that it was difficult to track ghost detainees and that he and other officers recommended that a memorandum of understanding be drafted between his 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, the CIA and the 800th Military Police Brigade "to establish procedures for a ghost detainee." An Army major at the prison "suggested an idea of processing them under an assumed name and fingerprinting them," but Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the top military intelligence officer there, "decided against it."

Instead, Jordan's statement said, Pappas "began a formalized written MOU [memo of understanding] procedure" in November 2003, with the CIA and members of Task Force 1-21, "and the memorandum on procedures for dropping ghost detainees was signed."

In his statement to investigators, also obtained by The Post, Pappas said that in September 2003, the CIA requested that the military intelligence officials "continue to make cells available for their detainees and that they not have to go through the normal inprocessing procedures." Pappas also said Jordan was the one who was facilitating the arrangement with the CIA.

More at the Washington Post.

For a broader view, here’s how the two documents, both the Church Report and the document mentioned above, contradict each other:

Admiral's report, document differ on detainee plans
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | March 11, 2005

WASHINGTON -- A Pentagon official told Congress yesterday that his investigation into detention operations found no evidence of written agreements between the military and the Central Intelligence Agency about ''ghost detainees" who were hidden from the Red Cross. But a military document released separately yesterday refers to the existence of such an agreement.

The apparent contradiction between the findings of Navy Vice Admiral Albert Church and the military document, one in a trove made public through a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union, underscored complaints by Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee that the admiral's investigation was not sufficiently thorough.

''Regrettably, Admiral Church's report falls short of the mark," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. ''Although it provides some useful information, it is notable more for what is absent than what it contains."

The Pentagon has touted Church's 368-page report, most of which remains classified, as the most comprehensive in a series of investigations launched after the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq became public last spring.

The investigation concludes there was no official policy, ''written or otherwise," permitting interrogators to abuse detainees in Cuba, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Instead, Church attributed isolated instances of abuse to wartime stress and insufficient oversight.

An examination of 70 substantiated cases found that ''no approved interrogation techniques caused these criminal abuses," Church wrote. But Democrats on the committee were skeptical, and reiterated their calls for an outside investigation with full subpoena powers and a mandate to examine the actions of individual high-ranking officials.

''The Defense Department is not able to assess accountability at senior levels, particularly when investigators are in the chain of command of the officials whose policies and actions they are investigating," said Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and the committee's ranking member.

Much of the Church report apparently documents the evolution of official interrogation policy in 2002 and 2003. During the hearing yesterday, Kennedy focused on the role of the Defense Department's general counsel, William Haynes, President Bush's nominee for a seat on the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

More at The Boston Globe.

Michael Powell calling for a return to civil discourse? The world truly has gone bizarro. The hypocrisy is strong with this one…

Powell Leaves FCC Admonishing Uncivil America
By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page E01

Michael K. Powell -- who presided over a partisan Federal Communications Commission that clashed internally and was pilloried by interest groups and lawmakers in both parties -- closed his last commission meeting yesterday by calling for a return to civil discourse.

"It saddens me when public officials and bureaucrats are criticized for ulterior motives, none of which I have ever found in a government bureaucrat, or when someone personalizes disagreements," said Powell, 41, who has not landed his next job. "This country needs to disagree civilly and continue to recommit itself to the welfare of its citizens -- which is all we are sent here to do."

Powell, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997 and elevated to chairman in 2001, served at a time when the FCC cleared away regulations and helped speed Internet telephony to market and pushed for faster digital television conversion. At the same time, he was hammered by the likes of Howard Stern for cracking down on indecency and attacked by public-interest advocates for attempting to craft new media ownership rules that some feared would let big media companies grow bigger.

At least three strong contenders are vying for the White House appointment to succeed Powell. The next chairman will oversee issues such as the continuing conversion to digital broadcast, the rollout of new technologies including those involving Internet telephony, and further change in the telephone and cable industries.

Fellow Republican FCC Commissioner Kevin J. Martin is still considered by many to have the inside track. Martin was deputy general counsel for President Bush's 2000 campaign, and his wife, Catherine, works in the White House.

However, an outsider, Republican Michael D. Gallagher -- assistant secretary of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the president's principal adviser on telecommunication policies -- also wants the job and is said to be a favorite of Powell's. The two have worked closely on several issues, while Powell and Martin have disagreed on matters of policy and style during their time together on the commission. Through a spokesman, Gallagher declined to comment yesterday.

More at the Washington Post.

Here’s an interesting piece on the uneasy alliance between Disney and the Ultraconservative, Religious Right. Why am I not surprised that Grover Norquist is involved? I’m also not surprised to see that the far right hates P2P technology. Smacks a little too much of communism, I’d bet.

D.C. Schoolmarms Build Better Mousetrap
P2P paranoia leads Disney into the culture warriors' den
Radley Balko

Last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an odd logo peered out from the maze of exhibitor booths—that of the Walt Disney Company.

Disney's holding a booth at CPAC was puzzling for a couple of reasons. First, it was to my knowledge the only corporate booth in the exhibitor hall. Second, Disney has a long and bloody history with conservative activists. Family values groups have criticized and launched boycotts of the Mouse for, among other things, hiring gay men and women to work at its theme parks, extending benefits to the spouses of gay employees, and even for allowing homosexuals into its parks at all, particularly as part of coordinated gay pride celebrations. Disney has also come under fire for some of the entertainment programming put out by its various subsidiaries, including the ABC Network and Miramax.

As it turns out, Disney was invited by Grover Norquist, the noted alliance-builder and influential strategist among grassroots conservatives. Norquist says he invited Disney because he saw the potential for a partnership between the entertainment giant and culture warriors.

The gist of that partnership? Stamping out peer-to-peer technology.

Many conservatives apparently don't like peer-to-peer because it facilitates the distribution of pornography. Disney doesn't like that it facilitates the distribution of copyrighted content. So they've allied.

It's a devil's bargain for both parties, and reveals a willingness on the part of each to forsake principles of free expression and limited government when those interfere with the desire to see the state protect more valued interests: Conservatives are betraying an allegiance to free markets, technology and innovation. Disney is lining up with avowed censors.

More at Reason.

Last, anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge baseball fan. I’ve contemplated covering the sport on my blog a few times, but rejected the idea to focus on my first most passionate hobby, politics. Well, for once, the two are converging, so I get to put a little something here. It’s even cooler that this guy is my representative. I don’t care if he’s a Republican, I’ve heard him speak around here and seen him on TV, and I have to admit that I like his style.

As a fan, I also have zero problem with Congress investigating this. Baseball is run far too much like a crime syndicate, and it would be nice to see someone hold them responsible for once. And for the record, I believe owners and officials were burying their head in the sand with the steroid issue – it’s been obvious for years.

The Fan With Subpoena Power
Hearings on Steroid Use in Baseball Put Political Spotlight on Davis

By Spencer S. Hsu and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page B01

If it weren't for his love of baseball, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III once joked, he never would have entered politics. When the Washington Senators left the capital for Minneapolis in 1960, the jilted 11-year-old transformed his fascination with box scores into an obsession with campaigning.

These days, his critics from the major leagues charge, if it weren't for his love of politics, Davis (R-Va.) would not be driving Congress's investigation into baseball. The steroid investigation has thrust the usually cautious Davis -- known more for backroom compromises and an ability to please diverse constituencies -- into the national spotlight.

Davis, 56, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and the committee's ranking Democrat, Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), issued subpoenas this week to seven star ballplayers and four executives to testify Thursday and to produce documents and steroid-testing data.

Baseball's leaders have responded with unusually pointed attacks. Stanley Brand, an attorney for Commissioner Bud Selig, accused Davis and colleagues of trying "to satisfy their prurient interest" in drug use. Phillies pitcher and union representative Randy Wolf told Philadelphia area newspapers, "It's chemical McCarthyism."

In fact, the headline-grabbing inquest reflects a neat alignment of Davis's political, policy and personal interests. The issue fits the agenda of Davis's Democratic counterpart and signals a tough-on-drugs message to the GOP's socially conservative base while raising the national profile of the panel and its chairman, analysts said. Plus, Davis remains an avid sports fan.

More at the Washington Post.

Oh, and I got this in my email the other day. I have to admit I was quite amused…the Human Rights Campaign credit card? There are so many jokes…so many…I just don’t know which to choose. I think the image itself provides enough comedy. Let’s just say I find it particularly humorous that they’re aligned with Providian, notorious for their card-sharking techniques.

Your quote of the day: “It’s Chemical McCarythism” – Randy Wolf, MLB Pitcher

Posted by crimnos @ 8:54 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Beautiful, Just Beautiful: USANext gets sued

Remember that reprehensible ad where USANext was accusing the AARP of hating soldiers and supporting gay marriage? Well, the gay couple featured in that ad (without their consent) decided to strike back, and it looks like they have a case!

You can get the whole story at Americablog.

BREAKING NEWS: Judge grants Temporary Restraining Order against USA Next in anti-gay anti-AARP ad lawsuit
by John in DC - 3/10/2005 07:08:00 PM

UPDATE: You can find key legal documents in this case online here.

There was news today in the $25 million lawsuit of a gay couple whose image was stolen by USA Next and used in a high-profile ad campaign attacking the AARP’s position on social security legislation.

In Washington, DC today, US District Judge Reggie Walton (an appointee of President Bush (41)) granted the gay couple’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against USA Next. The TRO requires USA Next to cease and desist from further use of the couple's photos for any purpose. This is a big deal because it means the judge has found that the guys have reasonable likelihood of winning their case, and he also said he could see how they could get damages.

Basically, the couple’s lawyer, Christopher Wolf (counsel with Proskauer Rose, LLP), argued that a TRO was necessary to stop USA Next from using the couple’s image for additional ads. USA Next’s lawyer would not promise that the image wouldn’t be used again. And USA Next’s ad consultant even said in an AP story last night that the gay couple was to blame for getting married!

USA Next’s lawyer, Robert Sparks, argued that there was no indication that the couple would be irreparably harmed if the TRO wasn’t granted (that’s part of the requirement for granting one).

Wolf responded that had USA Next come to the couple in advance, and offered them money in exchange for the couple signing a model’s release so their image could be used in this hateful campaign, the couple would have said NO, there’s NO amount of money you could offer. Thus, the damage from USANext running the ad again was incalculable – there is NO amount of money that could compensate them adequately as no amount of money would have led them to cooperate in the first place.

The first sign of trouble for USA Next, in my opinion, was when the judge said today “I can see how they [the couple] may be entitled to damages for the misappropriation of their images.”

Posted by crimnos @ 7:41 PM :: (0) comments

More on the Church Report...

Please excuse the double-posted entry earlier, Blogspot appears to be suffering some difficulties. Now, then...commented on the Church Report earlier, but I've had a chance to read some more about it since then.

What the hell is this collective punishment shit? And I love how the investigations are going absolutely nowhere. I applaud removing the guy from involvement with detainees, but come on! Shouldn't this guy be busted down or something?

After clashing with Afghan rebels at the village of Miam Do one year ago, American soldiers detained the village's entire population for four days, and an officer beat and choked several residents while screening them and trying to identify local militants, according to a new Pentagon report that was given to Congress late Monday night.

Although the officer, an Army lieutenant colonel attached to the Defense Intelligence Agency, was disciplined and suspended from further involvement with detainees, he faced no further action beyond a reprimand.

It's really upsetting to note that the medics are involved.

The report also delved into the role that medical personnel might have played in failing to report abuses they witnessed or treated. Investigators reviewed the cases of 68 detainees who died while in American custody, including 63 in Iraq and five in Afghanistan, the summary said. Six of those deaths were related to detainee abuse, investigators determined.

In three cases, two in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, the report concluded that "it appeared that medical personnel may have attempted to misrepresent the circumstances of the death, possibly to disguise detainee abuse." These cases were forwarded to the Army surgeon general for review, the report summary said.

But, ultimately, it of course leaves senior officials free and clear. Those torture memos were clearly a coincidence, and the fact that this is a systemic problem is all just a coincidence. It's just because the higher-ups didn't say not to do it.

Admiral Church's report faults senior American officials for failing to establish clear interrogation policies for Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving commanders there to develop some practices that were unauthorized, according to the report summary. But the inquiry found that Pentagon officials and senior commanders were not directly responsible for the detainee abuses, and that there was no policy that approved mistreatment of detainees at prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Roll. Freakin'. Eyes.

Posted by crimnos @ 4:30 PM :: (0) comments

Now Ahnuld's Getting in on the Act

And by act, I really do mean act. Here's the story...

Aides Concede More Mock News Videos
Tapes praise governor's proposals on nurse staffing, teachers. Legislators plan probe.
By Dan Morain, Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — A week after Democratic legislators faulted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for using taxpayer money to produce "propaganda" in the form of a mock news video, the administration on Wednesday acknowledged making several others to advance its policies.

A state senator intends to question officials today about the funding and distribution of the videos.

Initially, legislators focused on one tape extolling an administration proposal to end mandatory lunch breaks for hourly workers. But additional videos have surfaced in which the administration is promoting a cut in the number of nurses required on duty in hospitals, pay for teachers based on merit rather than seniority and a more stringent tenure track.

A video was also produced on Schwarzenegger's plan to lower prescription drug prices, but it has not been released. Officials said it was a draft.

The other tapes, formatted as television news stories, were sent to stations statewide starting in December. Some news outlets aired portions of the video about lunch breaks, which state officials, who monitored usage of the tape, characterized as a news release.

From The LA Times.

I suppose I can understand...I mean, they need to offset the whole liberal media bias, right? And what better way to do it than to take taxpayer money and counter that bias?

Oh wait, that's a horrible idea. For once, I'm glad it's not my money being used to pay for lies, but I have to feel sympathy for Californians. Get the guy in, and he's already using the typical tricks. Good luck with that, CA...

Posted by crimnos @ 3:50 PM :: (0) comments

News for March 10th: Tax the Poor to Pay the Rich Edition

I can’t decide which to be angrier about these days: the bankruptcy bill or the proposed 2006 budget. Both are working together to shaft the poor people of America, both are ill-conceived, or at worse blatantly obvious failures to fix systemic problems, and both are part of an obvious agenda to rob the poor and give to the rich.

How do these people live with themselves at night? I really want to know if they lay awake in bed at night, thinking of the American people that they’re shafting.

GOP Lawmakers Present Tax-Cutting Budgets
Blueprints Include Spending Reductions, Slower Growth for Entitlement Programs
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page A04

House and Senate Republicans yesterday unveiled budget plans for the coming fiscal year that order up billions of dollars in spending cuts for veterans, agriculture, education and health care programs, while making room for as much as $106 billion in tax reductions over the next five years.

For the first time since the balanced-budget fight of 1997, GOP leaders hope to use the budget process to slow the growth of an array of politically sensitive entitlement programs, from student loans and veterans health care to Medicaid and agriculture subsidies. The House plan is seeking $69 billion in entitlement savings over five years, more than twice the $26 billion in savings written into President Bush's budget. The Senate plan would save $32 billion.

Non-defense programs that are subject to annual spending plans would also be hit, some of them hard. The House budget blueprint would cut discretionary spending for international affairs, the environment, agriculture, housing, transportation, education and training, health and justice. Funding for community and regional development programs would be slashed from $22.7 billion this year to $13.7 billion in the fiscal year that begins in October.

The House plan would shrink the federal budget deficit from the $412 billion recorded last year to $203 billion in 2010, even as it continues to cut taxes, said House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa). The Senate plan would reduce the deficit to $208 billion in five years.

"People will feel some real pain," said Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), "but I don't know how you get a deficit down without people taking some medicine."

Democrats, however, said those deficit figures significantly understate the government's red ink because they do not reflect the long-term costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, of Bush's Social Security proposal, or of fixing the alternative minimum tax -- a parallel income tax set up to plug tax loopholes for the rich but increasingly ensnaring the middle class.

What deficit reduction there is would be extracted from the nation's poorest, most vulnerable citizens, Democrats charged, as Republicans try to extend tax cuts mainly for the affluent, such as the 2003 reductions in capital gains and dividend rates, which will expire in 2008. "This budget asks the most from those who have the least, and the least from those who have the most," said Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.).

Taxes are sure to be a major flash point, especially amid concerns over the deficit. The House budget assumes tax cuts totaling $106 billion over the next five years, enough to extend the capital gains and dividend cuts, as well as the other tax cuts that are set to expire, such as a college tuition deduction, a break for small-business investment, and the business tax credit for research and development. The House total would offer conservatives room for other tax moves under consideration, such as an immediate repeal of the estate tax or an extension of a tax break that allows residents from states without income taxes to deduct sales tax payments from their federal taxes.

The Senate approach is more modest, setting aside no more than $70.2 billion -- about $30 billion less than Bush seeks -- to extend popular tax cuts that are set to expire. But even that sum may be politically problematic. The Senate budget uses parliamentary language to ensure that its tax cuts could pass with a simple 51-vote majority rather than the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. A small but pivotal group of moderate Republicans in the Senate has signaled it may balk at any tax cuts that are not paid for by spending cuts or revenue increases.

The stakes for securing passage of a budget are high. Congressional budget plans set bottom-line limits for spending and tax cuts, which the appropriations and tax-writing committees must adhere to as they craft legislation for the coming fiscal year.

To ease the way for cuts in entitlement spending, a budget plan would also include the same parliamentary test the Senate wants to use for tax cuts. Without a budget, any entitlement changes would probably need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, a hurdle that could make Bush's policy prescriptions unattainable.

The House budget orders the Agriculture Committee to draft legislation by September trimming farm programs by $5.3 billion over five years. The Education and Workforce Committee would have to cut the entitlement programs under its jurisdiction -- mainly student loan and pension programs -- by $21.4 billion. The Energy and Commerce Committee would have to serve up $20 billion in savings, largely from Medicaid, environmental cleanups and federal power authorities. The Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare, the earned-income tax credit, welfare, child care and unemployment insurance, would have to produce a bill saving $18.7 billion through 2010. Even the Veterans' Affairs Committee would have to do its part, with $798 million in cuts.

In the Senate, the bulk of entitlement cuts -- $15 billion worth -- would fall to the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee would have to find $8.6 billion in cuts.

Nussle said all those cuts together would only slow the growth of entitlement spending from 5.6 percent next year to 5.5 percent. "We're not starving programs," he said. "They're continuing to grow at huge rates."

Democrats are demanding that the sacrifice should come in the form of tax increases as well as spending cuts. "If you have a dam with two holes and you plug up only one and leave the other one wide open, that doesn't get the job done," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.).

From the Washington Post.

Oh, and speaking of shafting the American people to make corporations richer…

House Begins Work On Social Security
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page A05

The House began its first formal work on restructuring Social Security yesterday with a hearing that featured testimony from the head of the investigative arm of Congress, who issued several warnings about the individual accounts proposed by President Bush.

House Republican leaders also received a new report from their consultants showing that focus groups had found "great levels of concern about the financial risks associated" with such accounts, which would allow younger workers to invest part of their payroll taxes in tightly regulated stock and bond funds.

David M. Walker, a Republican who as U.S. comptroller general is head of the Government Accountability Office, told the Ways and Means Committee that allowing future retirees to manage part of their Social Security contributions could "exacerbate" the system's solvency problems. He cautioned lawmakers about the risk, debt and transition costs that the accounts could produce.

But Walker said the accounts can be part of a solution to the retirement system's "current unsustainable fiscal path" and added that a failure by Congress to rewrite the law swiftly "will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living and ultimately our national security."

"Social Security does not face an immediate crisis, but it does face a large and growing financial problem," Walker said. He titled his presentation "Early Action Would Be Prudent" and said that restructuring quickly would "make the necessary action less dramatic than if we wait."

More at the Washington Post.

Oh well, at least there’s one bit of good news out of this trainwreck we call a Government: the Dirty Skies bill is dead! At least for now…

Senate Impasse Stops 'Clear Skies' Measure
Pollution Bill's Failure a Setback for Bush

By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page A04

President Bush's bid to rewrite federal air pollution laws ground to a halt in Congress yesterday when Republicans were unable to overcome objections in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the bill would weaken the central pillars of the nation's environmental protection framework.

The setback is a body blow to the White House's prized plan and a victory for environmentalists who have long said that the "Clear Skies" bill is a euphemism for rolling back safeguards at the behest of industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency will issue new regulations today and next week to set limits on air pollutants, but the rules will not change the provisions in the Clean Air Act that would have been revised by Clear Skies.

The panel deadlocked over fundamental differences on how to balance the desire for cleaner air with the cost to industry and jobs.

Republicans accused Democrats of obstructing effective and common-sense legislation to deny Bush an important environmental victory. Democrats, joined by Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R-R.I.), said the negotiations were conducted in bad faith, that the pollution-control targets were too low and that the bill contained irresponsible loopholes.

More at the Washington Post.

Oh, and here’s a surprise: yet again, the people at the top of the prisoner abuse issues are exonerated yet again! Just a few bad apples! Frat House! Oh, and I’d like to note that that’s a pretty misleading headline, as just a few paragraphs down, there’s this:

“The report, to be presented on Capitol Hill this morning, says Rumsfeld twice approved questionable techniques for use against "resistant" detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a defense official who quoted parts of the document's executive summary yesterday. "These interrogations were sufficiently aggressive that they highlighted the difficult question of precisely defining the boundaries of humane treatment of detainees," Church's report says.”

Hmm…doesn’t sound like an exoneration to me.

Abuse Review Exonerates Policy
Low-Level Leaders and Confusion Blamed
By Josh White and R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page A16

The Pentagon's widest-ranging examination of prisoner abuse at U.S. detention facilities has concluded that there was no deliberate high-level policy that led to numerous cases of mistreatment, and instead blames inept leadership at low levels and confusion over changing interrogation rules, according to government and defense officials who have read the report.

Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III's inquiry, which included reviews of several earlier military investigations, found there is "no single overarching explanation" for the abuse and that many of them occurred when soldiers came in contact with detainees on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than in U.S. detention facilities. It also found that interrogators, for the most part, followed U.S. and international standards for treating detainees humanely and that "there is no link between approved interrogation techniques and detainee abuse."

While the review largely summarizes previous military reports about Defense Department detention operations, it specifically points out that aggressive efforts to increase the quality of human intelligence after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks might have led Pentagon officials to approve the use of interrogation techniques that were on the borderline of acceptable treatment. As previously disclosed, the report says military lawyers initially debated the use of 39 sometimes controversial techniques -- such as water boarding, a tactic that mimics drowning -- but pared that list to 35. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld approved 24 techniques.

The report, to be presented on Capitol Hill this morning, says Rumsfeld twice approved questionable techniques for use against "resistant" detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a defense official who quoted parts of the document's executive summary yesterday. "These interrogations were sufficiently aggressive that they highlighted the difficult question of precisely defining the boundaries of humane treatment of detainees," Church's report says.

More at the Washington Post.

Hey, more great news from the Culture of Life. They’re protecting the right to kill people and detain them illegally yet again! Man, this just looks like another domino. Another slap in the face to the international community, another tightening of policy to allow for indefinite detention, another law that they can escape from. What else can you expect from a pack of criminals, though?

U.S. Quits Pact Used in Capital Cases
Foes of Death Penalty Cite Access to Envoys
By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page A01

The Bush administration has decided to pull out of an international agreement that opponents of the death penalty have used to fight the sentences of foreigners on death row in the United States, officials said yesterday.

In a two-paragraph letter dated March 7, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that the United States "hereby withdraws" from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The United States proposed the protocol in 1963 and ratified it -- along with the rest of the Vienna Convention -- in 1969.

The protocol requires signatories to let the International Court of Justice (ICJ) make the final decision when their citizens say they have been illegally denied the right to see a home-country diplomat when jailed abroad.

The United States initially backed the measure as a means to protect its citizens abroad. It was also the first country to invoke the protocol before the ICJ, also known as the World Court, successfully suing Iran for the taking of 52 U.S. hostages in Tehran in 1979.

But in recent years, other countries, with the support of U.S. opponents of capital punishment, successfully complained before the World Court that their citizens were sentenced to death by U.S. states without receiving access to diplomats from their home countries.

More at The Washington Post.

Hey, at least this time there’s some honesty coming out of Washington, though I highly doubt they’re going to acknowledge this report…

US in dark on Iran's WMD, says inquiry

Julian Borger in Washington
Thursday March 10, 2005
The Guardian

A presidential commission has found that US intelligence on Iran is so patchy that it is impossible to reach definite conclusions about the country's suspected weapons programmes, it was reported yesterday.
The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the US Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction is due to report to the president by the end of this month, primarily on the intelligence fiasco over Iraq's non-existent WMD.

Its findings could also knock a significant dent in the Bush administration's Iran policy, which is built on the presumption that Tehran is bent on building nuclear weapons and is not prepared to trade that for economic and diplomatic incentives, as European states hope.

Late last year, Porter Goss, the CIA director, reported to Congress that Iran continued "to vigorously pursue indigenous programmes to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons".

In response to yesterday's report, Mr Bush insisted that Washington was not alone in its sceptical view of Iran's intentions. "I think it's very important for the United States to continue to work with our friends and allies which believe that the Iranians want a nuclear weapon and which know that Iran possessing a nuclear weapon would be very destabilising.

"In my trip to Europe, I discovered common ground with a lot of European nations which believe and are worried about Iranian intentions."

Washington has refused to get involved in talks with Tehran conducted by Britain, France and Germany. The Bush administration has also been lobbying to replace Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has discovered evidence that Iran has attempted to conceal its nuclear research but stopped short of declaring that the regime is trying to build weapons.

More at the Guardian UK.

Your quote of the day: “Rob not God, nor the Poor, lest thou ruin thyself; the Eagle snatcht a Coal from the Altar, but it fired her Nest.” – Benjamin Franklin

Posted by crimnos @ 8:51 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

News for March 9th: Stripping Constitutional Rights Edition

I have a confession: I’m not a very good liberal. Yes, I support most of the progressive causes, such as social security, health care reform, and equal rights, but I have also, slowly, come to support gun rights, and even understand the conservative stance on guns. Simply put, I think that the American people should be able to reserve some right of force for themselves in case the need for revolution ever does arise. I used to think that the “well-armed militia” bit referred to the National Guard, but I see the need for citizens to own weapons in this country.

Yes, I know all the liberal arguments for gun control, as I used to use them, as well. I’ve come to realize, however, that the problems presented by rampant gun ownership in the US are a symptom of cultural problems, not the availability of guns themselves. People will find a way to kill each other if they really want to.

Thus it is with great trepidation that I’m hearing about the move to ban people on terror watch lists from acquiring guns. It strikes me as either an extraordinarily bad idea or politically motivated. These watch lists operate by:

One more right that’ll be dissolving in the name of national security.

FBI suggests Congress ban gun sales to terrorism suspects
By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY

FBI Director Robert Mueller suggested Tuesday that Congress consider barring terrorism suspects from legally buying guns after an audit found that 47 people on a terrorism watch list were approved for purchases last year.

Gun sales are denied to convicted felons, fugitives, convicted drug users, illegal aliens and others under federal gun laws. But a Government Accountability Office report made public Tuesday pointed out that being suspected of having a link to a terrorist or a terrorist group is not among the nine criteria that prevent someone from legally buying a firearm. It only triggers a more intense background check of the person before a gun dealer can sell them a gun.

"We ought to look at what can be done to perhaps modify the law," Mueller told members of a House Appropriations subcommittee.

The National Rifle Association says the current law is protecting Americans from terrorists while allowing citizens the freedom to own guns. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's chief executive, said under the law, if the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System gets a hit that someone applying for a gun permit is on a terror watch list, the government official who put that person on the list and other counterterrorism personnel are notified.

"They are specifically asked whether there's a good reason to deny this person buying a firearm," LaPierre told the Associated Press in an interview. "If there is, the person is denied. If there is not, the person is not denied."

More at Yahoo News.

Here’s the no-duh prize…

Graham Says GOP Erred By Focusing on Accounts
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A08

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has spent weeks attempting to recruit Democratic support for a plan to restructure Social Security, said yesterday that Republicans "made a strategic mistake" by initially focusing on a proposal to create individual investment accounts.

The accounts, the centerpiece of President Bush's proposal, would benefit young and poorer workers by letting them use compound interest to help make up for any benefit reductions, Graham said. But he said the accounts, by themselves, will not fix the solvency problem Social Security faces as baby boomers begin to retire.

"We've now got this huge fight over a sideshow," Graham said during a meeting with Washington Post reporters and editors. "It's always been a sideshow, but we sold it as the main event. [Critics are] attacking it as the undoing of Social Security. That's what frustrates me -- that we're off in a ditch over a sideshow, and there's plenty of blame to go around."

The House will take its first formal step toward a Social Security bill today when Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) holds a hearing about the future of the benefits system. The session will feature testimony from Comptroller General David M. Walker, who heads the Government Accountability Office, and two trustees of the Social Security system, Thomas R. Saving and John L. Palmer.

More at The Washington Post.

Ugh, I hate that Bush is taking credit for what’s happening in Lebanon. It has nothing to do with him, but he’s sure latching on to it.

Bush Calls Democracy Terror's Antidote
By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A16

President Bush said yesterday a fledgling democratic movement that he sees spreading through the Middle East is essential to defeating terrorism, and warned Syria and Iran against thwarting the "momentum of freedom" and fomenting instability in the region.

"The chances of democratic progress in the broader Middle East have seemed frozen in place for decades," Bush said at the National Defense University at Fort McNair. "Yet, at last, clearly and suddenly, the thaw has begun."

Following up on his inaugural pledge to "end tyranny around the world," Bush demanded that Syria immediately withdraw its troops from Lebanon, called on both Syria and Iran to stop terrorist activities in the region, and directly pressed for open presidential elections in Egypt.

Speaking at a war college where Dwight D. Eisenhower and Colin L. Powell studied, Bush, for the first time, claimed some measure of credit for the democratic changes taking place in the Middle East and sought to explain how these developments will make the United States safer from terrorists. In the past months, Iraq and the Palestinians held democratic elections, Egypt and Saudi Arabia signaled their intentions to open up their voting processes -- although in a very limited fashion -- and the Lebanese people took to the streets and forced the resignation of the Syrian-controlled government.

More at The Washington Post.

Well, this will be interesting: where is Congress going to go with the budget? I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

Tax, Spending Cuts Packaged
Congressional Panels Offer Budget Blueprints Today
By Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A08

The House and Senate Budget committees will unveil fiscal blueprints today that pave the way for additional tax reductions while seeking billions in spending cuts that target Medicaid, farm assistance, major weapons systems and just about every other domestic program.

Offsetting tax breaks mostly for the affluent with spending cuts that could hurt the poor could be politically risky, particularly in the Senate, where moderate Republicans have already warned that the juxtaposition may be untenable.

Last year, Congress failed to produce a budget over a similar tax fight. Four Republican senators -- Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain (Ariz.), and Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) -- joined Democrats to insist that further tax breaks be paid for through revenue increases or spending cuts. House Republicans and the White House refused to go along.

Collins said this week that including tax cuts in the budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 could prove to be an even tougher sell, "given all the sacrifices that we're asking of some very important programs." Snowe said her position on the budget and tax cuts is unchanged from last year.

Concerns about Republican opposition led Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) to initially consider omitting tax cuts from the 2006 plan.

More at The Washington Post.

I wish I could say that the selection of John Bolton for UN Ambassador surprises me, but after Negroponte, nothing surprises me.

Bush's Perverse UN Pick
by Ian Williams, The Nation

The nomination of John Bolton to be US ambassador to the United Nations is a resounding declaration of American contempt for the organization and the rest of the world. When Condoleezza Rice forced Bolton out of his niche at the State Department, it was taken worldwide as a positive indication of the prospects of multilateralism in Bush's second term, in some measure compensating for the retirement of Colin Powell--not least since no one was sure how much of a multilateralist Rice is.

Some playful souls scared colleagues by suggesting that Bolton could end up as UN ambassador, but the consensus was that not even Bush could be that crassly insouciant about the views of the rest of the world.

This week showed that once again, the world has underestimated the President.

Bolton's nomination sends a message to the Europeans that on his recent European tour Bush was only kidding about a joint approach to global threats. It sends a message to the rest of the world that the United States will not listen to them, but will pursue its own obsessively theological agenda in the teeth of almost universal opposition.

Some UN officials are halfheartedly trying to convince themselves that the job will make Bolton more amenable to working within the system. Sadly, they are almost certain to be disappointed. He has shown no compunction about working the system for his own and his conservative colleagues' benefit. As far back as 1992, when he was Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, he was trying to shake down the UN Development Program for a $2 million grant to an organization that was little more than a pension fund for a conservative colleague [see Williams, "Why the Right Loves the U.N.," April 13, 1992].

More recently, Bolton was an assistant to James Baker when the former Secretary of State was Secretary General Kofi Annan's (failed) representative for Western Sahara. But Bolton has remained unrelenting in his opposition, both rhetorical and practical, to the UN even as he took the money.

More at the Nation.

This bankruptcy bill is terrible. I’ve been very close to a position where I would have to declare bankruptcy, and only dug myself out through a stroke of good luck. I can tell you this: the majority of people who get screwed by the exorbitant interest rates and sharklike tactics of credit cards and the unbelievable burden of being uninsured in America would like to pay these bills, but sometimes it really comes down to deciding between having a roof over your head or paying MBNA. The roof tends to win.

Oh well, at least the corporations will be protected from the evil poor.

Bankruptcy Bill Nears Final Senate Vote
By Kathleen Day
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A01

The Republican-controlled Senate cleared the way for a final vote as soon as today on an industry-backed bill to make it harder for consumers to wipe out debt through bankruptcy.

Senators voted 53 to 46 against an amendment offered by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) that had helped sink the legislation in prior years. The measure would have made it harder for people who break the law while protesting abortion to use bankruptcy to avoid paying court-ordered fines.

In another vote yesterday, 14 Democrats joined Republicans in a 69-to-31 majority to limit to 30 hours further debate on the legislation. Sixty votes are needed to cap debate in the Senate, and the chamber's 55 Republicans were uncertain just hours before the afternoon vote whether enough Democrats would join them.

Democrats intend to offer dozens of amendments in the debate time remaining, but Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), think they have the votes to defeat them and then easily pass the legislation, which the credit card and finance industry has pushed for nearly eight years.

The bill would then go to the House, where Republican leaders have promised to move quickly if the Senate keeps it free of controversial amendments. A final House vote could come as early as next week or after Congress returns from a week's vacation for Easter, congressional aides said yesterday. President Bush has said he would sign the bill, which would be the most significant change to bankruptcy laws in more than a quarter-century.

"The sooner we finish work in the Senate and get the bill to the House, the sooner our bankruptcy system will be focused as it should be on helping those with real need and less vulnerable to abuse by consumers who have the ability to repay their debts,"
Grassley said after the Schumer amendment was defeated and the limit on debate passed.
More at the Washington Post

There was also this great little sidebar that summarizes the argument well:

Bankruptcy Debate

Credit card issuers favor reform, saying that currently:

Source: American Bankers Association

Consumers groups oppose the legislation, saying that it would:

It’s just a bad idea all around.

Your quote of the Day:

"There's no such thing as the United Nations…If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.'” – U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton

Posted by crimnos @ 9:32 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Maximum pain is aim of new US weapon

From New Scientist:

Maximum pain is aim of new US weapon

THE US military is funding development of a weapon that delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away. Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed. But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be used for torture.

"I am deeply concerned about the ethical aspects of this research," says Andrew Rice, a consultant in pain medicine at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London. "Even if the use of temporary severe pain can be justified as a restraining measure, which I do not believe it can, the long-term physical and psychological effects are unknown."

The research came to light in documents unearthed by the Sunshine Project, an organisation based in Texas and in Hamburg, Germany, that exposes biological weapons research. The papers were released under the US's Freedom of Information Act.

One document, a research contract between the Office of Naval Research and the University of Florida in Gainsville, is entitled "Sensory consequences of electromagnetic pulses emitted by laser induced plasmas". It concerns so-called Pulsed Energy Projectiles (PEPs), which fire a laser pulse that generates a burst of expanding plasma when it hits something solid, like a person (New Scientist, 12 October 2002, p 42). The weapon, destined for use in 2007, could literally knock rioters off their feet.

According to a 2003 review of non-lethal weapons by the US Naval Studies Board, which advises the navy and marine corps, PEPs produced "pain and temporary paralysis" in tests on animals. This appears to be the result of an electromagnetic pulse produced by the expanding plasma which triggers impulses in nerve cells. The new study, which runs until July and will be carried out with researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, aims to optimise this effect. The idea is to work out how to generate a pulse which triggers pain neurons without damaging tissue.
“Even if the use of temporary severe pain can be justified as a restraining measure, the long-term effects are unknown”

The contract, heavily censored before release, asks researchers to look for "optimal pulse parameters to evoke peak nociceptor activation" - in other words, cause the maximum pain possible. Studies on cells grown in the lab will identify how much pain can be inflicted on someone before causing injury or death.

New Scientist contacted two researchers working on the project. Martin Richardson, a laser expert at the University of Central Florida, refused to comment. Brian Cooper, an expert in dental pain at the University of Florida, distanced himself from the work, saying "I don't have anything interesting to convey. I was just providing some background for the group." His name appears on a public list of the university's research projects next to the $500,000-plus grant.

John Wood of University College London, an expert in how the brain perceives pain, says the researchers involved in the project should face censure. "It could be used for torture," he says, "the [researchers] must be aware of this."

Amanda Williams, a clinical psychologist at University College London, fears that victims risk long-term harm. "Persistent pain can result from a range of supposedly non-destructive stimuli which nevertheless change the functioning of the nervous system," she says. She is concerned that studies of cultured cells will fall short of demonstrating a safe level for a plasma burst. "They cannot tell us about the pain and psychological consequences of such a painful experience."

Posted by crimnos @ 5:28 PM :: (0) comments

Monday, March 07, 2005

Fascism in America: Even the Conservatives are Catching on

From Daily kos

Conservatives Scream Warning of Fascist America!
by mitch2k2
Fri Mar 4th, 2005 at 22:00:50 PST

We used to cringe at the hyperbole of the word. Fascist. Now we see the road we're on, and where it leads taken to its logical progression. A growing number of conservative thinkers are now also speaking the word clearly and frequently with none of the hesitation we might use. With, I should add, a palpable sense of alarm.
Justin Raimondo's well-sourced essay on the heels of several startling articles; Hunger for Dicatatorship by Scott McConnell, The Brownshirting of America by Paul Craig Roberts, and Lew Rockwell's musings on The Reality of Red-State Fascism, all lead me to one conclusion: They see it coming. Consider the following from Raimondo's piece today:

From the moment the twin towers were hit, the fascist seed began to germinate, to take root and grow. As the first shots of what the neocons call "World War IV" rang out, piercing the post-Cold War calm like a shriek straight out of Hell, the political and cultural climate underwent a huge shift: the country became, for the first time in the modern era, a hothouse conducive to the growth of a genuinely totalitarian tendency in American politics.
There's more.

Diaries :: mitch2k2's diary ::
I've long worked myself into frothing anger and migraines both by wondering how on earth intelligent conservatives could stand by while this administration dismantled all that America stood for (once upon a time). Surely they saw it too. Surely not every one of them had been snowed or so blinded by partisanship that they could not see the effects and ramifications of the steps the Bush folks were taking.

By and large they all remained silent, however. The fact that there is a growing chorus of conservative thinkers is only reassuring for the briefest moment before the stakes become clear once again. This is a very precarious moment in American history, and as Raimondo argues, one more terrorist attack on our soil could be all it takes to tip the balance.

This worrisome shift in the ideology and tone of the conservative movement has also been noted by the economist and writer Paul Craig Roberts,a former assistant secretary of the Treasury, who points to the "brownshirting" of the American Right as a harbinger of the fascist mentality. I raised the same point in a column, and the discussion was taken up by Scott McConnell, editor of The American Conservative, in a thoughtful essay that appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of that magazine. My good friend Scott sounds a skeptical note:

"It is difficult to imagine any scenario, after 9/11, that would not lead to some expansion of federal power. The United States was suddenly at war, mobilizing to strike at a Taliban government on the other side of the world. The emergence of terrorism as the central security issue had to lead, at the very least, to increased domestic surveillance - of Muslim immigrants especially. War is the health of the state, as the libertarians helpfully remind us, but it doesn't mean that war leads to fascism."

All this is certainly true, as far as it goes: but what if the war takes place, not in distant Afghanistan, but on American soil? That, I contend, is the crucial circumstance that makes the present situation unique. Yes, war is the health of the State - but a war fought down the block, instead of on the other side of the world, means the total victory of State power over individual liberty as an imminent possibility. To paraphrase McConnell, it is difficult to imagine any scenario, after another 9/11, that would not lead to what we might call fascism.

William Lind, director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation and a prominent writer on military strategy[...]raises the possibility, at the end of his piece, that his argument is highly conditional:

"There is one not unlikely event that could bring, if not fascism, then a nationalist statism that would destroy American liberty: a terrorist event that caused mass casualties, not the 3,000 dead of 9/11, but 30,000 dead or 300,000 dead. We will devote some thought to that possibility in a future column."

I was going to wait for Mr. Lind to come up with that promised column, but felt that the matter might be pressing enough to broach the subject anyway. Especially in view of this, not to mention this.

With that utterly chilling thought in mind, I'd like to step in here for a moment and remind y'all of Tommy Franks' comments to Cigar Aficionado early last year.

In the magazine's December edition, the former commander of the military's Central Command warned that if terrorists succeeded in using a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) against the U.S. or one of our allies, it would likely have catastrophic consequences for our cherished republican form of government.
Discussing the hypothetical dangers posed to the U.S. in the wake of Sept. 11, Franks said that "the worst thing that could happen" is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon that inflicts heavy casualties.

If that happens, Franks said, "... the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy."

Franks then offered "in a practical sense" what he thinks would happen in the aftermath of such an attack.

"It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world - it may be in the United States of America - that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important."

I now return you to your regularly scheduled Raimondo:

If "everything changed" on the foreign policy front in the wake of 9/11, then the domestic consequences of 9/11 II are bound to have a similarly transformative effect. If our response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was to launch a decades-long war to implant democracy throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world, what will we do when the battlefield shifts back to the continental U.S.? I shudder to think about it.

The legal, ideological, and political elements that go into the making of a genuinely fascist regime in America are already in place: all that is required issome catalytic event, one that needn't even be on the scale of 9/11, but still dramatic enough to give real impetus to the creation of a police state in this country.

The legal foundation is already to be found in the arguments made by the president's lawyers in asserting their "right" to commit torture and other war crimes, under the "constitutional" aegis of the chief executive's wartime powers. In time of war, the president's lawyers argue, our commander-in-chief has the power to immunize himself and his underlings against legal prosecution: they transcend the law, and are put beyond the judgement of the people's representatives by presidential edict. Theoretically, according to the militarist interpretation of the Constitution, there is no power the president may not assume in wartime, because his decisions are "unreviewable." On account of military necessity, according to this doctrine, we have to admit the possibility that the Constitution might itself be suspended and martial law declared the minute war touches American soil.

It wouldn't take much. There already exists, in the neoconized Republican Party, a mass-based movement that fervently believes in a strong central State and a foreign policy of perpetual war. The brownshirting of the American conservative movement, as Paul Craig Roberts stingingly characterized the ugly transformation of the American Right, is so far along that the president can propose the biggest expansion of federal power and spending since the Great Society with nary a peep from the former enthusiasts of "smaller government."

So, calling fascists for what they are is no longer the jurisdiction of the "loony left" alone. I'd encourage you all to share these stories with any of the conservative type folks you may have contact with. Aside from that I'd say we all need to stay on our toes.

God forbid these people are given the cataclysmic catalyst event they're waiting for. What happens then?

For what it's worth, Raimondo concludes this way:

McConnell is right that we are not yet in the grip of a fully developed fascist system, and the conservative movement is far from thoroughly neoconized. But we are a single terrorist incident away from all that: a bomb placed in a mall or on the Golden Gate Bridge, or a biological attack of some kind, could sweep away the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and two centuries of legal, political, and cultural traditions - all of it wiped out in a single instant, by means of a single act that would tip the balance and push us into the abyss of post-Constitutional history.

The trap is readied, baited, and waiting to be sprung. Whether the American people will fall into it when the time comes: that is the nightmare that haunts the dreams of patriots.

Indeed. The clicking noise you're hearing is the sound of all the pieces falling snugly into place. How and when it comes, we can't know. But here's less doubt in my mind every day that this is where we're going.

Posted by crimnos @ 12:53 PM :: (0) comments