Monday, August 31, 2009

Fox News propaganda vs. what really happened: Ted Kennedy and Medicare’s prescription drug benefit

Fox News are pushing the notion that Ted Kennedy compromised with President Bush to get the deal passed on prescription drugs and Medicare. Daily Kos have produced a film contrasting how Fox News are selling this and what Kennedy had to say about what Bush was up to at the time.

Here is an article from someone who sat in on the Democratic meetings discussing prescription drugs coverage:

Early in the process, Kennedy had worked with Bush and the Republicans, even helping pass a bill he could support through the Senate. But at the last minute, Bush and the GOP stabbed Kennedy in the back, swapping out the Senate-passed legislation with the industry-friendly boondoggle in conference committee.

As a result, Kennedy went from supporting the process to opposing it. Along with all the senators in the room -- including Bayh -- Kennedy voted against the Bush plan and spoke out loudly in opposition.
Fox are endlessly portraying Kennedy as a man who could compromise and citing as evidence his role in the passage of a prescription drug benefit under Medicare, signed into law by George W. Bush in 2003.

The only problem with that narrative is that it is simply not true.

Ted Kennedy voted against that bill.
The reason for Fox's lie couldn't be more obvious: they desperately want Democrats to cave on the core elements of health care reform, and they think that creating a false narrative about Ted Kennedy will make their wish come true.
And the joke is that Fox are portraying the Republicans as the party fighting to save Medicare. It's a pretty sick joke, but there you have it.

John McCain's Push Back Against Cheney: "Interrogations Violated Law".

McCain disagrees with Holder's decision to appoint a Special Prosecutor, but, as both the Cheney's take to the airwaves to defend the use of torture, McCain makes it very clear that he does not agree with them on this one.

"I think the interrogations were in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the convention against torture that we ratified under President Reagan."

"I think these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaeda recruit. I got that from an al Qaeda operative in a prison camp in Iraq... I think that the ability of us to work with our allies was harmed. And I believe that information, according go the FBI and others, could have been gained through other members."
He says that it is important that the torture programme is never repeated but doesn't say how this could be achieved without prosecutions. After all, Cheney's argument is that "torture worked" and that the programme should be continuing.

Unless it is established beyond doubt that the law was broken, then there would be nothing to stop a future Republican administration from repeating the Bush regime's illegality.

That's why, I would argue, that the architects of the policy must be prosecuted. Only then will it be established beyond doubt that the US does not tolerate torture. Prosecuting the grunts on the ground implies the opposite; that torture is, somehow legal, but that they simply went too far.

Liz Cheney: Waterboarding is not torture.

Things must be tense in the Cheney household because it's not only Dick that they have sent out to publicly defend the use of torture, they have dispatched Liz Cheney as well.

She begins by claiming that an investigation has already taken place, and when reminded that this was carried out by the Bush administration, she insists that the Obama Justice Department is political, implying that the Bush Justice Department was not.

The politicisation of the Justice Department under the Bush administration is so well documented that she should have been laughed out of the studio at that point.

A 2008 report by the Justice Department concluded that former Bush loyalists at the DoJ broke the law by allowing politics to influence hiring decisions. The Justice Department’s screening process was headed by Monica Goodling, a graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University who acknowledged that she “crossed the line of the civil service rules.”

Goodling blocked the hiring of someone she viewed as a “
liberal,” and she frequently checked the backgrounds of candidates for their views on “abortion” and “homosexuality.”
But, obviously deciding that the truth mattered not a jot, she staggered on, ending this fact free argument with the assertion that, "waterboarding is not torture."

Perhaps she believes that, if she just keeps saying that, it will somehow make it true. Just as, if she continually insists that the Bush Justice Department was not political, then we'll all forget about the firing of 7 US Attorney's and the scandal which that caused.

What's clear is that Liz is now arguing that waterboarding is not torture whilst her father argues that there is nothing "improper or illegal" about interrogators taking guns and drills into interrogation rooms.

They are no longer trying to make their case in a way which will win anyone over to their side. They are issuing a clarion call for right wing loons to rise up and call, "foul."

That really is the only card they have left to play.

Cheney Offers Sharp Defense of C.I.A. Interrogation Tactics

It only takes the threat of possible prosecution to bring Dick Cheney out from the woodwork screaming like a loon.

"It's clearly a political move. I mean, there's no other rationale for why they're doing this."
Of course, there is a very clear rationale as to why the Obama administration should be doing this; it is to ensure that no future administration ever attempts to repeat the actions which the Bush administration put into place. Actions which Cheney continues to try to defend. Wallace asked him about the fact that KSM was waterboarded 183 times and that guns and drills were taken into interrogation rooms.
Cheney: I knew about the waterboarding, not specifically in any one particular case, but as a general policy that we had approved. The fact of the matter is the Justice Department reviewed all of these allegations several years ago. They looked at this question over whether or not somebody had an electric drill in an interrogations session. It was never used on the individual. Or that they brought in a weapon, never used on the individual.

The judgement was made then that there wasn't anything there which was improper or illegal....

Wallace: Do you think what they did, now that now that you have heard about it, do you think what they did was wrong?

Cheney: Chris, my sort of overwhelming view is that the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives, in preventing further attacks against the United States, giving us the intelligence we needed to go find al Qaeda, to find their camps, to find out how they were being financed.

Those interrogations were involved in the arrest of all the al Qaeda members that we were able to bring to justice. I think they were directly responsible for the fact that for eight years we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States. It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well.

Wallace: Even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorisation, you're okay with it?

Cheney: I am.

Cheney is telling us that he thinks that there is nothing wrong, illegal, or even "improper", with interrogators taking guns and drills into interrogation rooms as long as they are not actually used on the detainees.

Then he gave some indication of what is really worrying him.

WALLACE: But when you say it's not going to stop there, you don't believe it's going to stop there, do you think this will become an investigation into the Bush lawyers who authorized the activity, into the top policymakers who were involved in the decision to happen, an enhanced interrogation program?

CHENEY: Well, I have no idea whether it will or not, but it shouldn't.

The fact of the matter is the lawyers in the Justice Department who gave us those opinions had every right to give us the opinions they did. Now you get a new administration and they say, well, we didn't like those opinions, we're going to go investigate those lawyers and perhaps have them disbarred. I just think it's an outrageous precedent to set, to have this kind of, I think, intensely partisan, politicized look back at the prior administration.

The fact of the matter is that it is not just the new administration who found the opinions of Yoo, Bybee and others to be flat wrong. The Bush administration themselves had their Department of Justice investigate Yoo's work and it came to damning conclusions:
A Department of Justice investigation into the legal work John Yoo and two other former DOJ officials performed for the Bush administration was harshly critical of the former agency attorneys for failing to cite legal precedent and existing case law in legal opinions they prepared for the of Bush administration on a wide-range of controversial policy issues, including torture and domestic surveillance, according to several legal sources who have been briefed on the contents of the still classified report.

Moreover, the report prepared by H. Marshall Jarrett, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), that carefully traced the genesis of one part of an August 2002 memorandum prepared by Yoo and signed by his boss Jay Bybee that provided the Bush administration with the legal justification to authorize interrogators to subject suspected terrorists to outlawed techniques, such as waterboarding, was drafted after the brutal method was used against one prisoner at least a month earlier, these sources said.

The implication of that specific finding appears to be that Yoo, in close coordination with senior White House officials, prepared the Aug. 1, 2002 memos to provide interrogators with legal cover for using methods-as well as ways to avoid prosecution-that were not yet explicitly authorized, these sources said.
The problem most of us have with what Yoo did is that he did not give his advice in good faith. He told the administration what they wanted to hear. It is for that reason that he should be disbarred.
OPR investigators determined that Yoo blurred the lines between an attorney charged with providing independent legal advice to the White House and a policy advocate who was working to advance the administration’s goals.
Cheney has very good reason to fear an investigation, but they are not the reasons that he is giving us here. The real reason he fears investigation is because he is in this up to his neck.

And, as he makes clear here, he seriously can't see what it is that they did that was wrong.

And Andrew Sullivan is very good today reviewing Chris Wallace's interviewing technique:
Now look: there are softball interviews; and then there are interviews like this. It cannot be described as journalism in any fashion. Even as propaganda, which is its point, it doesn't work - because it's far too cloying and supportive of Cheney to be convincing to anyone outside the true-believers. When it comes to Cheney, one of the most incompetent vice-presidents in the country's history, with a record of two grotesquely botched wars, war crimes and a crippling debt, Chris Wallace sounds like a teenage girl interviewing the Jonas Brothers.

When future historians ask how the United States came not only to practice torture but to celebrate it and treat torturers as heroes, a special place in hell among the journalists who embraced and justified it should be reserved for Chris Wallace.
Amen to that.


Here Wallace gives his strongest indication yet that he is fully complicit with the Cheney line of defence.

I do find it simply extraordinary that presenters can sit on American television and openly support war crimes. It truly boggles my brain.


Sorry, I'm on a run here. In this clip Wallace states, "Listen, I'm with Jack Bauer on this."

Jack Bauer is, of course, a fictional character.

Andrew Sullivan:
I always thought that the role of a moderator on these things was to remain in some sense neutral. But Wallace is clearly a Cheneyite, a believer in torture, and the dispensability of the rule of law when Republican presidents have a chance to torture terror suspects at will.
Wallace is no longer even attempting to appear neutral.

Click title for full article.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Two Minutes of Hate.

You don't even have to comment on anything Rush Limbaugh says anymore. His hateful words speak for themselves.

I notice that he mocks the fact that Kennedy and Reagan got along so well and suggests that this is, somehow, a myth. Well, the person who said that they were great friends was none other than Nancy Reagan.

Sarah Palin Day.

The right wing blogs are celebrating Sarah Palin Day. The wonderful anniversary of the day when McCain named her as his running mate and, by doing so, guaranteed that he would never be president, so dreadful was the decision that he had made.

That's not how they see it in the wingnutosphere.

I see bloggers are noting a "Sarah Palin Day". Well, I don't have time to do a big post. However, I would like to thank Sarah Palin for her contribution to Alaska and our nation. May "Sarah Palin Day" remember her past contributions and look forward to Sarah Palin's future contributions. God bless you, Sarah!!
I don't even know what to say about idiocy on this scale.
"Sarah - The night Senator John McCain introduced you to the United States of America you've left goose bumps, tears of pride, heart felt strength, your precious Gifts from God, your intellect, your spunk, a true American Woman, a true maverick for women, young girls and generations upcoming. Sarah, don't give up on us as we are all standing beside you and looking forward to the announcement "Sarah Palin President Elect 2012"
They are even going as far as to praise - as a precious gift from God - "her intellect".

Speaking as a supporter of Obama, I seriously hope they put Palin forward as the Republican candidate for president in 2012. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to watch the winker debate Obama.

This is the final proof, were any needed, that the Republican party have utterly lost their way.

President Obama leads US political elite at Senator Ted Kennedy's funeral

Obama called him, "the heir to a weighty legacy", "a champion to those who had none" and, "the soul of the Democratic party."

As Obama pointed out, Kennedy had the option, because of his wealth, to live his life in the shadows; but that was not the choice he made.

He chose to always stand up for those weaker than himself. To dedicate his life to making the lives of others better.

I found it strange watching this funeral to see President Bush, looking spectacularly awkward, sitting amongst the other former presidents. Here was another man born into great privilege, a man who rose to high office and who used his time in office to cut the taxes of the rich, to look after those as privileged as himself, rather than make any attempt to look out for those less fortunate than himself.

The contrast between Bush and the man being buried could not have been more stark.

When he first came to the Senate in 1962, he was dismissed as a rather dim playboy who had got a free pass to the seat vacated by his newly elected president brother. It was a privilege that left him with much to prove. And he did, going on to become, as people have said repeatedly this week, the most influential, most consequential Democratic senator of the 20th century.

Kennedy's imprint is left on a broad array of legislation, from civil rights in the mid-1960s to women's rights, voting rights, health and education; he altered the lives of people with disabilities, people with Aids, working people whose families were sick.

Teddy Kennedy lived a good life, a life in which he used every advantage which had been bestowed upon him to try to make life a little easier for the millions and millions who did not share his position of privilege.

He finally managed to escape the enormous shadow of his brothers and establish a record that stood on it's own. And, when one considers the enormity of the shadow which JFK and Bobby cast, one realises just what a tremendous achievement that was.
"We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office," Mr Obama said with three former US president's looking on. "We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy – not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country he loved."
Click title for full article.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Steele Clowns Himself On Medicare.

I'm astonished that Fox News allowed Weiner to appear on their channel to pull apart their argument as brutally as he did here. The change of stance his argument produces in Michael Steel is hysterical.

But this is not the first time that Steele's argument has come apart in public. He appeared on NPR's Morning Edition and suffered a similar rail wreck:

Steve Inskeep: “You warn that some of the health care proposals out there would , quote ‘create government boards that would decide what treatments would and would not be funded’, and you ‘want that decision to be between the doctor and the patient’. When a private insurance company pays now, what is your impression of who decides what that private insurance company is going to cover? Is that purely between the doctor and the patient now . . ?

Steele: “Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. It depends on the type of treatment and the medicines that are at stake and I’ve had this same experience my own self, where I needed a certain type of . .you know, medication and . .you know, the insurance company is like well, you can have it, but we’ll only pay for this amount or this portion. I don’t like that anymore than I like the government doing it. And my point is . . you know the governments gonna do it, they’ll do it ten times worse and it’s gonna be more pronounced than the private insurers. And I think that’s a feature we can fix right now. And sure, there are issues in the insurance market that we can regulate a little bit better and we can control better to maximize the benefits to the consumers. That’s something we can rightly reform and fix.

Inskeep: “ wait a minute . . you would trust the government to look into that?”

Steele: “No . .I’m talkin’ about the . . .talking about . . .

Inskeep: “Who . . .you said that’s something to be looked into. Who should look into that?

Steele: “Well . . who regulates the insurance markets?

Inskeep: “The government . . .”

Steele: “Wait a minute – hold up . . You’re doing a wonderful little dance here – you’re trying to be cute. But the reality of this is very simple; I’m not saying the government doesn’t have a role to play. I’ve never said that . . . the government has a role to play, the government has a very limited role to play . .

Iskeep: “Mister Chairman, I respect that you feel I’m doing a dance here, I just want you to know, as a citizen I’m a little confused by the positions you take, because you’re giving me a very nice, nuanced position here . .”

Steele: “It’s not nice and nuanced. I’m being very clear”.

The fact that they simply don't have a coherent argument should be obvious to everyone by now. They have set out their stall as the defenders of Medicare, whilst opposing the very foundations on which Medicare is built.

That leads them, inevitably, into these ludicrous dead end arguments in which they trip themselves up constantly. It's a joke. The tragedy is that there are still some people out there stupid enough to think that the Republicans are fighting to save their Medicare.

Nothing, simply nothing, could be further from the truth.

Listen to Steele here.

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.

Neal Boortz: Katrina Cleansed New Orleans Of "Human Debris"

The levels of hatred displayed by some on the right simply leaves me speechless.

Here, the Young Turks looks at Neal Boortz' latest comments that Hurricane Katrina washed away "human debris".

How anyone can take such a view of people caught up in a natural disaster is beyond my realm of understanding.

And I know all about Godwin's law, but there is something distinctly Nazi about this way of thinking. The notion that certain elements of society deserve to be "cleansed" is the exact same thought process which led to the theory of Nazi eugenics.

And here we have a right wing American talking in this way about some of his fellow citizens. Unbelievable.

Arsène Wenger blasts Uefa 'witch-hunt' after Eduardo is charged with 'diving'.

Every season I take great joy from Arsene Wenger's myopic vision. The amount of things he simply doesn't see makes me howl.

His latest rant regards Uefa's decision to charge Eduardo with diving, after he blatantly faked contact with the Celtic goalkeeper to win a penalty for his side.

The condemnation for Eduardo has been widespread. But that's not how Wenger sees it:

"I find it a complete disgrace and unacceptable," said Wenger. "We won't accept the way we have been treated in this case for two reasons. I believe that you can debate whether it was a penalty or not. For me it's a witch-hunt that we see and not an objective judgement of a case.

"This charge implies there was intent and a desire to cheat the referee. Having watched the pictures again there was nothing conclusive. It singles out a player in Europe to be a cheat and that is not acceptable. Uefa has taken action that is not defendable."

Yes, a player diving in the box, "implies there was intent and a desire to cheat the referee".

That notion appears to be shocking to Wenger. But seriously, is there any other reason to dive in the box?

Gallagher brothers look back in anger as Noel storms out of Oasis.

No fanfare. No press conference. A simple posting on the band's website brings the legend that is Oasis to an end. Noel finally admits that he has had enough:

"It's with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight," he said. "People will write and say what they like but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer. Apologies to all the people who bought tickets to the shows in Paris, Konstanz and Milan."
The irony to this is that Noel is the entire creative force behind the band. Liam may provide the cockiness which the fans love, but without his brother writing the songs, Liam is nothing.

I am sure that Noel will continue to write and perform and have success outside of the band, but am unsure of what exactly Liam will do now that the band have split.

Of course, they are brothers, and Liam might be able to give Noel enough of a guilt trip to force as reformation, but I think Noel has done what he should have done years ago; give the gobby shite a reality check.

Click title for full article.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

They Are Getting Madder By The Day.

So, Beck shows us three clips. The black panthers, Louis Farrakhan and a group of young black men in military attire sort of marching up and down. All of which Beck finds scary.

He then gives himself the pathetic out he always gives himself:

I am not suggesting the President of the United States or anybody in this government have anything to do with the Black Panthers, Louis Farrakhan or this group here.
I'm sorry. If he's not suggesting a connection then why is he even talking about this and Obama in the same sentence?

And I thought these were the very people who rejoiced at teabaggers and people carrying guns to Obama rallies? Oh, but those were white folk. Looking at the clips Beck showed again I can see why he finds these images so scary.

White folks with guns are exercising their second amendment rights, black folks doing the same are suddenly Obama's citizen militia.

This lot are getting more unhinged by the day. Oh, and Beck couldn't find out much about the group of young boys in military gear so he came to this conclusion:
We have been looking for two weeks for connections on this. We can't find any. They have sealed this story down as tight as a drum.
It's a classic example of the way the conspiracy nut brain functions. If he can't find anything to suit his particular bias, it must be because, "they have sealed this down as tight as a drum."

Absence of evidence only makes Beck more suspicious, not less.

Is Using A Minotaur To Gore Detainees A Form Of Torture?

This perfectly sums up the current debate on the subject of torture.

Rewriting History: Republican Revisionism.

Rachel picks up on something which I had noticed: the Republicans are pretending that, had Kennedy lived, he would have had the bipartisan touch needed to have the healthcare bill passed.

It's almost like they will now refuse to vote for healthcare in honour of him. These people make me puke...


I'm with Bernie Sanders. Kennedy believed that all American were entitled to healthcare as a basic human right. The Democrats should now push it through and let these hypocrites vote against it.

Glenn Beck Can't Spell.

That he does this whilst supposedly sharing his "insight" on the Obama administration is embarrassing enough. But one thing strikes me, aren't there producers on this show? I mean, did no-one notice this at any time during rehearsals?

I used to think that this dumbass was backed up by a professional team, but now I think they might all be as unhinged as he is.

Kennedy galvanises fight to reform US healthcare.

I was shocked when Ted Kennedy died to read some of the comments people made on Michelle Malkin's blog; despite her pleas for people to keep things civil.

It's hard for a Brit to remember that, until the arrival of Clinton, Kennedy was a lightening rod for everything that Republicans loathe about Democrats.

One of Malkin's commenters said that the plans to introduce universal healthcare in the US would now be named after Kennedy and, I thought, actually that's a very good idea.

Well, it now turns out that lots of people think so. And the right wingers are very keen to stop that from happenning.

"The left is exploiting him – his death and his legacy – and they are going to do it, as predicted, to push healthcare through," the conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh warned his listeners.
Is it exploiting someone if one uses their death to advance a cause that they always believed in? Couldn't that also be seen as granting someone's death bed wish? There is no-one on Earth who could say that Kennedy didn't want this bill passed and, as his missing vote complicates things, isn't naming the bill after him a way of commemorating a lifetime spent advancing liberal causes and a small way to make up for the fact that he himself can't vote for this bill?

"You've heard of 'Win one for the Gipper'?" noted Ralph Neas, the head of the National Coalition on Healthcare, referring to the old refrain of Ronald Reagan fans. "There is going to be an atmosphere of 'Win one for Teddy'."

It will have been the greatest regret of Senator Kennedy, who died of brain cancer on Tuesday at age 77, that he did not live to see his great dream of universal healthcare realised.

In many ways the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Lyndon B Johnson on the basis that the assassinated JFK would have wanted it done, and on the huge wave of public emotion which surrounded his death. So, I see nothing wrong in his younger brother's death being used to advance the cause of universal healthcare; I see it as a commemoration of a lifetime fighting for causes which help working class Americans.

Teddy Kennedy would certainly not have objected to his name being attached to such a bill; indeed, he would have seen that as a great honour.

So, I - for one - see no reason why the Democrats shouldn't do just that and push this bill through.

People could do this and honestly say, "It's what he would have wanted."

Click title for full article.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Townsend Admits CIA Documents Don’t Back Up Cheney’s Claims About Torture.

This is what Dick Cheney said then:

One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn’t put out the memos that showed the success of the effort. And there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity. They have not been declassified.

I formally asked that they be declassified now.
This is what he is saying now that the reports have been released:
The documents released Monday clearly demonstrate that the individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda.
It's a nice dodge, but it doesn't cut the mustard. He said that the release of the memos would show that EIT specifically led to the terrorists giving information, implying that it would be clear that this was the only way to gain this information.

On the video above even former Bush homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend admits that the memos don't prove what Cheney promised they would prove.
It’s very difficult to draw a cause and effect, because it’s not clear when techniques were applied vs. when that information was received. It’s implicit. It seems, when you read the report, that we got the — the — the most critical information after techniques had been applied. But the report doesn’t say that.
The press are being very kind to Cheney by refusing to point that fact out to people.


Young Turks take on this subject.

Hat Tip to Think Progress.

Palestinians pay the price for Israel's illegal settlements.

The video you see here only exists because an Israeli Human Rights group have handed out hundreds of video cameras to vulnerable Palestinians across the West Bank. What we witness here is disgraceful. But what has caused outrage is not the attack, rather it is the Israeli police's reaction to this attack.

There are few places more exposed and isolated in the West Bank than the cluster of tents and caves that is home to Khalil Nawaja, his wife Tamam, their two sons and their 50 sheep.

It was close to here that the couple were severely beaten last summer by four masked, club-swinging Jewish settlers in the barley field. Tamam, her face still bleeding after being clubbed in the jaw, was driven in an Israeli Army ambulance to Beersheeva's Soroka hospital, where she required three days of treatment.

And it was here that they received the news last week that the Israeli police had closed an investigation without making charges, even though the attack was caught on video, causing shock and outrage across Israel and beyond when it was shown on television last year.
It's astonishing that the Israeli police can feel free to make such an announcement at the very moment that Netanyahu is touring the world discussing the settlements, going as far as to say that he hopes that Israeli settlers will be able to "continue living normal lives".

Staking a claim in someone else's country and demanding that it is yours is not what most of us consider "a normal life".

And the people who are having their lives disrupted are the Palestinians rather than the Israeli settlers; and it's something which the Israeli police seem shockingly reticent to prosecute.
According to one human rights agency, Yesh Din, around 90 per cent of investigations it monitored in 2005-6 into complaints by Palestinians against settlers – and 79 per cent of ones about assaults – ended without an indictment.
Obviously, the fact that the young men in the video covered their faces has made investigation more difficult, but the police have hardly acted as if this case is a priority.

But there are doubts about how quickly the police – despite describing the incident as "grave" – started to hunt in earnest for suspects and evidence.

It was nine days before they searched a settler farm, where the Nawajas were convinced their attackers had come from, and indeed returned to after the incident was over. The search yielded evidence including shirts similar to those in the video clip, two picks with club-like handles, and five 9mm bullets.

So, as Netanyahu tours the world - pleading that the settlers be allowed "to live normal lives" - incidents like this should always be remembered as the possible consequence of allowing the settlers to remain where they are.

No matter what Netanyahu states, Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions remains utterly clear:
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
And, despite the actions of Reagan and Bush 43, the official US legal position on the settlements hasn't changed since the days of Jimmy Carter:
Thirty years ago, the State Department legal adviser issued an opinion in response to an inquiry from Congress: The establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories "is inconsistent with international law."

Despite the passage of time, the legal opinion, issued during the Carter administration, has never been revoked or revised. President Ronald Reagan said he disagreed with it -- he called the settlements "not illegal" -- but his State Department did not seek to issue a new opinion.
Bush might have famously referred to the settlements as "facts on the ground" but not even the most fervent of his supporters would claim that he is a lawyer, or, indeed, any kind of an expert on international law.

The US legal position on the settlements remains clear. And the video above demonstrates the price the Palestinians are paying because successive US governments ignore their own State Departments legal advice, because they fear upsetting the Israelis.

Obama should proceed with negotiations based on what is legal, not with what is least likely to upset the Israelis.

Click title for full article.

Financial Services Authority chairman backs tax on 'socially useless' banks.

The fact that the country spent billions of pounds bailing out the banks and the bankers immediately resorted to their old habit of rewarding themselves with million pound bonuses was bound to cause some reaction within the government; though I doubt the bankers expected the reaction which is currently being considered by the government's top financial regulator.

Lord Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, warned bankers that he would support a new wave of taxes on the City to prevent excessive profiteering if they continue to take excessive risks.

In a searing critique of the industry, Lord Turner described much of the City's activities as "socially useless" and questioned whether it has grown too large.


The idea was recently put forward by anti-poverty campaigners who have argued that a small levy applied to each transaction would mean billions of pounds could be redirected to support developing nations. Turner said he sympathised with applying a tax that would be "a nice sensible revenue source for funding global public goods".


"And if increased capital requirements are insufficient I am happy to consider taxes on financial transactions – Tobin taxes."

A tax on financial transactions was first suggested by the American economist James Tobin in the early 1970s, but the lack of interest in Washington and London meant it never gained traction.

Turner won the support of some Labour backbenchers, who said his willingness to consider taxes was a step in the right direction.

The former welfare minister Frank Field said the lack of action by the authorities was "in stark contrast to the damage done by the people paid massive bonuses".

He said: "It looks like Adair Turner has fired the starting gun on thinking more seriously about the City and what it is for and what kind of pay people should expect.

"When the City has largely made money by moving money around and not by making anything, it is clear the pay is out of kilter."

I am obviously speaking as a layman, but one of the things which struck me about the deals which led to the sub prime mortgage crisis was that the people taking the most insane risks were able to sell those risks on to others who were even more insane gamblers than they were.

Perhaps that makes sense in the city of London, but it's not the image of bankers which most of us have in mind, and it's certainly not behaviour which most of us think should be rewarded by million pound bonuses.

This is an idea which has been floating around for decades with no government brave enough to take it up.

The bankers have no-one to blame but themselves for the drastic change in the public mood which now allows Labour to consider this.

They've taken billions of pounds in bailouts, they pay an infinitesimal amount of interest to their savers whilst charging huge amounts for loans, all the while rewarding themselves with huge bonuses for keeping this crap game afloat.

Labour can do to them what they will. Public sympathy for these buggers is as dead as the notion that they are "wealth creators".

Click title for full article.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy Dies at 77.

The man known as the “liberal lion of the Senate” had fought a more than year-long battle with brain cancer, and according to his son had lived longer with the disease than his doctors expected him to.

“We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever,” the Kennedy family said in a statement. “He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it.”
What sad news. It feels like an era has died with him.

Sen Coburn Tells Women Crying Over Health Care "Govt Is Not The Answer".

This is an absolutely extraordinary exchange. A woman tells Republican Senator Tom Coburn that her husband has a traumatic brain injury and that his insurance no longer covers him.

Coburn's response is that neighbours need to intervene and that government is not the answer.

What in God's name is he talking about? He is implying that neighbours can somehow perform the tasks normally carried out by brain specialists.

It's got to be the most heartless exchange so far in this healthcare debate.

How Much More Do We Need To Hear?

The more one gets to examine the newly released CIA IG report, the more obvious it becomes that the CIA were torturing people without permission, and that this permission was actually granted in retrospect. John Sifton explains why that could prove to be very dangerous for the CIA.

And there are now reports that one of their methods of torture was to literally leave these men lying in their own shit:
But there's another reason they were kept in diapers, at least while in transit, and I suspect at other times as well: forced enemas.
Mr. Kahtani was, for example, forcibly given an enema, officials said, which was used because it was uncomfortable and degrading.

Pentagon spokesmen said the procedure was medically necessary because Mr. Kahtani was dehydrated after an especially difficult interrogation session. Another official, told of the use of the enema, said, however, "I bet they said he was dehydrated," adding that that was the justification whenever an enema was used as a coercive technique, as it had been on several detainees.
And let's not forget, no matter what Cheney or anyone else states, that these men - including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - were innocent at the time that they were tortured. This is an oft forgotten fact in this discussion. Every single person at Guantanamo Bay - and other US detention facilities - was, under US law, utterly innocent until found guilty by a court of law. And, as Bush refused to ever put them on trial, they were innocent at the time when all of these atrocities were taking place.

That's the fundamental of US law which Bush, Cheney, Yoo and others were attempting to dismantle.

They believed that these men were terrorists and that, therefore, the law no longer applied.

That's why it would be futile to prosecute the people who carried out these atrocities rather than the architects of them. For the underlying principle which fuelled their actions - that the law did not apply to certain people - is what makes what they did so illegal and so dangerous.

And it's why it is imperative, if Obama is to make good on his promise that the US "is a country of laws", that these people face prosecution.
New York Congressman Jerry Nadler, a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, told the Huffington Post that he believed that President Obama would be breaking the law if he decided to oppose launching investigation into the authorization of torture.

"If they follow the law they have no choice," Nadler said in an interview this past weekend.

The logic, for Nadler, is straightforward. As a signatory of the convention against torture, and as a result of the anti-torture act of 1996, the United States government is obligated to investigate accusations of torture when they occur in its jurisdiction.

The alternative, Nadler said, "would be violating the law. They would be not upholding the law; they would be violating it."
I don't know how much more of this stuff has to come out before the American public - and the Obama administration - finally say, "Enough!", and move to do what is right.

If you have followed the torture revelations over the years, you can't help but be just a tad disillusioned by the fact that the mainstream media acts over and over again as if they were born yesterday and each time these stories are validated it's as if it's the first time they've heard it.

We already know they tortured. We know that DOJ bureaucrats illegally approved the torture on Dick Cheney's request and we know that a bunch of unprofessional, untrained interrogators complied and then went beyond even what was approved. We know that innocent people were tortured and we know that prisoners were killed. We've known all this for a long time. The question is not what happened, it's whether anyone will be held accountable for it.
The more we hear, the more dreadful the lack of action against these people becomes.

Related Articles:

Andrew Sullivan: The Evidence Mounts Still Further
The descent of the United States - and of Americans in general - to lower standards of morality and justice than those demanded by Iranians of their regime is a sign of the polity's moral degeneracy.


This is what Bush and Cheney truly achieved in their tragic response to 9/11: two terribly failed, brutally expensive wars, the revival of sectarian warfare and genocide in the Middle East, the end of America's global moral authority, the empowerment of Iran's and North Korea's dictatorships, and the nightmares of Gitmo and Bagram still haunting the new administration.

But what they did to the culture - how they systematically dismantled core American values like the prohibition on torture and respect for the rule of law - is the worst and most enduring of the legacies.

One political party in this country is now explicitly pro-torture, and wants to restore a torture regime if it regains power. Decent conservatives for the most part simply looked the other way. Unless these cultural forces in defense of violence and torture are defeated - not appeased or excused, but defeated - America will never return the way it once was. Electing a new president was the start and not the end of this. He is flawed, as every president is, but in my view, the scale of the mess he inherited demands some slack. Any new criminal investigation which scapegoats those at the bottom while protecting the guilty men and women who made it happen is a travesty of justice. If it is the end and not the beginning of accountability, it will be worse than nothing.

What is also being overlooked by a lot of newspaper reporting is that CIA operatives themselves were saying that this programme was illegal, even as they were carrying it out:
The Inspector General’s review was launched by complaints coming from valued senior employees who felt that the Bush Program (as John Yoo has dubbed it) was wrong. One of them actually expresses his worry that those involved will be hauled before the World Court at some point because of [and that’s redacted!] This makes clear that good employees of the agency opposed the Bush Program, were vocal in their opposition, and focused concern on the program’s illegality.

The New York Times:
It is possible to sympathize with Mr. Obama’s desire to avoid a politically fraught investigation. But the need to set this nation back under the rule of law is no less urgent than it was when he promised to do so in his campaign.

That will not be accomplished by investigating individual interrogators. It will require a fearless airing of how the orders were issued to those men, and who gave them. Only by making public officials accountable under the law can Americans be confident that future presidents will not feel free to break it the way Mr. Bush did.
That's what's at stake here in a nutshell. And I am pleased that this point is now being made by a major newspaper and not just by people on the blogs.

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Barack Obama on brink of deal for Middle East peace talks.

I really don't know what to make of this:

Barack Obama is close to brokering an Israeli-Palestinian deal that will allow him to announce a resumption of the long-stalled Middle East peace talks before the end of next month, according to US, Israeli, Palestinian and European officials.

Key to bringing Israel on board is a promise by the US to adopt a much tougher line with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons programme. The US, along with Britain and France, is planning to push the United Nations security council to expand sanctions to include Iran's oil and gas industry, a move that could cripple its economy.

In return, the Israeli government will be expected to agree to a partial freeze on the construction of settlements in the Middle East. In the words of one official close to the negotiations: "The message is: Iran is an existential threat to Israel; settlements are not."

Details of the breakthrough deal will be hammered out tomorrow in London, where the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is due to hold talks with the US special envoy, George Mitchell. Netanyahu met Gordon Brown today in Downing Street, where the two discussed both settlements and the Iranian nuclear programme.

Although the negotiations are being held in private, they have reached such an advanced stage that both France and Russia have approached the US offering to host a peace conference.

Obviously, the first thing to note is the use of the word "partial" in terms of the ban on settlement building. I'm not sure what that means, but I'm presuming that the ban does not include East Jerusalem and projects already begun; however, it does imply some kind of compromise on the part of Obama, who had insisted on a complete halting of all settlement building.

And lets be clear just what this deal is that we are on the brink of. It merely means that we have arrived at a stage where both sides will be prepared to begin negotiations. However, I note that at the start of these negotiations Netanyahu is stating that he hopes Israeli settlers could "continue living normal lives".

Quite what is "normal" about living outside of international law, he didn't expand upon.

But, after the dismal failure of the Bush years when it came to Israel/Palestine, there is at least the glimmer of hope that talks can begin again, even if Netanyahu is making it crystal clear that he intends to hold on to the illegal settlements.

However, it should be noted that, in rhetoric at least, Netanyahu thinks what is happening might be huge:
Netanyahu said that progress in the Middle East peace process would "confound cynics and surprise the world."
That's a very large statement from a man who has, until recently, refused to even accept the need for a state of Palestine. And when he did accept it, he did so with these words:
“The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel.”
That's really going back to making the occupied people responsible for the security of their occupiers, which sort of turns international law on it's head.

So, I welcome this news, whilst remaining one of the cynics that Netanyahu promises to confound.

But that cynicism is fuelled by the fact that Netanyhu has managed to tie the formation of a Palestinian state to Iran's nuclear programme, implying that the two are somehow related. That strikes me as just another Israeli delaying tactic, yet another thing which has to be accomplished - the more impossible the better - before Israel can comply with her obligations under international law.

However, the strategy is fraught with risks. Coupling the two huge complex issues could end up complicating them further.

And that's what I suspect is the game here. I think this is merely an attempt to further muddy the water. However, that's the cynic in me. I remain hopeful that I will be, as Netanyahu states, "utterly confounded."

Click title for full article.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Davis Proves That The Current Republican Party Are Far from "Conservatives."

I have spoken before of the difference between British Conservatives and the bunch of loons which currently make up the American Republican Party.

This is David Davis. He's about as Tory as it is possible to be; now listen to what he says about torture and try to imagine any member of the current Republican Party making such a statement.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re a conservative member of Parliament.


AMY GOODMAN: So you’re known as someone who’s very tough on the war on terror.


AMY GOODMAN: So, what brings you here?

DAVID DAVIS: Well, I don’t want the American government, the American administration, to be inadvertently involved in a cover-up. I want to see us defeat the terrorists. I want to see us defeat al-Qaeda. But we don’t do that by using methods like torture. And if we have been using methods like torture, as it appears we have, we need to know about it, and we need to stop it.

I mean, torture—torture is wrong for all sorts of reasons. It’s illegal. It’s immoral. It doesn’t work. It takes away the moral high ground. Most of the guys who fight in our special forces and our agents in our intelligence agencies want to think they’re on the side of right, not the side that tortures people. So it puts them in the wrong, too. It undermines their morale. And finally, it’s a fantastic propaganda working for the other side. I mean, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib have turned out to be the greatest propaganda weapons for al-Qaeda. Torture is another one, and we’ve got to put a stop to it. We’ve got to clean it out and make our decision as to how we’re going to run our war against terror, and we do that by using civilized methods, not barbarian ones.
The Conservatives in the UK are trying to ensure that we find out what exactly the British government's involvement in torture was. And Davis has come to the US to warn the Obama administration not to be complicit in covering up such a thing.

American Republicans are not only not trying to expose crimes of torture, but they have taken to arguing that "torture works".

I've said before that no British Conservative would dare to make the argument that the Dick Cheney's of this world make. And, bang on cue, David Davis takes to the US to argue the very opposite of his Republican counterparts.

What Americans regard as normal right wing discourse is regarded as lunacy in most other countries. These people are bampots. What's astonishing to me is that they are portrayed as if they are representing a conservative viewpoint.

This isn't conservatism. One only has to listen to David Davis to recognise how very far away from conservatism the American right wing have become.

Chuck Todd Tells Jeremy Scahill "That Was a Cheap Shot" -- "You Sullied My Reputation on TV".

Towards the end of this video (around about 6.44), Jeremy Scahill turned on a comment which Chuck Todd had previously made, in which he referred to any attempt to hold the Bush White House accountable for their war crimes, as "political catnip" and "cable catnip".

The most impressive part of this entire video for me, speaking as a non-American, is the round of applause Scahill gets when he states:

"How can Secretary Clinton go to Kenya and say, 'We need to have accountability for past crimes' there, when we can't hold our own torturers accountable here. President Obama says, 'Let's look forwards not backwards.'

You prevent future torture by prosecuting past acts of torture."
That round of applause gave me great hope that there are a group of Americans - even if they are not Americans usually invited on to TV to talk about how they feel - who realise the importance of the principle which Scahill is expressing.

Apparently Chuck Todd was furious with him when they walked off stage.

Glenn Greenwald:

According to Scahill (via email), Todd approached him after the Maher show and the following occurred:

Right as we walked off stage, he said to me "that was a cheap shot." I said "what are you talking about?" and he said "you know it." I then said that I monitor msm coverage very closely and asked him what was not true that I said on the show. He then replied: "that's not the point. You sullied my reputation on TV."

Media stars are so unaccustomed to being held accountable for the impact of their behavior -- especially when they're on television -- that they consider it a grievous assault on their entitlement when it happens.

It really is astonishing how outraged these people are when anyone calls them on their sycophancy, and the way they instantly adopt that patronising tone which implies that the person questioning them somehow does not understand how "the real world" works.

This was evident in Ambinder's reaction to the recent news that Bush was, indeed, using terror alerts for political gain. He came out with an argument which basically stated that he was right even though he was wrong, because who could possibly trust those nasty left wingers:
I still think that some journalists were right to be skeptical of the doubters at the time. I think that some journalists were correct to question how they arrived at the beliefs they arrived at.
Glenn Greenwald sums up this mindset:

Todd's condescending responses illustrate the same point as the above episodes with Klein and Ambinder: in the eyes of Beltway mavens, those who warned about and worked against the radicalism and lawbreaking of the Bush administration are the fringe, crazed, out-of-touch radicals. While Todd was fiddling around with pretty colored maps and fun polling games, Scahill was courageously investigating one of the most corrupt, dangerous and lethal private corporations in the world, yet it's Todd who understands and must solemnly explain the hardened realities of politics to Scahill, the confused and silly Leftist.

There's little question that when people look back at this period in American history, it will be difficult to comprehend what happened in the Bush era -- and especially how we blithely started a devastating war over complete fiction, while simultaneously instituting a criminal torture regime and breaking whatever laws we wanted. But far more remarkable still will be the fact that, other than a handful of low-level sacrificial lambs, those responsible -- both in politics and the establishment media -- not only suffered no consequences, but continued to wield exactly the same power, with exactly the same level of pompous self-regard, as they did before all of that happened.
I used to wonder how any self respecting TV reporter could invite Bill Kristol on to their show, as the man is literally wrong more often than he is right.

But, listening to Chuck Todd, I realise that it doesn't matter if they are wrong. That's not their job. Their job is to sit there and painfully, dutifully and, most importantly, - seriously - give out the reasons as to why anyone who doesn't agree with their establishment line is a wild eyed leftie not worth listening to.

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.