There's simply no way to overstate how much of an arsehole Bill O'Reilly really is. Here he reacts to the news that Spain is seeking to bring war crimes charges against several members of the Bush administration by claiming that "Spain is insulting the United States" and he says that "Spain must be held accountable".
It simply never occurs to an ideologue like Bill that the people who should be held accountable are the people who have broken international law. Indeed, Bill has argued in the past that Obama is endangering US lives by insisting that torture is wrong. But the big threat he gives to Spain is that, if they don't drop these charges, then Billo isn't going to travel to Spain. That's enough to make most country's instantly bring similar charges.
And it's simply hysterical to watch O'Reilly - the man who backs the military trials in Guantanamo Bay - deride the Spanish action as "a kangaroo court". Does this bugger have no sense of irony? Does he really believe that reality is simply what he states it to be? He must, because during this interview with Feith, whilst expressing his disgust at the Spanish action, he openly admits that he supports waterboarding and asks whether or not Spain will indict him for expressing such an opinion.
And I simply love Feith's claim that Spain are trying to "exercise a degree of control over US government decisions". Yes, that's exactly what Ronald Reagan agreed to when he signed the anti-torture treaty in 1988. The US agreed that certain actions were unlawful and promised to prosecute any individual who engaged in torture and gave other country's the power to do so should the host nation prove reluctant. This is Reagan's law and, until now, the Republicans have always adored everything Reagan stood for.
The defence being made here appears to be that Feith, Yoo and Gonzales merely "advised" the president and one can't make the giving of advice a crime.
But they actually did far more than that. Yoo, especially, gave advice which many would argue was given in bad faith. He didn't really believe that the law said what he told the president it said, he simply twisted his reading of the law to tell the president what he wanted to hear.
In doing so, he enabled war crimes to be committed. Indeed, this didn't happen as an unforeseen consequence of the advice he gave, this was the very reason for him giving that advice. He twisted the law in order to enable torture, that was his crime.
But O'Reilly is right in one respect; the days of these guys travelling outside of the US is well and truly over. War criminals must stay at home.
Rachel Maddow asks why Spain is bringing these charges instead of the United States itself. And she also points out that the Republicans are blocking Obama's Justice Nominee precisely because prosecutions might follow.
And here's Keith's take regarding the fact that torture simply doesn't work.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Quite how this will reduce road accidents I have no idea. It sounds to me as if it would be a useful tool for policing and that it is, therefore, going to be sold to us a lifesaving device.
The government is backing a project to install a "communication box" in new cars to track the whereabouts of drivers anywhere in Europe, the Guardian can reveal.
Under the proposals, vehicles will emit a constant "heartbeat" revealing their location, speed and direction of travel. The EU officials behind the plan believe it will significantly reduce road accidents, congestion and carbon emissions. A consortium of manufacturers has indicated that the router device could be installed in all new cars as early as 2013.
However, privacy campaigners warned last night that a European-wide car tracking system would create a system of almost total road surveillance.
How does knowing where I am have any effect on how well or badly I am driving my car?
Click title for full article.
I understand the logic behind his stance, in fact, it makes perfect sense to insist that the business' are viable before putting more money into them. However, I note that both General Motors and Chrysler are not dissimilar to the banks in that, if the US is to retain a car industry, then they are both too big to fail.
Obama announced tax incentives for Americans to buy new cars, but delayed a decision on $21bn (£15bn) in extra bailout money from the public pocket, demanding far more radical reform proposals from the carmakers within weeks.
Flanked by his economic advisers in the foyer of the White House, the president delivered a cutting diagnosis of the motor industry's financial crisis, declaring that combined losses of $54bn last year were the result of "a failure of leadership from Washington to Detroit".
"We've seen problems papered over and tough choices kicked down the road, even as our foreign competitors outpaced us," said Obama in a televised address. "We, as a nation, cannot afford to shirk responsibility any longer."
A combination of fierce Asian competition, an evaporation of bank financing for car buyers and a collapse in consumer confidence has hammered Detroit's "big three" – GM, Ford and Chrysler. An estimated 400,000 jobs have been lost among motor manufacturers, dealers and suppliers over the last three years.
Obama said that motor manufacturing was "an emblem of America's spirit" and a "source of deep pride" on which the nation was built. He pledged: "We cannot, we must not and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish."
Urging the American public to rally round, he compared the havoc wreaked by the car industry's financial meltdown to a natural disaster in America's midwestern industrial heartland: "While the storm that has hit our auto towns is not a tornado or a hurricane, the damage is clear and we must likewise respond."
The harsh tone of the administration's message stunned both Wall Street and Detroit, sending the Dow Jones industrial average down by more than 250 points. It dismayed workers and politicians in Michigan who saw the looming prospect of even deeper job losses, factory closures and cuts to benefits.
So why is Obama now threatening both these companies with bankruptcy? I suppose what's bothering me is that there is, as always, a harshness when dealing with working class jobs that is strangely missing when dealing with, say, bankers who have lost billions of dollars.
It's not that I think the auto industry should not make itself financially viable - as it obviously should - it's just that, at a time when bankers in bailed out company's are paying themselves bonuses with public funds, it slightly sticks in my craw that Obama is proving his toughness by being harder on Chrysler and GM than he is being on the banks.
One always hears arguments about why it's so dreadful and socialist to tax bankers for taking huge bonuses at a time when they are also taking bailouts, but there's never any similar arguments made for blue collar workers, who are always portrayed as greedy and unproductive, despite the fact that their wages represent a mere fraction of the amount being taken by the bankers.
My point, I suppose, is that Obama is right. But I am sick of listening to the right wing defence of bankers greed which is strangely missing when it comes to blue collar workers.
Michlle Malkin finds it "chilling" that some rich bankers, whose jobs are being protected by bailouts, might be undeserving of bonuses, but she'd be the first to tell us how unproductive and greedy the US auto industry is. Indeed, here is her reaction to Obama's threats to Chrysler and General Motors:
Simple question from Glenn Beck today to the crusading Connecticut Attorney General still on his anti-AIG witch hunt:
Under what law are you going after the AIG bonuses?
Blumenthal hemmed and hawed for a painful six minutes before coming up with this:
“Because they are undeserving of it.”
Remember those six chilling words:
“Because they are undeserving of it.”
But the bottom line is, despite their threats to withhold the funds, the feds will eventually give them the billions of dollars in taxpayer money they need to prop up their failing businesses.It's "chilling" to see bankers asked to have actually earned and deserve their bonuses, but it's wasteful to take action which ensures thousands of working class people might still have jobs. Even if one demands, as Obama is doing, that those same workers make lots of concessions before any help is given.
Help to the richest in society appears to be given with far less strings attached than help to blue collar workers ever is. Auto workers are expected to give up their pensions whilst it's considered an outrage for bankers to be asked to give up their blatantly unearned bonuses. The disparity in the way the right wing treats the two different groups is simply outrageous.
I am pleased to see that Keith shares my outrage at the double standard being employed here.
Click title for full article.
Monday, March 30, 2009
I heard Andrew Sullivan a while ago talking about Obama's great talent at forcing his opponents to self destruct, and - thinking of the way Obama disposed of both Hillary and McCain - I tended to agree.
There is a way in which Obama presents himself as above the fray, which seems to lead his opponents to ever more outlandish statements in an attempt to bring him down, which ultimately leads to their own downfall. For example, during the recent election McCain employed Palin to bring up the charge of Obama's "terrorist connections", thanks to his friendship with William Ayers. I think Obama and his team were supposed to panic and rush all over the airwaves discussing why Obama is not a supporter of terrorism, but the Obama team didn't. They simply laughed at a suggestion which was blatantly ludicrous.
His failure to take the bait appeared to drive Palin to make ever more ludicrous charges and drove McCain to the point where he referred to Obama during a live debate as "that one". It was quite clear that McCain found Obama's coolness extremely irritating.
Well, Sullivan now detects the exact same process taking place with Dick Cheney:
And Sullivan thinks that Cheney is behaving this way because Obama has unnerved him with the possibility of future prosecution.
Obama is about as far from apolitical as you can get; and while he is a decent fellow, he is also a lethal Chicago pol. His greatest achievement in this respect was the total implosion of Bill Clinton around this time last year: Hillary was next. Then came John McCain, merrily strapping on the suicide bomb of Sarah Palin. With the fate of all these formidable figures impossible to miss, one has to wonder what possessed Dick Cheney, the former vice-presi-dent, to come lumbering out twice in the first 50 days of the Obama administration to blast the new guy on national television.
Growling and sneering, Cheney accused the new president of actively endangering the lives of Americans by ending the detention and interrogation programmes of the last administration, and vowing to close Guantanamo Bay. It’s hard to overstate how unseemly and unusual this was.
It is fine for a former vice-president to criticise his successor in due course. But there is a decorum that allows for a new president not to be immediately undermined by his predecessor. To be accused of what amounts to treason – a willingness to endanger the lives of Americans – is simply unheard of.
And, the more torture memos Obama releases, the more difficult it will be for Cheney to control the narrative; which is perhaps why he has gone on to the offensive regarding aggressive interrogation techniques and why he feels Obama is wrong to abandon them. And things are only set to get worse for Cheney:
So what was Cheney thinking? My guess is that he fears he is in trouble. This fear has been created by Obama, but indirectly. Obama has declined to launch a prosecution of Cheney for war crimes, as many in his party (and outside it) would like. He has set up a review of detention, rendition and interrogation policies. And he has simply declassified many of the infamous torture memos kept under wraps by Bush.
He has the power to do this, and much of the time it is in response to outside requests. But as the memos have emerged, the awful truth of what Cheney actually authorised becomes harder and harder to deny. And Cheney is desperately trying to maintain a grip on the narrative before it grips him by the throat.
But the big impending release may well be three memos from May 2005, detailing specific torture techniques authorised by Bush and Cheney for use against terror suspects. Newsweek described the yet to be released memos thus: “One senior Obama official . . . said the memos were ‘ugly’ and could embarrass the CIA. Other officials predicted they would fuel demands for a ‘truth commission’ on torture.”Cheney has started to argue that what was done by his and Bush's administration was legal and moral and right. But he's panicking because he knows, as does Obama, what is contained in these memos and he's desperate to give us his version of them before Obama gives us the actual memos.
The documents detailed horrifying CIA practices that the Red Cross unequivocally called torture – shoving prisoners in tiny, air-tight coffins, waterboarding, beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions: all the techniques we have now come to know almost by heart. And torture is a war crime. War crimes have no statute of limitations and are among the most serious crimes of which one can be accused.
This is what Cheney is desperate to avoid. It is unclear whether he will actually ever be prosecuted, but the facts of his record will wend their way inexorably into the sunlight. That means he could become a pariah. Even though the CIA actively destroyed the videotapes of torture sessions, it could not destroy the legal and administrative record now available to the new administration.
Cheney is snarling and kicking and screaming because he knows what's coming next. He knows the term "war criminal" is about to be fixed around his neck.
Click title for Sullivan article.
Liz Trotta has already wished that Obama could be assassinated along with bin Laden, so it's not difficult to work out where her political affiliations lie, but it's still a bit rich to listen to her tell us that the press are giving Obama an easy ride.
No-one who witnessed the way that the Washington press corps laid down and died in front of Bush's march to war in Iraq could take what she is saying remotely seriously.
Trotta: You know, Eric, we're really witnessing something historic going on with the presidential news conference. President Obama has taken control of it like no other president I've ever seen. By eliminating, for example, the top newspapers, he's really -- which by the way, as you know, which are viewed as the intellectual muscle of the media -- he's managed to show something different. That is, he's going to tailor the questions and the answers to the way he wants them.
Now, there are competing agendas here. The press is supposed to be there to represent the people. The president is there to protect his policies and he wants to be re-elected. But here we are in the middle of a social and and economic revolution, probably the biggest we've had in the country's history, and nobody seems to be able to get a straight answer.
Instead, what we're presented with is preselected questions in a tightly controlled news conference where, at the beginning, the president reads a very self-serving statement from a large movie screen, and then he calls on people, for example, from Univision, and from Stars and Stripes, and from Ebony.
Now, this isn't to say that these people have a right to get a slice of the pie, but let's face it -- the tough questions are going to come from the big guys in media, and I'm talking about mainly newspaper people here, because the television networks certainly haven't covered themselves in glory.
Indeed, Ari Fleischer has already made it clear that Bush, contrary to what Trotta is claiming, had a list of journalists which he called upon:
Further, during the February 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Fleischer was asked by host Bill O'Reilly if "George Bush came in ... with a list of guys he was going to call on." Fleischer responded, "Yeah, I used to prepare it for him. I would give him a grid, show him where every reporter is seated. And there are some reporters, you know, in that briefing room, as you can imagine, Bill, you get a lot of dot-coms and other oddballs who come in there who aren't really mainstream." Fleischer added: "And I used to put them all out in one section. I would call it Siberia. And I told the president, 'Don't call on Siberia. Just stay right here and call on these people on the grid in front of you.' "This is simply a further indication of the Fox News lie machine. The people who turned themselves into cheerleaders for Bush and the Iraq war now claim that the media are being manipulated by Obama, simply because the rest of the media aren't pushing Fox's aggressive Republican agenda.
And the notion, as pushed by Trotta, that "the big guys" ask tough questions, is simply fanciful. We didn't witness any of that in the lead up to the Iraq war.
Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Hannity will always allow anything to stand as long as it amounts to an attack on Obama, but even he seems to be pushing the envelope when he allows Michele Bachmann's tin-foil-hat-level conspiracy theory about a One World Currency on to the airwaves.
Michelle Bachmann has already proved, many times, that she is simply bat shit crazy. Hannity has already proved, many times, that he will allow anyone on to his show as long as they will attack the Democrats. But I also feel that Hannity, along with Limbaugh, Coulter etc, are becoming the perfect representatives of the current GOP.
Bachmann, with the kind of glazed look in her eyes one sees in members of a religious cult, said there's a “question” about “moving the United States off of the dollar and onto a global currency, like Russia and China are calling for.” I'm not sure what Bachmann meant with regard to Russia, but China called for something completely different, as Matthew Yglesias explains and, in any event, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has made it clear that while he's open to a change in the IMF's use of the dollar with regard to international reserves, he's opposed to replacing the dollar as the U.S. currency. But I'll-go-along-with-anything-so-long-as-it-smears-Democrats Hannity either didn't care to correct Bachmann or else didn't know she was pulling something out of thin air.
Staking her claim to Patrick Henry-type glory, Bachmann announced grandly, “Americans have to suit up and realize what's at stake right now. We have to fight for freedom and the future of our country.”
In that noble vein, Hannity added that Geithner had said earlier in the week that, as Hannity mischaracterized it, “(Geithner) would be open to the possibility or consider the possibility of a global currency as it was first advanced by all people, the communist Chinese.”
Wrong. As Politico reports, it was interpreted by some that Geithner had said he was open to an international currency but Geithner, himself, explained that he meant he was open to "the possibility of increasing the use of International Monetary Fund's special drawing rights -- shares in the body held by its members -- not creating a new currency in the literal sense."
It's like we are witnessing an entire political movement losing it's collective mind. They are all going totally insane.
Wheeler has latched on to the subject of Europe as a place where Cameron is keeping his cards very close to his chest, but I think that's Cameron's game across a whole range of issues. He hopes to be elected simply by not being Labour, and he hopes to do so whilst revealing as few policies as possible. He simply hopes that it's going to be enough to reassure the British public that the Tories are no longer "the nasty party".
The Conservatives' biggest donor is to defect to the right-wing UK Independence party amid a growing rift over Europe.
Stuart Wheeler, a close friend of Michael Howard, who has given the Tories £5m, has been privately complaining for months that he did not believe David Cameron was firm enough on Europe and was irritated that the party was downplaying the issue. He had warned the leader he did not approve of the return of pro-European Kenneth Clarke to the shadow cabinet.
Wheeler will now donate £100,000 to Ukip, which wants Britain to withdraw from the European Union. He told the Sunday Times he was "very disappointed indeed with David Cameron's stance on the issue", despite the Tory leader's recent controversial decision that his MEPs are to leave the centre-right alliance the European People's Party (EPP) and build links with more hardline eurosceptics.
The multi-millionaire argued that "the Conservatives just wish no one would talk about the EU, so they can win the general election in peace". He added: "Much as I want the Tories to win the next election, getting Europe right is even more important."
However, Conservative extremism on the subject of Europe was one of the main things which pulled John Major's Tory party apart and Wheeler's actions can only make Cameron worry that this train is going to come off the rails one more time.
The Tory stance on Europe has always been fairly ridiculous, but when Hague finds himself hanging out with nationalists who celebrate the Waffen SS - and yet is still not seen as reactionary enough by some of his party - one sees just how extreme the Tories remain.
Ironically, the defection comes as Cameron is simultaneously under attack from his pro-European wing for taking too hardline a eurosceptic stance, after it emerged the Tories had held talks about teaming up in the European parliament with a nationalist Latvian party, some of whose members attend ceremonies to commemorate the Waffen SS.
The revelation that Hague recently met an official of the Latvian Fatherland and Freedom party has dismayed pro-European Conservatives who believe such an approach will leave the party isolated on the world stage.
In an interview with the Observer, the Tories' Europe spokesman, Mark Francois, confirmed that Conservative MEPs would leave the EPP after June's European elections and join other like-minded eurosceptic parties in a new grouping.
However, the search for new partners has run into difficulty after this weekend's edition of the Economist reported Hague's recent talks with the Latvians. The magazine notes that the party includes "hardline nationalists who attend ceremonies to commemorate a Latvian unit of Waffen SS troops".
A leading Tory MEP, who refused to be named, described the decision to quit the EPP as "crazy", saying that the Conservatives were dabbling on the "wild fringes" of European politics.Cameron is playing a clever game by refusing to ever state what his principles actually are and what it is that he truly believes in. But the company Hague is keeping should give the rest of us some indication of the direction in which the Tories would take Britain should they actually come to power.
But, even hanging around with supporters of the Waffen SS has not been extreme enough to keep people like Wheeler on board.
The subject of Europe reveals just how out of kilter the Tory party are with the rest of Britain, which is why they prefer not to talk about it.
Click title for full article.
Posted by Kel at 7:53 AM
And so it begins...
Baltasar Garzón, the counter-terrorism judge whose prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet led to his arrest in Britain in 1998, has initiated criminal proceedings in Spain against six senior officials in the Bush administration for the use of torture against detainees in Guantánamo Bay.
And the only thing that could stop these prosecutions going ahead would be if criminal proceedings were being held against these men in their own country.
Whilst I am happy at the people named, I do feel a sense of disappointment that the names Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are not also on the Spaniard's list, as they surely deserve to be prosecuted as much as anyone else. However, I do understand that the Spaniards have deliberately gone for second-tier figures in the hope of being less politically explosive.
The only route of escape the prosecutor might have is to ask whether there is ongoing process in the US against these people," Boyé told the Observer. "This case will go ahead. It will be against the law not to go ahead."
The officials named in the case include the most senior legal minds in the Bush administration. They are: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney's chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon's general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who were both senior justice department legal advisers.
Court documents say that, without their legal advice in a series of internal administration memos, "it would have been impossible to structure a legal framework that supported what happened [in Guantánamo]".
Boyé predicted that Garzón would issue subpoenas in the next two weeks, summoning the six former officials to present evidence: "If I were them, I would search for a good lawyer."
If Garzón decided to go further and issued arrest warrants against the six, it would mean they would risk detention and extradition if they travelled outside the US. It would also present President Barack Obama with a serious dilemma. He would have either to open proceedings against the accused or tackle an extradition request from Spain.
Obama administration officials have confirmed that they believe torture was committed by American interrogators. The president has not ruled out a criminal inquiry, but has signalled he is reluctant to do so for political reasons.
"Obviously we're going to be looking at past practices, and I don't believe that anybody is above the law," Obama said in January. "But my orientation's going to be to move forward."
This was always likely to be the problem with Obama's, "let's just look forward, not backward" scenario. International law obligates other countries to take action if the nation of those suspected of war crimes does not take steps to prosecute them.
However, because of the political difficulties Obama feels regarding criminal proceedings against the Bush administration, one can't help but think that Spain are doing his dirty work for him by pointing out that there is a clear and criminal case to be answered here and, in the nicest possible way, threatening Obama that if he doesn't take action, other countries will.
The Obama team can fend off the Spaniards if they decide to mount an investigation of their own, otherwise Obama may find himself in the highly embarrassing position of being asked to extradite US officials on torture charges to Spain.
Philippe Sands, whose book Torture Team first made the case against the Bush lawyers and which Boyé said was instrumental in formulating the Spanish case, said yesterday: "What this does is force the Obama administration to come to terms with the fact that torture has happened and to decide, sooner rather than later, whether it is going to criminally investigate. If it decides not to investigate, then inevitably the Garzón investigation, and no doubt many others, will be given the green light."
Germany's federal prosecutor was asked in November 2006 to pursue a case against Donald Rumsfeld, the former defence secretary, Gonzales and other officials for abuses committed in Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But the prosecutor declined on the grounds that the issue should be investigated in the US.
The charges against the US officials are crystal clear and almost universally acknowledged as constituting torture:
And it does not help these former US officials that, here in Britain, the attorney general, Lady Scotland, has already begun a criminal investigation into whether MI5 took part in the torturing of Binyam Mohamed.
"All the accused are members of what they themselves called the 'war council'," court documents allege. "This group met almost weekly either in Gonzales's or Haynes's offices."
In a now notorious legal opinion signed in August 2002, Yoo and Bybee argued that torture occurred only when pain was inflicted "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death".
Another key document cited in the Spanish case is a November 2002 "action memo" written by Haynes, in which he recommends that Rumsfeld give "blanket approval" to 15 forms of aggressive interrogation, including stress positions, isolation, hooding, 20-hour interrogations and nudity. Rumsfeld approved the document.
The 1984 UN Convention against Torture, signed and ratified by the US, requires states to investigate allegations of torture committed on their territory or by their nationals, or extradite them to stand trial elsewhere.
This means that what they approved in the dark will be pulled, kicking and screaming, into the light. And no British politician will dare try to stop an investigation into what was done to Mohamed at America's bequest.
Everywhere, apart from in the US itself, there is an appetite to route out the torturers and to deliver justice. Obama can resist this for only so long before he receives an extradition request from another country demanding that he makes a decision.
And, the fact that criminal proceedings are taking place within the country that has been the US's greatest ally in the war on terror can only increase the pressure on Obama to comply. A lot of this stuff is going to come out anyway, Obama will have to decide on what side of history's fence he would like to place himself.
Click title for full article.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The Daily Telegraph, that well known right wing mouthpiece, detects that a turning point in broadcasting history is imminent thanks to the internet reaction to Dan Hannan's speech:
Yes indeed, Dan Hannan has become a global internet phenomenon. And he is absolutely right to say that the stupendous impact of his speech proves that the web is a new force in the political game. But it is also true, as so many commenters and bloggers have noted, that this entire incident constitutes a shameful note in British broadcasting history - perhaps even a turning point. For this splendid speech and all the dramatic significance of a prime minister having to face a relentless critique across a democratic chamber, was ignored not just by the BBC but by all of the mainstream television and radio news media in this country. To put the final twist on this ignominious story, Fox News in the US - for whom British domestic politics are not generally a top priority - both carried the speech and gave Dan a lengthy interview.The British broadcasters, rightly, gave the speech a wide berth because it was simply so much hyperbole from a virtually unknown British MEP.
The thing which turned this viral on You Tube was the fact that Fox News was all over it like a rash, pushing Hannan on to Hannity, Cavuto and any other right wing talking head who would have him. The Drudge Report and Rush Limbaugh also helped to push this thing viral.
It matters not to Hannity and Cavuto that much of what Hannan is saying is untrue - for example, no British car company has been nationalised, and the UK's national debt is actually lower than that of France, Germany the US and Japan - all that matters to the US right wingers is that what Hannan is saying is currently music to their ears.
Perhaps, before they hold him up, as Cavuto a did, as a possible "future British Prime Minister", they might pay attention to what he has said in the past.
He has long loved all things Icelandic, based on nothing more substantial than Iceland's refusal to sign up to the EU, but it's really hard to listen to a speech telling us where we are going wrong economically from a man who has previously sung the praises of Iceland's economy:
"In the ten years that I have been travelling to Iceland, I have watched an economic miracle unfold there. Today, Icelanders are absolutely rolling in it. A people two generations away from subsistence farming have become international tycoons.Recognise that theme? Regulation is bad, deregulation is good. Now that way of thinking couldn't possibly lead to any financial problems could it? I mean, Iceland's economy is as solid as a rock, yes?
Look at the City of London, for heaven's sake, which Brussels is doing its best to asphyxiate with its financial regulations.
Icelanders understand that there is a connection between living in an independent state and living independently from the state. They have no more desire to submit to international than to national regulation. That attitude has made them the happiest, freest and wealthiest people on earth."
Perhaps it was with a gaffe that huge ringing in their ears that the BBC and ITV decided not to run with Hannan's latest rant.
Click title for Telegraph article.
Ashcroft wants us to know that he has "no mark on his conscience." That doesn't surprise me remotely as lovers of authoritarianism, like Ashcroft, tend not to have consciences like the rest of us have.
The very fact that he can argue that there are different kinds of waterboarding proves the point. The Bush administration used to argue that they did not torture, now they are arguing that there are ways to waterboard someone that does not constitute torture. I mean, seriously, how many ways are there to drown someone?
Bottom. Barrel. Scraping.
Posted by Kel at 8:11 AM
I've spoken recently about the madness of Michelle Bachmann, but Matt Taibbi takes her apart better than anyone else I have heard:
Taibbi: You know it's funny this morning outside of Penn Station I saw a guy huffing glue out of a paper bag, and he was making more sense than Michelle Bachmann was making. I can't believe it. You need to pass a written test to drive a car in this country but I bet this woman can't even write her name in the ground with a stick. I mean it's just unbelievable to me that this person is in the Congress.She believes, and states to anyone who will listen, that she sees herself as "a foreign correspondent reporting from enemy lines."
She's talking about her fellow American members of Congress. And she sees them as "foreign" because they don't share her right wing views. Apparently, in Bachmann's world, American equals Republican and everything else is "foreign."
I've said it before but it simply stuns me that this woman is an elected member of the US Congress. She's as mad as a bottle of crisps.
The recent allegations made by Binyam Mohamed, that British security agents were complicit in his torture, appears to have opened a very large can of worms, and it's a can of worms that holds potentially serious problems for George Bush and Dick Cheney.
It is today being reported that MI5 and MI6 have uncovered at least 15 cases in which British intelligence officers may have been complicit in the torture of terrorist suspects.
This is extremely dangerous for the Bush administration because, here in Britain - unlike the USA - there will be no opposition demanding that any investigation is a "partisan" witch hunt, or that it would be better for one and all if we "looked forward, not back", or that torture might be bad but it saved lives, or any of the other myriad of reasons currently being put forward by American right wingers to excuse what we all can clearly see were crimes committed by the Bush administration.
The two services reviewed their files after Scotland Yard announced last week it would investigate claims by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed that former MI5 officers were complicit in his interrogation and torture. Mr Mohamed alleges that an MI5 officer supplied detailed questions concerning acquaintances and locations in London to his interrogators when he was tortured at a secret prison in Morocco following his arrest in Pakistan in 2002.
The 15 new cases concern individuals believed to include British nationals who were questioned under US control by British officers looking for information on possible terrorist attacks in the UK. Most date from between 2002 and 2004, when large numbers of terrorist suspects had been captured in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Unlike the US agents, the British officers were told to work within the provisions of the Geneva Convention, it was reported. In some instances the British officers voiced concerns that suspects were being mistreated, but their fears were not followed up.
Most of the interrogations were conducted immediately after the September 11 attacks, sources told the Daily Telegraph, when officers were not prepared for either the heavy caseload or the approach of their American counterparts.
This has now become a police matter and no British politician of any stripe will dare to interfere as, to do so, would be a criminal offence.
This will provide a stark contrast to events in the US where Obama continues to release damning evidence of Bush's crimes without following that evidence to it's logical conclusion and demanding a criminal investigation of what the Bush/Cheney regime actually did.
But perhaps this will all be taken out of Obama's hands, as evidence of criminal behaviour by MI5 and MI6 will inevitably lead one to look at the people who the British security services were interrogating suspects on behalf of, and that is going to lead directly back to the Bush administration.
Miliband might claim that he can't give the police the evidence they need on the grounds that the Americans might stop sharing intelligence with us, but the courts will only accept such nonsense up to a point. When we start looking at fifteen cases - as opposed to the case of Binyam Mohamed alone - such excuses simply won't hold water.
This dam will burst and, when it does, I really feel that the actions of the Bush administration will be laid bare for all to see.
Bush and Cheney have much to fear from British police investigations, as any investigation into criminality on behalf of MI5 and MI6, will inevitably become an investigation into the demands of their masters: the Americans.
The Bush/Cheney regime might currently be protected by the American system's bizarre fear of "partisanship", but such protection will be harder to maintain if British courts start finding evidence of clearly criminal acts carried out at their behest.
At such a point one feels that Obama would have no choice other than to appoint a special prosecutor to look into their crimes.
This is all quite a way down the road, but what happens in Britain is bound to one day cross the pond.
Bush and Cheney aren't out of the woods yet, not by a long chalk.
Click title for full article.
Friday, March 27, 2009
I'm only posting this because it was a witty answer to a question and it made me laugh.
All those stoned nutters roaming the internets...
The Republicans have announced their alternative budget. The only problem is that it is a budget without any numbers.
My favourite reaction to the Republican budget came from Robert Gibbs, who says it took him "several minutes" to read it.
Brewer: I am very frustrated Mike, because we were waiting for this, we cut away from the President to hear the big build-up. Republicans have a plan, they have ideas, they're not the party of no and all I heard in that news conference was what they don't like about the president's plan.
We've heard them and today you get us all hyped up and you have our undivided attention and what happens when you get up and repeat the same criticism we've already heard. I didn't hear ideas. I heard the promise of ideas, and we're going to have more on x, y and z, but I didn't hear the ideas.
Viqueira: Right, so you're saying it's old wine in new bottles, that's what you're saying essentially.
Brewer: Well, that was a much pithier way of saying it.
He also pointed out that the "budget" contained more pictures of a windmill than actual numbers, and it has only one picture of a windmill.
It's hard not to think of the GOP as reactionary obstructionists when they produce crap like this. As Obama pointed out, they are good at running down his plans, but they simply have no plans of their own.
Who needs numbers?
He campaigned promising to change the way things were done in Washington and it's hard to argue with the fact that he has done so, especially when it comes to making himself available to the people that he represents.
I've read some Republicans bemoaning the fact that Obama is so omnipresent, as if it is somehow a bad thing that a president makes himself so public, but I find it all a refreshing change from the years of Bush, who only appeared in public in front of military crowds guaranteed to cheer him.
Like basketball? There was Mr. Obama sitting courtside recently alongside astonished fans at the Verizon Center as he cheered on the Chicago Bulls in a losing battle against the Washington Wizards.
Enjoy the performing arts? The Obamas have been to the Kennedy Center twice, once to see the Alvin Ailey dance troupe — with daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7 — and once for a musical tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
How about a tasty meal? The Obamas have enjoyed white-tablecloth dining at Equinox, Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, B. Smith’s and Georgia Brown’s, and street-corner casual at Ben’s Chili Bowl and Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
They have gone to parent-teacher conferences, school sporting events and visited working-class and gentrifying communities that have rarely served as stomping grounds for American presidents and first ladies — speaking to students at a charter school in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, and worshiping in a black church, among other activities. (The president and friends also tossed a basketball around at a city-run recreation center.)
“Everywhere you go, you’re wondering whether or not you’ll run into them,” said Washington’s mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, who has lunched with the president and first lady.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, a presidential historian, has stated that no other American president has reached out to so many different corners of Washington.
It's not a big thing but I just happen to like it. A president who is not walled off from the people he was elected to represent.
The Obamas are now eager to explore the city beyond the White House walls.
“They want their lives not to be confined solely to the White House but rather to become a part of the urban, vibrant fabric of D.C.,” Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president and a close family friend, said in an interview.
Click title for full article.
Binyam Mohamed, the British resident recently released from Guantanamo Bay - who claims that he was tortured whilst being held in Pakistan, Morocco, and Afghanistan - has said that he might testify on behalf of an MI5 officer, known only as Officer B, because he does not want Officer B to be scapegoated for the fact that Mohamed was tortured with what he claims was British collusion.
Officer B is suspected of having colluded in Mohamed's interrogation and the Attorney General has now called in the Metropolitan police to investigate the claims regarding the MI5's involvement in this case.
However, Binyam Mohamed is obviously concerned that Officer B is being offered up as a sacrificial lamb to let other off the hook and he is determined to stop this happening.
Mohamed has always insisted that he does not want individuals to be punished for what he says was government policy.
The attorney general's move yesterday was welcomed by MPs, lawyers and human rights groups. However, they made clear that it did not go far enough, and that a judicial inquiry was needed to investigate the full extent of Britain's alleged collusion in torture.
Scotland said that after reviewing a "substantial body of material, much of it highly sensitive", and after consulting the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, she concluded that the evidence should be passed to the police.
She said she hoped the investigation would be carried out as "expeditiously as possible, given the seriousness and sensitivity of the issues involved".
The evidence includes open and secret high court hearings where Officer B was questioned about his interrogation of Mohamed when he was being held in Pakistan in 2002. The court heard that MI5 provided the CIA with material to interrogate Mohamed, even though it said it had no idea at the time where he was being held and in what condition he was in.
In a case Lord Justice Thomas described as "deeply disturbing", involving "many and very troublesome issues", the high court concluded: "The conduct of the security service facilitated interviews by or on behalf of the United States when [Mohamed] was being detained by the United States incommunicado and without access to a lawyer." They court added: "Under the law of Pakistan, that detention was unlawful ."
"I'm very pleased that there's going to be an independent investigation," he told the Guardian today. "I remain concerned that the investigations shouldn't just focus on the small people and that one agent shouldn't be the scapegoat for what was a government policy. I understand that the investigation will include the people directly responsible for the torture, the Americans, and this is obviously very important."We witnessed, after the scandal at Abu Ghraib was discovered, the way in which governments will throw certain individuals to the dogs and claim that they were "bad apples" who were acting outwith of government policy. However, Binyam Mohamed is insisting that these individuals - in this case Officer B - were merely following orders which came from much higher up the food chain and that the blame for the policy lies with the administration which set it; in this case he clearly means the American administration of George Bush and Dick Cheney.
The former head of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, appears to share Binyam's worry that only a judicial inquiry will be "sufficiently transparent to attract public confidence".
"If crimes have been committed, to deal with them alone would amount to scapegoating and would, in any event, only scratch at the surface of the problem," he said.The only way to achieve justice in such circumstances is to go after the individuals who set the policy, not to settle for the conviction of the grunts on the ground who carried out the policy.
Clive Stafford Smith, Mohamed's lawyers, makes clear what an inquiry should be looking into:
It is, above all, crucial that the police investigation has proper scope. As Binyam himself says, we shouldn't just blame the "little guys". We believe that Agent B and his direct superiors were involved in illegal behaviour, but the investigation should not stop there. It seems very likely that Agent B was acting with authorisation and the question must be how far up the line that authorisation went, both in the UK and the US. Agent B must not be the scapegoat: if his actions were sanctioned, the person at the top of the chain of command who sanctioned those actions must be held responsible and accountable.To that end Binyam Mohamed is actually prepared to testify on behalf of one of the agents who colluded in his torture. To make sure that individuals are not scapegoated for what was government policy.
Because of such brave actions from people like Binyam Mohamed, the noose is surely tightening around the necks of Bush and Cheney.
Click title for full article.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The right wing's obsession with Obama's teleprompter really defies belief.
Everyone knows that Barack Obama is lost without his teleprompter, but his latest blunder, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, via the Corner, suggests that the teleprompter may not be enough unless it includes phonetic spellings. Obama was speaking at a White House roundtable on clean energy systems, and repeatedly saluted Orion Energy Systems, whose CEO, Neal Verfuerth, was present at the event. So Obama referred to "Orion" a number of times. Only problem was, he appeared to be unfamiliar with the word.
I'm beginning to fear that our President has below-average knowledge of the world. Not for a President, but for a middle-aged American.It defies belief that a supporter of Bush could even dare to make that point. But Hinderaker, despite Bush's mangled relationship with the English language, once said this:
It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.But, let's remember that Bush was so dumb that he actually did have to have his teleprompter speeches written phonetically:
Never before has the White House released a draft version of the President's speech to the annual United Nations General Assembly.
But Hinderaker really does think there might be some mileage in attacking one of the greatest orators ever to inhabit the White House, after spending eight years applauding "a man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius" who most of us could see was as thick as a post.
But this year, a glimpse of how the President [Bush] sees his speeches was accidentally placed on the UN website along with the speechwriters' cell phone numbers.Pronunciations for President Bush's friend French President Sarkozy "[sar-KOzee]" appeared in draft #20 on the UN website. Other pronunciations included the Mugabe "[moo-GAHbee] regime" and pronunciations for countries "Kyrgyzstan [KEYRgeez-stan]" and "Mauritania [moor-EH-tain-ee-a]."
How do these guys even begin to pretend to themselves that they have an ounce of credibility? They are beyond delusional.
Click title for Hinderaker's bile.
David Shuster calls out Republican hypocrisy.
Shuster: At the time Republican Senator Gregg, Judd Gregg said "The President (Bush) asked for it, and we're trying to do what the President asked for". Now that President Obama is thinking of the same tactics Senator Gregg said it would be "regarded as an act of violence".Senator Gregg, an act of violence? Clearly it's frustrating to be in the minority. But Senators given your previous embrace of the fifty one vote threshold when you whine and complain about it now, that's hypocrisy, and it's wrong.
Now he's simply being ridiculous. He now wants us to believe that the public humiliation he suffered at the hands of Rush Limbaugh was "strategic" and allowed him to know who his enemies were.
He's simply becoming an embarrassment. His days in charge are surely numbered.
The pressure really is being ratcheted up on Israel over the recent war in Gaza with Human Rights Watch now entering the fray and claiming, in a new 71 page report, that Israel "repeatedly and indiscriminately" fired white phosphorus into civilian areas during the conflict.
Such use of white phosphorus is a war crime.
Human Rights Watch say that the Israelis used white phosphorus in a "deliberate or reckless" way.
There really should be an inquiry into what took place here, especially as the Israelis spent most of the conflict denying that it was using white phosphorus at all. Indeed, it was only after this weapon was used against a UN shelter that the Israelis found it impossible to deny what they were doing.
The report says:
• Israel was aware of the dangers of white phosphorus.
• It chose not to use alternative and less dangerous smoke shells.
• In one case, Israel even ignored repeated warnings from UN staff before hitting the main UN compound in Gaza with white phosphorus shells on 15 January.
"In Gaza, the Israeli military didn't just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops," said Fred Abrahams, a senior Human Rights Watch researcher. "It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safe smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died." He said senior commanders should be held to account.
Human Rights Watch called on the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, to launch an international commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of violations of international law in the Gaza war by the Israeli military and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls Gaza.
Israel's behaviour during the Gaza conflict was reprehensible. The only way to ensure that such behaviour is never repeated is to hold an inquiry which punishes those who broke the rules of war. Only if they know there is a price to be paid will Israeli military commanders - and Prime Minsters - think twice before they ever repeat the kind of atrocities we witnessed in Gaza.
Most of the Israeli military's white phosphorus in Gaza was fired in 155mm artillery shells, each containing 116 wedges soaked with the chemical.
In January, the Guardian found one such shell still smoking several days after it was fired, outside the home of the Abu Halima family in Atatra. One white phosphorous shell hit the house directly, killing a father and four of his children. His wife was severely burnt. Human Rights Watch also reported the same case.
Human Rights Watch found 24 spent white phosphorus shells in Gaza, all from the same batch made in a US ammunition factory in 1989 by Thiokol Aerospace. Other shells were photographed during the war with markings showing they were made in the Pine Bluff Arsenal, also in America, in 1991.
Human Rights Watch said the Israeli military often used the weapon even in areas where there were no Israeli troops on the ground, which it said, "strongly suggests that the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] was not using the munition for its obscurant qualities but rather for its incendiary effect".
The group said it found no evidence that Hamas fighters used Palestinian civilians as human shields - a key Israeli claim - in the area at the time of the attacks it researched.
Click title for full article.
Once the majority of UK troops have left Iraq the British government will be willing to have an inquiry into the Iraq war, although David Miliband appeared to be bending over backwards to insist on the advantages of such an inquiry being held in private rather than public.
I think we need a full public inquiry and that all giving evidence should have to swear an oath that they are telling the truth, although I note that I am in the minority, with both the Tories and the Liberals perfectly content with a privy council inquiry.
Speaking in a debate in the Commons, Miliband said that the inquiry would be set up after the majority of British combat troops depart from Iraq at the end of July, leaving fewer than 400 to take part in training.
Without giving details of the nature of the inquiry, he spoke of the "advantage" of having one conducted along the lines of the Franks inquiry set up after the Falklands war.
"The fact that it was conducted in private meant that it had access to all the relevant papers," Miliband said.
The Franks inquiry was conducted by privy counsellors. "Franks was not a judicial inquiry so it did not require its witnesses to have lawyers," Miliband said. "There were no leaks or interim findings to distract from the final conclusions and recommendations of the inquiry."
I would also like to see that any inquiry looked into the reasons for going to war and whether or not those reasons were valid and also to give a finding on whether or not the war was legal; which is the contentious point which this Labour government has been at pains to prevent any court from ruling on.
Any proper inquiry would also have to have the power to look at Lord Goldsmith's ruling on the wars legality and to question whether or not his advice changed in the run up to the war and to establish why.
There have been several inquiries into this war - both Butler and Hutton spring to mind - but neither of those was permitted to ask questions regarding how the war came to be fought in the first place and whether or not our troops should ever have been put at risk for the threat which emanated from Iraq.
Any new inquiry must be able to ask the questions that both the Butler and Hutton inquiries were ordered to avoid, although I would still prefer that these questions be asked in public rather than in private. The Franks inquiry, which is being held up as the example which everyone thinks should be followed, only published it's conclusions; which might have been acceptable in 1983, but seems rather woeful in 2009.
The notion that a government - which many of it's citizens believe lied to them in the run up to the war - can hold an inquiry in private and then deliver to us it's own conclusions, seems to me to be a ridiculously antiquated set up which takes far too much on good faith.
The public trust in the government to do the right thing and unearth the truth is broken. I genuinely would find it hard to believe a single thing they had to say on this subject. That's why it is so important that any inquiry must be public rather than behind closed doors.
I simply would be unable to take their word for it and to believe that they were telling me the truth unless I could see that truth established under cross examination.
Click title for full article.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I find the Republican position on the stimulus package quite breathtaking. They are quick to point out the deficits that are being run up whilst, totally and utterly ignoring the fact that the financial crisis which made this necessary happened on their watch.
Nor do they appear to have any solution of their own, preferring simply to carp from the sidelines about a fiscal responsibility which they did not display when they were in office.
Obama is right to point out that they have "a short memory" as he is inheriting a $1.3 trillion annual deficit from them.
The election of Netanyahu has made Obama's job ten times harder when it comes to the Middle East as Netanyahu has no interest of any kind in a two state solution.
His final question was on the prospect of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and a deal with Iran. Obama admitted the prospects of Middle East peace looked bleak because of the Israeli election and division among the Palestinians.
"It's not easier than it was, but I think it's just as necessary," Obama said, adding: "What we do know is this: that the status quo is unsustainable, that it is critical for us to advance a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in their own states with peace and security."
But he sought comfort in the example of Northern Ireland, a comparsison Israeli politicians usually like to resist, saying the situations are not comparable. Obama said he had entertained on St Patrick's Day in the East Room, where the press conference was being held, people who a decade earlier had been sworn enemies in Northern Ireland.
However, I find it very interesting that Obama states that a solution is still "necessary" and that he makes the argument that "the status quo is unsustainable".
This is quite a marker to lay down. It implies that Obama intends to push ahead in an attempt to find a two state solution despite the considerable opposition he will inevitably run into.
This is a change in the way the US usually react to all things Israeli and it's a change which John Mearsheimer detected in bloggers reaction to the hiring (or not) of Charles Freeman.
I said at the time that I thought the lobby had been weakened by the very fact that their fingerprints were all over the Freeman affair and I find it fascinating that Obama is making it clear that, at a time when Israel have elected Netanyahu and Lieberman, he is not going to be distracted from pursuing the right course.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Freeman affair was that the mainstream media paid it little attention – the New York Times, for example, did not run a single story dealing with Freeman until the day after he stepped down – while a fierce battle over the appointment took place in the blogosphere. Freeman’s opponents used the internet to their advantage; that is where Rosen launched the campaign. But something happened there that would never have happened in the mainstream media: the lobby faced real opposition. Indeed, a vigorous, well-informed and highly regarded array of bloggers defended Freeman at every turn and would probably have carried the day had Congress not tipped the scales against them. In short, the internet enabled a serious debate in the United States about an issue involving Israel. The lobby has never had much trouble keeping the New York Times and the Washington Post in line, but it has few ways to silence critics on the internet.
When pro-Israel forces clashed with a major political figure in the past, that person usually backed off. Jimmy Carter, who was smeared by the lobby after he published Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, was the first prominent American to stand his ground and fight back. The lobby has been unable to silence him, and it is not for lack of trying. Freeman is following in Carter’s footsteps, but with sharper elbows. After stepping down, he issued a blistering denunciation of ‘unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country’ whose aim is ‘to prevent any view other than its own from being aired’. ‘There is,’ he continued, ‘a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government.’
Freeman’s remarkable statement has shot all around the world and been read by countless individuals. This isn’t good for the lobby, which would have preferred to kill Freeman’s appointment without leaving any fingerprints. But Freeman will continue to speak out about Israel and the lobby, and maybe some of his natural allies inside the Beltway will eventually join him. Slowly but steadily, space is being opened up in the United States to talk honestly about Israel.
This will, of course, lead him into direct confrontation with the same forces who destroyed Freeman's appointment.
But Obama will enjoy the support of large swathes of the blogosphere, even if the MSM remain too cowed to speak out, should he decide - as his comments suggest he will - that a two state solution is simply too important to be pushed further down the road to another time.
Click title for full article.