Sunday, May 31, 2009

Netanyahu: "What the hell do they want from me?"

There's very good news on the Israeli/Palestinian front with Obama apparently very serious about ending the settlement building and Netanyahu in a total flummox that there aren't the usual "understandings" between the Israelis and the Americans on this subject; i.e., Israel talks peace but simply keeps expanding the settlements.

Referring to Clinton's call for a settlement freeze, Netanyahu groused, "What the hell do they want from me?" according to his associate, who added, "I gathered that he heard some bad vibes in his meetings with [U.S.] congressional delegations this week."

In the 10 days since Netanyahu and President Barack Obama held a meeting at the White House, the Obama administration has made clear in public and private meetings with Israeli officials that it intends to hold a firm line on Obama's call to stop Israeli settlements. According to many observers in Washington and Israel, the Israeli prime minister, looking for loopholes and hidden agreements that have often existed in the past with Washington, has been flummoxed by an unusually united line that has come not just from Obama White House and the secretary of state, but also from pro-Israel congressmen and women who have come through Israel for meetings with him over Memorial Day recess. To Netanyahu's dismay, Obama doesn't appear to have a hidden policy. It is what he said it was.

"This is a sea change for Netanyahu," a former senior Clinton administration official who worked on Middle East issues said. The official said that the basis of the Obama White House's resolve is the conviction that it is in the United States' as well as Israel's interest to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "We have significant, existential threats that Israel faces from Iran and that the U.S. faces from this region. It is in our mutual interest to end this conflict, and to begin to build new regional alliances."

It would appear that Washington is extremely serious about this. I am very impressed.

Click title for full article.

Mancow's Waterboarding A HOAX? Mancow Responds!



I spoke yesterday about the madness that Malkin and the right wingers are currently indulging in, claiming that Mancow's waterboarding was, in fact, a hoax.

They make this ludicrous claim despite the fact that - should Mancow have wanted to create a hoax here - wouldn't he have created a hoax which proved that waterboarding was not torture? Why would he have created a hoax which undermined his own argument?

Here Mancow appears with Olbermann to say that he was, indeed, waterboarded.

The argument made by the nutters on the right really shows that they will go to any lengths rather than accept the fact that waterboarding is torture. And, if they have to throw one of their own under the bus rather than accept this simple truth, then they are showing - once again - that they are more than happy to do so.

Mancow: This was me on the radio trying to see what it is about so that I could argue that it was not torture. I failed and now everyone is mad at me. I'm sorry I can't go party line.

Olbermann: And you have taken heat for saying that waterboarding is torture?

Mancow: Oh, c'mon. Land of the Free? I give you the Land of the Lemmings. You say whatever your party tells you to say. Left wing radio says what they are supposed to say, right wing radio follows their talking points, and frankly I am sick of it. How about the truth for God's sakes, man?
Mancow's crime is that he is no longer following the Republican mantra. And he's no longer following it because, unlike Hannity, he had the courage to test his convictions publicly. And he failed. He discovered that something he thought of as simply "water in the face" was actually torture.

And, for that, the right wing loons are rounding on him. They won't accept the truth even when one of their own is waterboarded to prove their own argument but finds that he actually can't do it.

He then instantly becomes some kind of sell out/traitor/hoaxer.

There's a really simple way to prove if that is true. Hannity or one of the other loons can easily subject themselves to the process and prove what a piece of cake it is.

(Tick, tock. Tick, tock..... Tumbleweed blows by...)

U.S. - Israel on the Rocks.





I find it fascinating that the Obama administration are pushing on with their desire for peace in the Middle East, despite Netanyahu's objections. In fact, I find it notable that the Obama administration are starting to really push back against Israel's intransigence.

Tensions have been mounting between the U.S. and its usual BFF, Israel. President Obama’s demand for an end to the construction of settlements in the West Bank was rejected by Israel earlier this week. Obama has responded by suggesting that Israel’s intransigence endangers U.S. security.
I regard that comment from Obama to be something of a game changer. President Bush went to great lengths to imply that the 9-11 attacks were brought about because the terrorists, "hate our freedoms." He really couldn't have been more vague about why those attacks happened.

But, anyone who had read what Osama bin Laden had actually said about those attacks knew that he justified them based on, primarily, American presence in Saudi Arabia and the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.

Now, Obama has not explicitly made the link here, but, for the first time, he has made a link between American security and Israeli intransigence. He is saying that what happens in this part of the Middle East effects the safety of Americans at home. This is new territory for the Americans. As is Hillary's reaction to the Israeli intransigence. This is what she had to say regarding Israel's comments that settlement building would continue:
“With respect to settlements, the president was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is in the best interests of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease. That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly, not only to the Israelis but to the Palestinians and others. And we intend to press that point.”
That's impressive. And it's highly unusual. One can see from the comments of her Egyptian counterpart, how much this new approach is appreciated.

Traditionally, in these matters, the US bends to Israel's will. The Obama administration are demanding the opposite. And they are stating that this is necessary for US security.

Obama has not made any explicit links, but Netanyahu must know what he is hinting at.

NO Terrorist Attacks Were Disrupted From The Use Of Torture!



It has seemed for weeks now as if the Cheney's - dad Dick and daughter Liz - are on a never ending, "Please don't put my Daddy in Jail" tour, in which they insist that there are secret documents which, if released, would prove that "torture works" and exonerate the old war criminal from his crimes; although I must admit that I never thought the fact that any crime "worked" has ever previously stopped any criminal activity from being a crime.

But now Carl Levin, someone who was privy to the same materials Cheney has been talking about, has stepped up to the plate to say that these documents don't actually say what Cheney and his daughter are claiming that they say.

"Mr. Cheney has also claimed that the release of classified documents would prove his view that the techniques worked. But those classified documents say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of the abusive techniques. I hope that the documents are declassified so that people can judge for themselves what is fact and what is fiction."
Why should we be remotely surprised? The Bush administration lied about WMD, they lied about Saddam's links to al Qaeda, they lied about exposing Valerie Plame, they lied about torture, and now Levin says they are lying about the results which they claim they gained from that torture.

At what point do we stop being surprised that an administration which lied more than almost any other - apart from Nixon's - is caught, once again, lying?

UPDATE:



Rachel Maddow on the same subject, with clips of just how often the Cheney's have made these bogus claims. She then discusses with Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly the significance of Levin's intervention.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mad Malkin and Hoaxes.

Michelle Malkin is almost certifiably insane. She has found proof that lefty blogs have been "punked" and taken in by Mancow's apparent waterboarding, which he admitted - despite previously defending it - that he now felt was torture.

Last week, liberal blogs went ga-ga over radio talk show host Mancow’s waterboarding stunt.

Matthew Yglesias wet his pants. He featured Mancow’s photo and the blaring headline: “Conservative Radio Host Has Himself Waterboard to Prove It’s Not Torture, Realizes He Was Wrong.”

MSNBC and HuffPo
embraced him. Ezra Klein at the Washington Post piled on. So did Jonathan Chait: “I think the torture debate would be mighty different if more of the conservatives who scoff at waterboarding would try the same thing.”

And Think Progress. And Andrew Sullivan.

And on and on and on.

Now, there’s a paper trail that suggests the glaringly obvious — that it was all an elaborate hoax, reportedly orchestrated with the help of Jerry Springer’s publicist.

To prove it was, "all a hoax" she includes a statement that Mancow had issued by his publicist.

The statement, which she quotes on her site, says:

I am not a magician. Many news cameras were there!

Obviously, it was on the radio and I wasn’t in prison. I’m also not a radicalized Muslim terrorist. But it was not a hoax! I repeat: NOT A HOAX.

[..]

Sorry, I thought for years it wasn’t torture and now I do. The video is there for all to see.

So, she proves it was all a hoax, by giving a statement from him denying it was a hoax.

You really have to wonder what goes on in that hate addled brain of hers.

Click title for her whole insane posting.

G. Gordon Liddy On Sotomayor: ‘Let’s Hope That The Key Conferences Aren’t When She’s Menstruating’

I am sure that Obama chose Sotomayer because he feels she is the right person to take up that position. However, had he chosen her to expose the extreme racism and rampant sexism of his Republican opponents, he simply couldn't have made a better choice.

The nuttery that they have been engaging in is simply second to none. I thought Tancredo's, "I don't know whether the Obama administration hates white people" remark would be hard to beat but, give it to G. Gordon Liddy, he has managed to vault even that piece of insanity and come out with this little cracker:

LIDDY: Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.
And this was after he referred to the Spanish language as "illegal alien":
LIDDY: I understand that they found out today that Miss Sotomayor is a member of La Raza, which means in illegal alien, “the race.” And that should not surprise anyone because she’s already on record with a number of racist comments.
The Republican party, I am told, need to improve their standing amongst women and Latino voters. I wonder why women and Latinos don't feel they are speaking for them?

Listen to it here:



Hat tip to ThinkProgress.

Tancredo: "I Don't Know" Whether Obama Administration Hates White People.



Tancredo can't even bring himself to say that the Obama administration "doesn't hate white people". He doesn't know if that is the case or not and he sees the problems the Republicans currently face as somehow related to them listening too much to the media.

The Republicans were always going to oppose whichever nominee Obama came up with; but, when one listens to Tancredo come out with statements like this, one seriously has to doubt that going down this "racist" route was wise.

SHUSTER: Mr. Tancredo, do you agree that the Obama administration hates white people?

TANCREDO: Oh [sighs], I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this –

SHUSTER: You don’t know? In other words, they might?

TANCREDO: What do I — I have no idea whether they hate white people or not!

He sounds like a lunatic.

Tragic, unwise: Conservative grandees turn on David Cameron over plans for European Union.

David Cameron is currently enjoying a very favorable position in British opinion polls simply by virtue of the fact that he not Gordon Brown. There are no policies around which he has asked people to rally from which his popularity has springboarded, indeed, he has almost no policies at all, other than the strange notion that he would have done nothing to combat the recession and would have simply allowed the chips to fall wherever they may have fallen. Millions of unemployed? He would have lived with that rather than to give up the Thatcherite policies which have been shown to be such an utter failure.

However, the issue that always pulls the Conservatives to pieces, and therefore the one area where he has had to be specific on policy, is Europe. And the position he has taken on Europe is an extremely right wing one. Indeed, it really does place him fair and square amongst the most dangerous loons in the European debate.

On the eve of the European elections, the Tory leader stands accused of adopting a "rigid commitment to impotence" after he pledged to withdraw from the main centre-right grouping in the European parliament.

Cameron, who will appear alongside highly conservative EU allies in Warsaw tomorrow, goes into the European elections next Thursday on the most hardline ­Eurosceptic ticket of any mainstream political leader since Britain entered the EEC in 1973.

Cameron also says that a future Conservative government would be prepared to break with convention by reopening the Lisbon treaty, which is designed to streamline the working of the EU after its recent expansion.

The fears of Britain's most senior serving diplomats, one of whom described the Tory plans as "bonkers", are only being voiced in private.

Well, now it's not only diplomats, but some senior Tories themselves who are speaking out against the position Cameron is adopting.

Lord Patten, the mastermind of the Tories' 1992 ­election victory, and former home secretary Lord Brittan both criticise Cameron's tactics, with Patten describing them as "unwise".

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, a former head of the Foreign Office who was Britain's ambassador to the EU at the time of the Maastricht treaty negotiations in 1991, is also highly critical.

"I do not understand a rigid commitment to impotence," he said. "I do not understand why [the Czech and Polish parties who will form a new group with the Tories] are preferable to Angela Merkel or Nicolas Sarkozy, or why they think the route to influence lies that way."

Lord Wright of Richmond, head of the Foreign Office in Margaret Thatcher's final years as prime minister, questioned Cameron's decision to try to reopen the Lisbon treaty. "It will be a formidably difficult negotiation," he said. "There will be very few allies."

Lord Tugendhat, a European commissioner between 1977 and 1985, said it would be a "great tragedy" if the Tories tried to renegotiate a ratified Lisbon treaty once the party is in office.

Retired diplomats are careful about speaking in public. However, the strength of their language reflects Foreign Office concern that Cameron will trigger the worst crisis yet in Britain's relations with the EU.

This is one of the few issues on which Cameron has shown his cards and the bedfellows he has chosen are extremely worrisome.

He is lining up with Poland's deeply conservative Law and Justice party, whose leaders have banned gay rights marches. He's also in bed with the Czech ODS party, whose founder disputes whether or not global warming is man made.

He's also been taking to the Lavtian Fatherland and Freedom party, some of whose members attend ceremonies to commemorate a Latvian unit of the Waffen SS.

This is not the company one would expect Cameron to keep, especially as he is so keen to point out that the Conservatives are no longer the "nasty party" of the eighties.

On Europe he appears happy to keep company with a bunch of dangerous extremists, literally the maddest people on the block.

A future Conservative government will also offer a referendum on the Lisbon treaty if it has not been ratified by all member states. In the more likely scenario that it has been ratified, Cameron says he "would not let matters rest". Kerr was scathing of this stance.

He said: "Everyone is fed up with institutional treaties. The Tories owe it to us to tell us what they mean, because they will have to tell the world at the end of the first European council they attend, when they discover there is no majority for calling the intergovernmental conference to change the treaty as they propose."

For now, Cameron has no intention of telling anyone what he means, as he is being so successful simply by basking in vagueness and not being Gordon Brown.

But the company he is keeping should give us some indication of where he lies politically. He is rejecting right wingers like Merkel and Sarkozy and, instead, prefers the company of the true lunatics of the European right.

That says a lot.

Related articles:

David Cameron’s new European allies set to include odd bedfellows.
David Cameron’s new allies in Europe are set to include a homophobic Polish party, Czechs who have just passed the Lisbon Treaty and Nazi-supporting Latvians. A senior MEP confirmed yesterday that the Conservatives had signed up pledges from the requisite seven countries to form a new group in the European Parliament after next month’s elections.
David Cameron's Euroscepticism 'destroying 30 years of Conservatism' claims Tory MEP.
Christopher Beazley, a Conservative MEP since 1984, has attacked his own party leader as campaigning for the European elections officially begins this week. "The leader of my party, Mr David Cameron, has made a serious mistake. He is in error: he thinks that by becoming anti-European in the House of Commons this will secure him the premiership of my country," he said.
Click title for full article.

Conservatives launch attack on Obama's supreme court pick.

The Republicans simply don't have the votes to block Sotomayer, so I believe what we are witnessing is an attempt to shore up their base and perhaps give their coffers a chance to be filled by playing on the notion that what Gingrich describes as "a new racism" is actually what we are witnessing.

Prominent Republicans and conservative interest groups have unleashed a campaign to portray President Barack Obama's supreme court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, as racist for suggesting that white men don't always make the best judges and un-American for using a Spanish pronunciation of her name.

What Obama has portrayed as Sotomayor's strength as an American of Puerto Rican descent raised in the Bronx who made it to Princeton and Yale, bringing areas of experience and understanding not immediately evident among the white male majority on the supreme court, is being played by her opponents as evidence that she was nominated because she has a racial agenda.

For a party that needs to attract more women and Latinos, if they have to have any chance of being re-elected, I regard this as another example of the suicidal nature of the rump which are left representing the present Republican party.

For example, to attack Sotomayer for using a Spanish pronunciation of her name strikes me as particularly racist. I know of no other society on Earth where people celebrate the richness of their backgrounds more than Americans do. Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans are incredibly proud of their Irish and Italian roots, so why do certain people make an exception when Sotomayer celebrates hers?
Critics are also using Sotomayor's pronunciation of her own name as a stick to beat her. The judge, whose parents hail from the Spanish-speaking US territory of Puerto Rico, uses a Hispanic pronunciation. Some critics have taken up a call by a prominent conservative magazine, the National Review, arguing that she should Anglicise it. The writer, Mark Krikorian, said that "there ought to be limits" to the demands made on English-speakers to try and pronounce foreign names.
Again, there is it, the "new racism" of which Gingrich spoke. "There ought to be limits" on the demands made on English speakers. It's all becoming too hard for the "English speaker", for which one should really read "the white guy."

That is what they are saying when they attack one sentence taken horribly out of context:

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life," she said. "Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging."

To some Americans, Sotomayor's comments appear self-evident. They point to the personal experience that Thurgood Marshall brought as a black man elevated to the supreme court during the civil rights era. But conservatives said her comments are evidence that she will be biased against whites and men.

This really is the imaginary world the Republicans are seeking to portray, a world where any white person who isn't satisfied with his lot is allowed to pretend that he lives in a world driven mad by political correctness where the rules are now stacked against him.

And I am sure there are certain sections of American society where this apparent victimhood will carry some resonance, it was certainly an attitude one witnessed at Sarah Palin rallies in the final days of the campaign, where facts seemed to matter not a jot and the campaign became a focal point for a vague sense of anger at an America that her supporters didn't understand but felt sure was slipping away from them.

This, again, appears to be the seam that the Republicans wish to mine.

But they are talking to themselves. Much as this might please their base, it will strike many people as simply repulsive. There is no "new racism" and Gingrich is playing to the very worst part of the Republican base when he pretends that there is.

UPDATE:

I am glad that Booman has come to a similar conclusion to my own:
And here's the thing. Normally, political advocates argue their case in a way that they think will ultimately help their party win elections. Sometimes, their desire to win leads them to trim their sails a bit about how they really feel. But these Republicans are letting it all hang out without any regard whatsoever for the essentially suicidal rhetoric they are using.
That is exactly what I think. They really are being suicidal in the way they are approaching this.

Click title for full article.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Inane Quote of the Day.

He returns from oblivion, proving that he has lost none of his innate ability to inspire slack jawed astonishment:

Bush spoke for 20 minutes, then took just under an hour's worth of questions. Club officials previously said all questions would be pre-screened, but he instead took them directly from the audience.

The decision to go to Iraq was "hard," he said, but he hopes people will accept that it was the right one, for the sake of peace.

He went to war, "for the sake of peace."

Click title for source.

Tags: ,

Dick Morris calls for proliferation of nuclear weapons to Japan.



This why these neo-con loons must never gain power again. Dick Morris is asked how Obama should react to the recent North Korea nuclear tests.

His solution? Tell Japan to, "get serious about acquiring nuclear weapons."

At the exact moment when we are trying to get Iran and North Korea to desist, Morris' answer is to start a nuclear arms race.

These people are simply lunatics.

Epic Fail.

Limbaugh is getting more ridiculous with each day that passes.
Ladies and gentlemen, this country is failing, because President Obama is succeeding.
As Huffington says, Limbaugh is "all about codewords, it's about buzzwords, it's about appealing to the worst instincts in his audience."

It must be exhausting to go around spouting hatred for so many hours a day.

Tancredo: La Raza is "a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses."



Whenever I hear the latest Republican talking point being spouted, I always think of the time shortly after the invasion of Iraq when Jack Straw told us that we had to be patient, whilst the troops searched for the WMD, and bear in mind that Iraq "is twice the size of France".

I thought that sounded odd, so I looked it up, and it turned out that Iraq was actually about four fifths the size of France.

Nevertheless, for the next few weeks, numerous politicians would pop up on our screens all repeating Straw's falsehood.

I say this because I feel sure the same is about to occur concerning La Raza, now that Tom Tancredo has called them, "a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses." It will be a very short time indeed before O'Reilly and Beck start echoing this statement.

Now, I freely admit that I am playing catch-up here and that I know very little about La Raza, but the comparison strikes me as simply absurd.

The KKK represented the most dominant culture in the country and sought to preserve that dominance through violent means based on the premise that they believed they were racially superior to other cultures.

La Raza represents an ethnic minority and seeks to create more equality of opportunity for Hispanic Americans.

On what planet are those two things even comparable?

La Raza has hit back:

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” National Council of La Raza spokesperson Lisa Navarrete told The Colorado Independent. “He’s defamed our organization and told falsehoods about our organization without any basis in fact or evidence. That’s not who we are or what we do.

“If you look at Mr. Tancredos’ record, he’s often spoken about things he doesn’t know anything about.”

“He’s at the far extreme of the Republican Party,” she said. “He’s someone who has been instrumental in alienating the Republican Party from the Latino community. We’ve been urging the Republican Party to try to outreach to the Latino community, and they did a good job of it until they let people like Tom Tancredo take over the debate on immigration.

It’s not the first time the Latino civil rights group has been inaccurately characterized by Tancredo, Navarrete said, though he hasn’t gone so far as to compare NCLR with the Ku Klux Klan before.

“He is a leading spokesperson and a leading figure in the anti-immigrant extremist movement, and as such we’re a target for anti-immigrant extremists,” Navarrete said.

Watch this space though, it will only be a matter of time before O'Reilly and Beck are highlighting membership of La Raza as akin to joining a terrorist group.

Sotomayer and Racism.



I am honestly befuddled as to why so many Republicans are swooping on Sotomayer for saying the following:

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.
Firstly, it was said in a symposium issue entitled "Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation." So, the fact that she was a Latina and a judge was the very reason she was being asked to speak. That was the perspective she was being asked to bring.

Secondly, I really think her remark should be looked at in it's full context:
Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care.
She specifically states that to take the view - which people are wrongly attributing to her - would be to be "myopic". Indeed, she states that many are capable of understanding, "the values and needs of people from a different group".

Her overall point is that the bench would benefit from the inclusion of more people from all walks of life and all backgrounds. She is arguing that the understanding needed sometimes takes more effort than some people are willing to give, not that such understanding is impossible, or that coming from one ethnic group or sex automatically grants or excludes such understanding.

No-one would argue that a bench made up exclusively of white males would be incapable of reaching a fair conclusion in sex discrimination cases, but it would certainly be no bad thing to have the perspective of women somewhere in that mix. You can agree or disagree with that, which is the totality of her point, but to describe what she is saying as "racist" is to stretch credibility too far.

She is not saying what is being attributed to her by looking at that one sentence out of context.

UPDATE:

Here's the reason why she is making the argument she is making:
As of September 20, 1998, of the then 195 circuit court judges only two were African-American women and two Hispanic women. Of the 641 district court judges only twelve were African-American women and eleven Hispanic women. African-American women comprise only 1.56% of the federal judiciary and Hispanic-American women comprise only 1%. No African-American, male or female, sits today on the Fourth or Federal circuits. And no Hispanics, male or female, sit on the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, District of Columbia or Federal Circuits.

Sort of shocking, isn't it? This is the year 2002. We have a long way to go. Unfortunately, there are some very deep storm warnings we must keep in mind. In at least the last five years the majority of nominated judges the Senate delayed more than one year before confirming or never confirming were women or minorities. I need not remind this audience that Judge Paez of your home Circuit, the Ninth Circuit, has had the dubious distinction of having had his confirmation delayed the longest in Senate history. These figures demonstrate that there is a real and continuing need for Latino and Latina organizations and community groups throughout the country to exist and to continue their efforts of promoting women and men of all colors in their pursuit for equality in the judicial system.
As I say, she is clearly arguing for the need, "to have more women and people of color on the bench." She is clearly not arguing that one group is better than another.

UPDATE II:

Mike Littwin makes a good point about this "new racism" which Limbaugh, Tancredo and others seems to be seeing everywhere:
Forget about a post-racial America. Now we've moved to some new kind of racial world, in which the R-word is no longer reserved for, say, Bull Connor or someone standing on schoolhouse steps shouting "segregation forever," but also for a Supreme Court nominee making a point about gender and ethnicity on the bench at a conference about, yes, gender and ethnicity on the bench.

And Newt Gingrich, hinting at a run for president in 2012, tweets — because he's hip — that "New racism is no better than old racism. A white man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."
This "new racism" which Gingrich detects is, of course, the racism which is being heaped upon the poor white folks. It's a way for the most dominant culture to pretend that everyone is out to get them and that they are the real victims of the piece.

This is what I find so despicable about this. Neither Gingrich nor Limbaugh or Beck have any notion of what it feels like to be hated because of your colour. They have never in their lives experienced any form of prejudice against them. If one was to list all of the dominant factions in society, they belong to all of the most powerful ones: They are all white, male, hetrosexual and Christian.

And yet they have the sheer gall to take the language of people who have experienced prejudice and imply that they are the victims of a "new racism". It's beneath contempt.

Obama 'confident' on two-state solution.



Obama has expressed his confidence that Israel will recognise the need for a two state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

US President Barack Obama says he is confident that Israel will recognise that a two-state solution is in the best interests of its security.

Speaking after White House talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Mr Obama again urged Israel to freeze settlement expansion.

Israel has insisted it will allow existing settlements to expand, despite pressure from Washington.

President Obama also said Palestinians must rein in anti-Israeli violence.

For his part, Mr Abbas said he was committed to all obligations under the Mid-East peace plan "roadmap".

However, without a halt to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinians have said there can be no progress towards peace.

Mr Obama said he was a "strong believer in a two-state solution" and believed Israel would recognise that it was in the best interests of its long-term security.

He said it was important for all countries, but particularly Arab states, to be supportive of the two-state solution.

"I am confident that we can move this forward if all parties are ready to meet their obligations," he said.

Obama is, of course, speaking perfect sense. The two state solution is the only sensible solution in the table, but I am not confident that an Israel led by Netanyahu will embrace such a solution, even though to do so is so blatantly in Israel's interest.

The Likud party have long ago convinced themselves that the West Bank and Gaza actually belong to Israel without thinking rationally about the consequences if that were to be the case.

Let's assume that Israel does take control of the West Bank and Gaza as Likud secretly believe they should. What happens next?

There are only three choices and none of them are good ones for Israel.

1. She ethnically cleanses the area of Palestinians.

2. She maintains the pseudo Apartheid status which exists at the moment where she controls the lives of millions of people whilst giving them no meaningful say over their own future.

3. She allows the Arab population a vote and, because of the increased Arab demographic, Israel ceases to exist.

I honestly can't think of a fourth option. But it doesn't follow, as Obama is stating, that the lack of a viable option will cause Netanyahu to see sense. The Likud party have, for decades now, been acting as if they can take the West Bank and Gaza as their gift from God and that the Palestinians will somehow melt away. Perhaps they will simply move en masse to Jordan and alleviate Israel of this problem, as many Likud members believe they should.

It's never going to happen. And Obama is 100% correct when he says that the two state solution is the only solution on the table. I just question his belief that Likud members like Netanyahu will ever see the sense of what he is saying. I long ago stopped believing that sense had anything to do with what was motivating these people.

They believe God gave this land to them, and, I suppose, they think God will work out the final details in their favour.

It's an utterly insane stance which takes no account of the starkness of the choices available to them even if they manage to take over all of the Occupied Territories.

That's why Netanyahu has ignored Obama's demand for an end to settlement building in the West Bank and continued arguing for "natural growth". This is simply what Likud does. It expands with no idea at all what happens even if they manage to take over the whole of Palestine.

So, Obama is completely correct when he states that a two state solution is the only sensible one left, where I disagree is when he states "confidently" that Israel - led by Netanyahu - will see the sense of what he is saying.

The Likud party left "sense" behind a long, long time ago.

Click title for full article.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Alito: My family’s immigrant experience shaped judicial outlook.



Right off the bat let me admit that I don't know anything about Sonia Sotomayor and her opinions, and I suspect that's true for the press and an awful lot of the right wingers who are leaping over partial sentences (delivered out of context) and uttered several years ago.

However, the main thrust of the complaints against her as far as I can tell is that she might employ empathy, which I understand from listening to Rove and others, is a simply reprehensible thing to do.

However, I wonder how many of those same people attacking Sotomayor attacked Alito when he said this:

Sen. Tom Coburn, who had asked Alito to discuss how his personal experiences shows that "he cared for the little guy," Alito said that his family’s experience as immigrants influenced his outlook on immigration cases.
And that’s why I went into that in my opening statement. Because when a case comes before me involving, let’s say, someone who is an immigrant — and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases — I can’t help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn’t that long ago when they were in that position…

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account
.

Empathy anyone?

Any Republican who did not object to Alito has no right to oppose Sotomayor on the charge of "empathy", as Rove has done. That's simply being hypocritical in the extreme.

That said, I know nothing else about her, I simply detect a distinct double standard being applied here.

Israelis get four-fifths of scarce West Bank water, says World Bank.

As Obama faces up to Netanyahu's intransigence regarding a possible peace deal in the Middle East which will finally see the Palestinians achieve their own state, the World Bank have highlighted the unfair distribution of resources which underpins much of the Palestinian anger at the Israeli occupation.

A deepening drought in the Middle East is aggravating a dispute over water resources after the World Bank found that Israel is taking four times as much water as the Palestinians from a vital shared aquifer.

The region faces a fifth consecutive year of drought this summer, but the World Bank report found huge disparities in water use between Israelis and Palestinians, although both share the mountain aquifer that runs the length of the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians have access to only a fifth of the water supply, while Israel, which controls the area, takes the rest, the bank said.
Israelis use 240 cubic metres of water a person each year, against 75 cubic metres for West Bank Palestinians and 125 for Gazans, the bank said.

Increasingly, West Bank Palestinians must rely on water bought from the Israeli national water company, Mekorot.
In some areas of the West Bank, Palestinians are surviving on as little as 10 to 15 litres a person each day, which is at or below humanitarian disaster response levels recommended to avoid epidemics. In Gaza, where Palestinians rely on an aquifer that has become increasingly saline and polluted, the situation is worse. Only 5%-10% of the available water is clean enough to drink.
One can highlight a thousand different ways in which the Israelis bully and humiliate the Palestinians on a daily basis, always justified by the need for Israeli security. But, the unfair distribution of water speaks of a sense of entitlement which the Israelis feel, and the way in which the Palestinians and their needs are disregarded.

And again, one is struck by the fact that the Israelis appear to hold no sway with the notion that the occupiers have any sense of responsibility towards the people that they are occupying.

The Israelis continue to argue that the Palestinians are not doing enough to develop their own water resources, whilst ignoring the fact that the Palestinians have not been allowed to develop any new production wells in the West Bank since the 1967 war.

But facts are inarguable things. And the fact is that the Israelis, the people who occupy and control the area, allow themselves four times more water than they allow their Palestinian counterparts. International law states that most of the water sources in the area are international resources, and as such must be shared by Israelis and Palestinians according to the principle of equitable and reasonable use.

But that's not how the Israelis see it.
"There is no reason for Palestinians to claim that just because they sit on lands, they have the rights to that water," Mr. Katz-Oz [Israel's negotiator on water] said. "The mountains do not own the water that fall on them. It's the same with Canada and the United States. It's the same all over the world." -- NYT 10/93
It's just another of the myriad of ways in which the Palestinians are disenfranchised.

Related articles:

Israel's discriminatory water policies leave West Bank dry
.

Click title for full article.

Buchanan Says Sotomayor Is An 'Affirmative Action' Nominee Because No White Men Were Finalists.



Pat Buchanan thinks that the fact that the final four candidates for the Supreme Court were all women is proof of "affirmative action". I wonder if he's ever made this argument in the past when the final four candidates were all white males? Or did he just accept that as the natural order of things?

After all, this is not the first time that Pat has complained about "reverse discrimination against white folks." Here, he is merely narrowing this argument and relating it only to white males.

Lawrence O’Donnell slips the knife in at the end of the segment, “It’s like watching a dead fish flop around on the deck. You’re dead on this one, Pat. It’s all over.”

General Karpinski On The Myth Of A Few Bad Apples.



Karpinski says that she is "flabbergasted" by Cheney's claim that there is no link between the memos that his team crafted and the actions which took place on the ground.

She says that these soldiers did exactly what the memos said, which is either a extraordinary coincidence or the carrying out of official policy. Cheney would have us believe that it was the former, though only the most committed Republican ideologue could bring themselves to seriously make that argument.

The administration issued the memos outlining the ways in which torture could be carried out, and yet, when that torture does indeed take place, they expect us to believe Cheney's claim that the two factors are in no way linked.

I am with Karpinski when she says that Cheney's objectives now are limited to saving himself.

He is out there defending torture, and I would applaud the Obama regime if they ever had the courage to prosecute this reprehensible old torturer. He knows his neck is on the line here, which is why he is suddenly portraying himself as the defender of the CIA, when we all know he was actually it's harshest critic. He would say literally anything if he thought it could get him off the hook here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gonzo on Torture: "I Did My Best To Defend Our Country"



This boggles my brain. Gonzales is worried that lawyers who gave their "best advice" might be penalised, which he feels could have "a chilling effect" on other lawyers.

Firstly, the problem is that these lawyers didn't give their "best advice", they tailored their advice to reach a conclusion determined by the Bush administration to enable torture.

Secondly, isn't the whole point of law and order and the sentencing of criminals done precisely to send such "a chilling effect" and make others less likely to behave in a similar fashion? That's the whole idea behind the criminal justice system, isn't it?

It would be a very good thing if no lawyers ever again behaved as shoddily as the ones in Bush's O.L.C. did. Gonzales' appears to find this notion worrisome. To the rest of us, that's the very reason why we punish people who break the law. We want to send "a chilling effect" warning others not to replicate what the person being punished did.

Tom Tancredo: Obama's Supreme Court Nominee's A Racist!



So, Obama has finally revealed his choice for the place on the Supreme Court.

Obama, whose life story is mirrored to a large extent by Sotomayor, introduced her at the White House today as "an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice", but some Republicans have described her as coming from the "hard left".

Speaking about her rise from the Bronx in New York to Princeton and Yale and then onto the judicial bench, Obama presented her as a symbol of America's diversity. "You've shown in your life that it doesn't matter where you come from, what you look like, or what challenges life throws your way," he said.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sotomayor would not alter significantly the overall balance of the nine-member court, which has five conservatives and four liberals.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Washington, labelled her "hard left" but there is little in her background to emerge so far to sustain that. It seems to be more a case of like-for-like, replacing the liberal Justice David Souter, who has opted for early retirement.

We will now hear the usual noises from the Republicans, decrying her as "hard left", and zooming in on this one comment that she made where she stated that the supreme court is "where policy is made". Republicans will be all over that like a rash.

All of this is to be expected. What I didn't expect was this exchange with Tom Tancredo, where he claims that Sotomayor is a racist. You'll note that he brings no specific examples to the table to back up this extraordinary charge, but a Google search reveals that the charge that Obama and Sotomayor are both racists was actually raised by that professional windbag Rush Limbaugh who said this:
So here you have a racist. You might want to soften that, and you might want to say a reverse racist. And the libs, of course, say that minorities cannot be racists because they don't have the power to implement their racism. Well, those days are gone, because reverse racists certainly do have the power to implement their power. Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist, and now he's appointed one.
He bases this, as far as I can tell, on this comment which Sotomayor made:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
She's talking about experience and the life that she has lived and, I presume, that dreaded word; empathy. And, whilst one could argue that she perhaps is being terribly presumptive in the conclusion she reaches, I find it hard to take this charge seriously coming from a man who played the song, "Barack the Magic Negro" on his show.

I don't think Limbaugh is in any position to charge anyone else with reverse racism.

UPDATE:

Crooks and Liars have some interesting links which imply that Tancredo is the very last person who should be accusing others of racism:
Why is this man on TV talking about race in America? What does he have to add? Here's one of Tancredo's racist campaign ads.

Tancredo's racism is such that he's the darling of the Malkin wing of the GOP. He's a man who even called Miami a "Third World country.”

I'm not kidding. And let's not forget his "bombing Mecca," statements either.

This isn't the pot calling the kettle black. It's the pot calling the tablecloth black.

Mancow Interview With Keith Olbermann.



Erich "Mancow" Muller talks to Keith Olbermann about his recent experience with waterboarding, which he undertook to prove that waterboarding was NOT torture, but ended up stating that this was "absolutely torture".

Muller states that he's already had Hannity on the phone to tell him that it's not torture, despite the fact that Hannity has still not taken up the challenge to be waterboarded himself. Maybe we should listen to Hannity on this subject when he has shown the same courage of his convictions which Muller has shown.

MI5 faces fresh torture allegations.

I spoke yesterday about the British government's possible collusion in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, and now today comes a fresh allegation that MI5 colluded in the torture of a British former civil servant in Bangladesh. Only this time the man is prepared to bring charges against Jacqui Smith.

Lawyers for the British man, Jamil Rahman, are to file a damages claim alleging that Smith was complicit in assault, unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and breaches of human rights legislation over his alleged ill-treatment while detained in Bangladesh.

The claims bring to three the number of countries in which British intelligence agents have been accused of colluding in the torture of UK nationals. Rahman says that he was the victim of repeated beatings over a period of more than two years at the hands of Bangladeshi intelligence officers, and he claims that a pair of MI5 officers were blatantly involved in his ordeal.

The two men would leave the room where he was being interrogated whenever he refused to answer their questions, he says, and he would be severely beaten. They would then return to the room to resume the interrogation.

On occasion, he adds, his wife would be held in a nearby cell, and his torturers would threaten to rape her if he did not cooperate. Rahman's lawyers say that there is a wealth of evidence to support his allegations, including eyewitness testimony and medical evidence. Rahman was also able to provide his lawyers with the number of a mobile telephone that he says was used by one of the MI5 officers and a number for MI5 in London.

It's hard not to conclude that a change has taken place in the British policy during the war on terror and that, to some extent, a decision has been made to turn a blind eye to rough stuff and that somewhere along the line we have embraced Cheney's move to the dark side.

Gordon Brown is promising to review the policy, but he - and/or Blair - needs to answer as to why the policy was ever changed in the first place. When did it become acceptable for British intelligence officers to turn a blind eye to abuse? Who ordered the change?

The opposition are up in arms demanding that an inquiry take place:
Among those demanding an inquiry are opposition leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg; Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions; Lord Carlile of Berriew, the government's independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation; Lord Howe, foreign secretary in the Thatcher government, and Lord Guthrie, former chief of defence staff.
There is, of course, a third incident where the UK are alleged to have colluded in torture, as we shouldn't forget the case of Rangzieb Ahmed who was tortured in Pakistan with what Human Rights Watch called, "widespread complicity" between the Pakistan intelligence services, ISI, and the British intelligence services, MI5.

Human Rights Watch detected a "systemic" modus operandi among British security services to collude in torture and, with this latest allegation, it becomes ever harder to ignore the facts as they start to pile up.

We are just outside the room too many times - as people inside the rooms are being tortured - for us to ever make the case that we don't know what is going on.

Click title for full article.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

UK Government Lies Exposed; Spy Visited Binyam Mohamed In Morocco.

Andy Worthington's work on Guantanamo Bay, and the abuses that have taken place there, is second to none. He has written a series of articles recently all of which deserve to be read.

The story he is telling here involves Binyam Mohamed, who you will remember was recently released from Guantanamo Bay and told horrendous stories of the torture he suffered whilst in US custody, including the slicing of his penis with a razor. The evidence which backs his assertion has become the subject of an astonishing battle of will here in the UK between the judges in the case and the British government, who have claimed that US/UK relations will be severely damaged if the evidence is ever made public.

This claim caused the judges to react forcefully:

In further stinging comments they said: "Moreover, in the light of the long history of the common law and democracy which we share with the United States, it was, in our view, very difficult to conceive that a democratically elected and accountable government could possibly have any rational objection to placing into the public domain such a summary of what its own officials reported as to how a detainee was treated by them and which made no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters.

"Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials ... relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be." The judges said yesterday: "It is plainly right that the details of the admissions in relation to the treatment of [Mohamed] as reported by officials of the United States government should be brought into the public domain."

Andy is now pointing out that a new letter sent to the court from the Americans, essentially making the same point, that the US might have to reconsider sharing evidence with the UK should evidence of torture be revealed, might actually have come from the desk of Hillary Clinton.
The identity of the author was one of many questions that bounced around the High Court on Friday, as Mohamed’s lawyers sought once more to challenge the British government’s refusal to release the documents in its possession, but the most interesting little tidbit of information to emerge from these discussions was when one of Mohamed’s barristers referred to the author of the letter as “he,” and a ripple of knowing laughter followed from those who had been informed of the identity of the author, prompting speculation, of course, that “she” was none other than Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State.
And there is also evidence that the UK government's claim, that they had no idea where Binyam Mohamed was from July 2002 to February 2003, is nothing other than a tissue of lies.

Far from not knowing where Binyam Mohamed was during this period, the British government actually sent "a mole" to Morocco to try and persuade Mohamed to co-operate in order for his torture to stop.

[I]n today’s Mail on Sunday, David Rose reports that Binyam Mohamed has now stated that a British spy — or a “mole,” as Rose calls him — was sent by the British authorities to Morocco in September 2002, in an attempt “to persuade him that giving intelligence to the British would end his ordeal.”

“It was one of my lowest points,” Mohamed told Rose. “The really bad stuff [the torture which included having his penis regularly cut by razorblades] had already been going on for weeks. I thought he was a friendly face who might get the British to help me — but it was just another way of putting on pressure.”

Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, added that the Moroccans told Mohamed that the man, a British citizen of Moroccan descent, identified only as Informant A, “was working with the British Government and pressed Mr. Mohamed to do the same if he wanted to end his torture.”

How could they have sent this man to Morocco if they didn't know that's where Binyam Mohamed was?

Stafford Smith, Binyam Mohamed's lawyer, has called on the government to, “quit working with the US to hide evidence of criminal acts.”

“The suggestion that British officials simply lost track of Mohamed for more than two years and did not know that he had been rendered to Morocco for torture is implausible. They had their own agent in Morocco who had seen Mohamed there and that person was back in the UK while the razor blades were still being taken to Mohamed’s genitals.”

But Worthington asks an interesting question about why Mohamed ended up in Morocco in the first place.
The second question, however, is even more explosive, as it involves asking whether Mohamed’s rendition to Morocco, a country with which he had no connection, was the direct result of information provided by Informant A. Given his Moroccan background, I can only conclude that this seems very likely, and that it also shines an even more uncomfortable light on the British government’s persistent attempts to claim that it was never directly involved in Mohamed’s rendition and torture than the revelation that Informant A was sent to Morocco to persuade him to cooperate. I state this for two reasons: firstly, because it suggests that the British and American intelligence services were in extremely close contact in the three months following Mohamed’s capture, when he was held in Pakistan, and secondly, because it suggests, bluntly, that the CIA’s decision to render Mohamed to Morocco only came about because of British input.
The more that comes out about this the more it all absolutely stinks. We can get on our moral high horses and, rightly, condemn the Bush and Cheney propensity for torture, but it is becoming ever harder to pretend that the British government aren't just as guilty as their American counterparts.

Click the links to read Andy's articles.

Cheney's Marker.

Jeffrey Toobin, in an article in The New Yorker, picks up the same vibe which I detected in Cheney's speech, the laying down of a marker which states that Obama will be to blame for any future attack on US soil.

The speech was, as politicians say, a marker—a warning to the new Administration. “Just remember: it is a serious step to begin unravelling some of the very policies that have kept our people safe since 9/11,” Cheney said. “Seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalized. It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed.” Cheney’s all but explicit message was that the blame for any new attack against American people or interests would be laid not on the terrorists, or on the worldwide climate of anti-Americanism created by the Bush-Cheney Administration, but on Barack Obama. For many months after the 9/11 attacks, Democrats refrained from engaging in the blame game with the Bush Administration. Cheney’s speech makes it clear that, should terrorists strike again, Republicans may not respond in kind.
It's astonishing to me that anyone could publicly make the case for torture, and yet that is now the official position of the Republican party as enunciated by Dick Cheney.

And, worse than that, he is actually openly arguing that Obama is endangering America by refusing to continue practising his war crimes.

I know that Cheney is doing all of this as way of, hopefully, avoiding prosecution; but there are times when his argument is so outrageous that he almost impels that he be prosecuted simply to put this issue to bed once and for all.
Cheney’s political acumen is not to be underestimated, notwithstanding his image problems. Last week’s lopsided Senate vote suggests that Republican mastery of the politics of national security (if not of national security itself) remains intact. During the campaign, the majority of voters came to support Obama’s contention that a tradeoff between our values and our security is a false choice. (And John McCain largely agreed.) But the quick flight of most congressional Democrats from their President suggests just how difficult a political assignment Obama has given himself. Cheney, in proclaiming that another attack will prove that his policies were correct, is trying to undermine confidence in the new team in the White House. The President gave a persuasive speech last week, but it proved only that he has a lot more persuading to do.
There's a very simple way for Cheney's theories to be tested, and that is in a court of law. Cheney insists that what he did was perfectly legal, whilst horrible lefties like myself insist that he committed war crimes. It seems only fair to give him his day in court to clear his good name.

Click title for full article.