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April 29, 2009

Anti-green economics - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com

Anti-green economics - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com:

Opponents of a policy change [to address global warming] generally believe that market economies are wonderful things, able to adapt to just about anything — anything, that is, except a government policy that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions.  Limits on the world supply of oil, land, water — no problem.  Limits on the amount of CO2 we can emit — total disaster.

Funny how that is.

April 28, 2009

Re: Mr Broder Wants Us To Move On

A strong plea for America to be America:

Re: Mr Broder Wants Us To Move On:

There is no way the American experiment can continue while legal and historical precedent gives the president the inherent authority to torture. It is the undoing of the core idea of the founding - protection against arbitrary, lawless, cruel and despotic rule. And the impact on the entire world of America allowing this to stand would be profound. The world looks here for moral leadership. Those who endure real political oppression, imprisonment, torture and abuse at the hands of despots look to America for leadership, for guidance, for hope. If America - America - discovers that its own president has illegally tortured and decides that it simply won't do anything about it, that it doesn't matter, that it's too polarizing to restore the rule of law ... then what hope do those people have? To whom will they look when they fight far more pervasive tyranny, buttressed by the same absolute power to coerce the truth and break the human soul?

Re: Major defeat for Bush/Obama position on secrecy

The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they are moving.

Major defeat for Bush/Obama position on secrecy - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com:

Today, in a 26-page ruling (.pdf), the appellate court resoundingly rejected the Bush/Obama position, holding that the "state secrets" privilege -- except in extremely rare circumstances not applicable here -- does not entitle the Government to demand dismissal of an entire lawsuit based on the assertion that the "subject matter" of the lawsuit is a state secret.  Instead, the privilege only allows the Government to make specific claims of secrecy with regard to specific documents and other facts -- exactly how the privilege was virtually always used before the Bush and Obama DOJs sought to expand it into a vast weapon of immunity from all lawsuits challenging the legality of any executive branch program relating to national security.

In rejecting this radical secrecy theory, the court emphasized how the Bush/Obama doctrine, if accepted, would essentially place the President above and beyond the rule of law...

Re: Mr Broder Wants Us To Move On

A strong plea for America to be America:

Re: Mr Broder Wants Us To Move On:

There is no way the American experiment can continue while legal and historical precedent gives the president the inherent authority to torture. It is the undoing of the core idea of the founding - protection against arbitrary, lawless, cruel and despotic rule. And the impact on the entire world of America allowing this to stand would be profound. The world looks here for moral leadership. Those who endure real political oppression, imprisonment, torture and abuse at the hands of despots look to America for leadership, for guidance, for hope. If America - America - discovers that its own president has illegally tortured and decides that it simply won't do anything about it, that it doesn't matter, that it's too polarizing to restore the rule of law ... then what hope do those people have? To whom will they look when they fight far more pervasive tyranny, buttressed by the same absolute power to coerce the truth and break the human soul?

April 27, 2009

Re: The GOP Is Acting Like a Guy Who Got Dumped

Ouch.

Bill Maher: The GOP Is Acting Like a Guy Who Got Dumped:

Here are the big issues for normal people: the war, the economy, the environment, mending fences with our enemies and allies, and the rule of law.

And here's the list of Republican obsessions since President Obama took office: that his birth certificate is supposedly fake, he uses a teleprompter too much, he bowed to a Saudi guy, Europeans like him, he gives inappropriate gifts, his wife shamelessly flaunts her upper arms, and he shook hands with Hugo Chavez and slipped him the nuclear launch codes.

Do these sound like the concerns of a healthy, vibrant political party?
But it's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you....

The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib.

April 22, 2009

Whistle-blower law for congress?

Do we need a whistle-blower law for congress?

In the last few days, following the torture memos release, we have had Senate reports released that provide further insight in the depth of illegality surrounding the decision and implementation of torture by the US.  Some Senators have called for the impeachment of Bybee, one of the memo authors.  And some had voted against Bybee's nomination to be a federal judge.  And they had seen some of those memos in the past as part of the classified intelligence briefings.  And presumably voted against Bybee because of them, but couldn't say so because they were classified materials.

One of the troubling elements in all this is some Senators and Representatives have known about these for quite some time.  Believed them to be unconstitutional, illegal, and in violation of treaties, but could not do anything about them.  To reveal them would be to disclose highly (if improperly) classified materials and subject themselves to legal action.  They would not be able to defend themselves because the materials are classified and the US would assert State Secrets and prevent their disclosure.  And you'd have a lone Senator fighting the entire administration and Department of Justice as well as the harpies of the right-wing in the Senate.

In this situation, our representatives seem to have no real choice for justice except to out-wait events, which is what they did, but which doesn't bring the events to an end, other circumstances did.  The election of Obams.  But if McCain had been elected president, the memos would still be hidden and classified.  And we'd still not know how bad it was.

Re: Scarborough falsely compared harsh interrogations to military training programs

This is a key point that is too often overlooked: there is a world of difference between SERE voluntary sampling of some torture techniques by you and your peers, where you know it can and will stop soon, and being held indefinitely with no contact, no one knowing where you are or if you are anymore, with no end way to stop it.  Think about the 183 waterboardings in a month: that is six times a day every day.  And this is after they claimed he confessed the first time after 90 seconds.

The legal memos essentially acknowledge the whole regimen is designed to increase the amount, frequency and types of pain inflicted over time.  You have no control.  No out.  No one can ever come to save you.  They get worse and worse over time.  It seems to go on forever.  And for no reason.  This breaks down your personality.

The other bizarre elements of the legal justifications are (1) the unwillingness to define mental pain or mental suffering as anything other than the experience of physical pain and (2) the definition of "suffering", as distinct from pain except for "connotation of a protracted period" of physical pain.

(1) Mental: The entire point of Jose Padilla's incarceration, and it appears for many of the others, was to break down his personality.  To produce a helplessness so complete that they ceased to be who they were; to remove choice.  That doesn't happen without severe mental pain and suffering.  It is not something you choose.  It is forced on you.

(2) Suffering: While suffering has a connotation of duration, it isn't the main element, in fact, it would be silly to have our phrase "long-suffering" if that was the real sense because that would be redundant.  The real issue in the definition of suffering is that you have to endure it -- you have to put up with it,  you have no choice, you are forced to experience it. 

And that is essentially what the legal memos describe. Not how to avoid causing mental suffering in detainees but in fact how to create excruciating mental suffering through an ever increasing intensity and variety of painful experiences with no hope of you or anyone else stopping it, for years on end if not to the end of your life, even if they leave carefully leave no lasting physical scars.

Torture is terrorism of the individual.

Scarborough falsely compared  harsh interrogations to military training programs:

During the April 22 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough asserted that, with the exception of waterboarding, interrogation techniques, such as "sleep deprivation and working on phobias," used against detainees, are no different from those used in U.S. military training programs. However, as Media Matters for America has noted, officials familiar with both the techniques used in harsh interrogations and those used in military training programs have said that such a comparison is false; those who undergo certain interrogation techniques in such training programs are aware that there are safeguards, and know they can stop the training immediately if necessary.

April 19, 2009

Re: The Bigger Picture

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan:

The core point of this, one infers from the memos, is to create a sense among the prisoners that their assumptions about the West, the US, and countries constructed on the rule of law are without any basis whatever. The torture techniques were all the more brutal in order to push back against the reputation of the US even in the minds of Qaeda or alleged Qaeda members. What Mukasey and Hayden are arguing for today is a scheme whereby, in secret, the US government credibly allows captives to believe they are in an endless, bottomless pit of extra-legal terror. This is the state of mind they are trying to construct by torture. That's the point of the sensory deprivation, the disappearances, the sequestering from the Red Cross, the endless solitary confinement, the IRFing, the hoods, the nudity, and all the other sadism. It is precisely to persuade the barbarians that we are as bad as they are and have no limits and no qualms in doing to them whatever we want.

Looked at from a distance, the Bush administration wanted to do two things at once: to declare to the world that freedom is on the march, and huamn rights are coming to the world with American help, while simultaneously declaring to captives that the US has no interest in the law, human rights, accountability, transparency or humanity. They wanted to give hope to all the oppressed of the planet, while surgically banishing all hope from the prisoners they captured and tortured.

April 14, 2009

We Need More Stimulus, Not More Bailout

Robert Reich's Blog: We Need More Stimulus, Not More Bailout:

Geithner believes the only way to rescue the economy is to get the big banks to lend money again. But he’s dead wrong. Most consumers cannot and do not want to borrow lots more money. They’re still carrying too much debt as it is. Even if they refinance their homes – courtesy of the Fed flooding the market with so much money mortgage rates are dropping – consumers are still not going to borrow more. And until there’s enough demand in the system, businesses aren’t going to borrow much more to invest in new plant or machinery, either.

That’s the big issue – the continued lack of enough demand in the economy. The current stimulus package is proving way too small relative to the shortfall between what consumers and businesses are buying and what the economy could produce at full capacity. (According to today's report from the Commerce Department, retail sales fell in March, as did prices paid to U.S. producers.)

Worse yet, the states are pulling in the opposite direction. States cannot run deficits, which means that as their revenues drop in this downturn they’re cutting vital services and raising taxes to the tune of $350 billion over this year and next. This fiscal drag is wiping out about half of the current federal stimulus.

If Geithner gets Congress to give him more bailout money, Congress won’t be in any mood to do what it really needs to do – which is to enlarge the stimulus package. Voters are already worried about too much government spending. At most, the administration is going to get only one more bite at the congressional apple. Make that more stimulus rather than more bailout

April 03, 2009

Iowa's top court brings gay marriage to America's heartland

Iowa's top court brings gay marriage to America's heartland | csmonitor.com:

The justices also refuted the state's attempts to show there was a rational basis for preserving the traditional definition of marriage. It shot down every arrow in the quiver of same-sex marriage opponents: maintaining tradition, protecting the interests of children, ensuring procreation, and promoting stability of opposite-sex marriage.

The "best interests of children" is, undeniably, an important governmental objective, the court said. But "the germane analysis does not show how the best interests of children of gay and lesbian parents, who are denied an environment supported by the benefits of marriage under the statute, are served by the ban."

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