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Since 1997, every June 26 has been formally recognized as the International Day of Support for Victims of Torture. Political leaders around the globe take the occasion to proclaim their opposition to barbarism.
On June 26, 2003, President George W. Bush proudly declared: “The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment.”
This was one of the most fraudulent assertions since 1936, when the new Soviet constitution guaranteed Soviet citizens complete freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. But this “perfect constitution” did nothing to prevent Stalin from sending millions of people to their deaths in the Gulag and in front of firing squads.
Similarly, Bush’s anti-torture proclamation did nothing to stop his administration from formalizing perhaps the most brutal abuses in modern American history. Top Bush administration officials created twisted rationales to authorize simulated drowning, “walling” (throwing detainees up against a wall, repeated ad nauseam), sleep deprivation (as long as it did not last more than 11 days), head slappings, and other methods to shatter people’s will and resistance.
The fact that the Bush administration engaged in torture in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo, and secret prison sites around the world is now no longer in dispute. Unfortunately, the Obama administration is rapidly become complicit in Bush torture crimes. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
When it comes to reforming America’s disastrous health care “system,” there are two issues that need to be considered: access and cost.
The so-called reform proposals being offered by the Obama White House, the House and the Senate, are failing on both counts, and deserve to die.
No progressives should allow themselves to be suckered into promoting one or the other.
Obama's Financial Reform Proposal: A Stealth Scheme for Global Monetary Control
By Stephen Lendman
When politicians plan reform, it's wise to be skeptical and hold on to your wallets. So fixing the economy by bailing out Wall Street is wrecking it, and Obama's proposed health care reform taxes more, provides less, places profits above human need, avoids the most vital solutions, and leaves a broken system in place.
Now there's "Financial Regulatory Reform, A New Foundation: Rebuilding Financial Supervision and Regulation" - announced June 17 with Obama saying he'll send Congress a plan to create new government agencies, give the private banking cartel Federal Reserve more power, and address five major problems needing regulatory and legislative measures to fix.
Addressing business executives in the White House East Room, he said:
By Linda Milazzo
As a critic of media, in particular of cable/satellite "news," I'm troubled by American corporate-media, specifically CNN's near non-stop coverage of the turmoil in Iran. Not because the story isn't important. It's critically important and warrants the personal coverage it's getting from the Iranian people as they bypass corporate channels to tell their stories on facebook, youtube, flickr and twitter.
Thanks to Iran's tech-savvy society, old-time corporate media is now relegated to the position of new-media aggregator, whoring its visibility to co-opt the Iranian people's new-media messages to America and the world. Old-media, and specifically CNN, are learning the difficult lesson that with or without their vast resources and state of the art studios, the Iranians' stories will be told. And they'll be told to tens of millions more viewers than cable and satellite programs tend to reach.
By Dave Lindorff
Reports are starting to appear suggesting that laid-off or underemployed Americans, and the long-term unemployed, are losing patience with the Obama administration’s and Congress’ economic stimulus plan, which thus far has not done anything to arrest the growth of unemployment, now at close to 20 percent of the US workforce, at least as unemployment used to honestly be counted in the 1970s and early 1980s.
While millions of jobs have been lost since the beginning of this year alone, the number of jobs that have been created as a result of the Obama administration’s signature $780-billion stimulus spending package is under 150,000—a far cry from the 3.5 million that were promised when the bill was being put before Congress.
Instead this is what many Americans actually believe:
He's your president, not your boyfriend:
By Michael Doyle, McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is morphing into George W. Bush, as administration attorneys repeatedly adopt the executive-authority and national-security rationales that their Republican predecessors preferred.
In courtroom battles and freedom-of-information fights from Washington, D.C., to California, Obama's legal arguments repeatedly mirror Bush's: White House turf is to be protected, secrets must be retained and dire warnings are wielded as weapons.
"It's putting up a veritable wall around the White House, and it's so at odds with Obama's campaign commitment to more open government," said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a legal watchdog group.
Certainly, some differences exist.
And Now a Word from the McClatchy Columnist Who Would Go the Way of Froomkin Faster Than Froomkin If He Worked at WaPo
Obama's promise of a new beginning now hollow
By Joseph L. Galloway, McClatchy Newspapers
Who stole our change?
Who hijacked a popular uprising that was going to put a stop to business as usual in Washington, D.C.?
What happened to Barack Obama on his way to the White House?
The Republicans have been so busy trying to paint President Obama as a socialist, as a radical, as a Marxist, as a Muslim, as the Devil, that they haven't even noticed that he has become one of them.
What a difference a year can make. A year ago Barack Obama was on the campaign trail, promising an American electorate disheartened and disgusted by eight years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney that he was going to change everything if he was elected President.
Tired of waving the national security flag, Obama administration lawyers are apparently trying another tactic to get the courts to back Bush administration arguments which never worked to prevent the release of critical documents. Forget Qaeda or North Korea, late night hosts who tell jokes are why the government should retain its secrets.
"A federal judge yesterday sharply questioned an assertion by the Obama administration that former Vice President Richard B. Cheney’s statements to a special prosecutor about the Valerie Plame case must be kept secret, partly so they do not become fodder for Cheney’s political enemies or late-night commentary on The Daily Show," R. Jeffrey Smith reports for The Washington Post. Read more.
Study: 19 Ambassador Nominees Bundled $4.8 Million for President's Campaign, Inauguration
By Jake Tapper | Political Punch | ABCNews.com
If all goes according to plan, Colorado businessman Vinai Thummalapally will soon be moving to a Central American tourist paradise to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Belize.
Thummalapally was President Obama's roommate at Occidental College in 1979. As Barbara and Vinai Thummalapally described it to the Colorado Springs Gazette, they "used to party with (the president) in college. He was the guy who'd drink a few beers, maybe take a toke, stay up until 4 a.m. then excuse himself to crank out an 'A' paper due that morning. ... He was Barry, the mellow guy in the leather jacket, dragging on a cigarette." Read more.
U.S. Fortifies Hawaii’s Defenses Against North Korean Arms
By Thom Shanker | NYTimes
efense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced Thursday that he had ordered the military to deploy missile interceptors and radar to protect Hawaii from a North Korean long-range rocket.
The defense secretary’s disclosure came as Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the military’s commitment to “vigorously enforce” the latest United Nations Security Council resolution on North Korea’s nuclear program. But he declined to confirm reports provided by other Pentagon officials that the military was tracking a North Korean freighter suspected of carrying banned materials. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
The Obama administration and the Congressional Democrats are finally hitting the inevitable wall that was bound to confront them because of the president’s congenital inability to be a bold leader, and because of the party’s toxic decades-old decision to betray its working class New Deal base in favor of wholesale corporate whoredom.
The wall is health care reform, which both Barack Obama and the Democratic Party had hoped would be the ticket for them to ride to victory in the 2010 Congressional elections and the 2012 presidential election.
But you cannot achieve the twin goals of reducing health care costs and providing access to health care to 50 million uninsured people, while leaving the profit centers of the current system—doctors, hospitals and the health insurance industry—in charge and in a position to continue to reap profits.
Legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas made an exclusive appearance on the Ron Reagan Show to talk about presidents past and present, Iran, health care, and other topics. She likes most of Obama's work thus far, but thinks his positions on Iraq and Afghanistan are larded with Dubya. LISTEN HERE.
As Bush-era episodes of torture have became almost daily hand ringing fare for establishment politicians and the media, calls for national soul-searching and reform arrive with a predictable litany of myths and illusions. Mainstream scrutiny peaked with the April release of incriminating “torture memos” issued by the Office of Legal Council spanning the years 2002 to 2005 – memos that involved clear violation of the Geneva and Torture Conventions. The issue has touched a raw nerve in the political culture, with government and military leaders – echoed by media pundits – quick to parrot two comforting discourses: abuses were the product of a few wayward (low-level) military personnel, a violation of sacred U.S. practices and values including the “rule of law”. The first myth necessarily disappeared from view after several reports (including one conducted by the U.S. Army) had shown culpability extending all the way to the summits of power. But the fiction about torture being a radical departure from American traditions persists. Read more.
Rising sea levels, sweltering temperatures, deeper droughts, and heavier downpours _ global warming's serious effects are already here and getting worse, the Obama administration warned on Tuesday in the grimmest, most urgent language on climate change ever to come out of any White House.
But amid the warnings, scientists and government officials seemed to go out of their way to soften the message. It is still not too late to prevent some of the worst consequences, they said, by acting aggressively to reduce world emissions of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.
The new report differs from a similar draft issued with little fanfare or context by George W. Bush's administration last year. It is paradoxically more dire about what's happening and more optimistic about what can be done.
The Obama administration is backing a bill in Congress that would limit heat-trapping pollution from power plants, refineries and factories. A key player on a climate bill in the Senate, California Democrat Barbara Boxer, said the report adds "urgency to the growing momentum in Congress" for passing a law. Read more.
The Central Intelligence Agency is attempting to prevent the Obama administration from releasing a May 2004 Inspector General's report describing and evaluating the agency's treatment of detainees and interrogation practices, according to today's Washington Post. A redacted version of about 12 paragraphs of text was released in May 2008 as a result of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit. The Obama administration promised a review of the IG report last month after the ACLU appealed the decision in that case.
CIA IG's Torture Report Referred Detainee Murder Cases to DOJ
By Jason Leopold | The Public Record
President Barack Obama’s promise of a more open government faces a new test this week as his administration weighs whether to release details of a May 2004 internal CIA report about the agency’s use of torture, including how at least three detainees were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The secret findings of CIA Inspector General John Helgerson led to eight criminal referrals to the Justice Department for homicide and other misconduct, but those cases languished as Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly intervened to constrain Helgerson’s inquiries.
Heavily redacted portions of Helgerson’s report were released to the American Civil Liberties Union in May 2008 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, but the ACLU appealed the Bush administration’s extensive deletions and the Obama administration agreed to respond to that appeal by Friday. Read more.
The Audacity of War Crimes
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT TO DEMAND JUSTICE
Contact the Office of the Attorney General, District of Columbia to demand that our charges be dropped:
- Call Assistant Attorney General, Elizabeth A. Meyers at 202-727-3500 and/or at her Direct Line 202-727-4783 to leave a message.
- Call U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-514-2001 to demand the appointment of an Independent Special Prosecutor to investigate the crimes of the Bush Administration.
On January 6, 2009, seventy people came to Washington D.C. from all over the United States to participate in the MARCH OF THE DEAD.
Our goal was to stage a peaceful protest displaying the ever-increasing death toll due to the AUDACITY OF WAR CRIMES committed by our government.
Our right to assemble and petition our government for redress of grievances was disrupted when the Capitol Police stopped the reading of the names of the dead from the illegal wars and occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.
Seventeen of us were arrested.
U.S. has decided fate of half Guantanamo detainees
By By Tabassum Zakaria | Reuters
The U.S. government has decided the fate of about half the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and no more than a quarter of them will go on trial, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.
President Barack Obama's order for the prison for foreign terrorism suspects on a naval base in Cuba to be closed by the end of January has met resistance in Congress where some lawmakers are opposing any transfers to the United States.
Last week nine prisoners were transferred to Saudi Arabia, Bermuda, Iraq and Chad. One prisoner, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, accused of involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, was sent to New York and became the first detainee transferred to the United States for trial by civilian court.
"We've gone through about half of the detainees at this point," Holder said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
There are 229 captives still being held at Guantanamo. The camp, opened after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, drew international criticism for holding prisoners indefinitely, many without charge. Read more.
Barack Obama's speech in Cairo was celebrated in the media as a profound statement of a new direction for U.S. foreign policy. But when you look beneath the rhetoric, there's far more continuity with the last eight years of war and occupation than most people who supported Obama last November would have guessed.
SocialistWorker.org asked two leading voices of the antiwar movement--Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army and the Rebel Reports blog, and Anthony Arnove, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, and coauthor, with Howard Zinn, of Voices of a People's History of the United States--about Barack Obama's record after five months in office.
NPR reported this from an interview this morning with HHS Secy. Kathleen Sebelius:
"Asked if the administration's program will be drafted specifically to prevent it from evolving into a single-payer plan, Sebelius says: "I think that's very much the case, and again, if you want anybody to convince people of that, talk to the single-payer proponents who are furious that the single-payer idea is not part of the discussion."
Obama said at the AMA convention Monday:
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama, referring to the violent attacks on protesters against the controversial election results in Iran’s just-completed presidential election, this week lectured Iran’s government, saying, “Peaceful dissent should never be subject to violence.”
Referring to the tens and hundreds of thousands of frustrated and angry Iranians who have taken to the streets accusing Iranian authorities of rigging the election in favor of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Obama said that “the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected."
But there is a certain hypocrisy going on here.
Despite President Barack Obama's oft-stated commitment to government openness and transparency, he's not ready to tell us who gets into the White House to meet with him.
Some meetings will be secret, said spokesman Robert Gibbs, telling reporters that for the moment, the Obama White House is following the lead of its predecessor and resisting requests from the media and others for visitors' logs.
"I think there are obviously occasions on which the president is going to meet privately with advisers on topics that are of great national importance," said Gibbs, defending the arguments made by the Bush-Cheney Administration.
As a candidate last year, Mr. Obama decried his predecessor for running "the most secretive administration maybe in our history." Read more.
Democracy NOW! Bob Fertik of Democrats.com With Amy Goodman On Defeating the $106 Billion War Supplemental
Bob Fertik, president of Democrats.com and the co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org speaks with Amy Goodman about the defeating the $106 billion supplemental war funding bill. The conversation begins at 55:39 in the video.
AMY GOODMAN: We wrap up now to look at the $106 billion supplemental war funding bill that Congress votes on today. The White House and Democratic leadership have been trying to muscle through the bill, which would support escalating the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In May, fifty-one antiwar Democrats opposed an earlier version of the bill. Now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been trying to pressure some of those Democrats to switch their votes in order to get the necessary votes to pass the bill. California Democratic Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey says the White House has also threatened to pull support from freshman antiwar Democrats who vote no on the bill.
In addition to funding military escalation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bill also includes money for the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, as well as flu pandemic preparedness.
For more, we’re joined here in our firehouse studio by Bob Fertik, the president of Democrats.com, co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Bob. We don’t have much time. What do you understand is happening right now in the Congress around this war appropriations bill today?
BOB FERTIK: Amy, there’s a crucial vote this morning in the House. All the Democrat—all the Republicans are expected to vote no. If we get thirty-nine Democrats to vote no, we will be able to defeat the supplemental bill, at least for the time being. There are thirty-six Democrats, progressive Democrats, who have committed to voting no. As you said, fifty-one voted no earlier in May. So we need everybody to pick up the phone, call their representative at (202) 225-3121, and can ask them to vote no.
The Iranian government would be unlikely to give any nuclear weapons to the militant groups it supports—Hamas and Hezbollah—because it paid much money to develop the warheads, and because if the groups used the weapons, it would invite sure catastrophic retaliation against Iran if traced back there. Like all autocratic rulers, Iran’s fundamentalist leadership’s most important objective is staying in power, and getting nuked into cinders does not facilitate that goal.
The real reason that the U.S. government is so concerned about Iran is not its threat to the United States but its threat to Israel—both nuclear and non-nuclear through support for the militant groups. But frankly, that should not be the U.S. taxpayer’s problem. The American Constitution allows for the U.S. government to “provide for the common defense” of the United States, not to provide a defense for Israel.
One election in Iran will not significantly change U.S.-Iran relations—only a change in U.S. thinking and policy will do so.
Historically, the U.S. government, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, has painted relatively poor third world regimes that don’t toe the empire’s line as “evil”—Moammar El-Gadhafi’s Libya in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990s, North Korea’s Hermit Kingdom since the 1950s, and Islamist Iran since the Iranian Revolution in 1978. Most of these faraway lands haven’t provided—or will be unlikely to provide—much of an actual threat to U.S. territory or Americans in it. But during and after the demise of the Soviet Union, to justify the bloated U.S. world-girdling empire and bloated military establishment, these minor autocratic regimes had to be demonized and their threats elevated.
Bill Maher's audacious commentary starts around 4:00 on healthcare, banksters, carbon dioxide reduction, BHO-TV, reform, energy, and George W. Bush on torture, deregulation, preemptive war, tax cuts for the rich.
In unusually firm remarks, the chief of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan said there was an “urgent need to review” the Special Operations forces here.
The official, Kai Eide, called the political costs of civilian casualties from special operations raids “disproportionate to the military gains,” and said the Special Operations forces needed to become “more Afghanized.”
His comments, made in a video conference call from Kabul with NATO ministers in Brussels on Friday and released on Saturday, were the latest sign of just how worried some United Nations and military officials are that the fallout from civilian casualties is jeopardizing the American-led mission in Afghanistan.
Special Operations forces, which conduct raids against high-level insurgent targets, have been criticized for relying heavily on airstrikes when they come under fire from militants during raids and house searches in villages.
An aide to Mr. Eide said that his call to have the forces “Afghanized” means having Afghans conduct the raids. Read more.
PFC Matthew Wilson did not plan to re-enlist so he could be home
By Chad Livengood | News-Leader.com
After bouncing around in foster homes across southwest Missouri during the latter half of childhood, Pfc. Matthew W. Wilson wanted to be a family man.
He got married last August and in December, his new bride, Ashlynn, gave birth to a boy, Matthew Gunnar.
In January, the 19-year-old ammunition handler was deployed to Afghan-istan. He did not plan to re-enlist once he returned home, so he could be with his family full time, said his wife's relatives.
"When he formed a family with Ashlynn, that was the core of his existence," said Trish Gore, an aunt of Ashlynn's who lives in New Mexico.
But Wilson did not live to see his first Father's Day. He died Monday from wounds suffered from a roadside bomb explosion. Read more.
New UN Report Denounces America's Human Rights Record
by Stephen Lendman
On May 26, the UN Human Rights Council issued a report titled "Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development - Report of the Special Rapporteur (Philip Alston) on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions."
Alston was damning in his criticism regarding "three areas in which significant improvement is necessary if the US Government is to match its actions to its stated commitment to human rights and the rule of law:"