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Civil Rights / Liberties
Mr. Obama also should stop resisting an investigation of Mr. Bush’s policies on terrorism, state secrets, wiretapping, detention and interrogation....But understanding all that has gone wrong is the only way to ensure that abuses will truly end. That investigation should be done calmly rather than under the pressure of some new, shocking revelation. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is still proclaiming that waterboarding detainees prevented another attack. Among other things, an investigation would examine that assertion — for which Mr. Cheney offers no evidence, and which others have challenged. Everyone wants to move forward. The only way to do that, and make sure the system of justice is working properly, is to know exactly how Mr. Bush broke it.
As much as it needs to happen, we never expected President Obama to immediately reverse every one of President George W. Bush’s misguided and dangerous policies on terrorism, prisoners, the rule of law and government secrecy. Fixing this calamitous mess will take time and care — and Mr. Obama has taken important steps in that direction.
FBI planting spies in U.S. mosques, Muslim groups say
By Eliott C. McLaughlin | CNN
Ten U.S. Muslim organizations threatened this week to cease working with the FBI, citing "McCarthy-era tactics" by the agency, including efforts to covertly infiltrate California mosques.
The groups claim the FBI has sent undercover agents posing as worshippers into mosques, pressured Muslims to become informants, labeled civil rights advocates as criminals and spread misinformation.
The FBI declined to comment on specific allegations but called the proposed move unproductive.
Sexual Assault Permeates U.S. Armed Forces
CBS Evening News: Shocking Report On Frequent Attacks, Low Rate Of Investigation, Prosecution
They've become an integral part of modern warfare - 200,000 active duty women serving alongside their band of brothers.
Jessica was one of those women. Born into a military family, at 24 she enlisted in the Army.
Matt Daloisio of the 100 Days Campaign filed this report at the campaign's half-way mark.
We have passed the mid-point of the 100 Days, and the campaign continues to be quite busy! Here is a brief update on how things have been, and how you can get involved. Follow the campaign here which is updated daily.
100 DAYS VIGIL – THE UIGHURS - CONGRESSIONAL OUTREACH - MEDIA – SPEAKERS
& FILMS – DAY 100 (come to dc!) - 10 WAYS TO GET INVOLVED
100 DAYS VIGIL
As the seasons change, more and more folks are coming by our Monday – Friday, 11am-1pm, vigil in front of the White House. In the last few
weeks we have seen Joe Biden, Joe the Plumber, and the Prime Minister of Japan (just to name a few). We maintain a solemn presence in orange
Sources: U.S. to sign U.N. gay rights declaration | MSNBC
Former President Bush had refused to endorse the measure in December
The Obama administration will endorse a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality that then-President George W. Bush had refused to sign, The Associated Press has learned.
U.S. officials said Tuesday they had notified the declaration's French sponsors that the administration wants to be added as a supporter. The Bush administration was criticized in December when it was the only western government that refused to sign on.
The move was made after an interagency review of the Bush administration's position on the nonbinding document, which was signed by all 27 European Union members as well as Japan, Australia, Mexico and three dozen other countries, the officials said.
Defending Dissent Foundation
Today, twenty national organizations sent a letter to members of the Maryland General Assembly and Governor O'Malley calling for a strong bill to prohibit police spying on political groups without a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and to release all information in police files to people who were wrongly investigated. Specifically, the organizations endorsed The Freedom of Association and Assembly Protection Act (HB 182/SB256). There is concern that legislators will settle for a weaker measure that does not apply to all police forces in Maryland and does not require the full disclosure of all wrongful surveillance by police in the past.
Black homebuyers have been 3½ times more likely to receive a subprime loan than white borrowers, and six times more likely to get a subprime rate when refinancing, Tighe said. Blacks still were disproportionately steered into subprime loans when their credit scores, income and down payment were equal to those of white homebuyers, he said.
Melissa Murray, vice president of corporate communications for Wells Fargo & Co., called the lawsuit "totally unfounded and reckless." The bank is receiving federal bailout funds.
While Bush was still President, President Obama weighed in against impeachment, saying that impeachment should be reserved for only the most serious crimes. Now that he is President he has thus far given little or no indication that he intends to have his Justice Department prosecute George Bush or any other high level Bush administration official for their crimes. But if widespread torture, an illegal war of aggression, spying on American citizens, suspending of the right of habeas corpus, and numerous other violations of our Constitution don't constitute serious crimes, then what does?...If we think that these things are important we have a great deal of work to do, lest our country sinks into a tyranny from which it may never recover.
The Democratic Underground was born on one of the worst days in U.S history - the day that the worst President in U.S. history took office.
Now, here we are 8 years later, and we've managed to remove that cancer from our nation and replace it with something much better. Notwithstanding my many ambivalent feelings towards President Obama, I have do doubt that he will be infinitely better for our country than his predecessor.
Yet despite that, our country has been terribly scarred from the events of the past eight years, and it continues to suffer from all of the root problems that brought us the worst President in our history in 2000 and 2004. Therefore, it is worth taking a look at the root problems that brought us to this sorry state of affairs.
The Obama administration said Friday that it is abandoning one of President George W. Bush's key phrases in the war on terrorism: enemy combatant.
But that won't change much for the detainees at the U.S. naval base in Cuba — Obama still asserts the military's authority to hold them. Human rights attorneys said they were disappointed that Obama didn't take a new stance.
The Justice Department said in legal filings that it will no longer use the term "enemy combatants' to justify holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
"This is really a case of old wine in new bottles," the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has been fighting the detainees' detention, said in a statement. "It is still unlawful to hold people indefinitely without charge. The men who have been held for more than seven years by our government must be charged or released."
In another court filing Thursday criticized by human rights advocates, the Obama administration tried to protect top Bush administration military officials from lawsuits brought by prisoners who say they were tortured while being held at Guantanamo Bay.
The Obama administration's position on use of the phrase "enemy combatants" came in response to a deadline by U.S. District Judge John Bates, who is overseeing lawsuits of detainees challenging their detention. Bates asked the administration to give its definition of whom the United States may hold as an "enemy combatant."
The Obama administration said Friday that it would abandon the Bush administration’s term “enemy combatant” as it argues in court for the continued detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a move that seemed intended to symbolically separate the new administration from Bush detention policies.
But in a much anticipated court filing, the Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.
More than a dozen of the GOP's most conservative members on Thursday introduced a bill to reauthorize controversial Patriot Act provisions set to expire later this year.
The group of House Republicans - who include Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Judiciary Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) - want to extend for an additional 10 years the ability of national security agencies to conduct "roving" wiretaps, have access to library patron information and greatly expand the reach of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Those provisions of the Patriot Act were set to expire this year.
"If there's one thing we can predict about terrorism it's that it's unpredictable," said Smith, the lead sponsor of the Safe and Secure America Act of 2009. "That's why law enforcement and intelligence officials must remain vigilant."
"The national security provisions we're seeking to reauthorize are proven and effective," Smith continued. "They have helped investigators track down terrorists and prevent attacks."
Make Veterans Buy Insurance: Another Idea That Really Didn't Come from the Insurance Companies, Really
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance. MORE HERE.
By David Swanson
If you live in the United States, you are almost certainly friends with at least one atheist, agnostic, nonbeliever, skeptic, or unaffiliated humanist, whether you know it or not. And your friend almost certainly endures prejudice and unequal treatment, whether you know it or not. And your friend is roughly as decent, good, loyal, honest, courageous, and generous as your other friends, and you know it.
The March 2009 American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College and the March 7, 2009, National Journal article on "Rise of the Godless" present a wealth of data. Let's look at the survey first:
* Newly Formed 150,000-Strong Nurses' Union Pushes for Single-Payer Healthcare *
Three of the country's top organizations of direct care registered nurses have come together to form a new national nurses' union that is advocating for a single-payer national health insurance program. The new union unifies the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, United American Nurses, and the Massachusetts Nurses Association into a 150,000-member association, making it the largest registered nurses union in US history. We speak with Geri Jenkins, a registered nurse and co-president of the union.
* Burn Your Health Insurance Bill Day: New Group Advocates Direct Action to Demand Single-Payer System *
Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, has just formed a new group called "Single Payer Action" that is advocating direct action to demand a single-payer health insurance system in the United States. Today, he is burning his health insurance bill outside the national meeting of the American Health Insurance Plans in Washington, D.C.
* Dr. Quentin Young, Longtime Obama Confidante and Physician to MLK, Criticizes Admin's Rejection of Single-Payer Healthcare *
While the Obama administration claims "all options are on the table" for healthcare reform, it's already rejected the solution favored by most Americans, including doctors: single-payer universal healthcare. We speak with Dr. Quentin Young, perhaps the most well-known single-payer advocate in America. He was the Rev. Martin Luther King's doctor when he lived in Chicago and a longtime friend and ally of Barack Obama. But he was noticeably not invited to Obama's White House healthcare summit last week.
By John F. Wasik, Bloomberg
March 11 (Bloomberg) -- It's time to stop kicking sand in the face of single-payer health care. It may be the strongest solution around to insure every American at a lower cost.
After decades of industry campaigns against this model -- dubbed by its critics as "socialized" medicine -- it's important to stop whining and evaluate the many economic benefits. Health care is a fundamental human right.
If President Barack Obama wants real change in American health care, he will have to get over the fear of even mentioning single-payer concepts. At his health-care summit last week, only the threat of a demonstration garnered late invitations for Oliver Fein and Congressman John Conyers, two leading proponents of the single-payer plan.
As the health insurance corporation lobbyists met in DC yesterday, doctors, nurses, and would-be patients protested outside, some of them for a mishmash of vague reform, most of them, including Congressman Eric Massa and the people in this video for single-payer healthcare, HR 676:
Of course the likely best outcome of a principled push for single-payer, the only solution with much chance of actually working, will be the inclusion of a public option in a hybrid reform bill. Moveon.org is, of course, going to promote whatever the president wants, but has produced the following advertisement that at least pretends to have complete confidence that a substantial public option will be part of it:
"Angler": The Rise and (Finally!) Fall of Dick Cheney
By Bernard Weiner | The Crisis Papers
Reading Barton Gellman's "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency" (Penguin Press, 2008) is yet another reminder that all too often those who were right early on about the massive dangers facing American society under the CheneyBush Administration were ignored, marginalized, reviled, often punished.
There were scores of us in the media, most on the internet but a healthy handful inside corporate mainstream journalism, who from the very beginning were warning of a power-hungry Administration out of control, with terrible consequences to our foreign/military policy and to the integrity of the Constitution. (See this one, for example, from December 2001.) Eight long years were lost to this catastrophically wrong turn in American politics, while the corporate mass-media in the main served as an effective lapdog for the neo-conservative madness.
But Bart Gellman's voluminously-researched volume, along with recent revelations by Obama's Department of Justice about the run-amok legal philosophy in the Bush White House has demonstrated the incontrovertible truth that no longer can be ignored:
CIA Confirms 12 of 92 Videotapes Destroyed Showed Prisoners Tortured
By Jason Leopold | Truthout
Heavily redacted government documents filed in a New York federal court Friday afternoon say the CIA destroyed 12 videotapes that specifically showed two detainees being tortured.
The documents were filed in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of the tapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all records requested by the ACLU. That motion is still pending.
On Monday, the Justice Department revealed in court documents that the CIA destroyed 92 interrogation videotapes, which is now the subject of a criminal probe. According to Friday's court documents, 90 tapes relate to one detainee and two tapes relate to another detainee.
In a letter filed Friday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Acting US Attorney Lev Dassin said a complete list of summaries, transcripts or memoranda related to the videotapes would be filed with the court by March 20.
"The government is needlessly withholding information about these tapes from the public, despite the fact that the CIA's use of torture - including waterboarding - is no secret," said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU. "This new information only underscores the need for full and immediate disclosure of the CIA's illegal interrogation methods. The time has come for the CIA to be held accountable for flouting the rule of law."
"Loopholes" in MD Gov. O'Malley's Law to Curb Police Spying
On March 9, 2009, Ms. Cynthia Boersma, the Legislative Director of the ACLU in Maryland, discussed the status of legislation pending in the General Assembly to curb the widespread practice of “police spying” on peace and social justice activists in violation of their First Amendment Rights. The ACLU is supporting the “Freedom of Association and Assembly Protection Act of 2009.” It’s HB 182 and SB 256. Ms. Boersma expressed her concerns about the legislation being pushed by Governor Martin O’Malley. She said it is a “weaker” Bill than the one the ACLU is advocating. Ms. Boersma added that O’Malley’s Bill contains many “loopholes and exceptions for police conduct” that would authorize much of the spying that took place and that was “condemned” in the report prepared by former Attorney General of Maryland, Stephen H. Sachs. The interview with Ms. Boersma took place in Annapolis, MD.
For some background on the police spying scandal in Maryland, go to:
The military is harmed more by having second-class citizens in its ranks than by any imagined ill effects on unit cohesion. The military will adapt to gays and lesbians just as it adapted to African-Americans.
Shortly after Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he attempted to push the U.S. military to openly accept the reality that it had gays and lesbians in its ranks. Colin Powell, then Clinton’s top general, and Sam Nunn, the powerful Democratic Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, nixed the effort by arguing that coming out of the closet on this not-so-secret secret would undermine “unit cohesion” in the armed forces. By courageously taking up this hot button issue soon after taking office, Clinton, already having incurred the scorn of the military for avoiding being shanghaied into the fruitless Vietnam quagmire, was criticized for being naïve and going down to an early defeat—thus quickly piercing the aura of invincibility that new presidents covet.
By Dave Lindorff
A few days ago, I sent off an article I had just written on assignment to the editor of a magazine which was preparing to run it. A few moments later, I got an email back: he had just been fired and the magazine was being shut down by the publisher. My story, for which I had expected to be paid $1500, was toast.
When I tried to write back a reply to the editor, I got a message saying that my email message was “undeliverable.”
I called the editor (who worked from home) on his cell phone and, still sounding shell-shocked, he informed me that immediately after notifying him, with no warning, that he was being axed, the publisher had eliminated his company email account and had blocked him from accessing the company’s server, thus effectively cutting him off from all the contacts he had developed over his years at the company.
John Yoo authored the Bush memos on torture and suspending civil liberties. But an upcoming Justice Department report could contain new revelations—perhaps that the memos were written to provide legal cover for programs already in place....Yoo is also the target of a civil lawsuit brought by Jose Padilla....Yoo’s defense rests on highly technical arguments of immunity, directly contradicting the basic position taken by the United States in the London accords of 1945 that a defense of immunity would not be available to officials involved in the abuse of prisoners.
A new Justice Department report could contain a bombshell that would spell fresh legal trouble for top Bush officials. The report may link controversial memos on civil liberties and torture—written by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo—directly to the White House, putting Yoo and other Bushies in the crosshairs of criminal prosecution.
Fax your Health Insurance Bills to Congress! (With a note that says Please Cosponsor H Res 676.)
Guantanamo Under Obama
by Stephen Lendman
As The New York Times reported on January 22, Barack Obama signed Executive Orders (EOs) banning torture and "directing the CIA to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantanamo detention camp within a year, government official said."
The closure EO is titled: "Executive Order -- Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities."
by Linda Milazzo
Certainly no person aware of Israel's blockade of goods and services to Gaza, or Israel's devastating bombing of Gaza, would consider Gaza a vacation haven. Gaza is not a place of joy. It’s an overcrowded war-zone populated by more than a million terrified men, women and children. They subsist amidst the rubble caused by Israel's missiles that crushed their homes and killed their loved ones. They inhabit a tiny strip of land that can be driven across in two hours. They have no space for recreation. They have no scenic boulevards and tony cafes. Even their beach is a danger. Their lives are a daily challenge of fear, illness, hunger, anguish, poverty, joblessness, homelessness and physical and emotional wounds.
Israel, on the other hand, which propagates its struggle for survival and its imminent danger as rationale for killing and imprisoning Palestinians, is promoted as a vacation oasis. Witness the glory of Israel from the video below that loops frequently on local Los Angeles TV. No fear, hunger, rubble or homelessness appear in this portrayal of Israel. Only beauty, riches and joy.
In a California federal court, President Obama's Justice Department is defending former Bush official John Yoo, author of the so-called "torture memo."
Yoo is being sued by Jose Padilla, currently serving 17 years in prison for conspiring to provide support to Islamist extremists. Padilla's lawyers say that Yoo's memos on interrogation policies led to his detention and torture.
The Obama Justice Department moved to dismiss the case before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White.
Up to 1,000 Amnesty International Activists to Convene in Boston For Annual National Conference, March 27-29, 2009
Up to 1,000 Amnesty International Activists to Convene in Boston For Annual National Conference, March 27-29, 2009 | Press Release
Renowned Speakers Address Immigration Detention, Human Rights and the Obama Administration; Honor Women's Human Rights Defenders
Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) members, staff and activists from across the country will tackle some of the most pressing human rights issues facing the world today at the organization's 2009 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Boston, March 27-29.
The conference, "Seizing the Moment, Building the Movement", will be held at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers. The public is invited to attend. Registration is $100 for the weekend and $25 for Saturday.
Andy Worthington, a London-based journalist, is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, and has written over 300 articles about Guantánamo in the last two years, for publications including the New York Times, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Antiwar.com and AlterNet, the Raw Story and the Future of Freedom Foundation. This week he published the first definitive list of all the prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo, with links and references to their stories. In a statement, he explained, “It is my hope that this project will provide an invaluable research tool for those seeking to understand how it came to pass that the government of the United States turned its back on domestic and international law, establishing torture as official US policy, and holding men without charge or trial neither as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects to be put forward for trial in a federal court, but as ‘illegal enemy combatants.’” Following the publication of the list, journalist Elizabeth Ferrari interviewed Andy by email.