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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
Justice Dept. Investigates Ex-Official’s Ties to Shell
By Neil A. Lewis | NY Times
The Justice Department is investigating whether a former secretary of the interior, Gale A. Norton, violated the law by granting valuable leases to Royal Dutch Shell around the time she was considering going to work for the company after she left office, officials said Thursday.
The officials said investigators had recently turned up information suggesting that Ms. Norton had had discussions while in office with Royal Dutch Shell about future career opportunities. In early 2006, Ms. Norton’s department awarded three tracts in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary for shale exploration. In December 2006, she joined Shell as the company’s general counsel in the United States for unconventional oils, a company spokeswoman said.
The existence of a federal criminal investigation was first reported Thursday by The Los Angeles Times. Read more.
Confronting War Criminals: Condoleezza Rice in San Jose, 9/17/2009
Thursday, Sept. 17, Condoleezza Rice was the keynote speaker at a conference on international technology "solutions" in San Jose, CA. She is currently a scholar at the conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford. She's reportedly writing three books and not teaching this fall. Protests took place outside and inside the hotel, with World Can't Wait, San Jose Peace and Justice, and a veterans' group protesting outside.
Cynthia Papermaster (National Accountability Action Network), Jane Miller (Code Pink), and Susan Harman (Progressive Democrats of America) had registered for the conference, and went inside with no problem. We sat in the third row center, right in front of Condi, who gave quite a good speech and had great rapport with the audience. She assumed that her audience supported the USA's dominance of the world economy, and was bold in her descriptions of other countries' flaws. I was most struck by her derisive characterization of the huge influence of corporations in Russia as "Russia, Inc." I think she missed the irony in her comparison of them with the US.
Her audience was overwhelmingly men in black suits. There was a serious police presence. The three of us had pinned fuschia signs saying "INDICT RICE" to our backs, under our jackets. We sat quietly through her speech, and toward the end, rubbed red paint on our hands. We stood up with the audience for the standing ovation, but didn't sit down. Instead, we took off our jackets so our signs showed, continued standing, and held up our bloody hands, echoing the iconic picture of CODEPINK's Desiree Fairooz confronting Rice in Congress. We told Rice she was a war criminal, having enabled torture, lied the U.S. into an illegal war of occupation, etc. She said, "These people came here to hear me, not you," and some other stuff we didn't catch because she was talking at us while we were talking loudly to her. She definitely heard us, loud and clear.
More pictures below the fold. Click "Read more."
We Will Not Be Complicit: Saying No to the Army Experience Center
By Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot and Jimmy Tobias | The Indypendent
In 1955, in the wake of World War II and the Korean War, the American Friends Service Committee published its seminal peace manifesto titled “Speak Truth to Power,” saying this of modern civilization: “Acceptance of the doctrine of violence is so widespread that man is becoming hardened to mass extermination, and indifferent to mass human suffering. Indeed, man’s indifference to violence is almost as disturbing a symptom of our time as his readiness to practice it. This is an age of violence.”
“We refuse to be educated for a defense that deforms the defenders and that which they defend.” So read the banner we carried with us as we marched with 200 peace activists to face-off with police and military personnel at the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia on Saturday, Sept. 12.
We were there to shut down the Army Experience Center (AEC), the Pentagon’s $12 million experiment in the use of video games and modern media to indoctrinate youth into the military’s culture of violence.
The AEC looks like a giant classroom nestled in the heart of the heavily-trafficked mall, but instead of desks, the room is filled with cutting edge TV monitors, video game consoles and hypermodern “mission simulators,” each one a tool in the Pentagon’s fight for the hearts and minds of the United States’ malleable youth.
On any given day at the AEC, young people ages 13 and older gather to play the Pentagon’s in-house war games: each participant gets a taste of the “army experience,” although the death, destruction and pain of war are conveniently sanitized, and no one ever leaves the AEC with post traumatic stress disorder. Pre-pubescent boys are locked in a macabre orgy of mediated violence. The veteran soldiers who staff the recruitment center look on, encouraging the gathered youth as they kill “enemy combatants” on the TV screens and promising them similar thrills if only they join up. These are our country’s modern recruitment techniques—violence is fun, war is only a game, and even children can get a piece of the action. Read more.
Doctors Aiding Torture
By Stephen Lendman
In April 2009, a confidential February 2007 ICRC torture report was publicly released. Titled, "ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen 'High Value Detainees' in CIA Custody," it detailed harsh and abusive treatment from their time of arrest, detention, transfer, and incarceration at Guantanamo where ICRC professionals interviewed them.
Besides detailed information on torture and abusive treatment, they obtained damning, consistent detainee accounts of medical personnel involvement, including:
- their monitoring of and direct participation in torture procedures;
- instructing interrogators to continue, adjust, or stop certain ones;
- informing detainees that medical treatment depended on their cooperation;
- performing medical checks before and after each transfer; and
- treating the effects of torture as well as ailments and injuries during incarceration.
Sotomayor Issues Challenge to a Century of Corporate Law
By Jess Bravin | WSJ
In her maiden Supreme Court appearance last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a provocative comment that probed the foundations of corporate law.
During arguments in a campaign-finance case, the court's majority conservatives seemed persuaded that corporations have broad First Amendment rights and that recent precedents upholding limits on corporate political spending should be overruled.
But Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority might have it all wrong -- and that instead the court should reconsider the 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights flesh-and-blood people have.
Judges "created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons," she said. "There could be an argument made that that was the court's error to start with...[imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics." Read more.
From TomDispatch this morning, a deep dive into the American "state of war" -- the way this country has grown used to its now seemingly unending wars and the immense, intense preparations for more of the same: Tom Engelhardt, "Is America Hooked on War?"
Here's how I begin my latest post: "'War is peace' was one of the memorable slogans on the facade of the Ministry of Truth, Minitrue in 'Newspeak,' the language invented by George Orwell in 1948 for his dystopian novel 1984. Some 60 years later, a quarter-century after Orwell's imagined future bit the dust, the phrase is, in a number of ways, eerily applicable to the United States."
I begin with the present increasingly fierce debate in Washington over whether the president should send more U.S. troops or train more Afghan soldiers to deal with our deteriorating position in that country and point out that both positions can be summed up with the same word: More. And that real alternatives to the present course of action in that country are unlikely to get a hearing "because alternatives that don't fit with 'more' have ceased to be part of Washington's war culture."
The rest of this post, via a set of my own questions, plunges into the American "state of war" in which we now live and the American version of Newspeak that goes with it in which, increasingly, war has indeed become peace, and peace is 'No longer the opposite of war, just a rhetorical flourish embedded, like one of our reporters, in Warspeak."
Here's just one passage to consider:
"On the day I'm writing this piece, 'Names of the Dead,' a feature which appears almost daily in my hometown newspaper, records the death of an Army private from DeKalb, Illinois, in Afghanistan. Among the spare facts offered: he was 20 years old, which means he was probably born not long before the First Gulf War was launched in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. If you include that war, which never really ended -- low-level U.S. military actions against Saddam Hussein's regime continued until the invasion of 2003 -- as well as U.S. actions in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia, not to speak of the steady warfare underway since November 2001, in his short life, there was hardly a moment in which the U.S. wasn't engaged in military operations somewhere on the planet (invariably thousands of miles from home). If that private left a one-year-old baby behind in the States, and you believe the statements of various military officials, that child could pass her tenth birthday before the war in which her father died comes to an end. Given the record of these last years, and the present military talk about being better prepared for 'the next war,' she could reach 2025, the age when she, too, might join the military without ever spending a warless day. Is that the future you had in mind? Read more.
Cindy Sheehan (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox) wrote to update us on the International People's Declaration of Peace (IPDoP):
- This is the final version of IPDoP...the committee sent it out for translation services today!
- We are working on website and an online petition to sign after the translations are complete, it is not ready to be signed yet.
- We are also working on an archival quality hard copy document to be taken all over the world for signatures of leading peace proponents.
- We are also working on accompanying articles for the Declaration.
- We still need commitments for free or very low cost translation services into: French, Japanese, Arabic, Bengali, and Chinese
International People's Declaration of Peace
We the undersigned, as responsible citizens of this planet, hereby proclaim the urgent universal need for sustained security through peace, for present and future generations of the human family.
We tell ourselves a tale in America, and you can read it in Latin on the back of a buck: E pluribus unum. Many people from many lands, made one in a patriotic forge. And there's truth in that story - it conjures powerful pictures in the theater of our national mind. But it can also be misleading. Lots of Americans can't stand one another, don't trust each other and are willing - even eager - to believe the worst about one another. This story is as old as the gun used by Vice President Aaron Burr to kill his political rival Alexander Hamilton. And it's as new as the $1 million–plus in fresh campaign contributions heaped on Republican Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina after he hollered "You lie!" at the President during a joint session of Congress. Anger and suspicion ebb and flow through our history, from the anti-Catholic musings of the 19th century Know-Nothing Party to the truthers and birthers of today.
We're in a flood stage, and who's to blame? The answer is like the estimates of the size of the crowd in Washington: Whom do you trust? Either the corrupt, communist-loving traitors on the left are causing this, or it's the racist, greedy warmongers on the right, or maybe the dishonest, incompetent, conniving media, which refuse to tell the truth about whomever you personally happen to despise....Beck recently entered into a partnership with Simon & Schuster that pays him a share of profits rather than a traditional author's royalty, and he plans to create a range of books for every audience, from children to teens to adults....
Of his feelings about the President: "I am not an Obama fan, but I am a fan of our country ... He is my President, and we must have him succeed. If he fails, we all fail." Of the Democratic Party: "I don't know personally a single Democrat who is a dope-smoking hippie that wants to turn us into Soviet Russia." Of the civic duty to trust: "We've got to pull together, because we are facing dark, dark times. I don't trust a single weasel in Washington. I don't care what party they're from. But unless we trust each other, we're not going to make it."...
Extreme talk, especially as practiced by a genuine talent like Beck, squeezes maximum profit from a relatively small, deeply invested audience, selling essentially the same product in multiple forms. The more the host is criticized, the more committed the original audience becomes. And the more committed the audience, the bigger target it presents to the rant industry on the other side of the spectrum....Movie buffs might appreciate this, because when Beck gets rolling on a particularly emotional riff, when the tears glisten and the shoulders shudder, Paddy Chayefsky, the great leftist playwright, looks like a prophet. Read more.
From Toronto to Pittsburgh to Jay Leno, "Capitalism" Marches On
It hasn't quite hit me that "Capitalism: A Love Story," my new film, will be opening in theaters in New York and L.A. just one week from tomorrow. And everywhere else on October 2nd. Is it already the fall?
Having spent the last year and a half living pretty much under the radar and quietly putting together this movie for you, it is heartening, to say the least, to read the early reviews where Time Magazine called it "Moore's magnum opus," the Los Angeles Times has declared it my "most controversial film yet," and Variety has said that "Capitalism: A Love Story" is "one of Moore's best films." Wow. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect, considering this film is an all-out assault against the racket polite people like to call "Wall Street."
Corporations have no more place in a democracy than carpenter ants or mold have in the beams of an old barn
By Dave Lindorff
For the last two weeks, I’ve been contemplating the mysteries of a post-and-beam barn, trying to work out how to rescue the long-ignored structure from the fate of many barns of its vintage (probably about 150 years old), which is total collapse.
"Their goal was to do everything they could do to prevent the State Department from discovering their multiple contract violations and operational shortcomings. Their goal was to maximize their profits, provide a fig leaf of security at the embassy and pray to God that nobody got killed," Gordon told reporters in Washington.
A week after photographs emerged of U.S. Embassy guards in Afghanistan taking part in raucous, drunken parties, there is a new allegation that some may have been involved in sex trafficking.
James Gordon, who formerly worked with the private security company ArmorGroup North America, raised that prospect in a lawsuit against the company, which guards the embassy in Kabul.
Gordon's whistle-blower retaliation lawsuit says he was forced out of the company in February 2008 after he attempted to raise the issues within the firm and to the State Department.
Gordon, a retired army captain from New Zealand, says the road to the courthouse wasn't an easy one for him. Before filing suit Thursday, he says he tried repeatedly to raise red flags with ArmorGroup North America, its parent company, Wackenhut Services Inc., and the State Department to talk about the need for a more professional guard force at the embassy.
A former director of operations for ArmorGroup, Gordon alleges that the company lowballed its bid for the contract and then understaffed its guard corps. ArmorGroup was awarded the $189 million embassy security contract in 2007. Read more.
Anyone smart and strong enough to fight delusional thinking and who pays attention to current events should clearly see that corporate corruption of the US political system is so pervasive and powerful that there will be no genuine reform of both the health care and financial sectors.
I always believed that president Obama was just a different color corrupt politician who was subservient to the two-party plutocracy. His so-called reform efforts and ludicrous federal deficit spending should disappoint all his non-delusional supporters.
For health reform the only genuine and sensible reform legislation should have been not much more than a single sentence mandating that every American has a right to full Medicare coverage. Period. End of story. True reform. True universal health insurance.
Let the health insurance industry sell their garbage to those choosing it over Medicare and as supplemental insurance, as is done today, to cover what Medicare does not. The one major reason why the US spends more of its wealth on health care than any other nation, but with lousy results for the population as a whole is that so many Americans and their employers buy costly private health insurance. Some things essential for human survival require government programs, like police and fire protection. The overwhelming opinion of those in Medicare is very positive. In fact it is far more positive than those using private health insurance.
But the health insurance industry and others have successfully corrupted Congress and brainwashed much of the population to fear true reforms. Sure, Congress will pass some legislation that Obama will sign and they all will claim victory. But the nation will not get true reforms and health care spending will continue to rise and bankrupt the nation. Read more.
Near the start of this year Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced H.R. 1207, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. As of this writing, H.R. 1207 has 282 cosponsors. A Senate equivalent, S.604, the Federal Reserve Sunshine Act of 2009, has been introduced by Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). It has 23 cosponsors. Both bills have received a tremendous groundswell of grass-roots support. Much of the support is coming from ordinary people who have become aware of the fact that the Federal Reserve has created trillions of dollars literally out of nothing during the past calendar year in its effort to micromanage its way out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. If such a measure were passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Obama, the resulting bill would allow the Government Accounting Office to conduct audits of Federal Reserve System monetary policy. The bill proposes to scrutinize the Fed’s dealings not just on domestic monetary policy but on dealings with foreign central banks and foreign governments.
The power elite is worried. Evidence for this can be found in a short article “The Fed’s Political Problem” appearing on the website of Foreign Affairs, flagship journal for the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The article’s author, Alan S. Blinder, is a senior-level economics professor at Princeton University who also directs Princeton’s Center for Economic Policy Studies. From 1994 to 1996 he served as vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
Blinder first argues a thesis he proposed back in 1997, that some areas of government are properly political and others are properly technocratic. He places monetary policy in the latter, where it can operate independently of political oversight. The drawback of Ron Paul’s bill is that it would transfer Fed oversight to the political realm and end its independence. Read more.
Shareholders urged NOT to protest genocide
By Catherine Danielson
Here's a story I doubt you will hear all about anywhere else...
American Funds is one of the largest families of investment funds ($700 billion), owned by Capital Group Companies, a huge group of investment management companies. There was a shareholder proposal made recently requesting the board to "institute procedures to prevent holding investments in companies that, in the judgment of the board, substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity, the most egrigious violations of human rights."
I'm a shareholder in American Funds, so I received the proxy letter requiring me to vote on a number of proposals for the upcoming board meeting (on October 27th in LA). First, there was a list of very boring-sounding proposals about electing trustees, updating this, approving that, blah blah blah. The shareholder proposal request came LAST, and it was #8. What came FIRST was this:
Obama Brings Guantánamo And Rendition To Bagram (And Not The Geneva Conventions)
By Andy Worthington | AndyWorthington.co.UK | September 14, 2009
Following briefings by Obama administration officials (who declined to be identified), both the New York Times and the Washington Post reported yesterday that the government is planning to introduce a new review system for the 600 or so prisoners held at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, which will, for the first time, allow them to call witnesses in their defense.
On paper, this appears to be an improvement on existing conditions at the prison, but a close inspection of the officials’ statement reveals that the proposed plans actually do very little to tackle the Bush administration’s wayward innovations regarding the detention of prisoners in wartime, and, moreover, the officials also provided the shocking news that prisoners are currently being rendered to Bagram from other countries.
Reform at Bagram is certainly needed. Until 2007, there was, as the Post explained, “no formal process to review prisoner status,” and, as District Court Judge John D. Bates noted in April, the system that was then put in place — consisting of Unlawful Enemy Combatant Review Boards — “falls well short of what the Supreme Court found inadequate at Guantánamo” (in Boumediene v. Bush, the June 2008 ruling granting the prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights), being both “inadequate” and “more error-prone” than the notoriously inadequate and error-prone system of Combatant Status Review Tribunals that was established at Guantánamo to review the prisoners’ cases.
Revealing the chronic deficiencies of the review system at Bagram, Judge Bates quoted from a government declaration which stated that the UECRBs at Bagram do not even allow the prisoners to have a “personal representative” from the military in place of a lawyer (as at Guantánamo), and that “Bagram detainees represent themselves,” and added, with a palpable sense of incredulity:
Detainees cannot even speak for themselves; they are only permitted to submit a written statement. But in submitting that statement, detainees do not know what evidence the United States relies upon to justify an “enemy combatant” designation — so they lack a meaningful opportunity to rebut that evidence. [The government’s] far-reaching and ever-changing definition of enemy combatant, coupled with the uncertain evidentiary standards, further undercut the reliability of the UECRB review. And, unlike the CSRT process [which was followed by annual review boards], Bagram detainees receive no review beyond the UECRB itself. Read more.
On September 11, the US appeals court for the District of Columbia announced in a 2-1 decision that it was throwing out a lawsuit against CACI International and L-3 Communications Titan unit, which are being sued by Iraqi civilians for their alleged role in the torture and abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison. The companies provided interrogators at the prison at the height of the abuses there. The suit alleges that employees of the companies conspired with U.S. Army reservist Charles Graner, who was convicted of prisoner abuse on January 14, 2005 and is currently serving 10 years at Fort Leavenworth, and others to torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Several of the plaintiffs are Iraqis whose torture was depicted in graphic photos revealed over the past several years.
The judge who wrote the majority opinion, Laurence H. Silberman, said: “During wartime, where a private service contractor is integrated into combatant activities over which the military retains command authority, a tort claim arising out of the contractor’s engagement in such activities shall be preempted.”
The decision was swiftly celebrated by the private security industry. “The court’s decision today is an important step toward resolving all legal matters regarding the company’s mission and duties in Iraq,” Jody Brown, executive vice president for public relations at CACI, said in a statement. “We have said from day one that these lawsuits are completely without merit and designed to pursue a political agenda.” Read more.
Stuart Taylor: Sure, We Tortured, But Those Responsible Have Suffered Enough -- They've Been Picketed!
National Journal's Stuart Taylor (whose legal analysis is, quite inexplicably, taken very seriously by the Beltway media) acknowledges that the Bush administration tortured detainees, but argues that those responsible have already "suffered" enough for their misdeeds. See, they've been called names, and their public appearances have been picketed:
Of course, when all is said and done, there is little doubt that some CIA detainees were tortured. This is a stain on our nation's honor that should never be repeated. But the responsibility was so widely diffused, across such a large number of honorably motivated officials who tried (and sometimes failed) to stay within the law, that it makes no sense to seek to atone for the nation's sins by singling out individuals for bar discipline or other punishment.
This is especially true when those individuals have already suffered greatly from being trashed as "war criminals," picketed at public appearances, stalked by grandstanding Spanish judges, and otherwise harassed across the country and around the globe.
Sure, John Yoo said it was fine with him if George W. Bush wanted to order interrogators to crush a child's testicles. But the man has been picketed! What more must he endure? Leave him alone! Read more.
On September 11 a Balkans news source cited the chairman of the South East Europe Center at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, DC, John Sitilides, as claiming that "Although the United States is not focused on the Balkans as it was in the 1990s, the challenges in this region are still reviewed at a very high level in Washington." 
Sitilides founded and was executive director of the Western Policy Center in the U.S.'s capital in 1998 which specialized "in U.S. foreign and security policies in the eastern Mediterranean, Balkan and Black Sea regions," before merging it with the Woodrow Wilson Center and is a "regular speaker on foreign policy at the Pentagon's National Defense University and the National Foreign Affairs Training Center." 
In the news story mentioned above he stated "The recent visit to the Balkans of the US Vice President Joe Biden was a signal that although the region is not the subject of the President’s constant attention, the challenges in this region are still reviewed at a very high level.” 
Biden visited the Balkans this past May and was the highest ranking American official to travel to Kosovo since its unilateral declaration of independence in February of 2008. While in the capital of the breakaway Serbian province he insisted on the "absolutely irreversible" nature of Kosovo's secession - nineteen months afterward still not recognized by 130 of the world's 192 nations - and highlighted that "The success of an independent Kosovo is a priority for our administration." 
While still in the U.S. Senate Biden played a major role in fostering the break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and in promoting its former republics' integration into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Readers: Can you translate: Arabic, Hindi, Portuguese, Japanese, or Bengal? Please read on...
At one of my many events in Kentucky this past week at a delightfully named coffee and beer hangout in Louisville, Ray’s Monkey House, a lovely woman named Trudie came up to me with tears in her eyes and she told me: “Cindy, when you were in Crawford that summer, I thought to myself, ‘this is the beginning of the end of war.’ It might take time, and it might not happen in our lifetimes, but what you started to honor your son will end war.”
If only. If only, we the people could finally realize that it is not up to our governments to end war. Our governments and the War Machine are locked in a violently greedy mutual stranglehold and could not care less about our opinions or our children.
In my opinion, our struggles are in vain when we try to organize each other and ourselves to go begging the Robber Class to reform itself. It’s not ever going to happen. Throughout history we have repeatedly and to no avail, begged for our few crumbs of prosperity and peace and look where it has gotten us…in the midst of an economic depression that is further fueled by the blood of our troops and the blood of strangers thousands of miles away.
The Capitalist system of military conquest to perpetuate itself will never go without a fight. So, we need to forget about our governments and their masters, we need to reach out to each other to make firm promises that we will never allow our governments to use us as weapons of mass destruction to kill or oppress each other again.
That is why I am working so hard on the International People’s Declaration of Peace (IPDoP). It proclaims our essential and intrinsic values as human beings and our basic human right to not be subjected to state sanctioned violence. Read more.
On September 3rd, a dozen or so people demonstrated outside of the Seattle Federal Courthouse, calling for Bybee's impeachment. The action was sponsored by Washington For Impeachment, PDA, World Can't Wait, Backbone Campaign, Code Pink, and Eastside Fellowship of Reconciliation. The action was scheduled for 10:00-12:30 on a Thursday, so (not unexpectedly) the demonstrators were out numbered by Homeland Security forces. In addition to the usual courthouse security, there were 7 white vans parked near the entrance, each containing uniformed, armed guards. The Backbone Campaign brought a large paper mache statue of Justice. Others held signs showing pictures of Bybee's torture victims.
Although torture is illegal under both United States and international law, George W. Bush relied upon Jay Bybee and other lawyers to construct the legal grounds for allowing the president and his representatives to torture at will.
As an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department, Bybee released memos that authorized torture under the guise of "enhanced interrogation techniques". These techniques were used at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other places. Bybee's torture memos rejected the United Nations Convention Against Torture as too broad. He championed a new litmus test for torture -- the intentional infliction of permanent injury or death.
These memos redefined behavior such as threats of execution against detainees and their families, threats to rape a detainee's female relatives, beatings, and waterboarding as permissible behavior. A few months after submitting the torture memos, Bybee was given a lifetime appointment to one of the top judicial benches in the country.
The Bybee Torture Memo was written in August of 2002, but it was only revealed to the public on April 16, 2009, after years of litigation. Upon its release, the New York Times called on Congress to impeach federal judge Jay Bybee. In an editorial, the New York Times declared that Bybee was, "unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. " In a similar vein, Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman has also asked, "Why should a suspected war criminal serve as a federal judge?"
Despite the many displays of public outrage, little has changed since Bybee's memos were exposed. In an April 25, 2009, Washington Post article, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) said: "If the Bush administration and Mr. Bybee had told the truth, he never would have been confirmed," and that "the decent and honorable thing for him to do would be to resign". Four days later, Senator Leahy sent a letter to Judge Jay S. Bybee inviting him to testify before the Judiciary Committee, however, Bybee did not have the necessary manners -- or decency -- to respond to the invitation. No federal judge has ever been impeached for conduct that took place before taking the bench. So far, the senate has been unwilling to break that precedent.
Immune to criticism, Bybee sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Mark Crispin Miller wrote:
Here's an open letter to Obama, from a rightist group including (along with the ambitious Sarah
Palin) members of the PNAC gang that pushed for the invasion of Iraq. Just as, in 1998, they
urged Bill Clinton to invade Iraq, then got their way with Bush & Co. (Dick Cheney being one
of them), they're now demanding that this president "fully resource the effort in Afghanistan."
They're pushing him like this because of rising public (and, therefore, congressional) opposition to the Bush war in Afghanistan. So who will win this time? Will they prevail again, despite the
vast catastrophe they brought down on Iraq (a nightmare that continues)? Or will it, somehow, be the rest of us? ("The rest of us" includes an ever-growing number of our troops.)
Whatever you can do to tell Obama that this war is an atrocious loser, do it loud and clear, and do it now.
The White House and its Democratic allies on Sunday tried to play down the role of a government insurance option in health care legislation as the party in power worked to reclaim momentum on President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.
His spokesman described the public option as just one way to achieve Obama's goal of providing coverage to the estimated 45 uninsured Americans without insurance. His senior adviser contended the White House was ready to accept that Congress would reject the idea, though he, too, said it was an option, not a make-or-break choice.
Congressional Democrats took care to say the idea, backed by liberals and targeted by conservatives, is not a deal breaker in a debate that has consumed Washington for the summer and shows now sign of abating.
"I think that's a reasonable way to go. But I think it's important to stay focused on what we're trying to accomplish," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.
Presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs stressed Obama's commitment to choice and competition and declared the public option "a means to an end, but it is not all of health care." Read more.
Open Left Exclusive: UnitedHealth Lobbyist Announces Pelosi Fundraiser As She Begins Backing Off Public Option
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the first time yesterday suggested she may be backing off her support of the public option. According to CNN, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "said they would support any provision that increases competition and accessibility for health insurance - whether or not it is the public option favored by most Democrats." When "asked if inclusion of a public option was a non-negotiable demand - as her previous statements had indicated Pelosi ruled out any non-negotiable positions," according to CNN. This was also corroborated by the Associated Press, and by Pelosi's own words, as quoted in those stories.
This announcement came just hours before Steve Elmendorf, a registered UnitedHealth lobbyist and the head of UnitedHealth's lobbying firm Elmendorf Strategies, blasted this email invitation throughout Washington, D.C. I just happened to get my hands on a copy of the invitation from a source - check out this OpenLeft exclusive:
With U.S. Forces in Iraq Beginning to Leave, Need for Private Guards Grows"
By Walter Pincus | Washington Post | Prologue, Highlighted Excerpts and Notes by Michael Schwartz
Michael Schwartz recently read Walter Pincus' WaPo article "With U.S. Forces in Iraq Beginning to Leave, Need for Private Guards Grows." He comments:
Prologue: US presence in Iraq is actually growing
Believe it or not, the U.S. presence in Iraq is growing under the leadership of antiwar president Barack Obama. See the Washington Post article below, which explains that when U.S. troops are “withdrawn,” their jobs are taken over by……mercenaries—the notorious “contractors,” who are hired for fabulous sums of money to sustain the huge U.S. presence there.
And there are some really awful aspects of this process, including:
- The cost of the contractors is substantially higher than the cost of the soldiers they replace. (That is, the cost of the war is going up as the U.S. “scales down” its presence in Iraq)
- “Where private guards replaced soldiers, many more guards were needed to do the same job.” So the numbers and cost of the U.S. presence is going upward, not downward.
- The new contractors are overwhelmingly “third-country nationals” employed by U.S. corporations under contract from the U.S. Defense and State departments. That is, with unemployment at 60% in many places around Iraq, the new jobs created by these contractors are not giving employment to unemployed Iraqis.
- And just to underscore that this is not a process of de-escalating a U.S. presence, the “third country nationals” brought in to replace U.S. soldiers are required to speak English, but they need not speak Arabic. So we learn that the process of cultural imperialism is continuing—there is no effort to have the U.S. presence become blended into Iraqi civil society. In fact, this and so many other actions work to coerce the Iraqis into integrating into the globalized U.S. political economy.
Just another glimpse of the long term effort of the U.S. government to colonize Iraq.
Below is the article Michael was referencing. Specific excerpts which he highlighted are in italics.
With U.S. Forces in Iraq Beginning to Leave, Need for Private Guards Grows
The U.S. recently awarded contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars for more private guards in Iraq.
By Walter Pincus | Washington Post | Tuesday, September 8, 2009
As the United States withdraws its combat forces from Iraq, the government is hiring more private guards to protect U.S. installations at a cost that could near $1 billion, according to the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
9-11 and Oil
By Cindy Sheehan | Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox
Friday was the 8th anniversary since the tragedies of 9-11 and before I go forward, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of the people who were killed that day, but to also recognize that everyone in this country has suffered whether they know it or not.
On that sunny and bright morning, 8 years ago, I awoke from my sleep to learn that the first plane had hit the first tower. As the events of the day unfolded, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that this event would somehow lead to the death of my oldest child Casey, who was in the Army stationed at Ft. Hood, Tx. I went into a tailspin of depression that didn’t break until I fell on the floor screaming after I found out he was killed in Iraq on 04/04/04. I wasn’t depressed anymore I was in a pain-soaked, white-hot rage.
9-11 was, of course, the defining moment of this generation. Of course, whether it was an inside job: evil Dick Cheney planning it between heart attacks in his bunker; to the “official story” (yeah, right!); the attacks were exploited to lead to, among other things: get our country militarily mired into three countries by now; torture; Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and rendition (began under the Clinton admin); USA PATRIOT ACT; military commissions act; lack of personnel and equipment to help the victims of Katrina in her aftermath; crumbling infrastructure here in America; collapsing economy; the FISA Modernization Act, etc, etc.
The role that psychologists played in the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation policies is slowly being made public. Military psychologists, with the full support of their professional organization, the American Psychological Association (APA), advised, implemented, and sometimes initiated programs that are drawing harsh criticism and calls for an independent investigation. When other national and international professional health associations withdrew their support and implicit endorsement of these policies, the APA remained steadfast in their support of the government’s illegal practices. Meanwhile many, perhaps most, members of the APA were unaware of the policies that were being carried out in their name. I shall briefly describe how the APA aided and abetted the U.S. government in Guantánamo Bay and the CIA black sites, and the steps that a number of psychologists are taking to end this unholy alliance.
In Torture and Democracy, author Darius Rejali points out that many decent professionals leave their posts when the state begins to torture, while those professionals who continue to work for the state create a “culture of impunity.” In 2002, shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the American Psychological Association altered its ethics code (PDF), thereby creating it own “culture of impunity.” To a clause that read: “If psychologists’ ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations, or other governing legal authority, psychologists make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take steps to resolve the conflict, ” the following sentence was added: “If the conflict is unresolvable via such means, psychologists may adhere to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority.” (emphasis added). As Kenneth Pope, a former chair of the APA’s Ethics Committee who resigned from the APA in protest over these changes and other ethical breaches, recently wrote in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, the APA’s ethics code “now runs counter to the Nuremberg Ethic.” In other words, when American psychologists are charged with unethical conduct, they can claim that they were merely following orders, just as health care professionals in Nazi Germany did when they were prosecuted at Nuremberg.
When the American Psychiatric Association overwhelmingly voted to discourage its members from participating in the interrogation process in Guantánamo Bay, Steven Behnke, the Director of Ethics for the American Psychological Association, emphasized the “unique competencies” that psychologists bring to their role in interrogations, and claimed that psychologists who help military interrogators made a valuable contribution. Furthermore, he argued, psychologists play a vital role in safeguarding the welfare of detainees.
Human rights organizations and congressional oversight committees take a very different view of this collaboration. Physicians for Human Rights, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and the Senate Armed Services Committee document cases of psychologists advising, and in some cases directing, the interrogation of detainees in enhanced interrogations techniques that constitute torture under international law. Read more.
It is hardly a secret that the Religious Right helped elect President George W. Bush and exercised extraordinary influence with his administration. But if we need more evidence, it’s just been put on the table.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government (CREW) has just released a report tallying visits to the Bush White House by major Religious Right players. CREW filed a request for visitor records that coughed up the information.
According to a Sept. 4 CREW press release, the count looks something like this: Read more.