Archive for category National Politics
Last Friday, President Obama informed a White House press conference that the U.S. government has engaged in torture as a matter of policy. Not that he plans to do anything about that. In fact, he hasn’t even banned every torture technique in use by the CIA and the military.
“We tortured some folks,” he said. “We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the twin towers fell, and the Pentagon had been hit, and a plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law-enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this.”
The fallacy here, whether or not it’s intentional, lies in the fact that torture (in addition to being a crime under federal law) is not an intelligence interrogation technique. The experts will all tell you that torture is good for one thing only: extracting false confessions. The Bush administration employed torture to get some detainees to say what they wanted to hear, namely that Saddam Hussein’s regime was tied in with al-Qaeda. For example the torture of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan national captured in Afghanistan in November 2001, provided false information regarding chemical weapons training between Iraq and al-Qaeda that was used by the Bush Administration in their efforts to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq. Al-Libi recanted in January 2004. This sort of thing is what they now call “faulty intelligence” instead of lies.
President Obama is getting credit simply for using the dreaded “T” word that the media usually avoid by talking about American “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Of course reporters are not afraid say “torture” to describe what China does to prisoners, for example, even if it’s the exact same thing the CIA did.
On FDL, Jeff Kaye picks up on something important. Here’s what else the president said, referring to the still-secret Senate Select Committee torture report (emphasis added):
And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.
But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects. And that’s the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.
Only “some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques”? Not all? Was this merely a slip of the tongue by the President? No one in the press corp seemed to notice, and no one took him up on the issue… though it is very much worth noting that Jeremy Scahill reported in July 2011 on the CIA’s continuing use of black sites and torture in an important article in The Nation. Others had surmised as much even earlier.
Apparently President Obama, whether he meant to or not, has confirmed for the record that torture is still practiced by the U.S. government.
Obama Admits He Banned Only “Some” of the CIA’s Torture Techniques
Fox Gives Liz Cheney A Platform To Attack Obama For Mentioning Torture
White House To Make Torture Report ‘Impossible To Understand’
Several announcements by Israel’s Ministry of Defense spokespersons during the first stage of their latest attack on Gaza stated that they were “mowing the grass.” This is their term for the periodic ritual slaughter of the Palestinians, which is politically popular in Israel and America but nowhere else.
“Mowing the grass” isn’t a winning strategy. It’s what you do to maintain the status quo, which is permanent war. It’s the Israeli government’s admission that they don’t want peace, because that would entail unacceptable compromises – for example, lifting the blockade of Gaza. It’s also a clue to the mindset of Israeli decision makers, who seem to regard Palestinian civilians as nothing more than blades of grass to be cut down.
The notion that repeated attacks on Gaza are nothing more than “mowing the grass” raises serious moral and strategic questions. Cutting down civilians, like the children playing on that Gaza beach, is not like cutting blades of grass. To compare the two is dehumanizing. And to embrace a policy that entails the killing of hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians with each application violates the conscience, if not the basic rule of law. Use of force should always be a last resort, not a premeditated policy of first choice.
Efaim Inbar and Eitan Shamir of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) are the leading spokespersons for “mowing the grass.” They wrote in an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post:
Western thinking is solution-oriented.
This explains part of the lack of understanding in the West for what Israel is doing.
Against an implacable, well-entrenched, non-state enemy like the Hamas, Israel simply needs to “mow the grass” once in a while to degrade the enemy’s capabilities.
As anybody with a lawn can tell you, when you mow the grass the roots grow stronger. Hence the long-term stupidity of the Israeli plan. The use of force against civilians won’t ever bring them peace, but they keep on anyway because they have no imagination. Israel is perpetrating enormous war crimes, deliberately as a tactic of collective punishment of Palestinians. Why do we keep supplying weapons and ammo to Israel with our tax dollars?
Israel Hits Gaza With Heaviest Bombardment In 3 Weeks
Heartbreak: Reporting on Gaza’s child victims
Gaza: This Is No Life
Why Don’t Palestinians Just Leave Gaza? They Can’t.
Gaza Death Toll Soars As Israel Presses Offensive
Strike On Gaza Market Kills At Least 15
Israel Kills 15 During Assault On UN School As Military Intensifies Attack On Refugee Camp
UN rights chief slams Israel’s ‘defiance’ of international law
FDL: Haunting the Conscience of the World
This is a turning point, Israel has crossed all the red lines and the world will hold them accountable for it. This long night for the people of Gaza will end, the light of justice will finally shine on them, and there will be no more darkness.
According to new research (PDF) supported by the Russell Sage Foundation, middle class Americans are getting poorer (OK, we knew that, but now the numbers are in – and they are startling).
For the study, researchers gathered information on families in the middle of the wealth distribution continuum. What they found is that in 2003, the inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992. Fast-forward 10 years: that figure is down to a mere $56,335.
Ordinary Americans got 36 percent poorer in just a decade.
…The upshot is that regular people have endured one of the worst periods in recent memory. It will not surprise you to learn that during the same decade of 2003-2013, the rich were partying down. In the 95th percentile of wealth distribution, people got 14 percent richer.
That oughta brighten your day.
Via Media Matters…
Failed 2012 Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is back again with a so-called “poverty plan” that blames the victims. In reality, poverty is the result of systemic inequality of opportunity – not a lack of individual initiative.
Rep. Paul Ryan’s poverty proposal, which would in part punish impoverished Americans for not getting themselves out of poverty on a specific timeline, is based on the conservative myth pushed by right-wing media that blames poverty on individuals’ “spirit” and personal life choices.
…The “discussion draft” submitted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to the House Budget Committee on potential solutions to poverty in America includes the proposal that low-income Americans would have to sign “contracts” in order to remain eligible for social safety net benefits, such as food stamps, or SNAP. The contract would include: benchmarks, such as finding a job, enrolling in employment training, or even meeting “new acquaintances outside circle of poverty”; a “timeline” in which individuals are contractually-obligated to meet those benchmarks; bonuses for meeting benchmarks early; and “sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract”
…Annie Lowrey of New York magazine explained that Ryan’s proposal is based on the assumption “that the poor somehow want to be poor.”
Ryan’s poverty-shaming plan is nothing more than a vehicle for right-wing propaganda.
Here’s a better alternative than the Tea-GOP is offering: a $15 per hour minimum wage.
It’s always there, the lack of empathy on the part of right-wing extremists. We all remember the GOP presidential debate audience that cheered for letting people die without health insurance. More recently, we’ve seen an eruption of fear and hatred on the right directed at children fleeing the violence in some Central American countries.
Today we have the story of a California man who came home and discovered two burglars in his house.
“The lady, she couldn’t run as fast as the man, so I shot her in the back twice,” Greer explained. “She’s dead, but he got away.”
“She says, ‘Don’t shoot me, I’m pregnant! I’m going to have a baby!’ And I shot her anyway,” Greer said.
John Amato attempted to explain the “vile behavior” of wingers as an effort to emulate their heroes, the rich:
The thing about right-wing populism is that it’s manifestly self-defeating: those who stand to primarily benefit from this ideology are the wealthy, which is why they so willingly underwrite it. It might, in fact, more accurately be called “sucker populism.”
The 1 Percent want to keep us afraid, desperate, and divided by ignorance and prejudice. Otherwise, Americans might decide to blame Wall Street for crashing our economy. We might demand an end to pointless wars, or want to get rid of tax laws that are unfair to the middle class. We might realize that government health insurance is the best kind. Who knows, we might even want other good things from government such as infrastructure improvements, Internet access, cheap renewable energy programs…
California 80-year-old satisfied after gunning down fleeing pregnant home intruder
Hey, gun nuts: Shooting someone who is running away in the back is not self-defense
Fox hosts outraged that Texas 911 operators are ‘forced’ to help dying non-English speakers
Tea Party town hall erupts as Texas state Rep urges ‘compassion’ for migrant kids
The Iraqi Army is either locked in a stalemate in the battle for Tikrit and surrounding areas about 100 miles northwest of Baghdad, or (according to a claim by ISIS) has completely lost the city and Camp Speicher, a nearby military post and helicopter base.
Here’s the story according to The Long War Journal:
The Iraqi military made its first effort to retake Tikrit in late June, when it airlifted commandos into Tikrit University in an effort to gain a toehold north of the city. An advance on the city from the south was defeated. Then, on July 16, the Iraqi military launched Operation Decisive Sword. A large column of military and militia units entered southern Tikrit and thought they liberated the city, but as they celebrated they were ambushed with suicide bombers, IEDs, and conventional attacks. The Iraqi forces then withdrew from the city.
After the Iraqi military withdrew from southern Tikrit on July 16, the Islamic State immediately began its assault on Camp Speicher, as the base was the last remaining holdout of Iraqi forces near the city (Iraqi forces were withdrawn from Tikrit University sometime before the second offensive was launched).
The loss of Camp Speicher, and perhaps more importantly, the loss of the helicopters and its pilots if the Islamic State’s claims are true, is a serious blow to both the morale and the operational capabilities of the Iraqi military. The Iraqi military, which has failed to retake major cities and towns from the Islamic State and its allies, now may find it more difficult to support and defend the Bayji oil refinery just to the north, which has been largely resupplied by helicopters.
The Daily Beast cast doubt on the ISIS claim of victory in Tikrit:
On Friday, multiple news reports claimed that ISIS had won a major victory, seizing control of a vital army base outside of Tikrit and killing or capturing the hundreds of soldiers stationed there. If true, ISIS’s capture of Camp Speicher would signal a crucial turning point in the battle for the city and a humiliating setback for the Iraqi Army.
But the reports are false according to multiple Iraqi sources, who say Speicher was attacked on Friday but that ISIS never entered the base. According to an Iraqi Army soldier, who said he is currently stationed at the base: “Ten suicide bombers tried to blow themselves up at the gate so 15 more ISIS fighters in support could enter the base but we killed all of them. Only one Iraqi soldier was killed.”
Even if neither side is in control of Tikrit, the Iraqi government remains in deep serious trouble. A week ago The Long War Journal estimated that half of Iraq’s 15 army divisions have become ineffective or have completely disappeared.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who was on every network political show over the weekend justifying Israel’s actions in Gaza, was caught on a hot mic giving a very different assessment. Kerry said “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” while talking to an aide on the phone, mocking the accuracy of Israel’s weapons strikes which Israel claims are limited and precise.
Precision is of course one thing, while accuracy is another thing. A bomb, missile, or tank round can precisely hit the wrong target. Which is what is happening, inevitably, in Gaza. Israeli air strikes and artillery fire have hit civilian homes, mosques, and hospitals. Ambulances have been destroyed.
In Gaza, whatever the target, children often the victims
Panicked residents flee Gaza City neighborhood hit by tank fire as Israel widens offensive
CNN: Israeli Airstrike Hits Cafe Packed With People Watching World Cup
Four dead at Gaza hospital hit by Israeli strike
Three More Children Killed in Latest Air Strike on Gaza
More than 30 members of two Palestinian families are killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza
Israeli Airstrikes Injure Three Journalists in Gaza
The 7-year Israeli/Egyptian blockade of Gaza is a violation of international law, an act of war, and a crime against humanity.
The result of the resolution – which passed despite the US’ no vote – will be a UN probe into how Israel is using force in Gaza, particularly against civilians. Of the 732 Palestinians now reported killed from Operation Protective Edge an estimated 80% have been civilians.
More than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed and more than 6,000 have been wounded over the past 19 days, al-Kidra said. Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.
Several days of cable TV news watching haven’t answered the question that’s on my mind. Why are we even debating this? Desperate children, many of them unaccompanied, have been forced to flee Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and other countries. We’re expecting 74,000 to show up at our southern border this year.
On June 2, President Obama described it as an “urgent humanitarian situation,” asking Congress for an additional $1.4 billion to deal with the influx and creating a multiagency taskforce, led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to coordinate the federal response.
These children are refugees from violence and poverty. However, it’s been noted that essentially none of them come from Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti. Therefore poverty is a secondary factor. They’re fleeing for their lives.
Yet some politicians want to have a debate about how fast we can send these kids back to their countries of origin to die. Tea-GOPers even want to deny them the right to a court hearing. At the same time, the U.S. is telling Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to take in millions of refugees from the Syrian civil war.
Right-wingers and racists take note: No, these children don’t have Ebola. That’s a disease endemic in Africa– Ebola has never been reported in Latin America. What about other diseases? The migrants are better vaccinated than U.S. kids. The migrants are not hardened criminals, they are victims. They won’t destroy our economy – the Tea-GOP and Wall Street already did that. No, President Obama didn’t invite children to cross our border illegally – the law that guarantees due process for unaccompanied migrant children was signed by President Bush in 2008. It was uncontroversial at the time it was passed. The National Guard won’t stop the kids from coming, but maybe they could provide humanitarian assistance. Your term of opprobrium against undocumented immigrants isn’t spelled “ILEAGELS.” Also, the policy you oppose is not “AMENSTY,” or “AMNETY.”
Protesters turn back busloads of immigrants in Murrieta
GOP Candidate Mistakes YMCA Kids For Migrants, Describes ‘Fear In Their Faces’
Sarah Palin Wants President Obama Impeached For Following A Law Passed By Republicans
This Bill Is Dubbed The HUMANE Act, But It Actually Hurts The Migrant Kids It Claims To Protect
Not the first time members of Congress have used Orwellian language to name legislation the opposite of what it is.
Politico’s Roger Simon distorted President Obama’s record to claim that his request for emergency funding to deal with the recent flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the border was tantamount to waking “from a deep slumber … to fight a problem he has ignored for years.” In reality, Obama has supported legislation in the past that addressed many of the underlying issues but the legislation has been blocked by the GOP.
Via Think Progress:
You’re lucky if you have today off. That’s because unlike 13 other developed countries, we don’t guarantee that workers get any paid holidays.
If you took the week before the Fourth off or even extended the long weekend with a few paid vacation days, you are also lucky. Nearly a quarter of American workers don’t get any paid vacation time, and that figure has actually grown over the past two decades. And low-wage workers are even less likely to get the benefit, as just under half of them receive it, compared to 90 percent of high-wage workers. In fact, the United States is the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t require companies to offer paid vacation days.
Even when vacation days are available, employees are often afraid to use them.
I can’t believe that anybody needs to say this. There is nothing good that can be accomplished by the U.S. military in Iraq. We don’t even know what side to fight on. But MoveOn is right– we can’t just assume that Washington politicians have enough sense to make a smart decision, even after the nine-year fiasco that was the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We must make our voices heard now.
Petition by Iraq War veteran Matthew Hoh: “Tell President Obama and Congress: Keep America Out Of Iraq!”
Petition demanding a vote in Congress: “Join Barbara Lee & Scott Rigell, Stop Rush to Iraq War”
ISIS declares caliphate – those little derrick symbols represent oil fields.
Osama bin Laden’s vision of a Muslim caliphate in the Middle East is now a reality, thanks in large part to the USA. On Sunday morning, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) pronounced the reformation of the caliphate—the historical Islamic state that once stretched over much of the modern-day Muslim world—with ISIS emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as the man in charge.
Al Qaeda’s strategy of trying to force a US overreaction with the 9/11 attack has proved considerably successful in destabilizing the regional regimes that opposed establishing a caliphate and promulgating fundamentalist Islamic law. …12 million people are estimated to live under the control of ISIS already and if the now declared caliphate continues its expansion it could be considerably more.
…Apparently using the US military to topple secular leaders did little to thwart the rise of Islamic extremism. In fact, it seems to have had the opposite effect.
Add to the “no one could have anticipated…” file. Which is getting pretty thick by now.
According to Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal, the proclamation of a caliphate was “a controversial move that is sure to send shockwaves throughout the jihadist world.”
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed coal regulations have angered Tea-GOP right-wingers who deny climate science.
Via The New Republic:
A standoff with Senate Democrats and the president over funding for the EPA and Interior Department could set the stage for a budget showdown, risking a partial government shutdown. Here we go again.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) said the House Appropriations Committee may include a rider to the bill that’s necessary to keep the Department of Interior and EPA open after the fiscal year’s end in September.
…A partial shutdown to the Interior and EPA might seem like it would cause less damage to the GOP than the full-scale shutdown of 2013. But remember that includes national parks, which was one of the most visible and unpopular consequences from last year’s shutdown. And the EPA is charged with a lot besides fighting climate change, like protecting our drinking water and overseeing cleanup of toxic waste sites.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has warned the Tea-GOP not to shut down the government over climate change. But really, if they do it right before the midterm elections it might do more good than harm.