Archive for category Torture

Maine Senators Use The Word “Torture” To Describe CIA Torture

Torture posterWell, this is amazing. Following months of public pressure, the Senate intelligence committee voted 11-3 on Thursday to declassify portions of the lengthy investigation into the CIA’s use of torture at secret black sites around the world. The executive summary, findings, and conclusions of the Senate panel’s 6,300-page report will be released.

Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) supported the release of the Senate Torture Report, using a word that nobody thought Washington politicians have in their vocabulary (emphasis added):

We remain strongly opposed to the use of torture, believing that it is fundamentally contrary to American values. While we have some concerns about the process for developing the report, its findings lead us to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture. This inhumane and brutal treatment never should have occurred. Further, the report raises serious concerns about the CIA’s management of this program.

Our vote to declassify this report does not signal our full endorsement of all of its conclusions or its methodology. The report has some intrinsic limitations because it did not involve direct interviews of CIA officials, contract personnel, or other Executive branch personnel. It also, unfortunately, did not include the participation of the staff of Republican Committee members. We do, however, believe in transparency and believe that the Executive Summary, and Additional and Dissenting Views, and the CIA’s rebuttal should be made public with appropriate redactions so the American public can reach their own conclusions about the conduct of this program.

Torture is wrong, and we must make sure that the misconduct and the grave errors made in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program never happen again.

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Ten Years Later: Yup, It Was Torture

It certainly took long enough. The new 577-page torture report from The Constitution Project’s bipartisan commission concluded (emphasis added):

The question as to whether U.S. forces and agents engaged in torture has been complicated by the existence of two vocal camps in the public debate. This has been particularly vexing for traditional journalists who are trained and accustomed to recording the arguments of both sides in a dispute without declaring one right and the other wrong. The public may simply perceive that there is no right side, as there are two equally fervent views held views on a subject, with substantially credentialed people on both sides. In this case, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that among those who insist that the United States did not engage in torture are figures who served at the highest levels of government, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

But this Task Force is not bound by this convention.

The members, coming from a wide political spectrum, believe that arguments that the nation did not engage in torture and that much of what occurred should be defined as something less than torture are not credible.

Robert Parry:

Now that a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel has reached the conclusion that President George W. Bush and his top advisers bear “ultimate responsibility” for authorizing torture in violation of domestic and international law, the question becomes what should the American people and their government do.

The logical answer would seem to be: prosecute Bush and his cronies (or turn them over to an international tribunal if the U.S. legal system can’t do the job). After all, everyone, including President Barack Obama and possibly even Bush himself, would agree with the principle that “no man is above the law.”

Interestingly enough, Section 3286 of the USA PATRIOT Act effectively abolished the statute of limitations for torture.

The U.N. Convention Against Torture, signed by President Reagan in 1988, compels all signatories who discover credible allegations that government officials have participated or been complicit in torture to “submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution” (Art. 7(1)).

Glenn Greenwald:

The disgrace of the American torture regime falls on Bush officials and secondarily the media and political institutions that acquiesced to it, but the full-scale protection of those war crimes (and the denial of justice to their victims) falls squarely on the Obama administration.

UPDATE: George W. Bush Library Opens, Amnesia Ensues

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An Exercise in Truth-Telling

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Tonight’s must-see TV is on MSNBC at 7 pm: “Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War” uses the occasion of the upcoming tenth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq for an unusual exercise in media truth-telling, hosted by Rachel Maddow. The documentary is based on a book co-authored by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.

In the documentary, many of those who were sources for the book “Hubris” appear on camera for the first time. One of them, Mark Rossini, was then an FBI counter-terrorism agent detailed to the CIA. He was assigned the task of evaluating a Czech intelligence report that Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague before the attack on the World Trade Towers. Cheney repeatedly invoked the report as evidence of Iraqi involvement in 9/11. “It’s been pretty well confirmed that he [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April,” Cheney said on Meet the Press on Dec. 9, 2001. But the evidence used to support the claim–a supposed photograph of Atta in Prague the day of the alleged meeting—had already been debunked by Rossini. He analyzed the photo and immediately saw it was bogus: the picture of the Czech “Atta” looked nothing like the real terrorist. It was a conclusion he relayed up the chain, assuming he had put the matter to rest. Then he heard Cheney endorsing the discredited report on national television. “I remember looking at the TV screen and saying, ‘What did I just hear?’ And I–first time in my life, I actually threw something at the television because I couldn’t believe what I just heard,” Rossini says.

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Does The President Have the Power to Execute Americans Without Any Charges or Due Process?

Somebody has leaked a 16-page “white paper” (PDF) to NBC News’ Michael Isikoff. Prepared by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, it tries to justify President Obama’s claim that he has the power to target even Americans for assassination without due process. This is not the primary Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo justifying Obama’s kill list – that is still classified – but it appears to track the reasoning of that memo as anonymously described to the New York Times in October 2011.

Glenn Greenwald:

This new memo is entitled: “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or An Associated Force”. It claims its conclusion is “reached with recognition of the extraordinary seriousness of a lethal operation by the United States against a US citizen”. Yet it is every bit as chilling as the Bush OLC torture memos in how its clinical, legalistic tone completely sanitizes the radical and dangerous power it purports to authorize.

According to the “white paper,” if the US government simply asserts without evidence or trial that someone is a terrorist, then they are assumed to be, and they can then be punished as such – with indefinite imprisonment or death. The paper states that presidential assassinations are justified when “an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US.”

What is “an imminent threat”? The paper expressly states that it is inventing “a broader concept of imminence” than is typically used in domestic law. Specifically, the president’s assassination power “does not require that the US have clear evidence that a specific attack… will take place in the immediate future.”

Basically, the Obama administration has asserted the power to kill anyone (including American citizens) anywhere, for any reason (or no reason – how do we know, because the decision is secret?), anytime they want to. And they are claiming that this is constitutional and legal.

I’m encouraged that not all Americans are buying this outrageous claim. A recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University found 48 percent of Americans think it is illegal to “target US citizens living in other countries with drones,” while 24 percent think it is legal. But the same poll found majority approval for the use of drone attacks against “people and other targets deemed to be a threat to the US” whether carried out by the CIA or the military, as long as those targets are not American citizens.

Ever since George W. Bush took power as a “unitary executive,” it seems that federal law, our Constitution and Bill of Rights have been all been subject to repeal via secret OLC memos. Illegal government actions became routine, mostly carried out in secret but sometimes we find out about them. The Obama administration hasn’t done much if anything to restore the rule of law, and they have instituted an unprecedented crackdown on whistle-blowers.

The trend is toward more illegality and less transparency.

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Who Is Going To Federal Prison For The CIA’s Torture Program?

Last August, the Department of Justice ended a four-year criminal investigation by federal prosecutor John Durham into interrogation techniques used during the presidency of George W. Bush, including torture. At least two cases resulted in the deaths of detainees in CIA custody. This investigation began in 2008, after we learned about the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of interrogations of terror suspects. Attorney General Eric Holder decided not to initiate any prosecutions.

Late last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled German citizen Khaled el-Masri was tortured by CIA agents. He was seized in Macedonia in December 2003, tortured, and secretly flown to Afghanistan. Then he was released in April 2004. after the CIA admitted he was wrongly detained. El Masri’s lawsuit in U.S. court for illegal detention was dismissed in 2006 when the court accepted the government’s position that it could invoke the so-called “state secrets privilege” in order to avoid having to admit what the CIA did.

The US Senate’s select committee on intelligence conducted a three-year review of CIA treatment of detainees, producing a 6,000-page classified report that is believed to conclude that the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” adopted by the CIA during the Bush years did not produce any major breakthroughs in intelligence, contrary to previous claims. This report is likely to remain secret. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the intelligence committee chair, says the report contains “startling details” about waterboarding, stress positions, forced nudity, beatings and sleep and sensory deprivation.

Torture and conspiracy to commit torture is a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in a federal penitentiary, or by the death penalty if it results in the victim’s death. So who is going to prison now that the CIA torture program has been thoroughly investigated?

1. Someone who conducted “enhanced interrogation” torture sessions.
2. Someone who destroyed evidence of torture.
3. Someone who wrote a legal memo justifying the use of torture.
4. Someone high up in the Bush administration who authorized torture.
5. Someone who opposed torture within the CIA and later blew the whistle on the terrible crimes committed in our name.

If you guessed #5, you’re correct.

Last Friday, ex-CIA officer John C. Kiriakou became the first person to be sentenced to prison for issues related to CIA torture. Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for revealing the name of a former operative involved the Bush era’s brutal interrogation of detainees at Guantanamo to a reporter.

Kiriakou worked as a CIA operative for more than two decades and led a March 2002 raid that captured high-ranking Al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah. He was also a vocal torture opponent who revealed his knowledge of U.S. enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, in an ABC interview in 2007.

UPDATE: From Roots Action: Free John Kiriakou

On June 18, 2009, President Obama declared that no one in the CIA would be prosecuted for torture. But now a CIA officer is finally going to prison in connection with torture. However, this CIA officer didn’t torture anyone — he blew the whistle on torture.

In 2007, John Kiriakou was the first person to publicly acknowledge that the CIA was waterboarding people. The retribution for that act of whistleblowing began immediately.

The CIA began filing crime reports with the Department of Justice against Kiriakou. The IRS audited him in 2007 and has done so every year since. His wife was forced out of her job at the CIA. In 2010 an FBI agent pretending to be a foreign spy tried to entrap Kiriakou, who reported the incidents to the FBI. The same FBI follows him everywhere, including into his children’s school.

The DOJ tried unsuccessfully to prosecute Kiriakou under the Espionage Act as a supposed enemy of the state. He became unemployable and racked up a million dollars in lawyers’ bills.

Now Kiriakou is finally going to prison for 30 months for the act of telling an author the name of someone to interview, even though the name was already known and Kiriakou’s prosecution has made it better known.

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Kathryn Bigelow’s Torture Movie #1 At Box Office

Zero Dark Thirty

It’s the height of irony that after the CIA illegally destroyed nearly 100 video recordings of torture sessions to avoid being held accountable, the number one movie in American theaters this weekend devotes most of its first hour to a Hollywood re-creation. Director Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-nominated film “Zero Dark Thirty” [Full disclosure: I haven't seen the film and don't intend to] turns torture into entertainment:

Those scenes …show terrified, disoriented and bloodied detainees kept awake for days on end by having their arms painfully suspended from the ceilings of secret jails; stuffed into tiny wooden boxes when they don’t cooperate with their inquisitors; and waterboarded on soiled mattresses while interrogators bark questions.

Bigelow ignores both the illegality and immorality of using torture. As if that’s not bad enough, “Zero Dark Thirty” delivers the message that it was CIA torture that led to finding Osama bin Laden’s hiding place in Pakistan. This is factually wrong. The statement “based on first-hand accounts of actual events” is deceptive because it causes the viewer to think the story is accurate, when what it really means is “based on CIA propaganda.”

In reality:

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program concluded that the CIA did not first learn about the existence of the bin Laden courier from CIA detainees subjected to coercive interrogation techniques and that the CIA detainee who provided the most accurate information about the courier provided the information prior to being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques.

Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin have requested information and documents related to the CIA’s cooperation in the making of this film, which lies to the American people about one of the most critical issues of the Bush administration: the criminal use of torture by the CIA, for which no one has ever been prosecuted. We know that on many occasions, detainees were tortured to death in secret CIA prisons.

Sony Chairman Amy Pascal tried to refute criticism of “Zero Dark Thirty” by a member of the Oscar voting academy on Friday, saying her studio’s movie “does not advocate torture.” No one has claimed that it does – only that it lies about torture.

UPDATE: Kevin Gosztola on FDL:

[I]t is impossible not to conclude that this film is the kind of production that greatly pleases the national security state especially because it does not question what they do.

…This is the hunt for Bin Laden told with information from officials in government, who have no objection to America’s increased reliance on secret war or covert operations. Bigelow and Boal wanted the information necessary to tell the version of the story that they believed to be true in a way that would garner them high praise. The CIA gave them that while at the same time manipulating them into presenting torture tactics used to create learned helplessness in prisoners as part of the timeline of events that eventually led to Bin Laden. They showed the NSA intercepting communications and the dolly shot past hardware with wires and cords popping out is made completely innocuous and acceptable. A scene shows a video screen with imagery from a drone striking a target and Maya looks on coldly, completely numbed by the lethal use of force.

The filmmakers played their part. They were given access and what Americans are flocking to this weekend is nothing that would alienate the officials they collaborated with and nothing less than a conventional story of revenge on an American enemy.

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The Mother of Awkward Moments

And I’ve had some BIG ones, but this is precious.

Meatloaf tortures Romney, LIVE, on stage.

Lee Greenwood called in sick.

Rosanne Barr’s plane got delayed.

I haven’t even looked to see if Romney was wearing his flag lapel pin, and I don’t care. We all know he was wrapped in the flag.

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WikiLeaks Releases Prisoner Treatment Manual From Guantanamo

Guantanamo

By Agence France-Presse

Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks website on Thursday started publishing more than 100 US Department of Defense documents including the first prisoner treatment manual for Guantanamo Bay.

…Among the documents is the 2002 manual for staff at Camp Delta at Guantanamo, shortly after it was set up by US President George W. Bush to house alleged Al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees from the “war on terror”.

“This document is of significant historical importance. Guantanamo Bay has become the symbol for systematised human rights abuse in the West with good reason,” said Assange, the founder of the website.

He added: “‘The ‘Detainee Policies’ show the anatomy of the beast that is post-9/11 detention, the carving out of a dark space where law and rights do not apply, where persons can be detained without a trace at the convenience of the US Department of Defense.

“It shows the excesses of the early days of war against an unknown ‘enemy’ and how these policies matured and evolved, ultimately deriving into the permanent state of exception that the United States now finds itself in, a decade later.”

UPDATE: WikiLeaks Releases US Military Policies for Detention & Avoiding Accountability for Torture

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Obama DOJ: No Accountability For Torture


Glenn Greenwald has a detailed account of how the Obama administration has moved incrementally to make sure that no one is prosecuted for violations of laws against torture and even torture-related homicide.

Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the closing without charges of the only two cases under investigation relating to the US torture program: one that resulted in the 2002 death of an Afghan detainee at a secret CIA prison near Kabul, and the other the 2003 death of an Iraqi citizen while in CIA custody at Abu Ghraib. This decision, says the New York Times Friday, “eliminat[es] the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the CIA”.

Note: more than 100 detainees were reported to have died in custody, many after being tortured. Only two cases were investigated by the Obama DOJ.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s highly original “look forward not backward” approach to law enforcement does not apply to whistle-blowers. As Friday’s Times article on Holder’s announcement pointedly notes:

“While no one has been prosecuted for the harsh interrogations, a former CIA officer who helped hunt members of al-Qaida in Pakistan and later spoke publicly about waterboarding, John C Kiriakou, is awaiting trial on criminal charges that he disclosed to journalists the identity of other CIA officers who participated in the interrogations.”

While everyone is rightly focused on the lackluster economy recovery, the DOJ’s announcement that torturers now have immunity from prosecution (at least in the U.S.) represents another major failure of the Obama administration.

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Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us?

Why hate us?
Pakistanis hold up a burning mock drone aircraft during a 2011 rally against drone attacks in Peshawar.

Why do “they” hate us? The answer ought to be so obvious that there’s no need to actually explain it. Glenn Greenwald (the whole post is well worth reading):

Far from believing that another 9/11 can’t happen, I’m amazed that it hasn’t already, and am quite confident that at some point it will. How could any rational person expect their government to spend a full decade (and counting) invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men in multiple countries and not have its victims and their compatriots be increasingly eager to return the violence?

…I realize that screaming “9/11″ has been the trite tactic of choice for those seeking to justify the U.S. Government’s militarism over the last decade, but invoking that event strongly militates against the policies it’s invoked to justify, precisely because those policies are the principal cause of such attacks, for obvious reasons.

…Anwar Awlaki was once such a moderate that he vehemently denounced the 9/11 attacks, got invited to the Pentagon to speak, and hosted a column in The Washington Post on Islam — but then became radicalized by the constant post-9/11 killing of Muslims by his country (the U.S.).

There are plenty of intelligent people in the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon. Why is our foreign policy so boneheaded?

UPDATE: Members of Congress call on Obama to justify drone strikes

“We are concerned that the use of such ‘signature’ strikes could raise the risk of killing innocent civilians or individuals who may have no relationship to attacks on the United States,” the members of Congress, led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), wrote Wednesday in a letter to Obama. “Our drone campaigns already have virtually no transparency, accountability or oversight. We are further concerned about the legal grounds for such strikes under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.”

“The implications of the use of drones for our national security are profound,” they added. “They are faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths, and are frequently the only direct contact with Americans that the targeted communities have. They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.”

UPDATE: Ibrahim Mothana: How Drones Help Al Qaeda

Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen.


UPDATE:
Clive Stafford Smith: I Met a 16-Year-Old Kid. 3 Days Later Obama Killed Him

UPDATE:
UN Investigator Says Drone Strikes May Constitute War Crimes

Killings may be lawful in an armed conflict but many targeted killings take place far from areas where it’s recognized as being an armed conflict. [If] there have been secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping [the injured] after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime.

Related One Utah posts:
Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? (October 6, 2010)
Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? (October 20, 2009)

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The Long Goodbye

Casing the colors
Retiring the colors, US Forces Iraq.

Most accounts of the pullout are brief. Five years after Americans voted for withdrawal in the 2006 elections, the U.S. departed Camp Adder on December 16, the last base to be turned over to Iraq. It is now called Imam Ali Base and will be used by the Iraqi Air Force. (Shi’a Muslims regard Ali as the first Imam).

The Iraq fiasco started as a war of aggression labeled “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (OIL), which quickly changed to “Operation Iraqi Freedom” because the acronym gave away the real objective. At the end, it was “Operation New Dawn” (specially formulated for grease-cutting, but gentle enough for your hands).

More than 1.5 million U.S. soldiers have served in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, with around 4,500 of them losing their lives, out of more than 30,000 American casualties. At least 104,000-113,000 Iraqis were killed, though exact totals are nearly impossible to calculate. More than 1.6 million Iraqis fled the country, with another 2.5 million internally displaced. We lost $3 trillion of our taxpayers money.

For America, the occupation of Iraq was unwinnable. Intended to demonstrate the extent of our military power, it instead exposed how limited it really is. At one point almost all our ground forces were either in Iraq, just returned from Iraq, or preparing to deploy back to Iraq. The winners, such as they are: the Kurds, the Shiites, the Iranians and the Chinese.

Iraqis continue to live with a level of violence that would be considered apocalyptic anywhere else. Parts of Baghdad still get only 5 hours of electricity a day. A bomb attack on the oil fields halved production again this week.

Now, the “Mission Accomplished” banner is in storage awaiting the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in 2013.

We can hope to assign to the history books (but never forget) Saddam Hussein, WMD, “shock and awe,” “enhanced interrogation,” Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Haditha, “Concerned Local Citizens,” and The Sandbox.

Still with us: security contractors (aka mercenaries), “kinetic operations,” PTSD, and the unfinished unwinnable war in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

UPDATE: In Iraq, the last to fall: David Hickman, the 4,474th U.S. service member killed

UPDATE: Video: Drone Watches Last U.S. Convoy Leave Iraq

UPDATE: Andrew Bacevich: “Seldom in the course of human history have so many sacrificed so dearly to achieve so little.”

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Utah At Forefront of National, Political Realignment: Run Rocky Run!

I think I’ve just eye-witnessed the spontaneous birth of a new political party and in the most unlikely of places – Utah.

But, hey. Why not Utah? Are we not the home of political mavericks?

Did we Utahns not replace a senior, sitting senator at convention (Bennett R-UT) with an insane, tea-party nobody?  Did we not also deliver the only sane GOP candidate for president (Jon Huntsman)?

That’s right. So no one should be surprised widely popular, 2-term, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is running for President. And its about time. Even if this time around is just a warm up, it will be fun.


Here’s why: How many progressive, red-state mayors can say they handed Bill O’Reilly his ass on O’Reilly’s own show …/anderson-spanks-bill-oreilly/, or provoked Sean Hannity into to a live debate televised on Fox News! (…that one turned into a professional wrestling match. Make some popcorn its a 2-hour brawl.)

So the news of Rocky’s intentions leaked far too soon and Rachel Maddow got the scoop and the new party’s name – Justice Party – was chosen on Facebook in the hours before the announcement on Maddow.

That was two Wednesday’s ago. The next day, folks began to gather at Rocky’s house in Salt Lake. Paul Zieitz came out from Washington and a nascent steering committee kicked into high gear. The first state committee was tele-formed and a plan to get on the ballot in all fifty states was hatched around a dining room table and a speaker phone. (If you would like to form a committee in your state, contact Paul (end of press release)

This is not at all how I expected a third party to form. I always thought it would be a well funded, meticulously-planned, institutionally sponsored effort. Instead, it just happened. And like the Occupy Movement, no one owns it and it has no platform…yet.

The founding and interim steering committee are made up of the most unlikely characters: more women than men, all busy and passionate, but otherwise ‘unremarkable.’

The first, monumental task ahead is to get on the ballot in California. That means 103,000 Justice party registrations or approx 200K signatures BY JAN 2…two weeks? If that miracle happens, the other 49 states should be a cinch. Stranger things have happened.

Hey, people are winter camping in public parks in every major city in the world and one of the major American political parties seems about to crash and burn along with its media arm (Murdoch). A political vacuum is forming.

Its crazy. Everything is crazy. The rules are changing. A Dkos recommend can change the world. But it feels right and it feels unstoppable.

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