President Obama: ‘We Tortured Some Folks’… And We Still Do

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.

Kaye notes:

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.

More info:
Obama Admits He Banned Only “Some” of the CIA’s Torture Techniques

UPDATES:

Fox Gives Liz Cheney A Platform To Attack Obama For Mentioning Torture
White House To Make Torture Report ‘Impossible To Understand’

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House Intelligence Committee Finds No Wrongdoing by the Administration in Benghazi

Conservatives have now spent 2 years shrieking hysterically about BENGHAZI, convinced of some sort of malfeasance or deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama Administration. According to the Republican led House Intelligence Committee, not so much.

Among the key findings:

– Intelligence agencies were “warned about an increased threat environment, but did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened.”

– “A mixed group of individuals, including those associated with al Qaeda, (Moammar) Khadafy loyalists and other Libyan militias, participated in the attack.”

– “There was no ‘stand-down order’ given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening, no illegal activity or illegal arms transfers occurring by U.S. personnel in Benghazi, and no American was left behind.”

– The administration’s process for developing “talking points” was “flawed, but the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis.”

Anyone betting this will mean conservatives will stop hysterically shrieking about Benghazi is taking a sucker’s bet.

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46 Comments

The Short Hilarious Saga of ReaganBook

When Sofonda Cox, Dixie Normous, and Johnny Hotballs are some of your sites most prominent users, you’re either a gay porn site or a new conservative social media site known as ReaganBook.

Yes, my friends, anti-gay nutjob Janet Porter was offended by Facebook and the fact that some of its employees walked in a pride parade, so she launched her own, independent social media site and named it ReaganBook. Let’s be clear, the name was not intended ironically.

Porter, for those who don’t know her, is a conservative of the evangelical sub-variety. She was previously known a Janet Folger. She founded and runs Faith2Action from which she endlessly advocates for her “heartbeat bill” which would ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected in the fetus. She’s a young earth creationist and a diehard believer in the myth the Christians are persecuted in the US. IOW, she’s a garden variety wingnut, bigot and loudmouth.

Anyway, so Janet Porter got her ever bunchable panties in a bunch over something Facebook did, she decided to launch a Facebook for patriots. The site launched and had about 30 or so members. Then various websites noticed it – namely Joe My God. Within hours, the number of users swelled into the hundreds, including the previously mentioned Sofonda Cox, Dixie Normous and Johnny Hotballs. ReaganBook was quickly swamped in a flood of porn, pages dedicted to Ronald Reagan’s titties, and generally offensive and surreal content. Users such as Al Zheimers, Ben Ghazi and Parah Salin signed up to participate in the fun and games.

The Dailybeast observed:

ReaganBook shows no discernable signs of longevity. It’s already been forced to temporarily shut down, after many of its thousand-plus members are trolls calling themselves things like “Albradorft Lincler,” “Al Zheimers,” and “Ben Ghazi.” The site runs tremendously slowly, and its attempts to interact with members through a messaging platform have proven fruitless. There’s hardly any involvement in thought-provoking (and clearly troll-created) pages like “Cut Dicks for Christ,” which simply says: “Calling all cut dicks.”

Everytime you start feeling sorry for Porter and her naive, non-ironic ways, remember this:

Is this immature? Oh, you bet your ass it is. It’s also hilarious. As mean as it may seem to just never let the right have anything nice, let’s not forget that their whole schtick in the first place is to deny actual human rights to a good portion of the country, which is a lot meaner–and quite frankly far more petty and immature than making fun of their sad Ronald Reagan Facebook. They are actively horrid to the left, and really, all we have these days is the fact that we’re right and we’re funnier. Which, my god, they really do hate–so it is important that we keep this up.

Porter and her minions (by minions I mean minion and by minion I mean an IT student from a Christian university), tried frantically to salvage the situation. At one point, the site included a message to users:

Everyone note: We’re under attack. All the disturbing posts and new members are coming from another site. This site is another site. We’ll fix it soon. If you see a friend who has posted disturbing images, tehy (sic) have been hacked.

Within 24 hours of going live, Porter and her abused IT student switched the site into offline mode, effectively shutting it down.

8 Comments

‘Mowing the Grass’ in Gaza

Mowing the grass

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?

More info:
Israel mows the lawn
‘Mowing The Grass’ In Gaza: A War In The Mideast Every Four Years?
Israeli code word for genocide: “Mowing the lawn”

UPDATES:
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.

Gaza death toll surpasses that of Cast Lead as count hits 1,437

56 Comments

You can never be too careful about the Gay Agenda!

Them there gays is even invadin’ the language! Gods own English! The one the bible was writ in!

Seriously, people are insane.

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/58236366-90/says-english-homophones-language.html.csp

3 Comments

Are the Climate Skeptics “Uninformed” or “Intentionally Disingenuous”?

One of the comments in a post on global warming pointed us to what may well be the quintessential example of reality denial. It was in fact so good that I thought it was worth its own top level post. Lets have a look shall we?

Writing as a “contributor” of some kind at Forbes, one Larry Bell decides to take John Kerry to task for supporting science.

Read the rest of this entry »

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From 2003-2013, Ordinary Americans Lost a Third of Their Wealth

Via Alternet:

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.

More info:
What Recovery? You Probably Became Poorer In the Last 10 Years
Americans In Debt: 35 Percent Have Unpaid Bills Reported To Collection Agencies

8 Comments

Are Republicans Incompetent or Short-sighted or Both?

Two posts got my attention today. The first, ironically, was Ed Kilgore’s response to Paul Waldman’s article in the American Prospect.

Kilgore’s response to Waldman was simple:

At the Prospect today, Paul Waldman argues that the Republican Party has been locked in the grip of political incompetence since the 2004 elections. I tend to agree, but while Paul attributes the problem to self-delusion via the closed feedback loop of conservative media, I’d suggest there’s been a tendency to elevate short-term over long-term strategic considerations.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Paul Ryan Poverty Plan: Punish Poor Americans for Being Poor

Blame the victims

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.


More Info:

The Worst Part Of Paul Ryan’s Poverty Plan Is Based On A Media Myth
Seattle raises minimum wage to $15 an hour
Fast food workers vow civil disobedience

24 Comments

Your Big Government is Bad, Our micromanaging Government is for your Own Good

Lets set the old way back machine for 2009. President Obama was all set to deliver what may well be one of the most boring and uncontroversial speeches in history, namely the back-to-school-study-hard-kids pep talk for the beginning of the school year. Conservatives, with their typical projection, decided that the evil commie marxist atheist muslim in office was going to convert all their impressionable young little mouth breathers instantly into liberal scum. Back, through the mists of time…

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Right Wing Propaganda Destroys Your Moral Compass

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…

More info:
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

3 Comments

Iraq Update – Depends On Who You Believe

ISIS truck column

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.

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