Monday, May 4, 2009

Slam dunk

‘Abu Ghraib US prison guards were scapegoats for Bush’ lawyers claim

Charles Graner plans to appeal against his conviction for abusing prisoners

Prison guards jailed for abusing inmates at the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq are planning to appeal against their convictions on the ground that recently released CIA torture memos prove that they were scapegoats for the Bush Administration.

The photographs of prisoner abuse at the Baghdad jail in 2004 sparked worldwide outrage but the previous administration, from President Bush down, blamed the incident on a few low-ranking "bad apples" who were acting on their own.

The decision by President Obama to release the memos showed that the harsh interrogation tactics were approved and authorised at the highest levels of the White House.

Some of the guards who were convicted of abuse want to return to court and argue that the previous administration sanctioned the abuse but withheld its role from their trials.

The latest reaction to the released memos came as it emerged that the two psychologists hired by the CIA to craft the techniques that were used on terror suspects were paid $1,000 (£673) a day. Neither had carried out nor overseen an interrogation.

Twelve guards at Abu Ghraib were convicted on charges related to the abuse, which included attaching leads to naked prisoners, terrifying them with dogs, beatings and slamming them into walls. The wall-slamming was a technique authorised by Justice Department officials at the time, who also said that the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding was not considered to be torture.

Charles Gittins, a lawyer who represents Charles Graner, the ringleader of the guards who is serving a ten-year sentence, said that the memos proved his long-held contention that Graner and the other defendants, including his former lover Lynndie England, could never have invented tactics such as stress positions and the use of dogs on their own.

Cheney's office

The Right goes insane

Evil overlords to flaccid clowns in the blink of Jesus' eye. Adorable!

by Mark Morford

Oh, but take that same vile leviathan and suddenly strip away all its power and influence and capacity for wickedness, and watch it deflate like a wheezing circus tent, quickly turning into a trembling caricature of its former self, a tiny, elfin thing small enough to fit into a shoebox of panic and pathos and residual Godspit.

Behold, this delightful rule in full effect with the once portentous, now pitiable Republican party. Watch in wonder as gaffe follows gaffe, astonishing pronouncement follows childish meltdown, ludicrous statement leads into pure comedy of errors followed by moderate 40-year veterans of the party splitting for bluer, less abusive pastures. What a scene.

There is much good news to be found in the ongoing GOP implosion; their obsession with 'wedge issues' like abortion and gay marriage, along with hilarious claims of socialism and fascism are proving to be the absolute best news for the nation as a whole. Because as the GOP wallows in juvenile spectacle, Obama and the Dems are leaping headlong into one of the most ambitious, invigorating, nation-altering agendas in American history.

Of course, it ain't all flowers and candy. This much unfettered movement for any party, left or right, can also be just insanely dangerous, could theoretically result in a blowback for the Dems exactly as destructive and apocalyptic as the horrendous Bush Era proved to be for the once-temperate Repubs.

Is it already heading that way? Will it happen? Not a chance.

But before we see why, let us enjoy a bit of the comedy. Because really, who could've guessed that, for example, former drug addict and all around bulbous, cigar-chomping radio jackal Rush Limbaugh would turn into the most influential conservative in the country, more powerful than, say, the GOP's own chairman, Michael Steele, who was recently found kneeling to kiss Rush's fat, sweaty ring?

Ah, but even Rush can't match the genuine lump of crazy that is the latest bearded lady to step onstage at the Fox News freakshow, Glenn Beck, a truly insane hunk of weirdness who's fun to watch not for any attempt at genuine insight or O'Reilly-esque pseudo-intelligence, but because of how he endears himself to viewers by acting exactly like your crazy uncle Ernie, the one who eats Miracle Whip straight from the jar and hears voices in his armpits and stares just a bit too long at any 10-year-old within range. Weep on, Glenn!

But weep not for Miss California, who's happy as a Prozac clam to take on the title as the new face of Republican hetero marriage. Isn't she lovely? A skinny, fake-breasted blonde mouthful of air who does exactly as she's told and never questions her scary Bible and doesn't really like sex and you want to stick that thing where? Ewww! She's perfect.


Momma said wonk you out

If you're having a bad day, I highly encourage you to spend some quality time with the Republican budget proposal. It's reads like what would happen if The Onion put together a budget. "Area Man Releases Proposal for 2010 Federal Spending Priorities." (Though, to paraphrase William F. Buckley, it turns out that I'd prefer a federal budget written by an area man than the first six names on the House Republican Leadership roster.)

Bush, famously, described his first budget by saying, "It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it." Indeed it was, and did. This isn't. There are no numbers. Let me repeat that: The Republican budget proposal does not say how much money they would raise, or spend. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a "budget" as "an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time." This is not a budget. It talks about balancing the budget but doesn't explain how. It advocates tax cuts but doesn't estimate their costs. It promises to cut programs but doesn't name them. The threat going around the Capitol is that some impish Democratic chairman will ask the CBO to try and score the Republican proposal.

The health care section, for instance, says that Democrats propose "nearly $1 trillion" in health care spending as a "downpayment" on reform. The actual number is $634 billion, which someone who's more familiar with, you know, numbers, might have characterized as "more than $600 billion," or, alternately, "$634 billion." The Republicans say that "the prime focus of [the Democrats] agenda is the establishment of a government-run health insurance plan," a policy idea that doesn't appear in the President's budget. They say that the Lewin Group has analyzed this policy that doesn't exist and found that it will force three out of four Americans onto government-run health care (the Lewin Group analyzed the Economic Policy Institute's proposal, which is not the President's budget). And so on, and so forth.

The Republican proposal, as you might expect, doesn't actually have a health care plan. But it does have this: "Republicans will be on the side of quality versus mediocrity, affordability versus unsustainable debt, and freedom of care versus bureaucrats in control. And we will be on the side of patients, doctors, and the American people." They are also in favor of good things rather than bad things, moving forward rather than going backwards, the hobbits rather than the orcs, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom. That said, the GOP does understand that some voters might be looking for specificity on their health plan. So they included this graphic:


It's like someone showed them a flowchart. Once. And only for a few seconds. And refused to explain it. My editor Ann Friedman just walked into the room. "It looks like they're building a budget molecule," she said.

Revealed: How George Harrison forged the Beatles' signatures for a dying fan

George Harrison is believed to have forged all the signatures of the Beatles to make a dying fan's wish come true.
The report emerged after an autographed picture of  the band was sold at Keys auctioneers in Aylsham, Norfolk on Friday.
It was donated by Harry Bartlett, of Rickinghall, Suffolk, whose daughter Ann received  the photograph shortly before her death in the late 1960s at the age of 16.
autographed Beatles photographs
The autographed Beatles photographs and a picture of Ann Bartlett, who was just 16 when she died from leukaemia in the 1960s
Andrew Bullock of Keys said it was thought Harrison had copied the signatures of his fellow band members - Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and John Lennon.
'We've sent it to a handwriting expert and it's just about 100 per cent certain that they were done by George,' he said.
'There are quite a few photographs in existence with autographs that were all signed by George. He got quite good at doing it.
'In this case, where you have got this poor girl who is terminally ill, he was probably aware of the situation and thought he should get it sent off as soon as possible.
'That adds a certain something and is actually quite nice.'

Warner Music to Warner Music: You are pirates!

Stephen sez,

Over on the Sire Records web site, they have a big page full of music videos from all their artists... Except that if you actually click on any of them to play, they've *all* been taken down for copyright infringment... by Warner Music Group, Sire's parent company.

Their long arm of the law has stretched all the way around the internet to spank themselves in the ass.


Coincidentally(?), if you go to Warner Music Group's YouTube channel, the first many pages of comments are just angry users lashing out about deleted videos.

You'd think Warner'd be more receptive to people sharing and spreading advertisements for their artists. But they're in such a panic about infringment they've gone so far as to ban even the official videos. Amazing.

Sire Records (Thanks, Stephen!)

A collection of "fan" mail on the Warner Brothers YouTube Page

kplesz (22 minutes ago)
Message to the entertainment industry: There is nothing you can do, short of outlawing technology, that will prevent people from easily and quickly getting copies of stuff. Because that's what technology has made possible. So what you need to do before you completely lose touch with reality (assuming it's not too late already) is to acknowledge that there is no longer a future in making money from content distribution, because technology has put that power in the hands of those who can do it best - the consumer. Sorry guys. Your gravy train is derailed. Find a new way to make money from your consumer..... you know... one that doesn't involve suing them.
queensowntalia (24 minutes ago)
Incompetence. I will never, EVER buy any CD from Warner Music ever again, and I will advise everyone I know to do similar.

Companies run this poorly deserve not a red cent of my money.
ithacated (34 minutes ago)
dear warner music group,
you're not doing a very good job pleasing your customers. in fact, you're ruining youtube. get with the times. do something innovative instead of retreating into a dark corner like an injured dog. chew your leg off, heal, and return to the prowl. because I know you love that prowl.
XXXSBAG (42 minutes ago)
The artists I like get my money because I go to their shows and buy the merch there. I find a lot of new artists by surfing around on YouTube and the internet. It's a shame that good artists who made the mistake of signing with WB will never get my money because I will have never heard of them due to the legal take down notices.
graffle (45 minutes ago)
I believe that as the dissemination of media and copyright law evolves there will be even greater ironies than this, but not many. Unfortunately the biggest loser here is you, WBM. Consider all the potential new revenues you've just lost by disallowing people to hear samples of your product in a way that promotes and reinforces the belief that you've hit the end of the road in your fiscal evolution while annoying potential customers enough that they won't buy your product. and they will be verbose about it. "There is no bad pr" appears to have lost it's relevance.
anothe (1 hour ago)
Hello WBM,
Sire Records, the company YOU own has had all its videos taken down by you. Nice work banning your own official videos.
It makes your company is a laughing stock.
It also brings your company to a new low short changing the artists on your label as well as their fans.
If you cant even feature your own videos on your own sites then it begs the question what are you paying anyone for? Save yourselves the trouble and ban everything and tell the music artists to sign to a label who aren't scum like you.
Kagakusha (1 hour ago)
Haha, you guys are peeing at your own shoes.
OrvelZ (1 hour ago)
You will fail, we will prosper. Go back to the stone ages!

Ron Paul On The Swine Flu Scare

Ronald Reagan: vengeful, score-settling, Hard Left ideologue

This is a perfect illustration of how severely our political spectrum has shifted in the last two decades and how depraved and extremist our political and media classes have become:

Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, today:  "When to Torture":

Torture is an impermissible evil. Except under two circumstances. The first is the ticking time bomb. . . . The second exception to the no-torture rule is the extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives. . . .

Some people, however, believe you never torture. Ever. They are akin to conscientious objectors who will never fight in any war under any circumstances, and for whom we correctly show respect by exempting them from war duty. But we would never make one of them Centcom commander. Private principles are fine, but you don't entrust such a person with the military decisions upon which hinges the safety of the nation. It is similarly imprudent to have a person who would abjure torture in all circumstances making national security decisions upon which depends the protection of 300 million countrymen.

Ronald Reagan, May 20, 1988, transmitting the Convention Against Torture to the Senate for ratification:

The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention.  It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called "universal jurisdiction." Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.

Convention Against Torture, signed and championed by Ronald Reagan, Article II/IV:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. . . Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law.

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, April 29, 2009:

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified.

The views that Ronald Reagan not only advocated, but signed a treaty compelling the U.S. to adhere to, are ones that are now -- in the view of our dominant media narrative -- the hallmarks of The Hard Left:  torture is never justified; there are "no exceptional circumstances" justifying it; it must be declared to be a serious criminal offense ; and -- most of all -- the U.S., as Ronald Regan put it, "is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."  Reagan's explicit view that the concept of "universal jurisdiction" permits signatory nations (such as Spain) to prosecute torturers from other countries (such as the U.S.) is now considered so fringe that it's almost impossible to find someone in mainstream American debates willing to advocate it.

If you now believe about torture and prosecutions exactly what Ronald Reagan advocated in 1988 -- or what Israel today advocates -- then, according to our establishment narrative, you are, by definition, a member of the Hard Left.  And nobody who believes what Reagan advocated could possibly, in Krauthammer's words today, be entrusted with national security decisions.

Contractors paid $1,000 a day to supervise, design torture program

 by Raw Story

Two former military officers, both psychologists, were paid $1,000 a day by the Central Intelligence Agency to supervise the torture and waterboarding of US detainees, according to a report published late Thursday.

According to current and former government officials cited by ABC News, the CIA doled out responsibility for waterboarding to a private contractor, Mitchell Jessen and Associates. Waterboarding of detainees was designed to be "safe" by the two men running the firm, Bruce Jessen and Jim Mitchell.

The two worked out of an unmarked office in Spokane, Washington, according to ABC.

Both men refused to speak on the record — and their refusals (here and here) have been captured on videotape.

"It's clear that these psychologists had an important role in developing what became the CIA's torture program," Jameel Jaffer, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, was quoted as saying.

Ex-U.S. officials told the network the two were the architects of the CIA's 10-step interrogation plan.

"Associates say the two made good money doing it, boasting of being paid a $1,000 a day by the CIA to oversee the use of the techniques on top al Qaeda suspects at CIA secret sites," ABC notes.

"The whole intense interrogation concept that we hear about, is essentially their concepts," according to Col. Steven Kleinman, an Air Force interrogator.

But, the network's reporters add, "it turns out neither Mitchell nor Jessen had any experience in conducting actual interrogations before the CIA hired them.

A Sick Situation

Early this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that anyone with flu symptoms stay home from work or school.

President Obama reiterated that advice at his press conference on Wednesday night. "If you are sick, stay home," he said. "If your child is sick, keep them out of school."

"I know it sounds trivial," the president said, after asking families to start taking other "very sensible precautions" like washing hands and covering up during coughs. "But it makes a huge difference."

The president's admonition to the sick to stay home didn't sound trivial to Silvia Del Valle, a 42-year-old restaurant worker in Miami.

It sounded impossible.

When I spoke to her Thursday morning, Del Valle was sick in bed with a cough and a fever. Was she planning to go to work, I asked her, Obama's press conference still fresh in my mind.

"Yes," she said. "I need to go. Because if I don't go, I lose my job."

Del Valle's not alone. Nearly half of all private sector workers in our country – more than 59 million people – have no paid sick time at all. The problem is particularly acute among women, low-wage workers – more than three-quarters of whom have no paid sick days – and part-timers.

Food service employees are the least likely to have access to sick leave. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, only 14 percent of the people serving and handling food in restaurants can stay home from work when they're coughing and sneezing, without fear of losing their jobs. Jos̩ Oliva, the policy coordinator for the advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, told me that among the food service employees he normally counsels Рmany of whom, like Del Valle, speak poor English and earn well below the minimum wage for tipped employees Рonly about one percent can stay home sick without the fear of losing pay or even their jobs.

1976 Swine Flu Propaganda

Swine gets human flu

Herman Swine of Cincinnati got the flu this week...Mr. Swine (a golfer) will soon return to the links with his wife Patty, once he's feeling up to par!
Herman Swine of Cincinnati got the flu this week but he's better now, according to Dr. Anasaurus Rex, who is seeing a lot of this. "It was just the flu," he reiterated.
Herman Swine of Soo-eee Falls got the flu this week...Mr. Swine (a former police officer) will soon return to the family farm, Swill Hill Acres, once he's feeling in the pink!

Piglet and Pooh