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Torturers, looters and oligarchs let their freak flags fly

The people who variously collapsed the economy, bought the political process and brought torture into polite society are tired of your disrespect and they’re not afraid to let you know it.

The latest in the parade of former Bush administration officials and CIA personnel to come in from the cold the suburbs and either defend or brag about their roles in the Bush torture regimen is psychologist James Mitchell, the prominent member of the helping professions who is credited with having designed the procedures used by the CIA to torture prisoners and is supposed to have tortured at least one prisoner himself. In an interview with The Guardian, Mitchell said “I’m just a guy who got asked to do something for his country by people at the highest level of government, and I did the best that I could.” Mitchell follows in the footsteps of former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who say the times required torture and the results justify it, and anyway it wasn’t torture.

In some circumstances, in some countries, admitting to having not just devised torture procedures but practicing them as well would land one in hot water. In the US, however, torturers have a very prominent advocate for letting bygones be bygones: the current President. In 2009, when he ordered the release of the documents the Bush administration’s legal team wrote to retroactively and prospectively justify torture, President Obama said that “[i]n releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.”
Continue reading Torturers, looters and oligarchs let their freak flags fly

Bartleby, the President

Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby, in a singular mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not to.”
           — Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener

Bartleby, the Scrivener is the story of a man who one day decides he would prefer not to — first work and, eventually, live. We needn’t worry about that with Bartleby, the President. He has too high a degree of self-regard to starve himself from indolence or despair, as should we all, and insufficient attachment to principle to risk his life on a hunger strike.

As you must know, the passions of various Senators on the Senate intelligence committee are inflamed by agents of the CIA having illegally surveilled them and illegally executed covert operations against them. We say illegally because the CIA is proscribed from practicing its arts domestically on anyone, even Senators and their staffs, who probably bear watching more than most of us, even when the CIA believe themselves to have good reason; especially so, in fact, because that’s when the risk is highest. The CIA think they have good reason now because the Senate intelligence committee has been preparing a report that will document the agency’s crimes against humanity, including torturing people and disappearing them.

The surveilling and operating was evidently done with the knowledge and approval of the CIA director, one John Brennan. It is particularly fraught because the CIA is an executive branch agency, and the executive branch is not meant to spy upon or coerce other branches of government. This is in part why the great Richard Nixon lost his job. What we have here is the very definition of a constitutional crisis, a plain breach of the separation of powers.
Continue reading Bartleby, the President

Lickspittles, Poltroons and Slubberdegullions

Referring, obviously, to congressional Democrats who wish to further reduce food stamp benefits and to cast a Nixon spell on the NSA, rendering all its predations lawful. The latter would be Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-NSA), who is expressing her outrage over the eavesdropping on allies by writing legislation that fully legitimates spying on citizens, and the former a host of other Democrats whose starting point in the negotiations about the SNAP program (food stamps) is a $4 billion cut on top of the $5 billion lost as the stimulus ends.
Continue reading Lickspittles, Poltroons and Slubberdegullions

Somebody is seriously pissed off about the Obama administration’s iteration of the national security state

The Obama administration has sprung a gusher. This is pretty remarkable. In the space of three days, we have learned (so far) that

The National Security Agency has been collecting complete call records on Verizon users (and probably all the other telcom customers as well) for perhaps seven years; The National Security Agency is . . . → Read More: Somebody is seriously pissed off about the Obama administration’s iteration of the national security state

James Comey, Obama’s candidate to head the FBI, approved illegal warrantless wiretapping and torture. Forward!

Then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama disappointed some of his liberal supporters when he voted in 2008 to immunize our country’s giant telecommunications firms from any consequences of cooperating with the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping scheme. Now, he’s nominating a champion of that scheme to head the FBI.

James Comey, who served as . . . → Read More: James Comey, Obama’s candidate to head the FBI, approved illegal warrantless wiretapping and torture. Forward!

Routine carnage in Boston

I was browsing through my news feed yesterday morning when I ran across a story about the US bombing a wedding in Afghanistan. I thought something like “Jeez, again?”* and didn’t click through for the full story because it was so familiar. Now I can’t find it, but I think it said 30 dead. . . . → Read More: Routine carnage in Boston

From Newtown to Kabul, the sounds of freedom

Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. doesn’t say what sounds “close-air support overhead” resembles, probably on the assumption that his audience, readers of the American Forces Press Service, do not need a description. He does say that the sounds “are often referred to as “the sounds of freedom,”” although he doesn’t say . . . → Read More: From Newtown to Kabul, the sounds of freedom

The Obama justice department: never met a bigfoot badman they couldn’t work with

The surprise in the Obama administration’s deal with London-based HSBC, the money-laundering enterprise moonlighting as the world’s third-largest bank, is that it came in the guise of a criminal prosecution. The bank has pleaded guilty to breaking some laws. Nobody who works or worked at the bank is guilty, though; just the corporate person, . . . → Read More: The Obama justice department: never met a bigfoot badman they couldn’t work with

Bad things your mad dog government has got up to lately; the Unity Candidate arrives

The law is a ass, and it wants to see yours. Watch what you think; don’t think it out loud; don’t think it in the vicinity of a marijuana dispensary. Good news: the one candidate who can truly unite Americans of all political stripes has jumped into the race.

In a decision supported by the Obama administration, the Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that security services can strip search anyone they arrest even when they have no reason to think the search is necessary. Given the latitude police have to determine probable cause for arrests, the ruling licenses police to arrest and subject anyone to a strip search for no particular reason.

In his dissent to the ruling, Justice Stephen Bryer paraphrased the language of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” Breyer described unwarranted strip searches as an “affront to human diginity.”

Continue reading Bad things your mad dog government has got up to lately; the Unity Candidate arrives

Ain’t gonna study war … oh, never mind. Plus: torture inquiries! (Not here, of course.)

Like as not we’re now fighting three generations of Taliban in Afghanistan. Can we hold on long enough to make it four? Yes We Can!

The Department of Homeland Security just extended an ammunition contract for up to 450 million .40 caliber hollow-point rounds. That works out to something like 150 15-round clips for every DHS employee, including the IT guys. So don’t ask them to reboot the internet when your browser locks up.

Other countries actually attempt to hold people accountable for torture and stuff, even when it was on our dime. Novel!

Continue reading Ain’t gonna study war … oh, never mind. Plus: torture inquiries! (Not here, of course.)