Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Name:
Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Not Permitted

Colonel Larry Wilkerson and George Tenet helped prepare Colin Powell, for his presentation at the United Nations. Wilkerson insists: “I look back with the knowledge I have now, and I realize that the secretary of state and certainly I were not told the complete truth about the intelligence with regard to Iraq, and that Secretary Powell’s credibility was put on the line at the U.N., and that, if anyone gave the most convincing presentation for war with Iraq, it was he, and it was wrong... Some of it was souped-up... Some of it was tailored carefully, so it would be very powerful, if it had been put in context, it would have been extremely weak. Some of the circumstantial stuff was made to seem more than circumstantial.  It was twisted and shaped in a way that made it look definitive.  It was a clever job.”

However, Wilkerson maintains, that he cannot tell us, when a decision was made to go to war with Iraq. Perhaps, it was prior to 1998, when Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz were among 18 signatures on a letter to then President Clinton, which urged a preemptive war against Saddam Hussein. Of the eighteen signers of that letter; eleven held post in the Bush administration, when Iraq was invaded. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill confirms that ten days after Bush’s inauguration the focus at the first National Security Council meeting was war with Iraq.

Richard Clarke reported, that within hours of the 9/11 attack, Rumsfeld was suggesting Iraq as a battlefield. Not because al Qaeda was there, but because it offered “better targets” than the elusive bin Laden in Afghanistan. Clark wrote: “We invaded and occupied an oil rich Arab country that posed no threat to us...We delivered to al Qaeda the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable.”

On MSNBC’s Hardball, Chris Matthews wondered: “Well, my belief is that we were sold on the war by people that wanted us to go to war.  And they cooked up reasons as we went along.  And they kept changing to get us in the war. And I don’t know if I will ever get to the bottom of why we went to that war, but the reasons don’t add up.”

Looting Iraq, for its oil reserves is a violation of the Geneva Convention, and to point that out on national T.V. is not permitted.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Torture Works!

Former Vice President Cheney claims: “This whole question of detainees and interrogation of detainees and the terror surveillance program and so forth, closing Guantanamo, I don’t think the vast majority of Americans support what he wants to do.  I think, in fact, most Americans are pleased when they think about it, that we were able to go nearly eight years without another major attack on the United States.  They think we handled it pretty well, that piece of it... But I think what we did in the whole counter-terrorist area was extremely effective.”

Torture worked for al Qaeda, because torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons created more terrorists throughout the world. There is not one iota of evidence that torture worked to make us safer. Torture defenders like to use the library tower plot as an example and continue to peddle the ridiculous Jack Bauer story that the people of Los Angeles were saved only by the Bush regime’s willing to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In fact, the plot was foiled a year before Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured, and the FBI is skeptical that there ever really was a plot. 

David Morris attended our military’s SERE program, which stands for Survive, Evade, Resist and Escape.  This was the venue were many of the Bush/Cheney techniques were tested on Marines to prepare them for possible torture situations. Morris has reported: “While I was in the school, I lived like an animal.  I was hooded, beaten, starved, stripped naked, and hosed down in the December air until I became hypothermic. At one point, I couldn’t speak because I was shivering so hard, thrown into a 3 x 3 foot cage with only a rusted coffee can to piss into.  I was told that the worst had yet to come. I was only incarcerated for a few days, but my mind quickly disintegrated.

Jesse Ventura, the former Minnesota governor and presidential candidate, insists, that if he waterboarded Sean Hannity, he’d get the right-wing Fox News host to say that “Barack Obama is the greatest president.” Ventura stated his opposition to the use of waterboarding, which he himself experienced as part of his training as a Navy SEAL.

Conservative Radio Host Mancow Muller thought waterboarding was no big deal, so he decided to allowed himself to be waterboard on his radio show. He wanted to see what it was like and to share it, with his audience. He lasted six seconds and admitted: “It was instantaneous. I do not want to say this.  Absolutely torture....If I were being interrogated in that way, I would confess to anything.”

Former Vice President Cheney expected us to believe, that kind of treatment will to get someone to disclose reliable information.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Diversity and Empathy

Sen. Orrin Hatch commented, that the word “empathy” is code for activist.

Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee responded: “I think it’s clear that for a person and a justice who has empathy, we want that person to follow the rule of law, to follow judicial precedent.  There’s plenty of room in there. I think we want a person on the court that’s going to have a passion for the protections in our Constitution.  If you want to call that liberal, call it liberal. I call it common sense and traditionalist. I want a justice who’s going to follow the precedence of the court, follow the rule of law, have empathy for what is happening out in the community.  To me, that’s a traditional justice that I want, and I think that’s who the president should appoint.”

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy pointed out:  “Having only one woman on the Supreme Court does not reflect the makeup of the United States.  I think we should have more women.  We should have more minorities.  I would like to see more people from outside the judicial monastery, somebody, who has had some real life experience. 

A nominee that would guarantee religious and sexual diversity would be an agnostic woman. Hypothetically, let’s assume she had experienced a physically abusive relationship, but presently is content living in a committed lesbian relationship. At sixteen she became pregnant and had seriously considered an abortion. Instead, she elected to give birth and raised a wonderful son, while working numerous minimal wage jobs. That son became her pride and joy. He did very well is school and joined the Army with the hope of having his college tuition paid, after serving in Iraq. He was killed by a roadside bomb and like other Gold Star mothers this woman endures lifelong grief.

Such a nominee would bring the added dimension of empathy. True empathy is usually ensured by first hand experienced with violence, poverty, intolerance, discrimination, shattered hope and devastating grief.

Alas, Obama has nominates Judge Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice. She’ll be confirmed by the Senate, but next time let’s consider a nominee with a little more diversity and empathy.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fear of Death

In 1950, atheist Bertrand Russell won the Nobel Prize in Literature, which is rather surprising, since in 1927, he wrote:

“Religion is based, primarily upon fear. Fear is the basis of the whole thing-fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. It is no wonder that cruelty and religion have gone hand-in-hand. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, a little to master them by the help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, to no longer to look around for imaginary supports, or invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this a fit place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it to be.

“We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world — its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Freedom of Thought

Bertrand Russell won the Nobel Prize in Literature, for “significant writings in which he championed humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.” Among his controversial writings was: “Many a man will have the courage to die gallantly, but will not have the courage to say, or even think, that the cause for which he is asked to die is an unworthy one.”

Freedom of thought was demonstrated by John Kerry, when In 1971, he asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “How do you ask a man to be the last to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?”

Marine General Anthony Zinni established his impeccable credentials during nearly forty years of military service. After retirement, he served as Colin Powell’s special envoy to the Middle East, before disagreements over the Iraq war and its probable aftermath caused him to resign. Zinni is quoted by Tom Clancy in “Battle Ready;” a segment entitled “The Obligation to Speak the Truth.”

Zinni said: “In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence, and corruption. False rationales presented as justification; a flawed strategy; lack of planning; the unnecessary alienation of our allies; the underestimation of the task; the unnecessary distraction from real threats, and the unbearable strain dumped on our overstretched military, all of these caused me to speak out.” For speaking out Zinni was called a traitor and a turncoat by Pentagon officials. Zinni strongly disagrees with the mentality which says: “As long as guys are dying out there, it is morally reprehensible to criticize the flawed policies and tactics that put them into the predicaments.”

Career counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke served under four presidents beginning as an analyst on nuclear weapons under Reagan and established a record for continuous service in national security policy positions. His book “Against All Enemies” is a non-partisan chronology of the facts before, during and after 9/11. He was the nations crisis manager in Bush’s White House situation room. Clarke reports that within hours of the 9/11 attack, Donald Rumsfeld was suggesting Iraq as a battlefield. Not because al Qaeda was there, but because it offered “better targets” than the elusive bin Laden in Afghanistan. Clark insisted: “We invaded and occupied an oil rich Arab country that posed no threat to us...We delivered to al Qaeda the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable.”

In 1993, Clinton ordered cruise missiles launched against Iraqi intelligence headquarters. Initially, Clarke was disappointed that the response had been so small. Ten years later he wrote: .... “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities never developed any evidence of further Iraqi support for terrorism directed against Americans. Until we invaded Iraq in 2003.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Onward Christian Soldiers

“We understand and the American people are beginning to understand.  This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while.” - President George W. Bush 2001

Atheist Bertrand Russell wrote: “I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its Churches, has been and still is the principle enemy of progress in the world. So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.”

An article in “GQ” magazine reported, that some classified briefings sent by the Department of Defense to Bush had cover sheets with quotes from the Bible. The Worldwide Intelligence Update, was a daily digest of critical military intelligence so classified that it circulated among only a handful of Pentagon leaders and the president. The briefing’s cover sheet generally featured triumphant, color images from the previous days’ war efforts.

On March 31, 2003, the intelligence update showed a U.S. tank roaring through the desert beneath a quote from Ephesians: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” On April 7, the image was of Saddam Hussein in a dictatorial pose, under a passage from the First Epistle of Peter: “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”

A few days latter, the cover sheet showed the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down in Firdos Square, a grateful Iraqi child kissing an American soldier, and jubilant crowds thronging the streets of newly liberated Baghdad. Above those images, was a quote from the book of Psalms: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him…To deliver their soul from death.” Another cover sheet featured a picture of a kneeling soldier and a passage from Proverbs: “Commit to the lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed,” Proverbs 16:3. 

Major General Glen Shaffer was a director for intelligence serving both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense. Initially, his staff had created humorous covers in an attempt to alleviate the stress of preparing for battle the Iraq war. Shaffer deemed the biblical passages suitable, but several others in the Pentagon disagreed, and at least one Muslim analyst was greatly offended.

Apparently, top Pentagon officials were unconcerned about the effect such a disclosure might have on the conduct of the war. When colleagues complained to Maj. Gen. Shaffer, that including a religious message with an intelligence briefing seemed inappropriate, Shaffer politely informed them that the practice would continue, because “my seniors” (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, Donald Rumsfeld, and Bush) appreciated those cover pages.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hasta la vista

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas continues to entertain the idea of secession. Separatist in Texas might considered what would happen if they seceded and Washington decides not to send in federal troops to quell their rebellion.

The taxes in Texas would have to increase drastically. Since 2001, FEMA alone sent 3,449,000,00 to Texas. NASA would be pulled out of Houston, which would cost 26,000 jobs, and another 2.5 billion lost from their economy. The financial impact of closing of Ft. Hood would be another 6 billion. The people of Texas would need to pay for their own Air Force, Army and Navy.  The would lose their Social Security, Medicare, and the Post Office. Texas students would lose the billion dollars in Pell Grants, which they received for the academic year 2006-2007. 

Texas would be surrounded by the United States and Mexico and the border fence on its southern border would no longer be the responsibility of American taxpayers. In 11 years, the Republic of Texas could face a political nightmare, because Mexican Texans might be able to pass a ballot initiative on whether or not Texas should become part of Mexico. Presently, Texas is 48 percent Anglo, and 36 percent Hispanic, but by 2020, every projection has Anglos being outnumbered by Hispanics in Texas, and by 2040, the Anglos will comprise barely a fourth of the population of Texas. 

Politically, it would be a fantastic for the Democratic Party. The departure of Texas would provide Senate Democrats with a filibuster free majority. The Democrats in California, New York, Florida, Illinois and Michigan would gain the largest portion of those Texas electoral college votes. It’s been calculation, that if Texas had succeeded from the union last year, Obama would have won the electoral college by 242 votes, not by 192. 

Succession might not be such a bad idea. Hasta la vista!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Distraction

Apparently, the Bush-Cheney crowd is suddenly concerned about conspiracy, transparency and accountability. Karl Rove questioned in The Wall Street Journal: “Is the speaker of the House lying about what she knew and when?  If she knew what was going on and did nothing, does that make her an accessory to a crime of torture, as many Democrats are calling enhanced interrogation?”

Enhanced interrogation is a right-wing term, but implied in his remark, Rove admitted that torture is a crime. The essence of his statement isn’t about the truth or upholding the law, it’s about creating a distraction. Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are doing the same thing, they’re trying to save the reputation of all of Bush’s cronies and their own. 

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi responded: “This is their policy, all of them.  This is their policy, this is what they conceived, this is what they developed, this is what they implemented, this is what they denied was happening.  And now they’re trying to say don’t put the spotlight on us, we told the Congress.  Well, they didn’t tell us everything that they were doing, and the fact is that anything we would say doesn’t matter anyway.” 

Former Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is on record backing up Nancy Pelosi’s comments about the CIA briefings. Former Sen. Graham said: “I think she got it exactly right.  Torture was a Bush-Cheney policy.  They broke the law and they got caught.  All this Pelosi stuff is just a desperate attempt by Republicans to distract the media and muddy the waters.” 

A recent Senate hearing revealed, that Bush lawyers were told to find a way to make torture legal. Bush’s Office of Legal Council assigned attorneys Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury the task of legitimatizing the CIA’s “harsh interrogation techniques,” in 2002 and again in 2005. Speaker Pelosi suggested that the same thing happened at the intelligence briefings on interrogation tactics. She said: “I was told they were using enhanced interrogation techniques, but that water boarding was not being used.” 

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer pointed out, that the issue is, that if all 435 members of the House said torture was OK. It wouldn’t justify the president or anybody under the commander in chief’s control to break the law, either the domestic law or international treaties in which we have entered. 

It doesn’t really matter what Nancy Pelosi knew or when did she know it, because the issue is, who came up with the torture policy?  And, who broke the law?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pressure to Justify

Paul Pillar is the first high level C.I.A. insider to speak out on the use of prewar intelligence. After 28 years with the C.I.A., Pillar retired in 2005, as senior intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005. He alleges that official intelligence was misused to justify decisions to topple Saddam Hussein. A decision, which had already been made, before 9/11. He claims the administration repeatedly asked the same questions, but when intelligence analysts resisted giving them the answers they wanted, Pillar and others were accused of “trying to sabotage the president’s policies.”

Reportedly, former Vice President Cheney’s office suggested water boarding an Iraqi prisoner suspected of knowing about a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, in order to bolster his case for the war in Iraq. Charles A. Duelfer was the leader of the Iraq Survey Group, which searched for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In his book, Charles Duelfer wrote that reports were sent to the vice president’s office, and someone in that office suggested that water boarding be used on Abu Zubaydah. 

Abu Zubaydah was one of the highest-ranking secret police officers in Saddam’s security apparatus and interrogations began immediately after his arrest. He was suspected of having information about WMDs and a connection between the Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda. 

In August of 2002, the water boarding of Abu Zubaydah began, after a strong push from the vice president’s office.  That is precisely the time that the Bush administration began their push for the Congressional War Resolution to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Ibn Sheikh al-Libbi was a Libyan paramilitary trainer for al Qaeda. After being captured and interrogated by the American and Egyptian forces, the information he gave under torture was cited by the Bush regime in the months preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq as evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Ibn Sheikh al-Libbi said, what the Bush regime wanted him to say, so that they could lead us into a war, with no real evidence. The purpose behind the water boarding of Abu Zubaydah and Ibn Sheikh al-Libbi was to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Recently, Ibn Sheikh al-Libbi died in a Libyan prison cell. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ali Soufan

Former Vice President Cheney has been telling the media that torture works. He’s trying to drown out new evidence that torture actually weakened American security, by insisting, that enhanced interrogation techniques helped our government acquire intelligence necessary to prevent further attacks after September 11, 2001.

Veteran FBI interrogator Ali Soufan was involved in the interrogation of CIA detainee Abu Zubaydah. In testimony before the Senate, Soufan took issue with former Vice President Cheney claim that torture has made us safer. He testified, that “harsh interrogation methods are harmful, shameful, slower, unreliable, ineffective, and play directly into the enemy’s handbook.”

In a written statement Ali Soufan said: “From my experience -- and I speak as someone who has personally interrogated many terrorists and elicited important actionable intelligence. I strongly believe that it is a mistake to use what has become known as the enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Soufan told the Senate committee that within the first hour of his interrogating Zubaydah, the suspected terrorist provided actionable intelligence. However, once the CIA contractors took over and used harsh methods, Soufan said, Zubaydah stopped talking. When Soufan was asked to resume questioning, Zubaydah cooperated, but after another round of more coercive techniques used by the CIA contractors, Soufan said it was difficult for him to re-engage Zubaydah.

Soufan claims: “People were given misinformation, half-truths and false claims of successes; and reluctant intelligence officers were given instructions and assurances from higher authorities. I wish to do my part to ensure that we never again use these techniques instead of the tried, tested and successful ones -- the ones that are also in sync with our values and moral character. Only by doing this will we defeat the terrorists as effectively and quickly as possible.” This position is shared by many professional operatives, including the CIA officers who were present at the initial phases of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation.

A recently released Bush regime memo showed that CIA interrogators used waterboarding at least 266 times on Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected planner of the September 11 attacks. So much for “enhanced interrogation techniques” obtaining reliable information in a timely manner.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Peter Orszag

The Obama administration been working with medical insurance associations, and pharmaceutical groups in an effort that could save more than $2 trillion over the next decade.

The fact that the medical-industrial complex is trying to shape health care reform rather than block it is a positive sign, and we may finally get a system that guarantees essential health care to all its citizens.

Effective cost control would change not just for health care, but America’s fiscal future. Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag has emphasized, that rising health care costs are the main reason long-run budget projections look so grim, and that slowing the rate at which those costs rise will provide a far brighter future.

Budget Director Orszag wrote on his White House website, that we must improve tax compliance and eliminate unjustified tax breaks for narrow interest groups.

As a matter of fairness the tax code must limit the tax rate at which families making more than $250,000 can take itemized deductions to a maximum of 28 percent. Currently, if you’re a teacher making $50,000 a year and decide to donate $1,000 to the Red Cross, you’ll enjoy a tax break of $150. However, should billionaire Warren Buffet makes the same donation, he’d get a $350 deduction, which is more than twice the break of the teacher.

The best way to boost charitable giving is to jump-start the economy and raise incomes. The Recovery Act enacted in the Obama administration’s first month in office intends to do that. The limitation on itemized deductions is now expected to raise about $267 billion over the next 10 years, which we will devote entirely to health care reform. All together, these policies would raise a total of $635 billion to be devoted to health care reform.

More savings than this will be needed to pay for comprehensive health care reform in its entirety, but Peter Orszag believes that it represents a historic commitment. He looks forward to working with Congress to bring about, and pay for fundamental health care reform this year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weakened Military

Three words cost Dan Choi his military career.  He’s received a letter from the Army informing him that he is being dismissed. The letter states: “this is to inform you that sufficient basis exists to initiate action for withdrawal of federal recognition in the Army National Guard for moral or professional dereliction.  Specifically, you admitted publicly that you are a homosexual, which constitutes homosexual conduct.  Your actions negatively affected the good order and discipline of the New York Army National Guard.” 

Choi’s reaction was: “the letter is basically saying bottom line, Lieutenant Dan Choi, you’re fired.  You’re a West Point graduate, you’re fired.  You’re an Arabic linguist, you’re fired.  You deployed to Iraq, you’re willing to deploy again, doesn’t matter.  Because you’re gay, that’s enough grounds to kick you out.” 

Choi described the reaction of his fellow troops to the words, “I am gay,” thusly: “So many people came up to me, my peers, my subordinates, people that outranked me, folks that have been in the Army—and this is an infantry unit, infantry men that—coming up to me and saying, hey, sir, hey, Lieutenant Choi, we know, and we don’t care.  What we care about is that you can contribute to the team.  And what leaders do, they look to see how can they make the best team before they go to war.  That’s what they care about.” 

Lt. Choi can either resign and get an honorable discharge, or he can fight it. He intends to fight it: “I believe that don’t ask, don’t tell is wrong, and what we really need to be encouraging soldiers to do is to don’t lie, don’t hide, don’t discriminate, and don’t weaken the military.  That’s what we need to be promoting. 

Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman, Joe Sestak is a retired Navy rear admiral and is the highest-ranking former military officer to serve in Congress.  His reaction to Lieutenant Choi’s impending dismissal from the Army was: “Congress, with this president, needs to act upon this.  I have appreciated that the president is rightly focused on economic security and now with this budget, but I believe this summer or early this fall that we need to correct this.” 

Lt. Choi’s response to Rep. Sestak’s comments: “I’m not a politician myself.  I just, like so many thousands of others, gay and lesbian that are in the Army, that are in the armed forces, raised their right hand, they said—you know, we’re in a time of war right now.  It’s not about what timing is good or bad.  It’s not about what you want to do.  It’s about what your responsibility is.  We’re saying that we’re standing up to our responsibility and we’re saying we want to serve. ”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Three Words

The policy of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” was conceived in 1993 by the Clinton administration. Gay military personnel are technically allowed to serve their country but only if they lie about their sexual orientation.  Disclosing that you’re gay, saying it, counts as homosexual conduct, and is grounds for dismissal. According to the Obama administration “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is wrong and it should be repealed, but he hasn’t taken any action to implement that position.

Last January, Army 2nd Lieutenant Sandy Tsao announced to her military chain of command that she is gay. Thus, she violated “don’t ask, don’t tell.” She wrote a letter to Obama urging him to repeal the ban and expressing a her fear that she would be kicked out of the military as a result of her decision.

Recently, Obama responded to Lieutenant Tsao’s letter with a handwritten note of his own.  It reads: “Sandy, thanks for the wonderful and thoughtful letter.  It is because of outstanding Americans like you that I committed to changing our current policy.  Although it will take some time to complete, partly because it needs congressional action, I intend to fulfill my commitment.”  The letter is signed “Barack Obama.”

She was informed, that she’ll be discharged from the military on 5/19/09. Today, Lieutenant Tsao’s military career ends. 

Over the past 15 years, “don’t ask, don’t tell” has led to the dismissal of approximately 12,500 members of our armed forces, and for now, it is still U.S. law under commander in chief Barack Obama. 

Army Lieutenant Daniel Choi is a West Point graduate, Iraq combat veteran, and an Arabic language specialist. He’s the founding member of the organization Knights Out, which is a group of West Point grads who have announced that they are gay or lesbian. Recently, on national television, Lieutenant Choi announced: “I am an infantry platoon leader in the New York Army National Guard, and by saying three words to you today—I am gay—those three words are a violation of Title X of the U.S. Code.” 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wrong Again!

On 5/14/09, Richard Averett, of Otego had the following letter published in the Oneonta Star.

“While RNC Chairman Michael Steele is going at it with Rush Limbaugh, other prominent Republicans are trying to prevent the new ‘face’ of the party from becoming Sarah Palin.

“Their ‘new’ message is indistinguishable from rhetoric from the past eight years, and longer even.

“From Nixon to Bush, it’s always the same: scapegoat a group to rally the base, whether it’s war protesters, poor single mothers or illegal Mexican immigrants, and use fear as a way to garner support from the general population. Adolf Hitler refined these tactics more than 70 years ago. Republicans are merely playing the same old song that’s draped in Old Glory and wrapped in a Bible.

“When they finally DO figure out what Americans really want, they will realize that Americans want a party that stands for more than just restricting women’s reproductive choices, that feverishly promotes the sale of automatic weapons while preventing legislation to keep mentally unfit people and criminals from obtaining firearms (the ‘gun-show loophole’), or that consistently favors the charter of corporations over the Constitutional rights of citizens.

“Reagan’s ‘supply side economics’ cut the marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans from 70 percent to 38 percent and shifted the tax burden to the middle class. He left the U.S. in deep debt. By 2000, Clinton delivered a surplus of more than $230 billion, which George Bush immediately squandered on tax cuts for the wealthy. By 2008, the U.S. deficit had soared to more than $4 trillion, thanks to gross mismanagement by the Republican Congress under Bush.

“Now, some of these same politicians have the audacity to criticize Obama, all the while hoping that amnesia-prone Americans can’t recall the past eight years and the role Republicans played in the economic catastrophe that has befallen us.

“Wrong again!”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Single Payer Care

Our government spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, but still has nearly 50 million people without health insurance. A majority of American physicians and the public support such single-payer health care, but many have questions about how single-payer would work.

Myth: Single-payer would cost too much. Actually, because of our patchwork system of private insurance, more than 30% of every health care dollar is spent on administration rather than on care. This includes underwriting, marketing, billing, denying claims, profit and paper-pushing that is foisted on hospitals and physician offices. By eliminating private insurance, a single-payer system would reduce administrative spending by roughly half (nearly $400 billion annually). These savings are enough to provide every American with comprehensive health insurance, without increasing total spending.

Myth: Single-payer would cost businesses too much. In fact, because a single-payer system is more efficient than our current system, health care costs would be lower, and businesses that already provide health care benefits would save money. In Canada, the three major auto manufacturers (Ford, GM and Daimler-Chrysler) have all publicly endorsed Canada’s single-payer health system from a business and financial standpoint. In the U.S., Ford pays more for its workers’ health insurance than for the steel to make its cars.

Myth: Lines for care would be extremely long. In countries with single-payer, urgently needed care is always provided immediately. People in these countries may have to wait for some elective procedures like cataract removal or knee replacement for arthritis, but because the U.S. spends double what they do on health care - and would continue to spend this much under a single-payer system - access to care here would be better and our waits would be much shorter.

Myth: People would overuse the system. Most estimates do indicate that there would be some increased use of the system, mostly by the nearly 50 million people who currently do not have health insurance. However, the dramatic savings from a single-payer system would easily cover the increased use of some services. Remember, doctors would still control most health care utilization - patients don’t typically receive prescriptions or tests just because they want them, but because their doctors have deemed them appropriate.

Myth: Government programs are wasteful and inefficient. Some are better than others, just as some businesses are better than others. Just to name a few of the most successful and helpful: the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Social Security. Consider Medicare, which is national health insurance for the elderly; its overhead is approximately 3% of every health care dollar spent on administration, while overhead and profits for private insurance can add up to more than 15%.

Myth: The government would make health care decisions for patients and dictate how physicians practice medicine. In countries with a national health insurance system, physicians are rarely questioned about their medical practice, and usually only in cases of suspected fraud. Compare this to our system, where patients and doctors routinely must ask insurance companies for permission for certain procedures, tests and treatments.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Republican Strategy

The Republican strategy is to pretend to support health care reform. They intend to mislead Americans about the public health insurance option, in Obama’s plan, by scaring enough people to doom reform.

The choice of a public health insurance plan is crucial to real health care reform, but it’s being smeared by insurance-industry front groups. Here’s what you really need to know:

If the public health insurance option passes, Americans will be able to choose between their current insurance and a high-quality, government-run plan similar to Medicare. If you like your current care, you can keep it. If you don’t, you can get the public insurance plan.

The public insurance plan will be high-quality coverage with a choice of doctors. Government-run plans have a track record of innovating to improve quality, because they’re not just focused on short-term profits. And if you choose the public plan, you’ll still get to choose your doctor and hospital.

Everyone will save money. The public health insurance option won’t have to spend money on things like CEO bonuses, shareholder dividends, or excessive advertising, so it’ll cost a lot less. Plus, the private plans will have to lower their rates and provide better value to compete, so people who keep their current insurance will also save money.

Healthcare will always be there for you and your family. A for-profit insurer can move out of the area, or just kick you off their insurance rolls. The public health insurance option will always be available to provide you with the health security you need.

The key part of universal health care is that sick people in rural communities, or low-income Americans will no longer be forced to go without coverage. The public health insurance plan will be available and accessible to everyone. And for those struggling to make ends meet, the premiums will be subsidized by the government.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Janis Karpinski

Retired Brigadier General Janis Karpinski was commander of the prisons in Iraq. Recently, she pointed out that there is a direct line from the torture memos to what occurred at Abu Ghraib prison. Karpinski insists that the policies, permissions and the directives included in those memorandums were brought to Abu Ghraib by Brigadier General Geoffrey Miller from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The harsher interrogation techniques migrated with Miller and his Tiger Team of about 24 people, who were assigned to advise the military intelligence interrogators in Iraq.

Recently, Janis Karpinski had the opportunity to for the first time meet some of the soldiers that had been labeled “the seven bad apples.”  She reports, that a sergeant went to his First Sergeant and then to his Company Commander, and told them: “I don’t like what’s going on over there.”  He was told, that military intelligence was making the rules and to do what they’re telling you to do. He spent another night at the prison, before going back to the company’s commander to insist: “No, I’m not.  You move me.”  They did move him, but he was convicted along with Private Lynndie England and Corporal Charles Graner.

President Obama has said CIA officers, that were told, what they were doing was legitimate should not be prosecuted. Former Lieutenant General Janis Karpinski (she was demoted) said:  “This is one of the most shameful aspects of these memos.” She is very upset that those at the highest levels of our government had crafted the torture memos to meet the requirements of the techniques, that they wanted to use. Donald Rumsfeld and General Sanchez were well aware of those memorandums, but said nothing while men and a woman of the lowest ranks were being accused five years ago.

On national television, Karpinski argued, that former Vice President Cheney is now claiming, that the torture was necessary and that it produced good intelligence, but five years ago, he didn’t step up to the plate to say: “Hold on, we can’t discuss this because this is classified information, but these soldiers did not design these techniques.”

Karpinski points out, that it’s taken five years for these memos to be declassified and released, but some people still are saying, that what happened at Abu Ghraib was different than what these memorandums were directing. Obviously, it was not.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Legal Opinions

In a memo dated 5/10/05, Steven Bradbury advised the following regarding the practice of “dietary manipulation.”

“This technique involves the substitution of commercial liquid meal replacements for normal food, presenting detainees with a bland, unappetizing, but nutritionally complete diet. You have informed us that the CIA believes dietary manipulation makes other techniques, such as sleep deprivation, more effective. Medical officers are required to ensure adequate fluid and nutritional intake, and frequent medial monitoring takes place while any detainee is undergoing dietary manipulation.”

Regarding “nudity” Bradbury memo wrote:

“This technique is used to cause psychological discomfort, particularly if a detainee, for cultural or other reasons, is especially modest. When the technique is employed, clothing can be provided as an instant reward for cooperation. During and between interrogation sessions, a detainee may be kept nude, provided that ambient temperatures and the health of the detainee permit... Interrogators can exploit the detainee’s fear of being seen naked. In addition, female officers involved in the interrogation process may see the detainees naked, and … we will assume that detainees subjected to nudity as an interrogation technique are aware that they may be seen naked by females.”

Regarding the “abdominal slap,” Steven Bradbury’s memo stated:

“In this technique, the interrogator strikes the abdomen of the detainee with the back of his open hand. The interrogator must have no rings or other jewelry on his hand. The interrogator is positioned directly in front of the detainee, generally no more than than 18 inches from the detainees. With his fingers held tightly together and fully extended, and with his palm toward the interrogator’s own body, using his elbow as a fixed pivot point, the interrogator slaps the detainee in the detainee's abdomen. The interrogator may not use a fist, and the slap must be delivered above the navel and below the sternum. This technique is used to condition a detainee to pay attention to the interrogator’s questions and to dislodge expectations that the detainee will not be touched.”

Regarding “water dousing,” Mr. Bradbury wrote:

“Cold water is poured on the detainee either from a container or from a hose without a nozzle. This technique is intended to weaken the detainee’s resistance and persuade him to cooperate with interrogators. … A medical officer must observe and monitor the detainee throughout application of this technique, including for signs of hypothermia.”

Regarding “sleep deprivation for more than 48 hours,” Mr. Bradbury advise:

“The primary method of sleep deprivation involves the use of shackling to keep the detainee awake. In this method, the detainee is standing and is handcuffed, and the handcuffs are attached by a length of chain to the ceiling. The detainee’s hands are shackled in front of his body, so that the detainee has approximately a two- to three-foot diameter of movement. The detainee’s feet are shackled to a bolt in the floor… We understand that a detainee undergoing sleep deprivation is generally fed by hand by CIA personnel so that he need not be unshackled…
If the detainee is clothed, he wears an adult diaper under his pants … If the detainee is wearing a diaper, it is checked regularly and changed as necessary. The use of the diaper is for sanitary and health purposes of the detainee; it is not used for the purpose of humiliating the detainee and it is not considered to be an interrogation technique. The maximum allowable duration for sleep deprivation authorized by the CIA is 180 hours ... You have informed us that to date, more than a dozen detainees have been subjected to sleep deprivation of more than 48 hours, and three detainees have been subjected to sleep deprivation of more than 96 hours.”

Regarding a “combination of techniques,” being used Bradbury advised:

“Your office has outlined the manner in which many of the individual techniques we previously considered could be combined … In a prototypical interrogation, the detainee begins his first interrogation session stripped of his clothes, shackled, and hooded, with the walling collar over his head and around his neck. … The interrogators remove the hood and explain that the detainee can improve his situation by cooperating and may say that the interrogators ‘will do what it takes to get important information.’ As soon as the detainee does anything inconsistent with the interrogators’ instructions, the interrogators use an insult slap or abdominal slap. They employ walling if it becomes clear that the detainee is not cooperating in the interrogation. This sequence ‘may continue for several more iterations as the interrogators continue to measure the [detainee’s] resistance posture and apply a negative consequence to [his] resistance efforts.’ The interrogators and security officers then put the detainee into position for standing sleep deprivation, begin dietary manipulation through a liquid diet, and keep the detainee nude (except for a diaper). The first interrogation session, which could have lasted from 30 minutes to several hours, would then be at an end.

“If the interrogation team determines there is a need to continue, and if the medical and psychological personnel advise that there are no contraindications, a second session may begin.”

Notation: Torture had begun shortly after 9/11, but Steven Bradbury’s legal opinions were written on 5/10/05. Consequently, we must wonder, are these legal opinions or CYA memos?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Professional Opinion

The “torture memos” documents contain the professional opinion of Office of Legal Council attorneys Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury as they assessed the CIA’s “harsh interrogation techniques” between 2002 and 2005. Each method was described in detail, but as the “Bybee” memo, dated 8/1/02 pointed out the interrogation team planned to use these techniques in an escalating fashion, culminating with the waterboard, though not necessarily ending with that technique.

Obama has said: “This is a time for reflection, not retribution. ... We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

Attorney General Eric Holder wrote: “It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department.” (Which was exactly what the Bush administration intended.)
 
Regarding the practice of “walling,” Jay Bybee wrote on 8/1/02:

“A flexible false wall will be constructed. The individual is placed with his heels touching the wall: The interrogator pulls the individual forward and then quickly and firmly pushes the individual into the wall. It is the individual’s shoulder blades that hit the wall. During this motion, the head and neck are supported with a rolled hood or towel that provides a c-collar effect to help prevent whiplash …

“You have orally informed us that the false wall is in part constructed to create a loud sound when the individual hits it, which will further shock or surprise the individual. In part, the idea is to create a sound that will make the impact seem far worse than it is and that will be far worse than any injury that might result from the action.”

Regarding the practice of “facial slap,” Bybee wrote:

“With the facial slap or insult slap, the interrogator slaps the individual’s face with fingers slightly spread. The hand makes contact with the area directly between the tip of the individual’s chin and the bottom of the corresponding earlobe. The interrogator invades the individual’s personal space. The goal of the facial slap is not to inflict physical pain that is severe or lasting. Instead, the purpose of the facial slap is to induce shock, surprise, and/or humiliation …”

Regarding the practice of “cramped confinement and insects placed In a confinement box, “ Bybee advised:

“You would like to place (Abu) Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a caterpillar in the box with him...

“Focusing in part on the fact that the boxes will be without light, placement in these boxes would constitute a procedure designed to disrupt profoundly the senses...

“With respect to the small confinement box, you have informed us that he would spend at most two hours in this box ... For the larger box, in which he can both stand and sit, he may be placed in this box for up to eighteen hours at a time ...”

Regarding the proceedure of “waterboarding,” Jay Bybee wrote:

“Finally, you would like to use a technique called the ‘waterboard.’ In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, air flow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth. This causes an increase in carbon dioxide level in the individual’s blood. This increase in the carbon dioxide level stimulates increased effort to breathe. This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic,’ i.e., the perception of drowning...

“We find that the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death. As you have explained the waterboard procedure to us, it creates in the subject the uncontrollable physiological sensation that the subject is drowning ...

“Although the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result to violate the statuatory prohibition on infliction of severe mental pain or suffering ... you have advised us that the relied is almost immediate when the cloth is removed from the nose and mouth. In the absence of prolonged mental harm, no severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted, and the use of these procedures would not constitute torture.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Party’s Over

A recent, “Washington Post”/ABC News poll found, that Obama’s approval rating nationwide stood near 70 percent. The Republican Party has shrunk, and only 21% of those surveyed identified themselves as Republicans.

The Republican party needs more moderate independents and a spokesperson like Russ Limbaugh is not what that party needs. For the past 8 years they’ve needed a Barry Goldwater, who told Republicans to: “get out of my bedroom, be strong on defense and stand for limited government.”  

The occupation of Iraq created more terrorists than ever existed before we invaded that country. The war in Afghanistan was neglected, and the Taliban now controls most of that country. Less we forget, Osama bin Laden hasn’t been captured or killed and during Bush’s presidency our national debt doubled.

On 4/8/09, the County Shopper published another letter by Anna McCabe of Franklin. She insisted that Arlen Spector was a traitor to his party and to the people that voted for him. In fact, Sen. Spector is a realistic opportunist, who recognizes that many of his constituents, who voted for him in the past are not likely to vote for him again. The Republican brand has become a liability, because a majority of voters in Pennsylvania are no longer interested in the politics of “no” or social issues.

Ms. McCabe continued: “Obama is the biggest traitor,” for releasing the legal memos used by the Bush regime to justify its torture program. The existence of those memo’s, like U.S. torture itself, has been an open secret for years.

The torture memos provide a glimpse of what was done in our name in violation of the Geneva Conventions. The Obama administration announced that it will not seek charges against the people who carried out the actions the memos describe. By releasing the memos, Obama assure those who carried out their duties, relying in good faith on legal advice from the Department of Justice, that they will not be subject to prosecution.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dorgan’s Prediction

We keep hearing, that no one could have seen this financial crises coming but ten years ago, Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan was one of eight senators who voted against deregulation.  He said it would “raise the likelihood of future massive taxpayer bailouts....We are almost certainly moving towards substantial new concentration and mergers in the financial industry.  I think we will in 10 years time look back and say, we should not have done this because we forgot the lessons of the past.” 

Today, the North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan sits on the Commerce Committee, but insists: “there’s no solace in being right given the fact that this economy is a wreck and we’ve been steered into the ditch by a bunch of speculators and the folks that really did some bad things in business... I said back then, you know, this is setting up unbelievable risk and speculation and people producing exotic products they couldn’t even pronounce and didn’t understand. People buying things they wouldn’t get from people that never had it, making massive money on both ends." 

Today, we have massive debt in every direction, not just government, but household debt, credit card debt, and corporate debt, as a result of deregulation. Sen. Dorgan insists, you can’t loan money to people that can’t repay it... You’ve got to get back to real business and good business.

Back in 1999, Larry Summers, who is currently, the director of the White House National Economic Council predicted: “Let me welcome you all here today for the signing of this historic legislation.  With this bill, the American financial system takes a major step forward towards the 21st century, one that will benefit American consumers, business, and the national economy for many years to come.” 

There were people, who were supposed to be regulating all of these issues, but most of the exotic products were outside of the view of regulators.  Reportedly, Larry Summers has changed his position, and will be attempting to put this country back together in a way that makes some sense.

Senator Dorgan voted against the TARP funding because he didn’t think, Bush's treasury secretary had the foggiest idea what he was going to do with that money. The TARP money didn’t go by to buy up toxic assets as promised, and some banks aren’t going to be able to pay back the TARP money.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bleeding to Death

Yesterday, Delhi’s representative in Congress Scott Murphy visited the Cross Roads Cafe’ to hear from constituents. I asked about the possibility of cutting off funding for the war in Afghanistan, which Representative Murphy didn’t favor. Nevertheless, I left the following information with his aide in the hope that he’d reconsider his position.

Former senior member of the U. S. intelligence community, Michael Scheuer has two decades of experience in national security issues. While with the CIA, he wrote “Imperial Hubris” under the pseudonym Anonymous.

In 2004, Scheuer wrote: “Unless U.S. led foreign forces are massively increased and are prepared to kill liberally and remain in Afghanistan permanently, the current Afghan regime cannot survive. In Afghanistan, above all other places, familiarity with foreigners breeds not just contempt, but war to the death. The reestablishment of an Islamic regime in Kabul is as close to an inevitability as exists. One hopes that Karzai and the rest of the westernized, secular, and followerless Afghan expatriates we installed in Kabul are able to get out with their lives.”

Scheuer warns: “One of the greatest dangers for Americans in deciding how to confront the threat from al Qaeda lies in continuing to believe... Muslims hate us for what we think, rather than for what we do. We repeatedly hear: (because they hate freedom) from senior U.S. leaders. Such a conclusion is potentially fatal nonsense.”

“Imperial Hubris” explores why they hate us and why our policies and actions are bin Laden’s only indispensable allies. Scheuer quotes terrorist leader al Zawahiri: “Americans are facing a delicate situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. If they withdraw they will lose everything and if they stay, they will continue to bleed to death.”

Scheuer emphasizes: “We must recognize that our invasion of Iraq was not preemptive; it was an avarice, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantages.” He wrote “Imperial Hubris” with certainty that: “al Qaeda will attack the continental U. S. again, that its next strike will be more damaging than 9/11.”

I’m very concerned about Afghanistan. For your information, Michael Scheuer was the CIA’s authority on Afghanistan before and after 9/11, but apparently, politicians and generals seldom listen to experts.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A Memorable Event

Rep. Scott Murphy of the New York's 20th Congressional District was sworn in by Speaker Pelosi as the newest Member of Congress on the very same day that President Obama marked his 100th day in office and our grandson celebrated his first birthday.

Scott Murphy’s victory in this district where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 70,000 represents a rejection of the obstructionist agenda and scare tactics that have become the hallmark of House Republicans. It was a fitting victory, because it demonstrated what can happen when we have strong leaders like President Obama and dedicated grassroots supporters, who are willing to fight for change.

In the election, voters responded to Scott Murphy’s record as a successful businessman who helped to create more than 1,000 jobs and his strong support for President Obama’s economic recovery package.

Rep. Murphy wrote: “I'm happy to announce that I will follow in Senator Gillibrand’s footsteps and serve on the House Agriculture and Armed Services Committees. I look forward to being a strong advocate for NY-20 in my newest assignments. We’ve acted to reform credit card regulations, combat predatory lending and protect consumers and credit card holders. During these tough times, we must act to protect consumers who work hard and play by the rules.”
 
Rep. Murphy started his campaign 21 points behind in the polls, and hardly anyone gave him a chance to win. Voters realized what was at stake for our country and helped produced an unlikely victory. In trying to win the special election, Republican’s went all out on the losing gamble that voters would prefer their “just say no” approach to President Obama’s bold plans to get the economy back on track.

Early reports indicated that Scott Murphy trailed by 6 votes in Delaware County. We can change that in two years by writing respectful, persuasive and factual letters to area newspapers.

“It is our duty, all of us, everyone who cares to reverse the national decline of our knowledge and understanding of history, and to renew a true appreciation of this great country, why it became great and what will keep it so.” - Sen. Robert Byrd

Friday, May 08, 2009

Stephen Cambone

We’re blaming the little guys and exonerating the higher-ups. The manacling and handcuffing of naked Arab men shown in the pictures of Abu Ghraib prison were carried out by noncoms and enlisted people, who were doing things, which higher-ups had recommended.  Humiliating the prisoners to soften them up for interrogation was the order from Donald Rumsfield’s right-hand man Stephen Cambone. How can our government exonerate higher-ups, when the the Bush regime wrote the rule book for this kind of behavior? 

It appears Private Lynndie England, who spent a year and a half in prison and Corporal Charles Graner, who has four years of a ten year sentence, were doing what they were hearing from Mr. Cambone’s Tiger Team, who came over from Gitmo, to Abu Ghraib to spread the good news about how to torture people. 

At the Pentagon, Stephen Cambone’s main role was to be cutting through red tape and bothersome codes of conduct, such as the Geneva Conventions, to institute legally questionable policies. The orders to soften up Iraqi prisoners for intelligence interrogators to both military and private contractors came directly from Cambone’s office.

In August 2003, as the occupation of Iraq began to turn bloody, Mr. Cambone ordered Brigadier General Geoffrey Miller, former commander of the detention facility at Guantanamo, to go to Iraq, with a team of experienced military interrogators, who had honed their inquisitorial skills with the torture of al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees captured in Afghanistan. His instructions were to “Gitmoize” the interrogations at Abu Ghraib and other prisons, including the notorious Camp Cropper on the outskirts of the Baghdad Airport, where the Delta Force conducted abusive interrogations of top level members of Saddam’s regime.

They disregarded the fact that after torturing someone, it’s very hard to hold people responsible for things that they confess to doing when you’ve been waterboarding them. 

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Recruiting Terrorists

On the heels of Obama’s decision to have the Justice Department release torture memos, former V.P., Cheney has a few memos he’d like released. Cheney is suggesting that, there is another report somewhere, that torture got high-value detainees to provide valuable information. However, last year, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Rockefeller, who has access to all classified information reported, that there was no evidence that torture has produced anything important.  
 
Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote a public letter to Obama stating: “I’m writing to respectfully request that comments regarding holding individuals accountable for detention and interrogation related activities be held in reserve until the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is able to complete its review of the conditions and interrogations of certain high-value detainees.” Senator Feinstein has seen all of the evidence that made Senator Rockefeller speak out last year.

Alleged information of value learned from torturing people, by “enhanced” interrogation methods, must be weighed against the cost of the reputation of America. Torture doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and there are enormous consequences associated with those methods of interrogation. 

The Geneva Conventions, specifically described those things that had differentiated us from our adversaries. We know people were killed in the Bagram prison in Afghanistan and in Abu Ghraib, and some of them were innocent. Torture has caused the reputation of America grave harm in the world and, without a doubt, the humiliation of those Arab men served as a recruiting poster for terrorists. Many experts in the military insist that torture has served recruiting tools for terrorism around the world.  

We’ll have to wait to see, whether supporters of torture can show that they stopped something horrible from happening, because a lot of horrible things did happen as a result of torture and other degrading techniques that the Bush regime used.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Protect Civilization

I’ve received the following letter from Queen Noor of Jordan:

Dear Jim,

“As global citizens, we have an opportunity at this historic time to play a vital part in eliminating nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. And what better time to take action than Mother’s Day, which in America was originally established to celebrate and work for peace. I am proud to be part of Ploughshares Fund’s Mother’s Day for Peace campaign, which has partnered with Global Zero and over 100 political, military, business, faith and civic leaders from around the world and across political lines to promote a step-by-step policy plan for the phased and verified elimination of nuclear weapons.

“As a mother and grandmother, and a Founding Leader of Global Zero, I believe that the most urgent security threat to our world today is the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the related risk of nuclear terrorism.

“You can take action right now by signing the Global Zero Declaration in support of efforts “to protect our children, our grandchildren and our civilization from the threat of nuclear catastrophe.”

“Mother’s Day -- whether it’s the U.S. tradition of honoring our mothers on the second Sunday in May or on the first day of spring, as we observe the holiday in Jordan -- springs from a universal impulse to pay tribute to motherhood and the blessings of peace. This year, around the world, we can reclaim the original meaning of Mother’s Day by adding our voices to one of the most urgent movements of our time, and leave a peaceful legacy for our children.

“Happy Mother’s Day for Peace!
Peace be with you,
Queen Noor”

"We, the undersigned, believe that to protect our children, our grandchildren and our civilization from the threat of nuclear catastrophe, we must eliminate all nuclear weapons globally. We therefore commit to working for a legally binding verifiable agreement, including all nations, to eliminate nuclear weapons by a date certain."

http://www.mothersdaypeace.org/zero-nuclear-weapons.php

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Drinking Water

Reportedly, former Bush staffers are still around and have successfully removed language regarding the human right to water from the ministerial declaration of the 5th World Water Forum.

In order to protect everyone’s right to water, we should write our representatives in Congress, and urge them to make the right to water part of our international policy. A policy, that would affirm the right to water for not only Americans, but people around the world.

The concept is as simple as breathing, because without water, there is no life. Water needs to be declared a human right in order to stop the increasing privatization of municipal water systems by multinational corporations and to bring clean, safe public water to those areas that are without it.

Without the right to water, people all over the world face the nightmare scenario of choosing to pay the water bill instead of buying groceries for their families.

The global water statistics are deplorable:
* 1.4 billion people live without clean drinking water.
* Two-fifths of the world’s population lack access to proper sanitation.
* Every eight seconds a child dies from drinking dirty water.
* Half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people with an easily preventable waterborne disease.
* 80% of all sickness and disease worldwide is related to contaminated water, according to the World Health Organization.
*Dirty water kills more children than war, malaria, HIV/AIDS and traffic accidents combined.

I’m urging you to take action to bring water to the thirsty by telling your members of Congress, that it’s time to support water as a human right. 

Monday, May 04, 2009

Stress

A lecturer when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g. The lecturer replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes. And that’s the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on.

“As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again, when we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden. So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down. Don’t carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow... Whatever burdens you’re carrying now,
Let them down for a moment if you can. So, my friend, put down anything that may be a burden to you right now. Don’t pick it up again until after you've rested a while.”

Here are some great ways of dealing with the burdens of life:
* Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.

* Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

* If you can’t be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

* If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

* Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won’t have a leg to stand on.

* Nobody cares if you can’t dance well, just get up and dance.

* Since it’s the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.

* The second mouse gets the cheese.

* When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.

* Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

*A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

* Get a dog, because dog food is a lot cheaper than Prozac.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Peace Action

On Tax Day, millions of Americans headed to the post office and send their hard earned money to the U.S. government.  Many of us expected the money would go toward healthcare and education, investments in our country’s prosperity and future. Unfortunately for decades, our government has chosen instead to invest in militarism and war.

Currently, our military spending constitutes 48% of the world’s total, more than the next 45 countries combined. Not including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military spending requests for 2009 constitute 54% of the discretionary budget that is voted on by Congress. When the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are included, our military spending jumps to 57% of the discretionary budget.

Spending on social safety nets, healthcare, and education pales in comparison to our military budget. Worse yet, that excessive Pentagon spending has not made us any safer, in fact, it has served to motivate more violent fundamentalist recruitment.  Many of the most expensive programs, like missile defense, are widely regarded as wasteful and unnecessary.  We must capitalize on the progress already made by the Obama administration to push forward a new direction for our taxes.

Consider joining Peace Action in promoting a Peace Economy.

1. End the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq. Bring all troops and National Guard home.

2. Save $60 billion annually by cutting Cold War weapons systems.

3. Reduce the US military footprint on the planet by closing unnecessary US military bases overseas.

4. Invest in diplomacy with Iran, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Thomas Pritchard

On 4/22/09, Thomas Pritchard of Milford, N.Y. had the following thoughtful letter published in The Oneonta Star.

“On April 6, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposed a bold defense budget that cuts spending.

“I commend Secretary Gates for proposing to cut or reconfigure weapons that don’t work or are based on threats that we no longer face. These systems don’t make us safer, but clearly they make contractors richer.

“I support the scaling back of a variety of programs including missile defense, the F-22 and the DDG-1000 destroyer. There are further cuts that could be made, but I support the effort to try to start turning the priorities around at the Pentagon.

“I realize that the role of funding the military belongs to Congress, but disregarding the wishes of its secretary would make it quite clear who Congress is really working for.

“Investing in mass transit and education creates twice as many jobs as investing in the military.

“I am prepared to hear members of Congress attacking Secretary Gates for not supporting the troops. It is a an insincere and well-worn path that will expose who is really running their campaigns on the donations of defense contractors.”

Notation: On March 9, 2004, I began writing monthly letters to The Oneonta Star, in response to a letter written by a Milford N.Y. resident. It’s nice to see that not every one from Milford is a diddohead.

To read Mr. Pritchard’s and Deborah Blue’s letter on the same date was a special treat.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Deborah Blue

On 4/22/09, Deborah Blue of Oneonta had the following informative letter published in The Oneonta Star.

“I read the stories of the tax day “tea parties” around the area with amusement and a little confusion. I’m willing to bet that among the participants there were very few people, if any, who earned more than a quarter-million dollars in a year, the level of income that would be affected by Obama’s tax plan. It would take taxes back to Reagan- era levels, hardly a time of crushing taxes on the rich.

“Why do so many Americans vote against their economic interests? Republican policies favor the rich. Under George W. Bush, income inequality rose to a level not seen since 1928, just before the Depression. Income levels were at their most equal from the ’50s through the ’70s. The siphoning of money from working-class families started in the ’80s with Reagan’s theory that if the rich get richer, the money will “trickle down” to the rest of us. Income inequality reached its peak under Bush. In 2006, the average income of the top 1 percent of households had risen 42 percent, while the average income of the bottom 90 percent had risen 4.7 percent, according to IRS data available on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ website.

“In 2000, George W. Bush gave a speech to a white-tie crowd at the Waldorf- Astoria. He called the audience “the haves and the have-mores,” and said “Some people call you the elites. I call you my base.” He was very kind to his base during his tenure. Yet the Republican Party still tries to pass itself off as being regular “Joe the plumber” types.

“Where are the protests against Bush-era deregulation and profit-at any- cost policies that helped create the mess we have now?”