Friday Reads

beatrix Good Morning!!

I thought I’d put up some longer suggested reads today since the news seems to be focused on several items we’ve been covering a lot recently.  This first link is from Alternet and features Noam Chomsky and Eric Bailey of Torture Magazine.  The discussion talks about our continuing abuse of civil rights and liberties stemming from the War on Terrorism during the Obama administration.  Here’s some discussion of US “black sites” which are still in operation today.

Bailey: It has been just over 10 years since the publication of the Bush administration’s “torture memos.” These memos provided a legal justification for the torture of detainees held by the CIA in connection with the “war on terror.” The contents of the memos are chilling and have created new debate on torture internationally. Despite all of the promises given by President Obama to close those illegal detention centers, it seems that “black site” activities still occur. What are your views on these detention centers and CIA torture? Also, what do you think about Obama’s promise of CIA reforms in 2008 and how has the reality of his presidency stacked up to those promises?

Chomsky: There have been some presidential orders expressing disapproval of the most extreme forms of torture, but Bagram remains open and uninspected. That’s probably the worst in Afghanistan. Guantanamo is still open, but it’s unlikely that serious torture is going on at Guantanamo. There is just too much inspection. There are military lawyers present and evidence regularly coming out so I suspect that that’s not a torture chamber any more, but it still is an illegal detention chamber, and Bagram and who knows how many others are still functioning. Rendition doesn’t seem to be continuing at the level that it did, but it has been until very recently.

Rendition is just sending people abroad to be tortured. Actually, that’s barred as well by the Magna Carta – the foundation of Anglo-American law. It’s explicitly barred to send somebody across the seas to be punished and tortured. It’s not just done by the United States, either. It’s done all over Western Europe. Britain has participated in it. Sweden has participated. It’s one of the reasons for a lot of the concerns about extraditing Julian Assange to Sweden. Canada has been implicated as was Ireland, but to Ireland’s credit it was one of the few places where there were mass popular protests against allowing the Shannon Airport to be used for CIA rendition. In most countries there has been very little protest or not a word. I don’t know of any recent cases so maybe that policy is no longer being implemented, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was still in effect.

The Atlantic has a feature on the ‘likely’ new Secretary of Defense.  That would be Republican and former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.

In 2005, he began criticizing the George W. Bush administration, comparing the worsening Iraq war to Vietnam. When then-Vice President Dick Cheney said the Iraqi insurgency was in its “last throes,” Hagel told CNN, “Maybe the vice president can explain the increase in casualties we’re taking… If that’s winning, then he’s got a different definition of winning than I do.”

Over the next few years, Hagel’s criticism of Bush intensified, and in 2007, he told Esquire:

“The president says, ‘I don’t care.’ He’s not accountable anymore… He’s not accountable anymore, which isn’t totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don’t know. It depends how this goes.”

Hagel decided not to seek reelection to the Senate in the fall of 2007. In 2008, his name was floated as a potential running mate for Obama. Hagel didn’t endorse a presidential candidate in that election, but he criticized his colleague Sen. John McCain for his hawkish statements on Iran.

There are all kinds of people being caught in the crossfire of GOP intolerance, stupidity, and rejection.  Why is the Republican party fighting the Violence Against Women Act?  Greg Kaufmann writes on this in The Nation focusing on its impact on Native American women who are unprotected from various kinds of acts of violence.  The hope and the bad guy in this story is Congressman Eric Cantor.

  On April 25, Parker told of being “one of many girls” violated and attacked as a toddler on the reservation in the 1970s, and how the man responsible was never convicted. She spoke of an occasion in the 1980s, when she hid her younger cousins while listening to the screams of her aunt who was being raped by four or five men—the perpetrators were never prosecuted. She described her realization that “the life of a Native woman was short,” and consequently “fighting hard” to attend the University of Washington, where she studied criminal justice in the 1990s “so that I could be one to protect our women. However, I am only one.” She asked Congress to support the new provisions in VAWA to help protect Native women: “Send a strong message across the country that violence against Native women is unlawful and it is not acceptable in any of our lands.”

It was a turning point in the Senate’s work on the bill. It passed that month with sixty-eight votes, including fifteen Republicans—the kind of bipartisanship that is almost unheard of these days—with the new protections for Native women, and also for undocumented immigrant women and the LGBT community.

But in May the House passed a stripped-down version of the bill that contained none of these key provisions. Only six Democrats voted for it and twenty-three Republicans opposed it. Speaker John Boehner then used a procedural maneuver to avoid reconciling with the Senate on a final VAWA bill. Five House Republicans—led by Illinois Congresswoman Judy Biggert—wrote a letter to Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor urging them to adopt the stronger Senate provisions and move to a final bill.

Yet the legislation languished—until now.

Perhaps sensing from the 2012 election results that the GOP has a serious problem when it comes to relating to women who live on this planet and in this century, Cantor is now negotiating with the Senate and Vice President Biden—who sponsored the original VAWA in 1994. Word is Cantor has relented on the provisions for the LGBT community and undocumented immigrant women. He refuses, however, to consider any provision that gives tribes any kind of criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians.

Native peoples will have to start over from scratch after over three years of work if the bill does not pass within the next few weeks.  It is critical that we contact Cantor and appeal to the small dot of a humanity that might reside within him.

Scientists have found glowing, green galaxies that have been dubbed ‘green bean’ galaxies.r-GREENBEANGALAXY-large570  I have to say that this is really kewl and the video is worth the watch.  Do little green critters come from green bean galaxies?

The galaxy represents a new type, and falls within the range of active galaxies known as Seyfert galaxies. It glows green because of X-rays spewing from a gigantic black hole at its center that weighs several million to billion times more than the sun.

Dubbed a “green bean” galaxy, it appears to be quite rare. Scientists found only about 20 green beans in the vast swath of sky surveyed for this research.

These galaxies will provide a window into the evolution of quasars, which are faraway galaxies powered by massive black holes. [Video: Green Bean Galaxies]

“These things are light echoes,” said Mischa Schirmer, the lead researcher of a paper reporting the findings released today (Dec. 5) and accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “What we see is a quasar that is shutting down,” Schirmer said. “It hasn’t shut down entirely yet.”

A southern California judge has admonished a raped woman for permitting the rape by not struggling enough.   Judge Derek Johnson told the victim that “If Sex Isn’t Wanted, Body ‘Will Not Permit That To Happen”.  Where the hell do these men come from and how do they get to these positions of power?  It just appalls me that over 40 years of activism has not gotten rid of the blame the victim attitude of so many morons.

A Southern California judge is being publicly admonished for saying a rape victim didn’t put up a fight during her assault and that if someone doesn’t want sexual intercourse, the body “will not permit that to happen.”

The California Commission on Judicial Performance issued a report Thursday saying Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson’s comments were inappropriate and a breach of judicial ethics.

Johnson is a former prosecutor in the Orange County district attorney’s sex crimes unit. He issued an apology saying he was frustrated with a prosecutor during an argument in 2008 over the sentencing in the case before him compared to other more aggravated cases.

The case involved a man who threatened to mutilate the face and genitals of his ex-girlfriend with a heated screwdriver before committing rape, forced oral copulation, and other crimes.

I guess Governor Bobby Jindal isn’t getting the attention he wants these days . He’s called for making birth control available over the counter in  a WSJ interview.  Will the governor be getting a tweet from the Pope on that?

Jindal cites a December committee opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which comes out in favor of over-the-counter birth control “to improve contraceptive access and use and possibly decrease unintended pregnancy rates.”

Although the op-ed might seen like a shift to the left for the Catholic governor, Jindal also reiterated his conservative reasoning behind his support for the issue.

First, he made clear if birth control was more readily available, employers currently mandated to provide it under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act would not need to do so.

This argument most clearly is geared toward religiously-affiliated employers who have come out against providing birth control against Church doctrine.

Second, he touts the impact it could have on the individual buyers, saying “it’s time to put purchasing power back in the hands of consumers.”

Finally, he said if birth control is available over-the-counter, this would put an end to the politicization of the issue.

“Contraception is a personal matter — the government shouldn’t be in the business of banning it or requiring a woman’s employer to keep tabs on her use of it.”

Guess we’ll have to see how that goes over with the Right to Forced Servitude Crowd.  Meanwhile, I’m getting ready for the mass insanity that will come shortly as we host the Super Bowl.  I’m just really glad I don’t work down town any more.  However, I think I’m going to go back to gigging during the time because those folks do like to eat out and tip big.  I’m just hoping we get a few teams from the rich part of the country.  Who do I root for?  The Pats?

So, that’s my suggested reads today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list?

During Transition, Obama “Signaled” Endorsement of Bush Secret Programs

In a 2007 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Obama promised to roll back the secret programs put in place by Bush and restore civil liberties and respect for the Constitution. Here’s an excerpt:

This [Bush] Administration…puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom.

That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens. No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists. The FISA court works. The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.

This [Bush] Administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not. There are no short-cuts to protecting America, and that is why the fifth part of my strategy is doing the hard and patient work to secure a more resilient homeland.

But since Obama took office, his Justice Department has defended every Bush/Cheney policy and refused to hold any Bush administration or CIA officials accountable for torture, rendition, and illegal spying on Americans. Obama has instead gone even further, claiming the right to assassinate American citizens on the sole authority of the President.

The new season of PBS Frontline begins next Tuesday with a bang. The show is part of Frontline’s collaboration with the Washington Post in an investigative project called Top Secret America.

Today Frontline posted some teasers for the show, one of which I found unsurprising but still very important.

FRONTLINE has learned from a former high-ranking CIA official that even before he took office, Obama’s team “signaled” they had no intention of rolling back secret programs begun under the Bush administration. In his first televised interview, for next Tuesday’s Top Secret America John Rizzo, a 34-year agency veteran described as “the most influential lawyer in CIA history,” tells FRONTLINE:

I was part of the transition briefings of the incoming Obama team, and they signaled fairly early on that the incoming president believed in a vigorous, aggressive, continuing counterterrorism effort. Although they never said it exactly, it was clear that the interrogation program was going away. We all knew that.

But his people were signaling to us, I think partly to try to assure us that they weren’t going to come in and dismantle the place, that they were going to be just as tough, if not tougher, than the Bush people….

With a notable exception of the enhanced interrogation program, the incoming Obama administration changed virtually nothing with respect to existing CIA programs and operations. Things continued. Authorities were continued that were originally granted by President Bush beginning shortly after 9/11. Those were all picked up, reviewed and endorsed by the Obama administration.

You can watch part of the interview at the Frontline link.