Friday Reads

meijishowa 1872Good Morning!!

I’ve found some interesting links for you this morning.  Some of them are fun and some are rather shocking.  Drink your coffee and settle in for a little bit of this and that.  Oh, you may want to hold off on food or make sure it’s completely digested before you read a few of these.  For some reason, I’ve found a lot of stories that don’t seem to contribute to holding food down.

I’m not sure if any of you have seen Zero Dark Thirty yet.  I’m still trying to decide if I should live through the first few minutes and embrace the controversy.  Here’s an interesting panel of Ex-CIA officials that were supposed to discuss the film that went elsewhere instead.  It’s a compelling and disturbing read via Slate.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden led the panel. He was joined by Jose Rodriguez, who ran the agency’s National Clandestine Service, and John Rizzo, who served as the CIA’s chief legal officer. The stories they told, and the reasons they offered, shook up my assumptions about the interrogation program. They might shake up yours, too. Here’s what they said.

1. The detention program was a human library. The panelists didn’t use that term, but it reflects what they described. After detainees were interrogated, the CIA kept them around for future inquiries and to monitor their communications. Sometimes this yielded a nugget, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s message to his fellow detainees: “Do not say a word about the courier.” Rodriguez said this incident shows “the importance of having a place like a black site to take these individuals, because we could use that type of communication. We could use them as background information to check a name.”

2. EITs were used to break the will to resist, not to extract information directly. Hayden acknowledged that prisoners might say anything to stop their suffering. (Like the other panelists, he insisted EITs weren’t torture.) That’s why “we never asked anybody anything we didn’t know the answer to, while they were undergoing the enhanced interrogation techniques. The techniques were not designed to elicit truth in the moment.” Instead, EITs were used in a controlled setting, in which interrogators knew the answers and could be sure they were inflicting misery only when the prisoner said something false. The point was to create an illusion of godlike omniscience and omnipotence so that the prisoner would infer, falsely, that his captors always knew when he was lying or withholding information. More broadly, said Hayden, the goal was “to take someone who had come into our custody absolutely defiant and move them into a state or a zone of cooperation” by convincing them that “you are no longer in control of your destiny. You are in our hands.” Thereafter, the prisoner would cooperate without need for EITs. Rodriguez explained: “Once you got through the enhanced interrogation process, then the real interrogation began. … The knowledge base was so good that these people knew that we actually were not going to be fooled. It was an essential tool to validate that the people were being truthful. “

3. The human library was part of the will-breaking process. “Because we had other prisoners in our black sites, we would be able to check information against others. And they [detainees] knew that,” said Rodriguez. In this way, simply holding detainees in opaque confinement gave interrogators leverage.

4. We had tested EITs on ourselves. Rodriguez said he quickly accepted the use of EITs in part because “I knew that many of these procedures were applied to our own servicemen. Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers had gone through this.” If these methods were safe and moral to use on Americans, weren’t they safe and moral to use on our enemies?

5. Freelancing was forbidden. Rizzo outlined some rules for EITs: No interrogator was allowed to use a waterboard without first submitting written justification, and only the CIA director could approve it. So, for what it’s worth, there were internal checks on the practice, at least because the CIA would be politically accountable for what its interrogators did.

6. Rules were a weakness, and ambiguity was leverage. While citing the program’s rules as a moral defense, the panelists also groused that the rules cost them leverage. KSM, for instance, noticed a time limit on waterboarding. “Pretty quickly, he recognized that within 10 seconds we would stop pouring water,” said Rodriguez. “He started to count with his fingers, up to 10, just to let us know that the time was up.” Hayden said that when the incoming Obama administration ruled out EITs, he requested a caveat: “unless otherwise authorized by the president.” This, he explained, would create “ambiguity” so that anyone captured in the future couldn’t be “quite sure what would happen” to them.

7. EITs were useful as an implicit threat. Hayden said only a third of the detainees required EITs.  But he acknowledged that “the existence of the option may have influenced” the rest.

8. The library rationale withered. The detainees’ value as constantly accessible sources didn’t mean they could be kept forever. They were human beings, too, and this created political and international problems. Over time, their intelligence value sank below the PR cost of keeping them at black sites. “When I became director in 2006, I concluded that, number one, we are not the nation’s jailers,” said Hayden. “We are the nation’s intelligence service. And so there just can’t be an endless detention program.” Accordingly, he transferred a dozen detainees out of CIA custody, “not because their intelligence value had become zero … but because the intelligence value of most of them had edged off to a point that other factors were becoming more dominant in the equation.”

9. The library became less necessary as we developed other sources. Hayden said he re-evaluated the program in 2006 based in part on the declining need for it: “How much more did we know about al-Qaida now? How many more human and other intelligence penetrations of al-Qaida did we now have, compared to where we were, almost in extremis, in 2002?” There was less need to keep the human books on the shelf, now that the CIA could download information through other channels.

10. EITs liberated detainees from religious bondage. Rodriguez said Abu Zubaydah eventually “told us that we should use waterboarding … on all the brothers,” because

the brothers needed to have religious justification to talk, to provide information. However, they would not be expected by Allah to go beyond their capabilities [of] resistance. So once they felt that they were there, they would then become compliant and provide information. So he basically recommended to us that we needed to submit the brothers to this type of procedure. … As a matter of fact, it would help them reach the level where they would become compliant and provide information.

Hayden said the Abu Zubaydah story “was important for my own soul-searching on this.”

There’s more at the link.  The article was written by William Saletan. I have to admit it makes my skin crawl. old man reading paper

We’ve had a number of celebrities talk about running for public office and we’ve had a number of them dive in.  Well, here’s a celeb talking about running for the senate that will make you think twice about celebrity and gravity.  If the story on torture didn’t make your tummy a bit queasy, maybe the thought of Senator Geraldo Rivera will.

On his radio show this afternoon, Geraldo Rivera announced he might run for Senate in his home state of New Jersey.

“Fasten your seatbelt,” he told his audience and Judge Andrew Napolitano. “I am and have been in touch with some people in the Republican Party in New Jersey. I am truly contemplating running for Senate against Frank Lautenberg or Cory Booker in New Jersey.”

Napolitano praised Rivera’s potential decision, saying he’d do everything within the limits of his Fox News contract to support the campaign because he is “a rare understander of the nature of human freedom and the role of government in our lives.”

“I figure, at my age, if I’m going to do it, I’ve got to do it,” Rivera added. He praised Newark Mayor and rumored 2014 Senate candidate Cory Booker but noted that there doesn’t seem to be a formidable GOP member lined up for a challenge.

Later in the show, Rivera said that his desire to nationalize New York’s “stop-and-frisk” policy could be part of his platform. As a national police program, he said, it would decrease the chances for the policy’s controversial racial profiling.

So, my senator, also known as Diaper Dave, has evidently gone on Mark Rubio’s list of nutterz.  Whoa!  Imagine that!

Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) associates, furious about fellow Republican Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) calling the Floridian “nuts” and “naïve” over his immigration reform efforts, are hitting Vitter where it hurts.

“David Vitter has done some nuttier things in his life,” a source close to Rubio wrote in an unsolicited email to POLITICO.

That’s a not-at-all subtle reference to Vitter’s 2007 admission that his phone number appeared on a client list of a Washington, D.C. madam. A New Orleans-based prostitute and madam have also, separately, accused Vitter of being a client, but he has denied those charges.

Asked for comment about the jab, Vitter’s press secretary didn’t respond to two emails. A receptionist at Vitter’s Washington office said the press staffer “must be away from his desk.”

Vitter’s attack on Rubio, on conservative Laura Ingraham’s talk show Wednesday, came as he steps up his public profile in advance of a potential 2015 gubernatorial bid. Vitter is moving to re-establish his conservative and populist bona fides.

My suggestion to Rubio is to look for bombs under his car. He should probably also hire a body guard that specializes in preventing murders by suicide.  Hey, you can never be safe enough, right?

You know that austerity doesn’t work and hasn’t worked.  Here’s a great post on that by Pat Garofalo.  It’s also a good reason to question Paul Ryan’s understanding of simple math.

Most of the recent economic data out of Europe has been exceedingly grim. A record high number of workers across the Eurozone are unemployed. Economies are shrinking. Debts are rising.

The anecdotes, though, are even worse. Hospitals are asking patients to supply their own syringes due to lack of funds. Trees on public land are being cut down by workers desperate for firewood to warm their homes. An entire generation of young workers is going to experience lower wages for the rest of their lives, due to years of being unemployed while in their 20s.

At this point, it’s safe to say that Europe’s response to the financial crisis of 2008 and its ensuing recession has failed. Austerity packages that were meant to jumpstart business investment and reduce what were viewed as unsustainable debt loads have instead crippled growth and caused untold amounts of human misery.

America, meanwhile, eschewed austerity for stimulus in the wake of the ’08 crisis. The result has been a return to slow, steady, if not overwhelming growth. But for Republicans in Congress, who constantly warn about the menace of the European social safety net, European austerity is a model to be emulated. And their insistence on cutting government spending no matter its effect on growth is bad news for the fragile economic recovery.

With the so-called fiscal “cliff” firmly behind them and debt ceiling sufficiently punted away for a few months, House Republicans are turning their attention back to the federal budget process. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), fresh off his failed run for the vice-presidency, plans to release a budget that will balance in 10 years. Such a move, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, will require cutting one-sixth to one-third of most of the federal government, depending on how Ryan structures it.

But in the shorter term, congressional Republicans are planning to use a few pending deadlines to secure deep cuts in government spending. For instance, the current round of funding for the federal government expires in March, giving Republicans leverage to push for reductions. “The CR [Continuing Resolution]– it’s one of the areas where there is indeed an absolute deadline. Washington and Congress respond to crises and deadlines, and we need to address the spending side of the equation,” said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA).

Ryan himself has also said that the $1.2 billion in spending cuts known as the “sequester” are going to go into effect that same month. “I think the sequester’s going to happen, because that $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, we can’t lose those spending cuts,” Ryan said. The sequester will knock 0.7 percent off of economic growth in 2013, according to MacroEconomic Advisers.

Well, just when you thought you knew everything about all those priests and child sexual assaults along comes this story from Los Angeles.  LA Archbishop Gomez has found files covered up by Cardinal Mahoney and is taking action.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced Thursday night that he has relieved retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of his remaining duties and a former top aide to Mahony has stepped down from his current post, on the same night the church released thousands of pages of personnel files of priests accused of sexual abuse.

“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading,” Gomez said in a statement, referring to the newly released files made public by the church Thursday night just hours after a judge’s order. “The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children.”

Gomez announced that he has “informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties.”

Mahony, who retired in 2011 after more than a quarter-century at the helm of the archdiocese, has publicly apologized for mistakes he made in dealing with priests who molested children.

Gomez also said Thomas Curry, former vicar of the clergy under Mahony who was the cardinal’s point person in dealing with priests accused of molestation, has stepped down from his current job as auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese’s Santa Barbara region. Curry also issued an apology earlier this month.

Earlier Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias ordered the diocese to turn over some 30,000 pages from the confidential files of priests accused of child molestation without blacking out the names of top church officials who were responsible for handling priests accused of abuse.

The judge gave the archdiocese until Feb. 22 to turn over the files to attorneys for the alleged victims, but they were released almost immediately.

The archdiocese, the nation’s largest, had planned to black out the names of members of the church hierarchy who were mary pickfordresponsible for the priests, and instead provide a cover sheet for each priest’s file, listing the names of top officials who handled that case. The church reversed course Wednesday after The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and plaintiff attorneys objected in court.

A record-breaking $660 million settlement in 2007 with more than 500 alleged victims paved the way for the ultimate disclosure of the tens of thousands of pages, but the archdiocese and individual priests fought to keep them secret for more than five years.

A first round of 14 priest files made public in Los Angeles nearly two weeks ago showed that Mahony and other top officials maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark about sexual abuse in their parishes. Those documents, released as part of an unrelated civil lawsuit, were not redacted and provided a glimpse of what could be contained in the larger release.

The files, some of them dating back decades, contain letters among top church officials, accused priests and archdiocese attorneys, complaints from parents, medical and psychological records and — in some cases — correspondence with the Vatican.

You have to hope that more church leaders like Gomez decide to do the right thing.

I hope you have found some stories to share!  Some times, you just have to let what the evil men do just flow over you so you can beg the universe for justice.  Then, you eat, pray, meditate, drink and hope the greater ethos takes care of them eventually.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Oh, and that last photo there is a celebrity. Can you guess who she is?