Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

My Photo
Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Batman or Bush?

This is a quiz and it is very informative and pretty frickin’ hard. Now, I haven’t seen Dark Night and probably won’t until it is on DVD. That said, there is this meme out there that it is a paean to GW. So, naturally someone, and that would be “Secret Pants Sketch Comedy,” would come up with a bit about the whole movie and how it works with the GW Administration.

Once again a Hat Tip to the Fabulous Dan Froomkin. And you read him daily, c’est vrai?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Jayar Jackson!

He has a new blog and though it is still in the development stage it looks like it will be just as wonderful as he is.

As you know I love The Young Turks and he is one of the reasons.

Check it out.

Dancing and What it Means!

I have always had this very bright line. Anyone that didn’t have rhythm and couldn’t dance would never be a sexual partner for me. I just couldn’t imagine having a sexual relationship with someone who was so out of touch with their own body never mind my body. And I have to tell you it was a very good “bright line.” I will say there were times where I made exceptions and I shouldn’t have. And I can’t remember anytime being proven wrong.

So that said here are two women who are totally together and doing the right thing and spelling it out:

And here they are with Kate Smith for God Sakes!

Who would have thunk that Kate Smith would have made the cut.

Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt8pi-SE7FY

Update: I must say that seeing two White Males, never mind three, doing this would be really a stretch.

I am not saying, I am just saying. So, what is with that?

Update 2: Back in the day my brother told my son that I was the best dancer he had ever seen or known. Now this was partially true, but then he is a totally white guy. However in my defense, I was a totally great dancer and won many an award. Of course my constant partner Harry deserved a lot of the credit. We were so great it was frightening. I am sure that Harry, now a Catholic Priest, is as totally proud of his dancing history as I am. I am sure that his mother Reverend Josephs would have agreed.

File this under TMI.


This is one of my favorite songs which made an appearance in one of my favorite movies. And this isn’t just because I am a very big Cher fan. So, here it is:

This film has many of my favorite actors in it and the theme of single mother who isn’t exactly a “good girl” really resonated with me.

Ah, back in the day. Well actually, 1990 seems just like yesterday, and ah, it was! And you go Mrs. Flax!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It’s All in Their Heads!

But I guess when you are part of the 1%, and Masters of the Universe, the facts of the 99% can be seen as delusional. Because, you know, it is just so different from their experience. And the experience of the 1% is the norm don’t you know!

Oh, and does your Health Care Plan cover Psychiatric or Psychological treatment?

Just asking!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Colbert King

Now you knew he had something to say about BHO’s speech on Father’s Day. I was just waiting for it and here it is:

A Tragedy That Is Ours to Stop

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, July 19, 2008; A15

"It starts with teaching our daughters to never allow images on television to tell them what they are worth, and teaching our sons to treat women with respect, and to realize that responsibility does not end at conception, that what makes them men is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one."

-- Sen. Barack Obama, speaking to the 99th annual NAACP convention July 14 in Cincinnati.

Let's apply that message to the District of Columbia, where some of our daughters never learn what they are really worth, where some of our sons aren't taught to treat women with respect, and where too many sons and daughters know how to make babies but not how to raise them.

Consider what that has wrought.

It shows up in youth violence, in child abuse and neglect, in school dropout rates, and in a steady stream of young men into the juvenile detention center at Oak Hill and the D.C. jail.

A major cause of all this? Teen pregnancy. That, at least, is the thesis of Brenda Rhodes Miller, executive director of the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. She makes a case that only the ignorant would ignore.

"We used to say that boys get guns and girls get babies. Now, we routinely ask reporters for the age of parents whenever someone meets a tragic end," Miller wrote in an e-mail this week.

Her point? D.C. neighborhoods plagued by youth violence are the same neighborhoods where birth rates among teenagers are highest. To see for yourself, go to the campaign's Web site: http://www.dccampaign.org/content/view/144/106/. Look at the 2005 and 2006 maps of juvenile arrests and teen births.

Oak Hill and the city jail? Consider the youths in the juvenile justice system. Many are sons who were born to teenage mothers. Miller's organization points out that these youths are three times as likely as other boys to end up in the justice system.

Many also are teenage fathers.

An old story worth repeating: A few years ago, I met with a group of young inmates at the D.C. correctional treatment facility.

One inmate told me he was the father of three children, each 6 years old. The children weren't triplets, however. Six years earlier, when he was 16, the inmate had gotten three girls pregnant. "They were born one month apart," he said sheepishly.

School failures? Miller says about 70 percent of teenage mothers don't graduate from high school, leaving them with few resources to prepare their own children for school. "Plus, they can't get a living-wage job," she said.

Child abuse and neglect? The children of teenagers are twice as likely to be abused and neglected and more likely to wind up in foster care, Miller said.

Or worse, I might add.

This week, we learned about the death of a District infant, just 5 months old, and the possibility that he died when his sleeping mother rolled over on him. His mother is 15.

A few more statistics to fill in the picture: Children of adolescent mothers, research shows, are more likely to have learning disabilities and more likely to be unprepared for school, and to have vocabulary and attention deficits. Sadly, too, children of teenage parents are more likely to become teenage parents themselves.

And so the intergenerational cycle of dysfunction goes on. And the community's foundation weakens further. All before our eyes.

Does it have to go on this way? Miller says no, and I agree.

But, as Obama told his Cincinnati audience, "We all have to do our part."

We start by recognizing that most of the youths engaged in risky and destructive behavior don't have what they need: homes where they are given a sense of belonging, where they are made to feel safe from an early age. They have gangs instead of families, the streets instead of schools.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham told me recently that the Citywide Coordinating Council on Youth Violence Prevention is tracing and monitoring 47 gangs or crews throughout the city.

We must fill the void.

Enter the world of young girls and boys who need, but lack, supportive, one-on-one relationships with adults. Encourage intervention by faith-based organizations to help youths get away from the behavior that dooms their future. Change starts with a civic community that doesn't make excuses but holds young men and women -- and parents -- accountable for their behavior.

The D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has done more than its part, and with some success. The city, says Graham, is directing human and physical resources at the gang program.

Demand more responsibility from the D.C. government? Yes, but, as Obama contends, we must demand more responsibility from ourselves.

No amount of support from the city will make any difference if we, as a community, don't seize more responsibility in our own lives and with our children.

Obama said it. Brenda Rhodes Miller says it. I say it, too.

As you all know I love Mr. King, though I often disagree with him. And I really miss his voice at the WAPO Editorial Meetings. But as the mother of a young beautiful and very smart black man I believe that this isn’t the Black Community’s problem, it is the U.S.A.’s problem. The sooner we come to realize this the sooner this country will start to heal. Naturally this is of course reflective of my history as a Dirty Fucking Hippy.

What Can I Say!

The War on Greed

I love Robert Greenwald.

My sister lived in Rockford a long time ago. She left before Kravis hit town. Lucky her.

And now for the voice of the workers:

McBush = McSame = The Lobbyist’s Express Train!

Traveling the World

Gail Collins is the “Not MoDo” of the NYT’s Op-Ed page. Sometimes she irks me and sometimes I find her snark charming.

I just like this column. She hits most of the right spots and connects some dots. So, I thought I should share.

July 19, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist

Summer Travel Plans


Barack Obama is visiting ... wherever. (Security is so tight for this trip that we cannot even talk about not talking about it.)

Suffice it to say that he intends to check out the big Middle Eastern trouble spots, to meet with officials and generals, and to speak with ordinary citizens to the degree possible for a man surrounded by more armor than a Transformer movie.

“I think he wants to get out and do as much as he can ... I don’t think he’ll be strolling around the market in a flak jacket,” said Susan Rice, a senior Obama foreign policy adviser, speaking from a plane en route to ... someplace.

That was, of course, a reference to John McCain’s visit to Baghdad last year when he strolled through a market, swaddled in a flak jacket and protected by so many soldiers, helicopters and sharpshooters that it looked like a new invasion. The entire expedition provided as much information on real-life conditions in Iraq as a walk down the old “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” set at Universal Studios. Nevertheless, McCain declared that he was witnessing evidence that the country was returning to normal. The next day, a number of Shiite workers from the market were murdered.

McCain, who had been demanding that Obama visit Iraq, is now denouncing him for not having gone sooner, more often and before making policy speeches on the Middle East. “He’s never been to Afghanistan and I’m astonished,” he added.

You could pose the question in the opposite direction. Why is Obama going at all? Given the constraints under which he has to operate, the chance that he’ll see something enlightening seem to be lower than the chance of being shown something misleading. (See above: McCain/marketplace.) Really, anybody he needs to talk to would be happy to pick up a phone.

On the other hand, it’s always useful to get out and about. President Bush has been traveling around the world like crazy recently. A friend of mine refers to this late-breaking interest in globe-trotting as “a taxpayer-funded junior year abroad.” But let us try not to be bitter.

Bush has been touching all the bases — April with NATO, the Middle East in May, Europe in June, Asia in July. And look at all the progress we’ve seen since. The United States and Iraq have suddenly agreed to a “general time horizon” for future troop reductions. (Not a timetable! Everybody knows that timetables are playing into the hands of the enemy. This is an “aspirational goal.” Totally, totally different.)

And we’re talking to Iran about its nuclear weapons! This also is not a change of policy. Just ask the administration. “The United States is determined to have negotiations only when Iran has suspended its enrichment and reprocessing,” said Condoleezza Rice firmly. Talking with the top Iranian nuclear negotiator is not a negotiation! It’s talk. A get-to-know-you thing. Like speed dating.

Americans seem confused about how Iraq fits into the presidential race. Polls tell us they want the troops out, but when it comes to judgment in foreign affairs, they have more faith in McCain, who wants to stay in.

There’s a kind of strange symmetry in Iraq. Earlier this week, The Times’s Sabrina Tavernise and Richard Oppel talked to Iraqis in various parts of the country and reported that most seem to have a very high opinion of Obama for reasons that include: 1) his name; 2) the fact that although he is not and never has been Muslim, there’s a connection there somewhere; and 3) in the words of one Baghdad businessman: “He seems like a nice guy.”

If you feel as though these explanations lack a depth of political sophistication, try asking American voters how they feel about Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

The Iraqis who talked to The Times were less enthusiastic about Obama’s position on — well, Iraq. Although most of the people interviewed wanted the Americans gone, they also wanted assurance they would still have the pathetic modicum of security and stability they have now. Which requires the American troops. That seems to put them closer to John McCain’s position. But they like Barack better. Once again, we see citizens of our two very different nations united by love of democracy and voter irrationality.

The confusion about whom to trust on Iraq may go back to the fact that both candidates were right about the war, in different ways. Obama opposed the whole thing. (“Dumb” was the operative word.) McCain thought it was being badly executed. Recently, his passion to demonstrate knowledge of military tactics has been so intense that he appears to be running for secretary of defense.

Obama underestimated the potential of the surge, but was way ahead of McCain in recognizing that the big problem in the region was Afghanistan, not Iraq. Yes, even though he had never been there, Obama was able to figure out that the region where Al Qaeda was actually located posed more of a danger to American security than a benighted country where it wasn’t.

Until, of course, George Bush invaded and Al Qaeda moved in. But he was much less experienced then. It was before the junior year abroad.

Like I said, I like this column and the snark.

Mr. Foreign Policy?

Apparently “Muddling” through is his policy prescription for Afghanistan. It certainly seems to be Bush’s policy. And we know that McCain is McSame.

Did you also notice that he thought that Kabul is in Iraq? I know, just another of those “Authentic Moments” like Czechoslovakia which hasn’t existed for 15 years. I guess he is just “confused.”

Is this what being a “War Hero” and all the foreign policy experience that comes with it means: that you would be a more effective Commander-in-Chief?

I am not saying, I am just saying!

Bush Back in the Day!

January 20th can’t come soon enough.

I still can’t explain 2004. Apparently my POV is different from the others in the 51% of voters in the States. I am not a low information voter. I knew then what has become common knowledge now.

This makes this interview all the more shocking.

Why Not?

When Mr. Gore speaks, Bob Herbert listens. And so should we all.

Here is his column in toto:

July 19, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist

Yes We Can


As I was listening to Al Gore on the telephone, I was thinking: “Uh-oh, the naysayers will have a field day with this one.”

The former vice president was giving me an advanced briefing on the speech that he delivered on Thursday, calling on the United States to behave like a great nation and actually do something real about its self-destructive and ultimately unsustainable reliance on carbon-based fuel for its 21st-century energy needs.

“I’m going to issue a strategic challenge that the United States of America set a goal of getting 100 percent of our electricity from renewable resources and carbon-constrained fuels within 10 years,” he said.

“One hundred percent?” I said.

“One hundred percent.”

Mr. Gore’s focus is primarily on solar, wind and geothermal energy. His belief is that a dramatic, wholesale transition to these abundant and renewable sources of energy is not just doable, but essential.

My view of Mr. Gore’s passionate engagement with some of the biggest issues of our time is that he is offering us the kind of vision and sense of urgency that has been so lacking in the presidential campaigns. But the tendency in a society that is skeptical, if not phobic, about anything progressive has been to dismiss his large ideas and wise counsel, as George H. W. Bush once did by deriding him as “ozone man.”

The naysayers will tell you that once again Al Gore is dreaming, that the costs of his visionary energy challenge are too high, the technological obstacles too tough, the timeline too short and the political lift much too heavy.

But that’s the thing about visionaries. They don’t imagine what’s easy. They imagine the benefits to be reaped once all the obstacles are overcome. Mr. Gore will tell you about the wind blowing through the corridor that stretches from Mexico to Canada, through the Plains states, and the tremendous amounts of electricity that would come from capturing the energy of that wind — enough to light up cities and towns from coast to coast.

“We need to make a big, massive, one-off investment to transform our energy infrastructure from one that relies on a dirty, expensive fuel to fuel that is free,” said Mr. Gore. “The sun and the wind and geothermal are not going to run out, and we don’t have to export them from the Persian Gulf, and they are not increasing in price.

“And since the only factor that controls the price is the efficiency and innovation that goes into the equipment that transforms it into electricity, once you start getting the scales that we’re anticipating, those systems come down in cost.”

The correct response to Mr. Gore’s proposal would be a rush to figure out ways to make it happen. Don’t hold your breath.

When exactly was it that the U.S. became a can’t-do society? It wasn’t at the very beginning when 13 ragamuffin colonies went to war against the world’s mightiest empire. It wasn’t during World War II when Japan and Nazi Germany had to be fought simultaneously. It wasn’t in the postwar period that gave us the Marshall Plan and a robust G.I. Bill and the interstate highway system and the space program and the civil rights movement and the women’s movement and the greatest society the world had ever known.

When was it?

Now we can’t even lift New Orleans off its knees.

In his speech, delivered in Washington, Mr. Gore said: “We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet.”

He described carbon-based fuel as the thread running through the global climate crisis, America’s economic woes and its most serious national security threats. He then asked: “What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don’t cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home?”

Americans are extremely anxious at the moment, and I think part of it has to do with a deeply unsettling feeling that the nation may not be up to the tremendous challenges it is facing. A recent poll by the Rockefeller Foundation and Time magazine that focused on economic issues found a deep pessimism running through respondents.

According to Margot Brandenburg, an official with the foundation, nearly half of 18- to 29-year-olds “feel that America’s best days are in the past.”

The moment is ripe for exactly the kind of challenge issued by Mr. Gore on Thursday. It doesn’t matter if his proposal is less than perfect, or can’t be realized within 10 years, or even it if is found to be deeply flawed. The goal is the thing.

The fetish for drilling for ever more oil is the perfect metaphor these days. The first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging.

And I will repeat: Yes We Can!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Birthday President Mandela!

Mandela Celebrates His 90th Birthday


LONDON — There was a time, not all that long ago, when he was the invisible man whose name was a battle cry, his appearance known to most people only from an out-of-date photograph, a hidden hero on a prison island off the coast of Africa.

But as he celebrated his 90th birthday on Friday, Nelson Mandela was anything but invisible, a figure of reverence whose nine decades have been marked and observed at a huge rock concert in London’s Hyde Park, a gala dinner for his children’s charity in the august, chandeliered Long Room at Lord’s cricket ground and a host of tributes.

The actual day of his birth was supposed to be celebrated with a quiet affair in his ancestral village of Qunu in the southeast of South Africa — with a mere 500 of his closest friends in attendance, and a wry self-deprecation.

“We are honored that you wish to celebrate the birthday of a retired old man, who no longer has power or influence,” he said in a public radio message, according to news reports.

Friday was also the 10th anniversary of his marriage to Graca Machel, the widow of Samora Machel, a revolutionary leader and former president of Mozambique. He divorced Winnie Mandela in 1996.

Part of Mr. Mandela has always seemed to be public property, owned initially by foes of apartheid rule in South Africa and now a kind of universal talisman of integrity and dignity — a name to bring a flush of moral ardor to the most jaded celebrity visages.

Where his name once resonated around the segregated black townships of apartheid South Africa, chanted by the rebellious youths who challenged white rule, it now seems to head a list of encounters with notables sought by rock stars and politicians. He has apparently enjoyed a degree of mutual admiration: in 1997, for instance, he referred to the British pop group the Spice Girls as his “heroes” when he met them.

In his presence, even the most battle-scarred and cynical of politicians seem to feel they are wafted to the high ground wrought by Mr. Mandela’s 27 years in prison. His stature and charisma have given him entrée from the White House in Washington to 10 Downing Street in London.

Remarkably, it is now 18 years since Mr. Mandela was released from jail, 14 years since he triumphed in his country’s first democratic elections, eight since he left office and four since he formally withdrew from public life. But, contrary to his disclaimer of power and influence in his birthday message, he is still seen as a guarantor of his country’s remarkable transition from a segregated to a majority-ruled society.

F. W. de Klerk, the last white president of South Africa who negotiated the transition with Mr. Mandela and shared a Nobel Peace Prize with him in 1993, hailed Mr. Mandela’s role in molding “our widely diverse communities into an emerging multi-cultural nation.”

Mr. Mandela has lent his name to the struggle against HIV and AIDS. The rock concert in Hyde Park, which used Mr. Mandela’s Robben Island prison number of 46664, was devoted to the effort to combat the epidemic that has been the scourge of Africa.

He also entered the bitter dispute over the electoral, social and economic crises of Zimbabwe, saying that there had been a “tragic failure of leadership” in the country.

As Mr. Mandela ages, there are fears among some South Africans that, as the Mail and Guardian newspaper put it, his legacy is under threat from his successor, Thabo Mbeki.

Mr. Mbeki’s critics have accused him of being far more divisive than Mr. Mandela and of overseeing a massive centralization of the power of the ruling African National Congress.

“Mandela is 90,” the Mail and Guardian said in its online edition Friday. “But the sweet celebration of a life of leadership, service and generosity is mixed with the sour taste of a legacy being polluted in front of the old man’s tired eyes.

“Where Mandela united, Mbeki has divided. His willingness to forgive and be reconciled with his former persecutors in the interests of South Africa is in sharp contrast with the ‘politics of total takeover’ that has gripped the ruling party.”

It is thus with a certain wistfulness that some South Africans contemplate a post-Mandela era.

“Mandela can’t come to our rescue any more,” the newspaper said. “But his example can.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

It’s a Start!

T. Boone Pickens has a plan. Who would have thunk it?

It certainly makes some sense don’t you think? And from a Very Big Oil Man! I am betting that there must be a buck in here somewhere for T. Boone, what do you think?

h/t C&L

FISA Abuse!

From Kevin at Washington Monthly.

FISA....Tim Lee is reading about J. Edgar Hoover's steady expansion of domestic surveillance during his long tenure as FBI director:

The most remarkable thing about it is how familiar it all seems. As [Athan] Theoharis tells the story, the FBI has, from its inception, pushed for ever broader authority to spy on Americans. During the first half of the 20th century, it pushed relentlessly for broader statutory authority. When Congress would not give it the authority it wanted, it sought authorization from senior executive branch officials for authorization to break the law. If authorization wasn't forthcoming, the bureau would often do what it wanted anyway and not tell its nominal superiors of its activities.

Tim seems persuaded that Hoover-ish sorts of surveillance aimed at political enemies is probably going on today, but I think Matt Yglesias is closer to the target with this:

These practices, of course, were per se abusive in many ways, and led to further abuses, and then under Richard Nixon led to the revelation of massive abuses and the creations of the safeguards we're now busy unwinding.

I suppose at this point I've become fatalistic about FISA and am mostly just waiting for this whole cycle to repeat itself.

There is, of course, no way to know with certainty what NSA is doing right now, but even if their programs really are tightly focused on international terrorist activity today (and I think they are), the odds are about zero that a gigantic, secret, wholesale surveillance program with poor oversight will remain tightly focused in the future. Even if George Bush's motives are entirely pure, abuse is inevitable under the kind of rules set forth in the FISA legislation currently waiting for Senate approval. A decade or two from now, a 21st century version of the Church Commission will write this story for the second time and our children will wonder how we let it happen. I sort of doubt that we'll have a very good answer.

I think that Kevin is an optimist as it goes with the governments warrant-less wiretapping. Maybe it is because I am so much older than he is and remember the Church Commission and the Nixon lawlessness. But what is going on now is worse than Nixon and what was outlawed by FISA. Or it wouldn’t be happening!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

It Seems Like Yesterday

On June 30, 1995 Phyllis Hyman took her life. Thirteen years later I still can’t believe it. I admired her as a performer and a person. She was so talented and so beautiful with a wit and intelligence that wowed anyone who knew her. Unfortunately she was torn between who she was and what she thought she should be.

I first met Phyllis when she was performing at Mikkel’s on the Upper West Side. I nearly fell over when she sang “Body Heat” by QJ. She was so tall and elegant and shy. During those days she mostly did standards and contemporary songs. This was also before the era of Broadway, her hats and costumes. She wore simple and elegant clothes, not outfits, and they added and did not detract from the elegant stylist that she was. Frankly she reminded me of a young and very contemporary Ms. Nancy Wilson. Well actually Ms. Wilson reminded me of Phyllis.

Back in the day we would often commiserate about many things. I also got to know some of her most devoted friends and cohorts who likewise were wonderful. I didn’t know at the time about her bi-polar problem as it never was evident to me. I don’t think she knew she had that problem either. She never alluded to it. Actually she seemed pretty together and stable and I saw her on a practically daily basis during the seventies.

In the pre-internet days she had the best set of tubes on the planet.

I don’t want to lose you:

And yet we lost you! Phyllis, I miss you so much. I still can’t get over it. And I know I am not the only one, though I feel it personally.

And yes I am in a Sentimental Mood:

Bush Tours Destroyed America

From the Onion Network News:

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

If only he was repentant.

War What is it Good For?

Back in the day we bought a race horse because his name was “War What is it Good For?” He didn’t disappoint.

In spite of Mr. Edwin Starr’s lament our Country’s Leaders have apparently learned nothing and still disappoint.

And all the Cheap Chinese “Yellow Ribbon” Magnets stuck on cars and SUV’s will not protect or support our troops.

The Past is the Future

Yes, folks, it is probably somewhere over the rainbow! Cause we all know we aren’t in Kansas any more! At least this sounds good!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Obama Confusion?

In Flag City USA there are a lot of flags and little thinking and patriotism. Here is the story from the WAPO about “America.” And it isn’t a pretty picture folks.

Read this and weep:

In Flag City USA, False Obama Rumors Are Flying

By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 30, 2008; A01

FINDLAY, Ohio -- On his corner of College Street, Jim Peterman stares at the four American flags planted in his front lawn and rubs his forehead. Peterman, 74, is a retired worker at Cooper Tire, a father of two, an Air Force veteran and a self-described patriot. He took one trip to Washington in 1989 -- best vacation of his life -- and bought a statue of the Washington Monument that he still displays in a glass case in his living room.

He believes a smart vote is an American's greatest responsibility. Which is why his confusion about Barack Obama continues to eat at him.

On the television in his living room, Peterman has watched enough news and campaign advertisements to hear the truth: Sen. Barack Obama, born in Hawaii, is a Christian family man with a track record of public service. But on the Internet, in his grocery store, at his neighbor's house, at his son's auto shop, Peterman has also absorbed another version of the Democratic candidate's background, one that is entirely false: Barack Obama, born in Africa, is a possibly gay Muslim racist who refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

"It's like you're hearing about two different men with nothing in common," Peterman said. "It makes it impossible to figure out what's true, or what you can believe."

Here in Findlay, a Rust Belt town of 40,000, false rumors about Obama have built enough word-of-mouth credibility to harden into an alternative biography. Born on the Internet, the rumors now meander freely across the flatlands of northwest Ohio -- through bars and baseball fields, retirement homes and restaurants.

Faced with polling that shows about one in 10 Americans thinks Obama is Muslim, the candidate's campaign has launched an aggressive effort to discredit rumors and clarify Obama's past. It created a "Fight the Smears" Web site and a new television ad that reiterates Obama's Christian faith, patriotism and family background. Dozens of volunteers have been sent to Ohio five months in advance of the election so they can spend extra time educating voters.

But on Peterman's block in Findlay, the campaign's efforts may already be too late. A swing voter who entered this election leaning Democratic, Peterson faces a decision that is no longer so simple as a choice between Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain, he said. First, he must pick the version of Obama on which he will stake his vote.

Does he choose to trust a TV commercial in which Obama talks about his "love of country"? Or his neighbor of 40 years, Don LeMaster, a Navy veteran who heard from a friend in Toledo that Obama refuses to wear an American-flag pin?

Does he trust a local newspaper article that details Obama's Christian faith? Or his friend Leroy Pollard, a devoted family man so convinced Obama is a radical Muslim that he threatened to stop talking to his daughter when he heard she might vote for him?

"I'll admit that I probably don't follow all of the election news like maybe I should," Peterman said. "I haven't read his books or studied up more than a little bit. But it's hard to ignore what you hear when everybody you know is saying it. These are good people, smart people, so can they really all be wrong?"

'Funny About Change'

Peterman bought his single-story house here in 1959, a few months after he left the Air Force and married. His wife, Mildred, had grown up in Findlay, and they never considered moving anywhere else. On College Street, the couple found all the hallmarks of America's heartland: a house for $9,000; a neighborhood where their two boys, one handicapped, could play outside after dark; a steady "pencil-pushing" job up the road for Jim at Cooper Tire headquarters.

The neighborhood built up around them. Leroy and Wanda Pollard came in 1962, drawn from southern Ohio by a booming auto industry that offered Leroy plenty of work as a mechanic. Mary Dunson bought the place next door in 1963. Don LeMaster, a police officer, moved in up the street with his wife, Margaret, in 1970.

Every newcomer to the block was white, working-class and Midwestern, and the neighborhood jelled easily. They babysat for one another. They complained to one another about their teenagers. They helped raise one another's grandkids. In all, seven different families have lived on the same block of College Street for at least 35 years.

"We all just found a great place at a great time," Leroy Pollard said.

Peterman hung the American flag on his porch first, in 1960, and the rest of College Street followed his example. By 1980, patriotic displays had grown into an unspoken contest of one-upmanship. Sixty flags planted in one yard on Memorial Day; a living-room window painted red, white and blue; a Buckeye tree decorated with Christmas ornaments celebrating Americana; a gigantic plastic unicorn perched on a front porch and draped in an American flag.

The entire block -- and, soon, the entire town -- shared in unabashed pride and gratefulness for the country that had given them this place. In 1968, a local congressman persuaded the House of Representatives to officially declare Findlay as Flag City, USA.

But with their pride came a nasty undercurrent, one that Obama's candidacy has exacerbated: On College Street, nobody wanted anything to change. As the years passed, Peterman and his neighbors approached one another to share in their skepticism about the unknown. What was the story behind the handful of African Americans who had moved into a town that is 93 percent white? Why were Japanese businessmen coming in to run the local manufacturing plants? Who in the world was this Obama character, running for president with that funny-sounding last name?

"People in Findlay are kind of funny about change," said Republican Mayor Pete Sehnert, a retired police officer who ran for the office on a whim last year. "They always want things the way they were, and any kind of development is always viewed as making things worse, a bad thing."

When people on College Street started hearing rumors about Obama -- who looked different from other politicians and often talked about change -- they easily believed the nasty stories about an outsider.

"I think Obama would be a disaster, and there's a lot of reasons," said Pollard, explaining the rumors he had heard about the candidate from friends he goes camping with. "I understand he's from Africa, and that the first thing he's going to do if he gets into office is bring his family over here, illegally. He's got that racist [pastor] who practically raised him, and then there's the Muslim thing. He's just not presidential material, if you ask me."

Said Don LeMaster: "He's a good speaker, but you've got to dig deeper than that for the truth. Politicians tell you anything. You have look beyond the surface, and then there are some real lies."

Said Jeanette Collins, a 77-year-old who lives across the street: "All I know for sure about Obama is that we're not ready for him."

Only one man on College Street remains open-minded, and recently even Peterman has started to sway. Like most of his neighbors, he dislikes McCain for his stance on the Iraq war and would like to cast his vote for a president who will bring the troops home. But on a recent visit to his son's auto shop, Peterman overheard misinformed customers talking again about a Muslim in the White House.

"I don't know. The whole thing just scares me," Peterman said. "I'm almost starting to feel like the best choice is not voting at all."

The Truth Squad

So far, those who have pushed the truth in Findlay have been rewarded with little that resembles progress. Gerri Kish, a 66-year-old born in Hawaii, read both of Obama's autobiographies. She has close friends, she said, who still refuse to believe her when she swears Obama is Christian. Then she hands them the books, and they refuse to read them. "They just want to believe what they believe," she said. "Nothing gets through to them."

The new advertisement running in Findlay, in which Obama is pictured with his white mother and white grandparents as he talks about developing a "deep and abiding faith in the country I love" while growing up in the Kansas heartland, is dismissed by residents of College Street as the desperate lies of another dishonest Washington politician. And they say that Obama's moves to put distance between himself and the Muslim community, with his campaign declining invitations to visit mosques and Obama volunteers removing two women in head scarves from the camera range at a rally in Detroit earlier this month are just a too-late effort to disguise his true beliefs.

For the past month, two students from the University of Findlay have spent their Tuesday nights walking from door to door in the city to tell voters about Obama. Erik Cramer and Sarah Everly target Democrats and swing voters exclusively, but they've still experienced mixed results. Sometimes, at a front door, they mention their purpose only to have a dozen rumors thrown back at them and the door slammed. "People tell us that we're in the wrong town," Everly said.

Soon, on a Tuesday night, they'll walk down College Street -- past the American flags, past the LeMasters, past the Pollards -- and knock on Jim Peterman's front door. They will ask for two minutes of his time, and Peterman will give it to them. He will listen to their story, weighing facts against fiction. For a few minutes, he might even believe them.

Then he'll close his door and go inside, back to his life. Back to his grocery store, back to his son's auto shop, back to the gossip on College Street. Back to the rumors again.

So what is a rational and high-information voter and person to think and do to alter this situation with low-information voters and citizens?

Unfortunately, and sadly, this no longer shocks me.

Douglass v. Obama

I love Colbert King and miss his input as an Editor at the WAPO. Now this is not to say that we didn’t disagree on certain things, we did, that said I miss his voice. He still, thank you very much, has his perch on Saturday as an Op-Ed Contributor at said WAPO.

Here is his column which gave me a heartfelt uplift this morning:

Two Speeches, Two Truths About America

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, July 5, 2008; A15

Sen. Barack Obama's speech on patriotism this week at the Truman Memorial Building in Independence, Mo., stands in sharp relief to Frederick Douglass's Fourth of July oration before the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society in 1852. The two men's remarks, touching on loyalty, race and the country's moral foundation, underscore the difference 150 years has made in the life of our nation.

Douglass, an abolitionist who escaped from a slave plantation, spoke on America's 76th birthday, a decade before the Civil War. He extolled the virtues of the Declaration of Independence -- which he called the ring-bolt to the chain of America's destiny. The principles in the Declaration, Douglass asserted, are "savings principles."

"Stand by those principles," he exhorted his overwhelmingly white audience. "Be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost."

Douglass praised the Founders as statesmen, patriots and heroes who looked beyond their day to seize eternal values. "With them, justice, liberty and humanity were 'final,' " Douglass said.

But even as he noted America's celebration of freedom, Douglass called attention to the presence of millions of enslaved blacks on American soil. He asked the assembled: "What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?"

"The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence bequeathed by your fathers," Douglass said, "is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me."

This July Fourth, Douglass declared, "is yours not mine."

Looking at Independence Day from the slave's perspective, he said, he did not hesitate to declare, "with all my soul, that the character and conduct of the nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July."

His speech confronted dark truths: that there was an immeasurable difference between free whites and blacks in chains; that the blessings his audience enjoyed were not enjoyed by all Americans.

"You may rejoice," Douglass lamented. "I must mourn."

A century and a half later, as Americans prepared to celebrate the nation's birth, Barack Obama took the podium in Independence.

Although generations apart, Douglass and Obama have common characteristics.

Both are of mixed race. Like Douglass, Obama grew up without the steadying hand of a father.

Both men sought life's fortunes far from their places of birth. And in their speeches on independence and patriotism, both cited the courage and wisdom of the men who sought total separation of the colonies from the crown.

Obama's speech, "The America We Love," lauded the men of Lexington and Concord who launched the American Revolution. Obama also agreed with Douglass on the significance of the founding documents and the idea of liberty as a God-given right worth dying for.

But while Douglass noted his estrangement from America's experiment with democracy, Obama claimed America as his own and the Fourth of July as a time to rejoice.

His remarks showed how his context for viewing America differs sharply from Douglass's.

The putative Democratic presidential nominee spoke of always taking his "deep and abiding love for this country as a given." He said patriotism starts for him as a "gut instinct, a loyalty and love for country rooted in my earliest memories."

Obama said that as he got older, that instinct, "that America is the greatest country on earth -- would survive my growing awareness of our nation's imperfections."

Racial strife, poverty and the political corruption revealed by Watergate, Obama said, were outweighed by the "joys of American life and culture, its vitality and its freedom."

Patriotism, he said, is "more than loyalty to a place on a map or a certain kind of people"; it is loyalty to American ideals and their proven capacity to inspire a better world.

Perhaps the most sobering aspect of Obama's speech on the eve of the nation's birthday was his need to defend his patriotism at all.

It makes you wonder how Independence Day orators 150 years from now will look back upon this Fourth of July.

What will they make of freedom-loving people who, at the dawn of America's fourth century as a nation, question the patriotism of a U.S. senator because he doesn't wear a flag pin in his lapel or because he has a name that doesn't sound like theirs?

What will they say about our professed fidelity to religious freedom when they find out that many of the Americans who thank God for their religious liberty are also ready to turn their backs on a candidate if they think he is a Muslim or Mormon?

Or because he's black?

What, come to think of it, would Frederick Douglass think?

Mr. Douglass might think that we have come quite some way and yet have a very long way to go.

As Mr. King said in an email to me, “Pray.”

Jesse Helms is Dead!

July 4, 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008

Robinson on Patriotism.

Dear Eugene:

I concur. This is what made me so crazy about the Rev. Wright endless loops to smear Senator Obama. There was nothing reported about his Valedictorian status at the Naval Academy or his service in the Marines when it would have been difficult to register to vote or his merely quoting President Reagan’s Ambassador Pike. Rev. Wright is a Patriot just as anyone who thinks that the U.S.A. can be a better country is a patriot.

So I am posting your column which is “Right On:”

A Special Brand Of Patriotism

By Eugene Robinson
Friday, July 4, 2008; A17

Anyone who took U.S. history in high school ought to know that one of the five men killed in the Boston Massacre, the atrocity that helped ignite the American Revolution, was a runaway slave named Crispus Attucks. The question the history books rarely consider is: Why?

Think about it for a moment. For well over a century, British colonists in North America had practiced a particularly cruel brand of slavery, a system of bondage intended not just to exploit the labor of Africans but to crush their spirit as well. Backs were whipped and broken, families systematically separated, traditions erased, ancient languages silenced. Yet a black man -- to many, nothing more than a piece of property -- chose to stand and die with the patriots of Boston.

Now think about the Buffalo Soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen. Think about Dorie Miller, who, like so many black sailors in the segregated U.S. Navy of the 1940s, was relegated to kitchen duty -- until Pearl Harbor, when Miller rushed up to the deck of the sinking USS West Virginia, carried wounded sailors to safety and then raked Japanese planes with fire from a heavy machine gun until he ran out of ammunition.

Think about Colin Powell -- but also think about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a former Marine. And consider, as we celebrate Independence Day, how steadfast and complicated black patriotism has always been.

The subject is particularly relevant now that the first African American with a realistic chance of becoming president, Barack Obama, has felt compelled to give a lengthy speech explaining his own patriotism. It is not common, in my experience, for sitting U.S. senators to be questioned on their love of country -- to be grilled about a flag pin, for example, or critiqued on the posture they assume when the national anthem is played. For an American who attains such high office, patriotism is generally assumed.

It seems that some people don't want to give Obama the benefit of that assumption, however, and I have to wonder whether that's because he's black. And then I have to wonder why.

The fact that African American patriotism is never simple doesn't mean it's in any way halfhearted; to the contrary, complicated relationships tend to be the deepest and strongest. It's a historical fact that black soldiers and sailors who fought overseas in World War II came home to Southern cities where they had to ride in the back of the bus -- and that they were angry that the nation for which they had sacrificed would treat them this way. To some whites, I guess, it may seem logical to be suspicious of black patriotism -- to believe that anger must somehow temper love of country.

It doesn't, of course. It never has. Black Americans are just more intimately and acutely aware of some of our nation's flaws than many white Americans might be. This generalization is less true of my sons than of my parents, and I hope that someday it won't be true at all. But only in the past half-century has the United States begun to fully extend the rights of citizenship to African Americans -- and only in the past year has the idea that a black man might actually be elected president been more than a plot device for movies and television shows. We're someplace we've never been.

Michelle Obama was sharply attacked for saying that she felt proud of her country for the first time in her adult life. Her phrasing may have been impolitic, but I know exactly what she meant.

This isn't about whether or not Barack Obama wins. Just the fact that he might win is an incredible change for this country -- and recognizing the importance of that change is, to me, the very essence of patriotism.

What's unpatriotic is pretending that the past never happened. What's unpatriotic is failing to acknowledge that we've struggled with race for nearly 400 years. What's unpatriotic is relegating "black history" to the month of February when, really, it's American history, without which this nation could never be what it is today.

My father, Harold I. Robinson, served in the Army during World War II and has lived to witness this transformative moment of possibility. My father-in-law, the late Edward R. Collins, was a sailor who saw action in the South Pacific; he rests at Arlington National Cemetery. I have no patience with anyone who thinks that patriots don't have brown skin.

Nuff said!

Happy 4th of July all you Patriots.

Treasury: Not a Pretty Picture!

Milbank reports, with some snark, and you decide:

The Economy? Words Fail Me.

By Dana Milbank
Friday, July 4, 2008; A03

Think you're worried about the economy? Phillip Swagel is a wreck.

The assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy, Swagel came out for his monthly economic briefing yesterday, 90 minutes after the Labor Department reported that the country had shed jobs in June for the sixth straight month.

Does this mean the economy is worse than the Bush administration expected?

"We shouldn't, in a sense, be surprised when the data are, are, soft," Swagel managed to say.

Does the economy need another stimulus package?

"I-it seems, you know, it seems like that's, that's enough, uh, enough."

What might trigger another round of economic stimulus?

"I don't, I guess I don't have an answer, I mean, you know, beyond saying we look at all the data and, um -- so, my usual line."

Okay, so it wasn't a strong performance. But let's cut Swagel some slack. He's a sharp economist (his PhD is from Harvard) and, in ordinary conversation, he suffers none of the speech difficulties that plagued him on the stage yesterday. His various roles in government, at the Council of Economic Advisers, the Federal Reserve and the International Monetary Fund, were too junior for him to deserve any blame for the current economic troubles.

But Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who was in London yesterday, and Swagel's other superiors in the Bush administration left him with an impossible task: appearing on camera to put a favorable and reassuring gloss on an economy that has gone to the dogs.

Yesterday's report that 62,000 jobs were lost brought the total for the first half of the year to 438,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management reported that its measure of the service sector had declined in June. Stock markets, flirting with a bear market, finished another losing week. Oil pushed to a record high. Inflation and foreclosures are up, consumer confidence is down, and administration forecasts for a "strong pace of growth" in the second half of 2008 are look increasingly absurd.

It was a hopeless spin assignment -- but Swagel, the administration's sacrificial lamb for the day, had to try. And so Swagel, bookish and bespectacled, entered the Treasury Department's briefing room with evident trepidation. He nodded and offered smiles every which way. His heavy breathing, picked up by the microphone, could be heard in the back of the room.

"Um, I'll start off as usual with a short statement and then, uh, take questions," he began.

In his statement, he employed the great euphemisms of his profession: the economic "headwinds," the housing "correction," the credit-market "disruption." But, he offered, "the stimulus package will help support . . . spending."

A questioner asked about private forecasts, which, in contrast to administration forecasts, see a contracting economy through early next year. "You know, it doesn't look like it to us now, but obviously we'll have to see where we are at the end of the year," he answered.

Might a second stimulus package be necessary? "Right now, the way we see it is the rebates that are already going out are big enough, and were timely enough, to make a difference and-and to support spending," he said.

Swagel was asked whether the energy shock and a longer-than-expected housing slump justify more federal action. He admitted that rising gas prices have pretty much offset the tax rebate checks, but this only proves, he said, that "the stimulus payments were timely and needed."

Asked if he could reassure those who worry it's time to hide valuables under the mattress and get a shotgun, he chuckled and then ventured: "You know it's i-in a sense what -- I think what matters is it's worse than, it's worse than, it should be."

For a brief, joyous moment for the economist, it appeared he had exhausted all the questions, but as soon as Swagel got out "I hope everyone has a good holiday," another hand went up.

The reporter asked if he saw any hope for economic revival in the new employment report. Swagel exhaled loudly. "No," he said, then sniffed and exhaled again. "You know, the data today, right, we had, wage gains were decent, but of course we know that overall inflation, uh, is going to fully offset and more those, uh, you know, those wage gains," he said. The unemployment rate remained at 5.5 percent, but "I don't . . . take any comfort from that."

Though still forecasting "modest but positive growth," he cautioned that "you're going to still see a weak labor market, so, um, yeah, so it's not, I don't expect to come out next month and, uh, you know, and have great news on the labor market, either."

And with that, the Treasury official departed the room for what one hopes will be some much-needed calm.

I actually, sort of, feel bad for Swagel. Having to defend this Administration’s horrible policies and their obvious outcomes must be the most horrible job ever (and Milbank is unusually soft on him.) Though one does have to wonder why you would want the job in the first place.

I am not saying, I’m just saying!

Surprise: No Justice for a Torture Victim

I am so ashamed of my former employer. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in part that being at JFK Airport is not actually being in the U.S. and as such Mr. Arar does not deserve Due Process and of course there is the ever all encompassing “National Security” reason to dismiss his case seeking Justice. Thus the Second Circuit is able to sidestep this most important case. That is a simplification of this very “Simplistic” and yet “Convoluted” opinion.

Here is the Press Release from the Center for Constitutional Rights:

No Justice for Canadian Rendition Victim Maher Arar

Court Majority Refuses to Hold U.S. Officials Accountable for Complicity in Torture Abroad

Contact: press@ccrjustice.org

June 30, 2008, New York – Today, the majority in a federal Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 against Center for Constitutional Rights client Maher Arar’s case against U.S. officials for their role in sending him to Syria to be tortured and interrogated for a year under the extraordinary rendition program.

Maher Arar is not available to comment in person, but is issuing the following statement: “The Court’s 2-1 ruling is outrageous. It basically legitimizes what was done to me, and permits the government to use immigration law as a disguise to send people to torture without regard for due process.”

The majority ruled that Mr. Arar’s constitutional claims that it was a violation of due process to lock him up for two weeks, obstruct his access to a lawyer and a court, and then to ship him to Syria for the purpose of having him interrogated under torture could not be heard in federal court for two reasons. It concluded that adjudicating the claims would interfere with sensitive matters of foreign policy and national security, and that Arar, as a foreigner who had not been formally admitted to the U.S., had no constitutional due process rights with respect to the government's interference with his access to a lawyer and the decision to send him to Syria to be tortured.

The majority also rejected Mr. Arar’s claim that U.S. officials are liable under the Torture Victim Protection Act, for conspiring with Syria to subject Mr. Arar to torture under color of foreign law. The TVPA creates liability for torture inflicted under color of foreign law, and courts have held that it applies not only to the torturer himself, but also to those who aid or abet in the torture. Arar alleged that U.S. officials aided and abetted in his torture at Syrian hands, but the majority ruled that the federal officials could not be held responsible for their conspiracy with the Syrians because they were federal officials exercising federal authority.

“We are deeply disappointed,” said Georgetown law professor and CCR Board Member David Cole, who argued the case for Mr. Arar. “The Supreme Court earlier this month held that the Constitution protects foreign nationals held as ‘enemy combatants’ at Guantanamo, yet the Second Circuit has ruled that a Canadian changing planes at JFK has no constitutional right to object to being spirited away to Syria to be tortured.”
In addition, the same Court of Appeals ruled in CCR’s landmark case Filártiga v. Peña-Irala in 1980 that a Paraguayan official could be held liable in U.S. court for torture of a Paraguayan citizen in Paraguay, yet it now finds that U.S. officials who send someone to another country to be tortured cannot be held liable.

CCR Senior Staff Attorney Maria LaHood said, “As the dissenting judge noted, the majority’s opinion gives federal officials the license to ‘violate constitutional rights with virtual impunity.’” She added, “It is the court’s duty to uphold the law, not rubberstamp the Administration’s violations of it.”

Mr. Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was detained at JFK Airport in September 2002 while changing planes on his way home to Canada. The Bush administration labeled him a member of Al Qaeda and sent him not to Canada, his home and country of citizenship, but against his will to Syrian intelligence authorities renowned for torture. He was tortured, interrogated and detained in a tiny underground cell for nearly a year before the Syrian government released him, stating they had found no connection to any criminal or terrorist organization or activity.

In January 2004, just three months after he returned home to Canada from his ordeal, CCR filed a suit on Mr. Arar’s behalf against John Ashcroft and other U.S. officials, the first to challenge the government’s policy of “extraordinary rendition,” also known as “outsourcing torture.” In February 2006, Judge David Trager of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed the case, finding that national security and foreign policy considerations prevented him from holding the officials liable for carrying out an extraordinary rendition, even if such conduct violates our treaty obligations or customary international law.

Center for Constitutional Rights Volunteer Attorney David Cole argued before the Court of Appeals on November 9, 2007 that rendition victim Maher Arar’s case against U.S. officials should be reinstated.

The Canadian government, after an exhaustive public inquiry, also found that Mr. Arar had no connection to terrorism and, in January 2007, apologized to Mr. Arar for Canada’s role in his rendition and awarded him a multi-million-dollar settlement. The contrast between the two governments’ responses to their mistakes could not be more stark, say Mr. Arar’s attorneys. Both the Executive and Judicial branches of the United States government have barred inquiry and refused to hold anyone accountable for ruining the life of an innocent man.

While the Executive and Judicial branches have denied Mr. Arar justice, there has been some recent motion in Congress. Two recent hearings dealt with his case, and on October 18, 2007 Maher testified via video at a House Joint Committee Hearing convened to discuss his rendition by the U.S. to Syria for interrogation under torture. During that hearing – the first time Mr. Arar testified before any U.S. governmental body – individual members of Congress publicly apologized to him, though the government still has not issued a formal apology. The next week, on October 24, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted during a House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing that the U.S. government mishandled his case.

The Center for Constitutional Rights represents other victims of the Bush administration’s programs, from Iraqis tortured and abused at Abu Ghraib prison to Muslim and Arab men rounded up and abused in immigration sweeps in the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11, to Guantanamo detainees in the recent Supreme Court case.

So, what does this mean?

Nothing to see here folks just keep on walking. To quote our President: “We don’t torture.” Except when we outsource it that is!

McLaughlin, Cabranes and Sack are collaborators and part of the shredding of the Constitution which they have sworn to uphold and protect. Judge Cabranes and Judge Sack (who concurred in part) should know better. I am so ashamed of their cowardice.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Their Torture is Our Torture!

I hate to quote a cartoon character, but as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” So it seems natural that this latest revelation is actually more from the Annals of Muppet News Flashes.

From the NYT’s:

July 2, 2008

China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo


WASHINGTON — The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Some methods were used against a small number of prisoners at Guantánamo before 2005, when Congress banned the use of coercion by the military. The C.I.A. is still authorized by President Bush to use a number of secret “alternative” interrogation methods.

Several Guantánamo documents, including the chart outlining coercive methods, were made public at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June 17 that examined how such tactics came to be employed.

But committee investigators were not aware of the chart’s source in the half-century-old journal article, a connection pointed out to The New York Times by an independent expert on interrogation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The 1957 article from which the chart was copied was entitled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” and written by Albert D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force, who died in 2003. Mr. Biderman had interviewed American prisoners returning from North Korea, some of whom had been filmed by their Chinese interrogators confessing to germ warfare and other atrocities.

Those orchestrated confessions led to allegations that the American prisoners had been “brainwashed,” and provoked the military to revamp its training to give some military personnel a taste of the enemies’ harsh methods to inoculate them against quick capitulation if captured.

In 2002, the training program, known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, became a source of interrogation methods both for the C.I.A. and the military. In what critics describe as a remarkable case of historical amnesia, officials who drew on the SERE program appear to have been unaware that it had been created as a result of concern about false confessions by American prisoners.

Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said after reviewing the 1957 article that “every American would be shocked” by the origin of the training document.

“What makes this document doubly stunning is that these were techniques to get false confessions,” Mr. Levin said. “People say we need intelligence, and we do. But we don’t need false intelligence.”

A Defense Department spokesman, Lt. Col Patrick Ryder, said he could not comment on the Guantánamo training chart. “I can’t speculate on previous decisions that may have been made prior to current D.O.D. policy on interrogations,” Colonel Ryder said. “I can tell you that current D.O.D. policy is clear — we treat all detainees humanely.”

Mr. Biderman’s 1957 article described “one form of torture” used by the Chinese as forcing American prisoners to stand “for exceedingly long periods,” sometimes in conditions of “extreme cold.” Such passive methods, he wrote, were more common than outright physical violence. Prolonged standing and exposure to cold have both been used by American military and C.I.A. interrogators against terrorist suspects.

The chart also listed other techniques used by the Chinese, including “Semi-Starvation,” “Exploitation of Wounds,” and “Filthy, Infested Surroundings,” and with their effects: “Makes Victim Dependent on Interrogator,” “Weakens Mental and Physical Ability to Resist,” and “Reduces Prisoner to ‘Animal Level’ Concerns.”

The only change made in the chart presented at Guantánamo was to drop its original title: “Communist Coercive Methods for Eliciting Individual Compliance.”

The documents released last month include an e-mail message from two SERE trainers reporting on a trip to Guantánamo from Dec. 29, 2002, to Jan. 4, 2003. Their purpose, the message said, was to present to interrogators “the theory and application of the physical pressures utilized during our training.”

The sessions included “an in-depth class on Biderman’s Principles,” the message said, referring to the chart from Mr. Biderman’s 1957 article. Versions of the same chart, often identified as “Biderman’s Chart of Coercion,” have circulated on anti-cult sites on the Web, where the methods are used to describe how cults control their members.

Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, a psychiatrist who also studied the returning prisoners of war and wrote an accompanying article in the same 1957 issue of The Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, said in an interview that he was disturbed to learn that the Chinese methods had been recycled and taught at Guantánamo.

“It saddens me,” said Dr. Lifton, who wrote a 1961 book on what the Chinese called “thought reform” and became known in popular American parlance as brainwashing. He called the use of the Chinese techniques by American interrogators at Guantánamo a “180-degree turn.”

The harshest known interrogation at Guantánamo was that of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a member of Al Qaeda suspected of being the intended 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Qahtani’s interrogation involved sleep deprivation, stress positions, exposure to cold and other methods also used by the Chinese.

Terror charges against Mr. Qahtani were dropped unexpectedly in May. Officials said the charges could be reinstated later and declined to say whether the decision was influenced by concern about Mr. Qahtani’s treatment.

Mr. Bush has defended the use the interrogation methods, saying they helped provide critical intelligence and prevented new terrorist attacks. But the issue continues to complicate the long-delayed prosecutions now proceeding at Guantánamo.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Qaeda member accused of playing a major role in the bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000, was charged with murder and other crimes on Monday. In previous hearings, Mr. Nashiri, who was subjected to waterboarding, has said he confessed to participating in the bombing falsely only because he was tortured.

So, what is it exactly that the U.S.A. stands for?