May 19 2018

The Breakfast Club (Catch My Breath)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Actress Marilyn Monroe sings a sultry ‘Happy Birthday’ to President John F. Kennedy; Black militant Malcolm X born; Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis dies; The Who’s Pete Townshend born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

No country is free unless it is democratic.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

May 18 2018

On the Road

Headed to Stars Hollow North. Have some music.

May 18 2018

Italeave

If you’re a fan of the Euro and the European currency union you have a very flawed concept of what money is and the effects of Neo Liberal economic policy on income distribution, though I suppose you could argue that one cow token is just as good as another and the pocket it’s in doesn’t matter.

The problem is that trade disparity and lack of national flexibility in monetary policy have placed the bulk of Europe in thrall to the Deutschemark and Germany. In turn Germany, because of its history of hyperinflation, has induced a situation similar to that of the United States and Britain during the Great Depression under the Gold Standard. By pegging your currency to an arbitrary exchange rate with a commodity or imaginary goal you limit the amount available for investment (jobs) and Aggregate Demand (also jobs) and accelerate the accumulation of wealth by those whose only interest is in protecting their assets (rich people and corporations) by artificially reducing the value of assets held by the non-rich (demand) through dis-inflation while perversely accelerating the competition among the already wealthy for fashionable assets (Yachts, Mansions, Art, Jewelry, Tulips)- Asset Inflation.

In short wealth held by the common people declines in value while that held by the wealthy increases in value. Notionally. On Paper.

Societies like that tend to experience violent devaluation in fashionable assets, usually from the wealthy experiencing a haircut- one very close to the neck. Europe has avoided it so far in part thanks to their very generous social services, but it’s a Bread and Circuses kind of bargain that is already starting to fray in places like Greece.

The prospect of even Greece, one of the smallest portions of the European economy, leaving the Euro currency union brings the prospect of revolutionary financial losses (in fashionable assets) and redistribution of wealth to which the European Union has responded with bullying, just as they have with Brexit. Brexit is, by comparison, a lesser existential threat since they never participated in the common currency.

Greece has so far submitted to the whip meekly but as I said, they are only a small player in the overall European economy. Italy, on the other hand, is the 3rd or 4th biggest player, depending on how you count.

In the last Italian election the Five Star Movement and the Northern League emerged as the two largest political parties. Both have an expressed policy of abandoning the Euro in favor of the Lira so the Italian government can regain control over the national economy, devalue its currency to gain competitive advantage, and gain jobs through increased Exports- a strategy that would surely work.

It would be a fragile coalition since they disagree on almost everything else, yet they seem to be on the verge of a deal.

The European Neo Liberal elite is trying to steathily subvert this economic independence (in part by emphasizing the nativist elements of both party’s policy) but it is a very real threat to their privileged positions and could easily bring down the whole Eurozone system. Note this is different from Brexit in that they are not threatening to exit the European Union as a whole, so issues of border tariffs and transit and compliance with regulations does not apply.

Of course it’s gone mostly ignored in the U.S. because we’re “exceptional”.

Italy is close to finally getting a government but it could threaten the very existence of the eurozone
by Will Martin, Business Insider
5/17/18

After more than two months of deadlock, Italy is finally close to appointing a new government, led jointly by populist parties the Five Star Movement and the Northern League. A deal between the two is expected some time this week.

Five Star, which is the single biggest party in the Italian system, fell far short of being able to govern alone but will lead the coalition. The League will be an unofficial junior partner in what will be a ruling coalition unlike any seen in a major European economy for many years.

The coalition could, if circumstances dictate, end up pulling Italy out of the euro and threatening the stability — and possibly even existence — of the entire eurozone project.

It’s a slim possibility but one that cannot be ruled out, especially after a leaked agreement between the two sides showed discussions have taken place about Italy abandoning the single currency.

Matteo Salvini, the League’s leader, is thought to have been more forthright in his desire to abandon the eurozone, while Five Star’s 31-year-old leader, Luigi Di Maio, is a highly pragmatic leader who has shifted his political allegiances frequently.

Whether or not the parties push for an exit from the euro, the fact that such a proposal almost formed a part of their plan for government is a huge moment for the eurozone.

Italy is one of the three most crucial members of the eurozone project, alongside France and Germany. Italy is the third biggest economy in the group and the largest in southern Europe.

Perhaps the simplest way to imagine the eurozone is as a three-legged stool. Germany, France and Italy are the legs holding up the rest of the project. Remove any one of those three pillars and the stool falls over.

That’s a view held by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who back in 2016 said that a “disastrous” political event similar to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union could trigger the collapse of the eurozone.

“I think the most likely thing is something along the lines of a political cataclysmic event like Brexit,” Stiglitz said at the time. “In other words, the eurozone’s member countries are democracies and one sees increasing hostility to the euro, which is, unfortunately, spilling over to a broader hostility to the broader European project and liberal values.”

Now that such a government is about to take control of Italy, the possibility of the Italian exit from the euro cannot be ruled out.

While the coalition has ruled out an exit for now, Five Star has a track record of changing its political stripes at almost any moment if it seems that doing so will boost its popularity. The party in fact promised not to go into coalition with any other party when it was campaigning, something it now looks certain to go back on.

Five Star’s unique status as a party without a traditional left or right wing position allows it to be far more flexible, something it is keen to emphasise. It is variously anti-establishment, Eurosceptic, anti-immigration, and pro-green.

If opposition to the European Union increases further — Italy ranked 23rd out of 28 in terms of individual support for the bloc in a recent study by Berlin-based think tank the European Council of Foreign Relations (ECFR) — it would not be a huge surprise to see Five Star go back on its pledge to back the euro.

May 18 2018

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Did China Just Bribe Trump to Undermine National Security?

Did the president of the United States just betray the nation’s security in return for a bribe from the Chinese government?

Don’t say that this suggestion is ridiculous: Given everything we know about Donald Trump, it’s well within the bounds of possibility, even plausibility.

Don’t say there’s no proof: We’re not talking about a court of law, where the accused are presumed innocent until proved guilty. Where the behavior of high officials is concerned, the standard is very nearly the opposite: They’re supposed to avoid situations in which there is even a hint that their actions might be motivated by personal gain.

Oh, and don’t say that it doesn’t matter one way or the other, because the Republicans who control Congress won’t do anything about it. That in itself is a key part of the story: An entire political party — a party that has historically wrapped itself in the flag and questioned the patriotism of its opponents — has become entirely complaisant in the possibility of raw corruption, even if it involves payoffs from hostile foreign powers.

Eugene Robinson: Democrats have it too good to shoot themselves in the foot

If political power were won by hand-wringing and anguished introspection, the Democratic Party would rule the galaxy.

The hum of obsessive and counterproductive worry is rising: President Trump’s approval has crept up from abysmal to merely awful! Candidates from the party’s progressive wing have won some House primaries! Republicans have not, in every single case, chosen candidates who are unelectable! The Russia investigation is a year old, and still nobody has been frog-marched out of the West Wing in chains! And Trump is still president!

Get a grip, people. Try to focus. The November election is too important, and the political terrain too advantageous, for Democrats to waste time on their customary defeatism.

The Trump administration is dangerous, wrongheaded and inept, both domestically and abroad. Its corruption is staggering. Its corrosion of democratic norms is tragic. And it should be clear by now that the Republican-led Congress will do nothing to restrain a mercurial president who sets the nation’s agenda by what he “learns” from watching hours and hours of “Fox & Friends.”

Read the rest of this entry »

May 18 2018

The Breakfast Club (Extremes)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Mt. St. Helens erupts in Washington State; The U.S. Supreme Court upholds racial segregation; Pope John Paul II born in Poland; Movie director Frank Capra born; ‘Les Miserables’ ends its Broadway run.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Whenever a situation develops to its extreme, it is bound to turn around and become its opposite.

Frank Capra

Read the rest of this entry »

May 17 2018

Our New Torturer-in-Chief

Democratic Quislings including especially Mark Warner, Sellout from Virginia, are hiding behind the fig leaf that she finally said, after Open AND Closed Door hearings where she declined to answer except for weasel words and Filibusters, in a letter that regarding whether she found torture ineffective and immoral, that it was “wrong” and that she would in fact oppose any effort by Donald Trump, who gleefully endorses it and spends what “executive time” he can spare from phone sex with Sean Hannity and Faux and Fiends inventing new and more inhumane and illegal methods of it, to restore the CIA Rendition, Detention, and Torture program.

Her insincerity and mendacity is obvious.

The Democratic Quislings will also whine, “Trump will just nominate someone worse.”

Defeat them too you cowards.

Will Democrats Unite to Block Trump’s Torturer, Gina Haspel, as CIA Chief? If Not, What Do They #Resist?
by Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
May 8 2018

Haspel’s nomination has become controversial because of her supervision of a CIA black site in Thailand, where detainees were tortured (with heinous methods that extended far beyond “mere” waterboarding), as well as her central role in destroying videotapes of the interrogation sessions at which torture was employed.

Two GOP senators appear unlikely to vote for Haspel: John McCain, whose illness prevents him from attending, and Rand Paul, who has vowed to oppose Haspel (though few things have proven less reliable than Rand Paul’s promises to act on his supposed principles). That means that Democrats have the power to block a torturer and evidence-destroyer from becoming Trump’s CIA director — if they remain united in their opposition.

Will they do so? It is difficult to be optimistic, to put that mildly. The history of Democrats throughout the war on terror is to ensure that just enough members of their caucus join with the GOP majority to ensure passage of even the most extremist pieces of legislation or nominees justified in the name of terrorism or national security.

The ruse Democrats typically use to accomplish these dirty deeds is quite ingenious: The defectors change so that no one member bears the blame for enabling right-wing measures, while the party itself is able to claim that a majority opposed the extremism. In 2010 — as the Bush-era tactic of Democratic defections to the GOP continued under Barack Obama — I referred to this tactic as “Villain Rotation”.

If Haspel is confirmed, it will be because a certain number of Democratic senators join with the GOP caucus to support her, while allowing the Democratic Party to claim it tried to stop her by pointing to a majority of futile Democratic votes against her. That’s why the record of the Democratic Party over the last 17 years — providing whatever amount of support is needed for GOP war on terror policies — makes it difficult to believe that Democrats will unite to kill her nomination.

Despite her role in the CIA torture program — or perhaps because of it — Haspel has been showered with praise, and her confirmation urged, by a bipartisan cast of intelligence officials that includes Obama’s two CIA directors (John Brennan and Leon Panetta), Obama’s director of national intelligence (James Clapper), Panetta’s former chief of staff at the CIA and current MSNBC star Jeremy Bash, and a bevy of Bush-era CIA and military officials who have rehabilitated their reputations among liberals in the Trump era (led by Bush’s CIA and NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden).

It is not difficult to understand why these Democratic national security officials — despite effectively rebranding themselves as #Resistance icons — are so supportive of Trump’s choice of a torturer to lead the CIA. Part of it is ideological and group loyalty: unlike Trump, Haspel is one them, a member in good standing of the intelligence and military world in which they have spent so much of their lives. Part of what motivates their support is standard tribalistic rank-closing: Yes, she is a torturer, but she’s one of our torturers.

Part of the motive is undoubtedly financial. Many of Haspel’s most vocal supporters from the intelligence community make great profit from doing business with the CIA. Few things would be better for business than earning the gratitude of the agency by publicly agitating for their prized nominee and using their credentials as Good Democrats to creating space for, and applying pressure to, Democratic senators to support her.

If your income and profit depended on maintaining close relations with the government agencies which you once helped manage — as is true of so many of D.C.’s Revolving Door beneficiaries — wouldn’t you also leverage your public credentials to bolster whatever agenda they were supporting at any moment? For so long, Washington’s national security policy has been shaped by profit motives, fueled by legalized Revolving Door corruption, dressed up as counterterrorism and national security imperatives.

This is one of the problems with having TV and cable networks fill their rosters with former military and intelligence officials: They are ideologically and, so often, financially motivated to support those agencies’ worldview and agenda under the guise of “news” — in other words, to spout state propaganda. Of course they are going to use their Democratic Party credentials to support the CIA’s campaign elevate this CIA torturer: They have every ideological and business incentive to do so.

The primary argument being mounted on Haspel’s behalf is not that it was wise or just to torture detainees (the only one who seems to be making that argument is the president who nominated her and Dick Cheney’s daughter, now a pro-torture congresswoman occupying her dad’s old seat). Instead, the defense is the one proffered by the defendants — and rejected by the tribunal — at Nuremberg: Haspel was just following orders.

The primary argument being mounted on Haspel’s behalf is not that it was wise or just to torture detainees (the only one who seems to be making that argument is the president who nominated her and Dick Cheney’s daughter, now a pro-torture congresswoman occupying her dad’s old seat). Instead, the defense is the one proffered by the defendants — and rejected by the tribunal — at Nuremberg: Haspel was just following orders.

There is some factual accuracy to this claim: Haspel was not some rogue torturer. It is absolutely true that she was implementing CIA policy as decreed by George Bush, Dick Cheney and the Justice Department. Like most CIA officials involved in torture, not only was Haspel protected from punishment for that, but she was repeatedly promoted. That’s because torturing helpless detainees is regarded by the CIA as a noble and patriotic act.

That’s why it was so predictably disastrous when Barack Obama elevated to the highest national security positions CIA officials such as John Brennan who had supported and advocated for major parts of the CIA’s torture and rendition program, and why it was even worse when Obama devoted himself to shielding all torturers from all forms of criminal and even civil penalty for their war crimes (even in the face of a treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan, requiring all signatory states to prosecute, not immunize, their torturers no matter their excuse for using it).

While the primary guilt for torture lies with those who did it (namely, top officials of the Bush White House and the CIA which obeyed their criminal orders), Obama’s sustained 8-year campaign to rehabilitate, protect and even empower torturers converted torture from what it should be – a criminal taboo that automatically leads to prosecution – into just another partisan political dispute. As a result, those who advocate it or even did it not only remain in decent company but even get Washington Post columns, MSNBC contracts, and hugs from beloved liberal TV icons.

The outcome of that climate is that one of the people who oversaw some of the worst torture the U.S. has inflicted is about to be elevated to lead the world’s most powerful intelligence agency.

The word “normalize” has become a favorite media cliché in the Trump era, but it applies with full force here: Gina Haspel as CIA Director is what happens when you normalize torturers by barring their prosecution and awarding them with high-level positions in media, politics, and the intelligence community. Torture becomes just another good faith political disagreement, something that at worst “taints” someone’s record – to use the remarkable minimizing word chosen by the Washington Post’s long-time CIA defender David Ignatius – but should be weighed against their good points.

This is American Exceptionalism in its purest, and ugliest, expression: war criminals which lead African nations or enemies of the U.S. are sent to the Hague to be prosecuted, while American war criminals are rewarded, empowered, and praised. When an American tortures, it’s not a crime but a mere “taint,” and certainly not one that should result in denial of promotions let alone handcuffs and a prison cell.

One could certainly look at Gina Haspel that way: she’s the Director the CIA deserves, an accurate reflection of what this agency really is. Having someone who everyone knows is a torturer at the helm of this agency will make it that much harder to sustain the U.S. media propaganda script – led by CIA spokespeople such as NBC’s Ken Dilanian and Ignatius – about the good and noble work this agency does. On some level, it’s healthy for the CIA to finally wear its true identity on its sleeve.

But it’s also clarifying about the charade of Trump and the #Resistance, about the supposed inability of the parties to agree on anything, of the refusal of people from different ideologies to unite. That Trump chose someone with one of the most gruesome torture histories to lead the CIA is certainly revealing about who he is. And if the Democrats cannot unite to stop that, that will be further evidence of what they are. What kind of #Resistance refuses to stop an actual torturer chosen by Donald Trump from being promoted to head the most powerful spy agency in the world?

The CIA’s New Torturer-in-Chief

Trump’s Shameful Choice of ‘Bloody Gina’
The Real News
May 9, 2018

They call her “Bloody Gina,” and for some of her buddies in the torture wing of the CIA and their supporters in Congress, that is meant as a compliment. For a decade after the 9/11 attacks, Haspel served as chief of staff, running the vast network of secret rendition torture prisons around the globe. As a definitive Senate Intelligence Committee report established, torture is not legal, according to U.S. law and international covenants signed by President Ronald Reagan, nor does it produce any actionable information in preventing acts of terror.

After the public revelation of the vast extent of the torture program horrified the world, Haspel deliberately destroyed 92 videotapes depicting the barbaric practice, violating a Justice Department order that the tapes be preserved, and thus clearly obstructing a criminal investigation. Yet in March, Trump chose to nominate Bloody Gina to be the new head of our super-spy agency.

Give Trump credit for consistency: He did campaign on the theme that torture—or “enhanced interrogation,” as his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, justified it—is only wrong when nations other than our own do it. And by nominating Haspel to head the CIA, Trump is clearly seeking to take torture out of the covert dark side, as former Vice President Dick Cheney termed his revival of the medieval dungeon art; Trump has branded it as a legitimate, made-in-America weapon, wielded by a woman, no less. Trump seemed to be saying, “Label me a bully; I’ll show you what a woman can do!” When it comes to authorizing the near-drowning of shackled prisoners and smashing their heads against prison walls, this lady is the equal of any macho man.

The best witness to the crimes of Bloody Gina is offered by a true hero of the real war against terrorism, former FBI agent Ali Soufan, who is credited with having done the most significant interrogation of captured terrorist suspects. Soufan shunned torture and skillfully gained the confidence of prisoners who went on to provide reliable information.

“It is a matter of public record,”
Soufan wrote in The Atlantic magazine, “that Gina Haspel … played a key role in the agency’s now-defunct program of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ an Orwellian euphemism for a system of violence most Americans would recognize as torture. … I know firsthand how brutal those techniques were—and how counterproductive. … Unsurprisingly, the CIA’s own inspector general concluded that the torture program failed to produce any significant actionable intelligence; and I testified to the same effect under oath in the Senate.”

While there is no evidence that this indelible stain on America’s legacy produced any reliable information, the nomination of Bloody Gina sent a message to the world from this president that torture is to be rewarded. There are many, including Republican Sen. John McCain, who has his own story of being tortured as a prisoner in Vietnam and who raised questions about Haspel’s support of the torture program. “The use of torture compromised our values, stained our national honor, and threatened our historical reputation,”
McCain said.

But even some Democrats may support Haspel’s nomination given that members of their party have been complicit in excusing the heinous practice of torture. After all, it was Democratic President Barack Obama who decided not to prosecute anyone for ordering or committing the torture that is one of the great stains on American history. In fact, Obama prosecuted former CIA agent
John Kiriakou after he revealed the torture program’s existence to a journalist. He did so after President Bush’s memorable statement that the United States “does not torture people!” Ironically, the Bush Justice Department cleared Kiriakou of any charges, while Obama revived them two years later and sent the former agent to prison for 30 months.

Nomination of Torturer for CIA Director Reflects Spy Agency’s Anti-Democratic Dangers

Gina Haspel and How Torture Deceived Us Into Iraq
By Lawrence Wilkerson, The Real News
May 11, 2018

If the public had the full report on torture that Republican Senator Richard Burr has ordered into oblivion, they would know how to respond to President Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to be director of the CIA. The report reveals in excruciating detail, first, that torture was used by the United States, and, second, that such criminal acts did not produce good intelligence. In fact, when acted upon, that information created immeasurable tragedy.

I know because the primary case corroborating this truth was one I was central in developing.

Amidst some frustration in early February 2003, with only three days remaining before his presentation at the United Nations, Colin Powell took me aside at CIA headquarters, pointed me into an empty room, closed the door, and told me to sit down. He was trying to contain his frustration and anger but barely succeeding. I had been with him off and on for more than a decade and had never seen him so angry.

What he said to me was this: “All this business about terrorists and Saddam is bullshit. It sounds like Deuteronomy. Mohamad begat Abu-Masa, who begat al-Aman, who begat Abu-Nidal, who begat al-Zubydah, and on and on. There is nothing solid to it. It’s B.S. ”

Since I was the principal person responsible for putting together his UN presentation, I believe he thought I would object. I didn’t.

“I agree,” I responded. “Let’s toss it.”

Somewhat taken aback but clearly mollified, he said, “Good. Do it.”

Within an hour of reassembling in the DCI’s conference room to resume rehearsal that evening, then-CIA director George Tenet left the room for a moment or two. When he returned it was to drop a bombshell on the table.

He sat down, looked at the secretary of state, and said: “Interrogation of a high-level al-Qaeda operative has just revealed that there were significant connections between al-Qaeda and the Mukhabarat [Iraq’s secret service], to include their training of al-Qaeda members in the use of chemical and biological weapons.”

Powell turned to me and said simply: “Put it back in.” I knew precisely what he meant and I did just that. I instructed Miss Davidson not to extract the “terrorists connections” from the Powell presentation, and, in addition, to put in the part about Iraqis training al-Qaeda in the use of chemical and biological weapons. This would become the most powerful part of Powell’s presentation, i.e., that Saddam had a connection to al-Qaeda and thus to the tragic events of 9/11.

At the time there was no mention of torture.

Only later did we learn that the sole source of that bombshell revelation was Ibn al-Shakh al-Libi, and that he had revealed the information under interrogation at the hands of the Egyptians, perhaps one of the most “gifted” states in the practice of torture.

What we did not learn—and what both George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin failed to tell us—was that al-Libi had recanted what he had “revealed” shortly after being tortured, and admitted that he would have said anything to stop the torture. Moreover, neither Tenet nor McLaughlin told us that the Defense Intelligence Agency had declared the al-Libi revelations unreliable because of the conditions under which they had been extracted, i.e. torture.

Arguably the most powerful element of Powell’s presentation at the UN was false.

There are many reasons to oppose Gina Haspel’s nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency. She was in charge of a secret prison where torture occurred— in charge of, not just worked there; she destroyed records of that torture; she followed orders that were clearly illegal; she is a 31-year product of the agency she will head, nearly always a bad idea with the CIA.

Ray McGovern: Gina Haspel Supervised Nazi-Era Interrogation Techniques Part 1

Part 2

Jeremy Scahill: Trump CIA Deputy Director Pick Gina Haspel Ran Secret Torture Black Site

Jeremy Scahill: Gina Haspel Should Be Answering for Her Torture Crimes, Not Heading the CIA

“Bloody Gina” Haspel’s Disqualifying Record of CIA Torture
By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan, Democracy Now
March 15, 2018

Haspel’s career at the CIA spans more than three decades. Her work is shrouded in secrecy, but two things are well-known: She ran a CIA “black site” where people were brutally tortured, then she helped cover up the torture through the destruction of videotapes, against presidential orders.

These alone should immediately disqualify her for confirmation by the U.S. Senate. “Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would, in a heartbeat,” Trump boasted from the podium at an Ohio campaign stop in November 2015. He repeated the pledge throughout his campaign, and while president. He suggested a slew of other techniques, including the execution of family members in front of interrogation suspects as an inducement to talk. If Trump gets his way and installs Gina Haspel as CIA director, he will have someone with direct, hands-on experience with torture, a leader in the George W. Bush administration’s notorious torture program.

In 2002, Gina Haspel ran a CIA torture center in Thailand, where al-Qaida suspects were brought to be interrogated. The best-known victim at that site is Abu Zubaydah, who was subjected to a horrific array of torture techniques, all technically authorized through a series of legal memos written by lawyers in the Bush-Cheney administration. Waterboarding, constricted confinement in a box for long periods of time, humiliation, forced feeding through the rectum and numerous other painful procedures were used. In 2005, working as chief of staff to Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Haspel drafted a memo that he sent ordering the destruction of 92 videotapes of those very torture sessions she led, despite a White House directive not to destroy them.

John Kiriakou, a 14-year veteran of the CIA, blew the whistle on the Bush-era torture program and, for speaking out, was imprisoned for two years. He is, to date, the only U.S. official jailed in relation to Bush’s torture program. “We did call her Bloody Gina,” Kiriakou said on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. “Gina was always very quick and very willing to use force … there was a group of officers in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, when I was serving there, who enjoyed using force. Everybody knew that torture didn’t work.” Kiriakou asked, “Was it moral, and was it ethical, and was it legal? Very clearly no. But Gina and people like Gina did it, I think, because they enjoyed doing it. They tortured just for the sake of torture, not for the sake of gathering information.”

After President Barack Obama’s election, the torture program was dismantled, but those who authorized it, those who oversaw it and the torturers themselves all avoided prosecution. “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” Obama said in 2009.

“This is where we Europeans come in,” human-rights attorney Wolfgang Kaleck told us on “Democracy Now!” He is founder of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, and last year asked German prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant for Haspel for her role in the torture program. “Torture has to be prosecuted everywhere in the world. We have a number of laws in Europe, and we used these laws in the last 15 years to file numerous criminal complaints in numerous jurisdictions against the torturers of the U.S. … the interesting result of our network’s legal work is that the torturers of the U.S. are not untouchable anymore. They have to take care where they travel.”

Kaleck said of Haspel: “We decided to target her last year, because as a deputy director, she is traveling a lot around the world. We think it’s important that the judicial authorities in Germany, in other European countries, try to investigate her role in Thailand and elsewhere, and that they are prepared — if Gina Haspel travels to our countries — that they arrest her. Notorious torturers shouldn’t be allowed to travel freely through Europe.”

If Gina Haspel Is Confirmed at CIA, the U.S. Would Be Giving Other Nations Green Light to Torture

Key Democrats Back Gina Haspel’s Confirmation as CIA Director, Despite Her Record on Torture

U.S. Navy Reserve Doctor on Gina Haspel Torture Victim: “One of the Most Severely Traumatized Individuals I Have Ever Seen”
by Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept
May 17 2018

“I have evaluated Mr. Abdal Rahim al-Nashiri, as well as close to 20 other men who were tortured as part of the CIA’s RDI [Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation] program. I am one of the only health professionals he has ever talked to about his torture, its effects, and his ongoing suffering,” Dr. Sondra Crosby, a professor of public health at Boston University, wrote to Warner’s legislative director on Monday. “He is irreversibly damaged by torture that was unusually cruel and designed to break him. In my over 20 years of experience treating torture victims from around the world, including Syria, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. al-Nashiri presents as one of the most severely traumatized individuals I have ever seen.”

Nashiri was snatched in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in 2002 and “rendered” to Afghanistan by the CIA and eventually taken to the Cat’s Eye prison in Thailand that was run by Haspel from October to December 2002. He was suspected of involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen. He is currently being held at Guantánamo Bay prison.

Despite Crosby’s pleas, Warner and five other Democratic senators have announced their support for Haspel. Warner backed Haspel after she sent him a carefully crafted letter designed to give the impression that she had changed her position on torture while simultaneously continuing to defend its efficacy. “While I won’t condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world,” Haspel wrote. “With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”

Haspel stated that she “would refuse to undertake any proposed activity that was contrary to my moral and ethical values.” But Haspel has refused to renounce torture, her role in its use or to condemn the practice of waterboarding. In fact, under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris during her confirmation hearing, Haspel explicitly refused to say that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” she oversaw at a secret CIA prison in Thailand were immoral. That fact renders her pledge to Warner meaningless.

“It took her 16 years and the eve of a vote on her confirmation to get even this modest statement, and again, she didn’t say she had any regrets other than it offended some people,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Accessory After The Fact

In this case the fact, the crime, is torture.

An accessory is a person who assists in the commission of a crime, but who does not actually participate in the commission of the crime as a joint principal. The distinction between an accessory and a principal is a question of fact and degree:

  • The principal is the one whose acts or omissions, accompanied by the relevant mens rea (Latin for “guilty mind”), are the most immediate cause of the actus reus (Latin for “guilty act”).
  • If two or more people are directly responsible for the actus reus, they can be charged as joint principals. The test to distinguish a joint principal from an accessory is whether the defendant independently contributed to causing the actus reus rather than merely giving generalised and/or limited help and encouragement.

This “help and encouragement” can occur both before and after the crime, in this case torture and murder. Don’t forget it wasn’t just beatings, stress positions, staged executions, isolation, exposure, electric shocks, and waterboarding; it was also forced rectal hydration and feeding, in other words, anal rape.

Nice gal the Senate just confirmed, isn’t she?

May 17 2018

Junior

So yesterday the Senate Intelligence Committee published about 1800 pages of closed door testimony from their hearings (so far, unlike the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, they have not yet issued a bogus, self-contradictory “final” report, supported only by the radical racist and rabidly partisan Republicans, in an attempt to pretend the burgeoning scandal of Russiagate, where new revelations of Treason, Bribery, and Obstruction of Justice deluge us daily, simply doesn’t exist despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary) of which 224 are transcripts of their interview with Donald Trump Jr.

This is of course but a small fraction of the material the SIC have collected and the part they released about Junior (and this is only part of his testimony) focuses mostly on the infamous June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower.

This article by Judd Legum of Think Progress focuses on the attempt to Obstruct Justice after the meeting and cover up the probability that Donald Trump himself was fully aware of it, if he did not personally direct it.

These are the revelations from Don Jr.’s extraordinary testimony about his meeting with the Russians
by Judd Legum, Think Progress
May 16, 2018

The transcript reveals that Emin Agalarov called Trump Jr. on June 6, 2016 to discuss the meeting.

Trump Jr. claims to have no recollection of the call but about 25 minutes later, he called Emin Agalarov back. More significantly, in between the two calls, Trump Jr. had another conversation with someone with a blocked number.

Corey Lewandowski, who served as President Donald Trump’s campaign manager, testified separately that Trump’s primary residence had a blocked number. Later in the interview Trump Jr. claimed that he did not know whether his father used a blocked number. This seems dubious since Trump Jr. said he communicates frequently with his father.

In addition to the meeting itself, another issue of interest is the effort to cover it up. Trump Jr. released a series of statements, none of which accurately described the nature of the meeting — either its substance or how it was set up.

The key question is whether President Trump had any involvement in crafting these inaccurate statements. Trump Jr. said his father may have been involved through his Communications Director, Hope Hicks

Prior to the meeting become public, Trump Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas, reached out to several participants to “harmonize” their stories. Specifically Futerfas drafted a statement for Goldstone (Rod Goldstone, promoter for Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star whose father, Aras Agalarov, is a Russian Oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin) about the meeting and asked him to release it.

The effort to coordinate stories prior to the meeting becoming public raises questions about whether the narrative presented in the interviews is accurate.

“These are” tends to make it seem like it’s all the revelations which a quick scan of your newspaper or listen to Cable News will show you is clearly not the case.

Now all this and much much more has been known by Robert Mueller and his prosecution team for months. Obviously their investigation is considerably in advance of these materials, for instance, he has the testimony under oath of Hope Hicks who the day after her interview decided that it was a good idea to retire from Team Trump.

I have chosen to highlight this sliver because Judd Legum did a pretty fair job summarizing it and the task of providing an overview of the entire Russiagate Plot on this, the first anniversary of Mueller’s appointment, is just too damn much work and I have other things to do.

Don’t let anyone tell you there is no there there or that this will end soon because just what we publicly know about this case is worse than Nixon and lightyears beyond a consensual non-marital blowjob between Bill and Monica. If Congress does not impeach they will be surrendering the sovereignity of the United States to the Rossiyskaya Federatsiya and thus, Traitors.

May 17 2018

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Richard Eskow: Real Corruption: The Scott Pruitt Story

Question: Which of these scandals should result in EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s removal from office?

Answer: None of the above.

Yes, Pruitt seems to be a terrible, self-centered person, who spares no expense on himself as long as someone else foots the bill. But the real reason Scott Pruitt should be removed from office is because he is causing lasting harm to current and future generations.

Scott Pruitt abuses the public trust by using his position to serve the Koch brothers and other fossil-fuel magnates, and he is killing us and our kids in the bargain.

Charles M. Blow: A Blue Wave of Moral Restoration

Donald Trump’s approval rating is rising. The Democratic advantage on survey questions about party preference for control of Congress is vanishing. Liberal anxiety about the fate of the midterms — and I would venture, the country itself — is rising.

To all this, I say: Calm down.

Not relax. Not rest easy. Not coast. But stay the course and don’t panic. Work hard, message well and bring your passion — and a few neighbors and friends — to the polls in November.

If voters do that, as they have already done in special elections, signs are positive for a major realignment in Washington.

As a CNN analysis last month said: “These results suggest that the Republican Party is in trouble heading into the midterm elections. If past trends hold, it is possible Democrats could see a double- digit swing in the average House district in 2018 compared with past elections.”

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May 17 2018

The Breakfast Club (Hear Him Crow)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Highlights of Today in History: Brown vs. Board of Education ends separate but equal; Watergate hearings begin; NYSE is born; First Kentucky Derby.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

He was like a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow.

George Eliot

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May 16 2018

Traitors and Cowards

What’s that drip, drip, drip sound?

Call the Plumbers

Drain The Swamp

Maybe it’s the water

Getting to the bottom of it

Or maybe it’s this

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