09/19/2010 archive

Rant of the Week: Stephen Colbert : Libertea

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Liberal Democrats Set Terms for Torture Inquiry

Sounds great only problem is that headline is from England. It seems that Liberal Democrats in Britain have far less problem “looking back” in order to “look forward” than the US.

The Liberal Democrats today set out what they think the terms of the government’s upcoming inquiry into torture should be.

In July David Cameron announced a judicial inquiry into Britain’s role in torture and rendition since the al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington, DC, in September 2001.

The three-person inquiry panel will be headed by Sir Peter Gibson, a former appeal court judge who is currently commissioner for the intelligence services. He will be assisted by Dame Janet Paraskeva, the head of the civil service commissioners, and Peter Riddell, the former Times political commentator who is now a senior fellow at the Institute for Government.

Most of the inquiry will be held in secret, but victims of torture and their representatives will be able to give evidence during open sessions, as will representatives of human rights groups.

In a letter to Gibson, Cameron set out the “parameters” of the inquiry, but the final terms have yet to be made public. These parameters included the changing attitude of “other countries” towards counterterrorism detainees, although it makes clear that “this is an inquiry into the actions of the UK, not any other state”.

Meanwhile despite all his campaign rhetoric, Pres Barack Obama defends torture, rendition, indefinite detention and denies detainees habeus corpus, claiming national security concerns and using state secrets to cover up war crimes.

The President has used the courts and the power of his office to not only defend these horrific policies of the Bush/Cheney administration but has expanded them to include targeting American citizens for assassination and manipulating the law to prevent the courts from reviewing the legality of this practice that denies the victim not only his rights as a US citizen under the Constitution but the victim’s human rights .

The administration’s legal team is debating how aggressive it should be in a brief responding to the lawsuit, which is due Sept. 24. The suit, filed last month, seeks an injunction that would prevent the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who is accused of playing a leading role for Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.

Justice Department lawyers are circulating a draft brief with several potential arguments for dismissing the case, and lawyers from national security agencies have met to discuss what should go into the final version. But they have not reached a consensus, according to officials familiar with the discussions, because the arguments seen as strongest also carry significant political and legal risks.

“There are a lot of cross-cutting things going on here, and they have to be very careful about how they litigate this,” said Jack Goldsmith, who was a senior Justice Department lawyer in the Bush administration. “It’s not just a question of winning the case. There is the public diplomacy side, and there are implications for everything else they are doing in the war on terrorism: detention and targeting and other things, too, I imagine.”

The US is still in the shadows and descending even deeper into the darkness.

It Be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Ahoy matey!

Wikipedia, which as we know can be trusted in all things (especially Colbert Elephants), tells us that in the modern era celebration of Talk Like a Pirate Day started in 1995.  Those who accept Our Noodly Savior know that Pirates were the Original Apostles of Pastafarianism.  Unfortunately the Revealed Scripture (known as The Ramen Texts) is unavailable for modern study as it was consumed during a particularly long calm in the Doldrums.

Still it is accepted as an article of faith proven by the historical record that decline in Piracy is direcly correlated with Global Warming and many choose to spend this day in Worship at Church in addition to emulating the manners, customs, and language of their Pirate forbearers.  I myself have the good fortune to be 1/4 full blooded Pirate through my Viking ancestors (indeed Viking is a noun which means ‘Pirate’).

I generally celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day by telling the 3 Pirate Jokes.  There are only 3, all the others are just variations.  As Cap’n Slappy says:

Thar be only three pirate jokes in the world. The biggest one is the one that ends with someone usin’ “Arrr” in the punchline. Oh, sure, thar be plenty o’ these, but they’re all the same damn joke.

“What’s the pirate movie rated? – Arrr!”

“What kind o’ socks does a pirate wear? – Arrrrgyle!”

“What’s the problem with the way a pirate speaks? – Arrrrticulation!”

…and so forth.

The second joke is the one wear the pirate walks into the bar with a ships wheel attached to the front o’ his trousers. The bartender asks, “What the hell is that ships wheel for?” The pirate says, “I don’t know, but it’s drivin’ me nuts!”

And finally. A little boy is trick or treatin’ on Halloween by himself. He is dressed as a pirate. At one house, a friendly man asks him, “Where are your buccaneers?” The little boy responds, “On either side o’ me ‘buccan’ head!”

And there ye have it. A symposium on pirate humor that’ll last ye a lifetime – so long as life is violent and short.

And singing some Pirate Carols, for which you can join me below the fold.

Jon, You Blew This One: False Equivalencies

Oops. Glen Greenwald points out a major flaw in Jon Stewart’s premise for his rally in Washington DC on 10/30/10 to counter the extremism on either side. While Jon has always been fair in his criticism of both Democrats and Republicans, left and right, his comparison of those the left saying that Bush is a war criminal as opposed to the right saying that Obama is a socialist, Muslim, non-American is a false equivalence since there is ample evidence to the former but not the latter.

The perils of false equivalencies and self-proclaimed centrism

I think Jon Stewart is one of the most incisive and effective commentators in the country, and he reaches an audience that would otherwise be politically disengaged.  I don’t have any objection if he really wants to hold a rally in favor of rhetorical moderation, and it’s also fine if, as seems to be the case, he’s eager to target rhetorical excesses on both the left and right in order to demonstrate his non-ideological centrism.  But the example he chose to prove that the left is guilty, too — the proposition that Bush is a “war criminal” — is an extremely poor one given that the General in charge of formally investigating detainee abuse (not exactly someone with a history of Leftist advocacy) has declared this to be the case, and core Nuremberg principles compel the same conclusion.

Leave aside the fact that, as Steve Benen correctly notes, Stewart’s examples of right-wing rhetorical excesses (Obama is a socialist who wasn’t born in the U.S. and hates America) are pervasive in the GOP, while his examples of left-wing excesses (Code Pink and 9/11 Truthers) have no currency (for better or worse) in the Democratic Party.  The claim that Bush is “a war criminal” has ample basis, and it’s deeply irresponsible to try to declare this discussion off-limits, or lump it in with a whole slew of baseless right-wing accusatory rhetoric, in order to establish one’s centrist bona fides.

However, Mr. Greenwald gives Jon’s co-rally partner, Stephen Colbert, credit for being “extremely well-focused and on-point.”

Rally to Restore Sanity
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Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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.

Robert Reich: The Crackpot Gap

After the victories of many of the insurgent primary candidates she’s sponsored, Sarah Palin is off to Iowa today (Friday) for a high-profile series of political events. Is it possible she’s looking to make a run in 2012? Do birds fly?

Republicans are being fueled by a so-called “enthusiasm gap” but their biggest worry leading up to the midterms should be the “crackpot gap.”

In Delaware, Palin-endorsed tea partier Christine O’Donnell is called “delusional” by Delaware’s GOP leader. In Kentucky, Palin-favored Rand Paul says the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shouldn’t apply to businesses. In Colorado, tea partier Ken Buck talks of getting rid of the 17th amendement, which provides for the direct election of senators. In Arizona, Palin-favored Sharon Angle has called for “2nd Amendment remedies” if Congress doesn’t change hands.

Many Americans these days don’t like Congress and are cynical about government. The lousy economy has made almost all incumbents targets of the public’s anger and anxiety.

But if there’s one thing Americans like even less it’s people pretending to be legitimate politicians whose views are so far removed from those of ordinary Americans that they pose a danger to our system of governance.

David Michael Green: Tea With Frankenstein: Please, No Masturbation

Not everybody quite gets how perilous is the moment, however. Democratic pundits who are rejoicing over the tea party primary victories, thinking that they are good for the Democratic Party, are stupid slugs who ought to have the living shit kicked out of them, just for brainlessly taking up space on the planet. First of all, who could possibly care in the slightest about the fate of the Democratic Party? Am I really supposed to be so filled with motivating joy about the prospects of electing slightly less regressive agents of the American oligarchy to Congress that I will run down to party headquarters and start phone banking for my local Democrat? Are we really supposed get electrified and rally around our president and the inspirational likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, simply because they are marginally less obnoxious than the alternative? Golly, I just don’t think so.

But more importantly, Democrats are the very reason for the tea party, this latest episode of American idiocy. Had the party done something with the grand historic opportunity handed to them two years ago, none of this would be happening. Had they not booted so badly a rare alignment of the stars that gave them crises allowing real, serious solutions, along with a despised opposition allowing the final crushing of the conservative disease for a generation or more, we wouldn’t be sitting here today laughing at serious candidates for the United States Senate who have staked out firm positions on the societal perils of onanism.

The Week In Review 9/12 – 18

268 Stories served.  38 per day.

This is actually the hardest diary to execute, and yet perhaps the most valuable because it lets you track story trends over time.  It should be a Sunday morning feature.

On This Day in History: September 19

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

September 19 is the 262nd day of the year (263rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 103 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1796, President George Washington’s Farewell Address to the Nation is published.

George Washington’s Farewell Address was written to “The People of the United States” near the end of his second term as President of the United States and before his retirement to Mount Vernon.

Originally published in David Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796 under the title “The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the

United States,” the letter was almost immediately reprinted in newspapers across the country and later in a pamphlet form. The work was later named a “Farewell Address,” as it was Washington’s valedictory after 45 years of service to the new republic, first during the Revolution of the Continental Army and later as the nation’s first president.

The letter was originally prepared in 1792 with the help of James Madison, as Washington prepared to retire following a single term in office. However, he set aside the letter and ran for a second term after his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and his Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, convinced him that the growing divisions between the newly formed Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties, along with the current state of foreign affairs, would tear the country apart in the absence of his leadership.

Four years later, as his second term came to a close, Washington revisited the letter and with the help of Alexander Hamilton prepared a revision of the original draft to announce his intention to decline a third term in office; to reflect the emerging issues of the American political landscape in 1796; and to parting advice to his fellow Americans, express his support for the government eight years following the adoption of the Constitution; and to defend his administration’s record.

The letter was written by Washington after years of exhaustion due to his advanced age, years of service to his country, the duties of the presidency, and increased attacks by his political opponents. It was published almost two months before the Electoral College cast their votes in the 1796 presidential election.

Morning Shinbun Sunday September 19

Sunday’s Headlines:

U.S. contractor accused of fraud still winning big Afghan projects

Gridlock? Men with earpieces? Must be the United Nations


New Drugs Stir Debate on Basic Rules of Clinical Trials

Delaware’s O’Donnell is a ‘tea party’ hero, but controversy casts a shadow


Jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky warns UK on renewed alliance with Russia

Renegade Spanish mayor declares war on Gibraltar with toll at the border

Middle East

New aid convoy sets off for Gaza

In West Bank, corruption-busting teenagers shake up local government


Eight die as the Taliban disrupt Afghan elections

Kashmir protests claim more lives


Robert Mugabe’s 2008 crackdown: torture, death and a stolen election

Latin America

Trapped miners celebrate independence

Prime Time

College Throwball and lots of it including Irish @ State or Texas @ Tech.  Temple kicked UConn’s butt and deservedly so.  UConn is barely a Division I program and it is a big expensive mistake to pretend otherwise.  You won’t be able to use TV Guide Channel at all tonight because they’re running The Bridges of Madison County twice.  I might point out that unless it’s noted all sporting events are live.  Also all ‘marathons’ are at least 4 episodes or 3 hours long.


BoondocksSmokin’ With Cigarettes, The Trial of Robert Kelly.  GitS: SACEscape From, Not Equal (Episodes 12 & 13).

Oh, cut the bleeding heart crap, will ya? We’ve all got our switches, lights, and knobs to deal with, Striker. I mean, down here there are literally hundreds and thousands of blinking, beeping, and flashing lights, blinking and beeping and flashing – they’re *flashing* and they’re *beeping*. I can’t stand it anymore! They’re *blinking* and *beeping* and *flashing*! Why doesn’t somebody pull the plug!

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Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Pope meets abuse victims, condemns ‘unspeakable’ crimes

by Gildas le Roux, AFP

2 hrs 38 mins ago

LONDON (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI met clerical abuse victims on Saturday and condemned the “unspeakable crimes” of paedophile priests as thousands of protesters demonstrated against his state visit to Britain.

The Vatican said the pope met the five victims in London and was “moved by what they had to say and expressed his deep sorrow over what victims and their families had suffered”.

Earlier, the pontiff expressed his “deep sorrow” to abuse sufferers in one of his clearest public statements yet on the abuse scandal which has sent shockwaves through Catholicism.