11/11/2010 archive

Baby Steps to War Crimes

Back in January of 2009, Dahlia Lithwick of Slate wrote in the NYT Op-Ed

INSTEAD of looking closely at what high-level officeholders in the Bush administration have done over the past eight years, and recognizing what we have tacitly permitted, we would rather turn our faces forward toward a better future, promising that 2009 and the inauguration of Barack Obama will mean ringing out Guantanamo Bay and ringing in due process; it will bring the end of waterboarding and the reinstatement of the Geneva Conventions.

And America tends to survive the ugliness of public reckonings, from Nixon to Whitewater to the impeachment hearings, because for all our cheerful optimism, Americans fundamentally understand that nobody should be above the law. As the chief prosecutor for the United States at the Nuremberg trials, Robert Jackson, warned: “Law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power.”

(emphasis mine)

The Obama administration intentionally chose to not just turn its back on the evidence but to use the power of the executive to hide it. The Justice Department under Eric Holder a has let an investigation into the destruction of taped evidence of torture to languish and has announced that there will be no charges.

Ms Litwick in her latest article at Slate, chronicles baby steps that have taken the United States from decrying torture to celebrating it. In it she point out President Obama’s lack of understanding of the consequences of ignoring the Bush administration war crimes

President Barack Obama decided long ago that he would “turn the page” on prisoner abuse and other illegality connected to the Bush administration’s war on terror. What he didn’t seem to understand, what he still seems not to appreciate, is that what was on that page would bleed through onto the next page and the page after that. There’s no getting past torture. There is only getting comfortable with it. The U.S. flirtation with torture is not locked in the past or in the black sites or prisons at which it occurred. Now more than ever, it’s feted on network television and held in reserve for the next president who persuades himself that it’s not illegal after all.

Now, apparently feeling emboldened by the Obama deference and complicity, George W. Bush is proudly proclaiming in his “cowboy-fashion” that he approved and authorized the use of illegal torture techniques. Bush has been all over the media spewing lies about his claims to have kept

“America safe” by torturing which have been debunked long ago.

By covering up torture evidence and allowing those who destroyed the taped evidence, Obama and Holder are shielding war criminals which according to the Nuremberg Principles is a war crime.

The conclusion of Ms. Litwick’s article, she sums up the consequences:

Those of us who have been hollering about America’s descent into torture for the past nine years didn’t do so because we like terrorists or secretly hope for more terror attacks. We did it because if a nation is unable to decry something as always and deeply wrong, it has tacitly accepted it as sometimes and often right. Or, as President Bush now puts it, damn right. It spawns a legal regime that cannot be contained in time or in place; a regime that requires that torture testimony be used at trials and that terror policies be from public scrutiny. It demands the shielding of torture photos and the exoneration of those who destroyed torture tapes just a day after the statute of limitations had run out. Indeed, as Andrew Cohen notes, when the men ordering the destruction of those tapes are celebrated as “heroes,” who’s to say otherwise? Check, please.

All this was done in the name of moving us forward, turning down the temperature, painting over the rot that had overtaken the rule of law. Yet having denied any kind of reckoning for every actor up and down the chain of command, we are now farther along the road toward normalizing and accepting torture than we were back in November 2005, when President Bush could announce unequivocally (if falsely) that “The United States of America does not torture. And that’s important for people around the world to understand.” If people around the world didn’t understand what we were doing then, they surely do now. And if Americans didn’t accept what we were doing then, evidently they do now. Doing nothing about torture is, at this point, pretty much the same as voting for it. We are all water-boarders now.

Haiti: Time To Email And Call Congress

Enough.  I’ve been writing for the past week, daily, because I’m concerned that the cholera outbreak in Haiti endangers the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and especially threatens the more than a million Haitians who are living in tents or under tarps in Port au Prince and elsewhere in the country.

This morning’s Miami Herald Editorial captures exactly what needs to be said in the US about this impending public health disaster:

Punting the Pundits

Punting 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 “Punting the Pundits”.

Robert Reich: Obama’s First Stand

The president says a Republican proposal to extend the Bush tax cuts to everyone for two years is a “basis for conversation.” I hope this doesn’t mean another Obama cave-in.

Yes, the president needs to acknowledge the Republican sweep on Election Day. But he can do that by offering his own version of a compromise that’s both economically sensible and politically smart. Instead of limiting the extension to $250,000 of income (the bottom 98 percent of Americans), he should offer to extend it to all incomes under $500,000 (essentially the bottom 99 percent), for two years.

Dan Fromkin: Ten Flash Points In The Fiscal Commission Chairmen’s Proposal

The two deficit-hawk extremists President Obama put in charge of his fiscal commission released their personal suggestions for cutting the federal budget deficit on Wednesday. And while it’s quite possible that not a one of them will make it into the commission’s official recommendations, which require the approval of 14 of the 18 commissioners (not just two), the document will inevitably be welcomed as a “serious” contribution to the debate – at least by Republicans and conservative Democrats.

But taken as a whole, the plan authored by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson would have devastating effects on the government and its ability to help the most vulnerable in our society, and it would put the squeeze on the middle class, veterans, the elderly and the sick – all in the name of an abstract goal that ultimately only a bond-trader could love.

Here are the top 10 flash points:

Joe Conason: Meet the leader of the Obama witch hunt

If past is prologue, Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa will aim low and cheap — by probing stimulus road signs!

How Darrell Issa will conduct the vital business of the House Oversight Committee when he takes over as chairman isn’t clear yet. When the California Republican describes his plans in the mainstream media, he strives to sound reasonable, bipartisan and public-spirited; but when speaking with media outlets and personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh, he sounds like a hard-line right-winger aiming to revive the paranoid partisan style of the Gingrich era — which would be more in keeping with the reputation he has already established. He displayed the fugue state that preoccupies him when he denounced President Obama on CNN as “the most corrupt” occupant of the Oval Office in modern times – and then withdrew that accusation with an apology.

Now Issa has announced that he expects the Oversight committee and its subcommittees to hold nearly three times as many investigative hearings over the next two years as Henry Waxman, an active and successful chairman, ran during the final years of the Bush administration. He may consider the federal government (and the White House) to be bottomless pits of waste, fraud and abuse, but are there really three times as many troubling issues for Issa and his colleagues to study now as there were in the Bush years?

Dean Baker The Wall Street TARP Gang Wants to Take Away Your Social Security

Just over two years ago, the Wall Streeters were running around Congress and the media saying that if they don’t immediately get $700 billion the world will end. Since they own large chunks of both, they quickly got their money.

Even more important than the hundreds of billions of loans issued through the TARP was the trillions of dollars of loans and guarantees from the Fed and the FDIC. This money came with virtually no strings attached. . . .

The thing about Wall Streeters is that no matter how much money you give them, they always want more. Now they are using their political power and control over the media to attack Social Security.

This effort is being led by billionaire investment banker Peter Peterson. Mr. Peterson has personally profited to the tune of tens of millions of dollars from the “fund managers’ tax subsidy,” an obscure provision of the tax code that allows billionaires to pay a lower tax rate than schoolteachers and firefighters. However, Peterson believes in giving back. He has committed $1 billion to an effort that is intended to take away the Social Security benefits that people have worked and paid for.


In middle school I was a member of the Fencing Club.

Bank of America Allegedly Foreclosing Fraudulently in Kentucky

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Many foreclosures show this process was not observed on a widespread basis: the notes were assigned (as in transferred) to the trust right before closing, a violation of the PSA, the New York trust statutes that govern virtually all mortgage securitization trusts, and IRS rules for these trusts (REMIC). When foreclosure defense attorneys started contesting these assignments, suddenly a new ruse started to show up: allonges, which are sheets of paper that contained the needed endorsements, would magically appear out of nowhere. The problem is that an allonge is supposed to be used only when there is no space left on the note for endorsements, including margins and the reverse side, and when it is used, it is supposed to be so firmly attached to the original as to be inseparable. But these “ta da” allonges were always somehow discovered at the custodian, quite separate from the note.

This means the odds are awfully high that Bank of America committed multiple frauds on the court, first on the state court in the foreclosures process, and now on the Federal bankruptcy court.

This sort of abuse is far more serious than robo signing. As much as the likely misconduct here and robo signing would both be considered frauds on the court, the robo signing is arguably cost cutting gone mad and riding roughshod over proper legal procedures. By contrast, this practice has all the appearances of multiple coverups of the fact that Countrywide trust did not have standing to foreclose on the house. The steps undertaken here look to be a deliberate, concerted effort for the bank to get its way, the law be damned. And this clearly took more parties and more thought than the robo signing abuses.

At a minimum, the attorneys at the law firm and the parties at the servicer had to be aware of this device. And if our reading of this document is correct, this is fraud, pure and simple. It’s high time we see some attorneys disbarred and some law firms go out of business as a result of foreclosure chicanery, as well as serious investigations of the people involved in foreclosure litigation at the servicers and the banks’ general counsel’s office.

(h/t lambert @ Corrente)


Alan Greenspan: “Fraud, fraud is a fact.” And the banksters are doubling down, with the help of the Obama administration

Thu, 11/11/2010 – 10:51am – lambert

Proud to be an American

UK Guardian Releases British Torture Tape

By: Jeff Kaye (valtin), Wednesday November 10, 2010 7:08 pm

The UK Guardian yesterday released a videotape of a 2007 interrogation of a suspected Iraqi insurgent, one of 1,253 tapes made by interrogators at a secret British military center near Basra, run by the Joint Forces Interrogation Team (JFIT). The release came only days before the U.S. Justice Department investigation into the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of the torture of three high-value detainees at secret black site prisons was closed, with no charges brought. The news about torture was not a complete surprise as revelations last month showed torture techniques were taught to British interrogators in secret training manuals.

The release of the British torture tapes was the result of a lawsuit brought before the British high court by 220 former Iraqi prisoners. The Guardian warns that the video embedded here “contains material that viewers may find disturbing.” Having watched it, I can vouch it is difficult material to watch. Amazingly, the U.S. press, and much of the British press, have totally ignored this material. The truth is going to be difficult to stomach, but this is a taste of what might have occurred had U.S. tapes found their way to public viewing.

Watch the video posted here, and then ponder what role we all play in this monstrous enterprise. If we do not speak out, if we do not demand that all torture stop, and that the entire secret archives be opened so we can know once and for all what has been and is going on, then we put our own futures into dire jeopardy, and will surely earn the scorn of future generations. The Wikileaks Iraqi war logs already have plenty of evidence of torture and war crimes by the United States. Where are the investigations? The prosecutions? The outcry?

Democratic Party Death Wish

So, just a single week after a sound electoral thumping because they pissed off their base (CBS Exit Polling, Independents, Unions, and Gays- More Exit Polls), the Very Serious Leaders of the Democratic Party shot themselves in the foot again yesterday, not once, not twice, but three times!

Genius.  I’ll start with the Korean Free Trade Agreement since that’s the one you’ve probably heard least about-

Korea Free Trade, Here We Come

By: Jane Hamsher Wednesday November 10, 2010 9:46 pm

According to pollsters, opposing NAFTA-style trade agreements and defending Social Security were the two strongest issues Democrats had in 2010. There were 220 television ads run by Democrats in competitive races in 2010 opposing the outsourcing of jobs and “free trade” agreements…

The trade deal is seen as a sop to Korea so the US can maintain a military presence in the region. … (O)nce again, more middle class jobs would be sacrificed for the sake of militarism and interventionism.

It would be a truly horrific blow to whatever is left of American manufacturing at a time when unemployment is rampant.  But from a political standpoint, fighting for another so-called “free trade” agreement right now has got to represent some kind of death wish for the Democratic party.  I don’t have any other way to explain it.

Then there is Obama’s cave on Tax Cuts for the Rich-

David Axelrod’s Quaint Idea of Middle Class "Security"

By: emptywheel Wednesday November 10, 2010 11:52 pm

Axe is defining “security for the middle class” as tax cuts. Not “jobs.” Not “access to health care, not just insurance.” Not “a guarantee a bankster can’t just foreclose on their house with a trumped up piece of paper.” Not “some basic safety net for retirement.” But “tax cuts.”

According to Axe, we have to shovel even more money on the already rich so as to ensure the “security” of the middle class by giving them a tax cut.

And while I agree that raising middle class tax cuts at this point would be bad for the economy, it’s not the worst thing that could happen to the economy.

In fact, the worst thing that could happen to this economy may well be passing legislation that continues to hollow out of the middle class and with it increasing the massive income inequality that continues to subject the American people to the craven demands of a few very rich people. That is, precisely what Axe and Obama have now agreed to do.

These men either don’t know or don’t give a damn about the security of the middle class.

And then there is Obama’s Cat Food Commission recommending drastic cuts to Social Security WHILE ALSO Cutting Taxes for the Rich and Corporations-

Cutting Social Security Would Prove Disastrous for Democrats at Polls

By: Jon Walker Wednesday November 10, 2010 6:56 pm

In this last election, Democrats performed terribly with senior citizen voters. National House exit polling shows only 38 percent of those over 65 voted for Democrats while 59 percent votes for Republicans. This is the worst showing for Democrats among seniors in decades and a big part of why Dems lost so many House seats.

The Republicans absolutely hammered Democrats with what the GOP labeled as a $500 billion cut in Medicare as part of the new health care law. The fairly misleading message clearly resonated with seniors who really don’t want their entitlements cut.

Cutting Social Security will be dramatically worse for Democrats

With that in mind, a Democratic plan to cut Social Security would likely be even more politically destructive to Democrats among senior citizens. Unlike with Medicare, there is no real waste or overpayments to private insurance companies in Social Security to trim. Any cost saving reforms to Social Security must actually be straight-up cuts in benefits.

Social Security is called the third rail of politics for a reason. If Obama touches it, he will destroy the Democratic party in 2012.

After looking at the senior vote in 2010, one can only conclude that any attempt by President Obama or Democrats to reduce Social Security benefits would be a political disaster. Polling indicates that a majority of Americans strong oppose (.pdf) raising the retirement age, and I can only assume the idea is even less popular among those about to retire.

Democrats attempted to simply reduce waste in Medicare as part of health care reform, and it caused voters over 65 to reject them en masse because it was framed by Republicans as a cut in Medicare benefits. If Democrats promote actually cutting people’s Social Security benefits, I have every reason to believe their losses among seniors citizens in 2012 will make their historically poor performance in 2010 look small in comparison.

What I will point out about these arguments is that they’re NOT based on some namby pamby kumbayah theory of Social Justice and Compassion-

They are based on hard nosed realpolitik facts about how to win elections.

Anyone who claims to care about “electoral victory” is a LIAR!

And anyone still buying into the “11 Dimensional Chess” Theory of Barack Hussein Obama and his Administration is a member of a cult of personality

The Obama Movement

Posted on November 10, 2010 by myiq2xu, The Confluence

Remember those stories about the “Cult of Obama?” They started because of something called “Camp Obama.”

A summer camp for young adults where they sat around campfires sipping Kool-aid and chanting “Fired up! Ready to go!” and “O-bama! O-bama! O-bama!”

Okay, there were no campfires because the “camps” were held in office buildings and auditoriums, but the principle is the same. Read up on Camp Obama and you might notice a dearth of policy discussions.

It was all about the O

That “telling stories” stuff? The Christian fundamentalists call it “witnessing.”

Obama gets $99 million dollars in 2007 from Wall Street, health insurance executives and oil companies. He uses that money to organize Cult Camp Obama. He wins in the red states and caucus states but loses almost all of the big states and swing states.

Then once he’s in office he immediately starts dismantling the very organizations that helped him get there. and co-opts or “vertically integrates” all the left-wing activist groups within the Democratic party.

He even arranges for the Democratic party headquarters to be relocated to Chicago.

It sounds to me like he knew his followers were gonna be really disappointed and he didn’t want to leave them anywhere else to go. I guess it never occurred to him they might just stay home.

(h/t lambert @ Corrente)

This is primarily a political post about why this is bad politics.  I’ll explain why it’s bad policy later.

On This Day in History: November 11

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

November 11 is the 315th day of the year (316th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 50 days remaining until the end of the year.

World War I is commemorated on this day, commonly known as Remembrance Day. The ceasefire went into effect at 11:00am CET in 1918, the date of which (and sometimes the commemoration of) is known as Armistice Day. Veterans Day is an annual United States holiday honoring military veterans

On this day in 1918, the armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed in a railway carriage in Compiegne Forest.

Clairière de l’Armistice

In November 1918 the Engineer in charge of the North Region Railways: Arthur-Pierre Toubeau, was instructed to find a suitably discreet place which would accommodate two trains. By coincidence on the outskirts of Compiègne in the forest of Rethondes lay an artillery railway emplacement. Set deep within the wood and out of the view of the masses the location was ideal.

Early in the morning of the 8th November a train carrying Maréchal Ferdinand Foch, his staff and British officers arrived on the siding to the right, nearest the museum. The train formed a mobile headquarters for Foch, complete with a restaurant car and office.

At 0700 hours another train arrived on the left hand track. One of the carriages had been built for Napoleon III and still bore his coat of arms. Inside was a delegation from the German government seeking an armistice.

There were only a hundred metres between the two trains and the entire area was policed by gendarmes placed every 20 metres.

For three days the two parties discussed the terms of an armistice until at 0530 hours on the 11th November 1918, Matthias Erzberger the leader of the German delegation signed the Armistice document.

Within 6 hours the war would be over.

Initially the carriage (Wagon Lits Company car No. 2419D) used by Maréchal Foch was returned to its former duty as a restaurant car but was eventually placed in the courtyard of the Invalides in Paris.

An American: Arthur Fleming paid for its restoration, and the wagon was brought back to Rethondes on 8th April 1927 and placed in a purpose built shelter (Since destroyed).

Numerous artifacts were obtained from those who had been involved in 1918 and the car was refurbished to its condition at the time of the Armistice.

At the entrance to the avenue leading down to the memorial site is a monument raised by a public subscription organised by the newspaper Le Matin.

The monument is dedicated to Alsace Lorraine and consists of a bronze sculpture of a sword striking down the Imperial Eagle of Germany it is framed by sandstone from Alsace.

The Clairière was inaugurated on 11th November 1922 by President Millerand.

Morning Shinbun Thursday November 11

Thursday’s Headlines:

From a mental ward to classical music’s new star


General Electric moves production from its lamp plant in Virginia to China

Recession Shadows America’s Middle Class


Our chef in Paris – a life entertaining the ambassadors

Sarkozy Draws Ire Over Media Spying Claims

Middle East

Sun sets on US influence in Iraq as deal on new government loom

U.S. to use more drones to hunt for al Qaeda in Yemen


Tariffs and currency questions dominate China’s economic agenda

Philippines military waits in the wings


Top police face trial for DR Congo rights activist killing

Nigeria marks 15 years since execution of Saro-Wiwa

Latin America

Danger: the world is on its way

Sources: Pentagon group finds there is minimal risk to lifting gay ban during war

By Ed O’Keefe and Greg Jaffe

Washington Post Staff Writers  

A Pentagon study group has concluded that the military can lift the ban on gays serving openly in uniform with only minimal and isolated incidents of risk to the current war efforts, according to two people familiar with a draft of the report, which is due to President Obama on Dec. 1 More than 70 percent of respondents to a survey sent to active-duty and reserve troops over the summer said the effect of repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would be positive, mixed or nonexistent, said two sources familiar with the document. The survey results led the report’s authors to conclude that objections to openly gay colleagues would drop once troops were able to live and serve alongside them.

Prime Time

Broadcast Premiers.  Country Music Awards.  A good night to nap.


Dave hosts Russell Crowe, Quincy Jones, and Snoop Dogg.  Jon has Mick Foley (could be fun), Stephen Martha Stewart (maybe she’ll make something).  Conan has Jon Hamm, Charlyne Yi, and Fistful of Mercy.

BoondocksOr Die Trying.

Zap2it TV Listings, Yahoo TV Listings

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Student protesters storm British PM’s party HQ

by Robin Millard, AFP

1 hr 27 mins ago

LONDON (AFP) – University students smashed their way into British Prime Minister David Cameron’s party headquarters on Wednesday during a chaotic protest against the government’s plans to triple tuition fees.

Thousands of demonstrators besieged 30 Millbank, running riot through the 1960s office building near parliament, which houses the Conservative Party.

Vastly outnumbered, police were powerless to stop the protesters smashing their way through the entire three-sided glass frontage, storming in and wrecking the lobby.