05/09/2011 archive

Torture Advocates Out From Under Their Rocks

It seems that since Osama bin Laden’s demise that the torture advocates, architects and apologists have come out of hiding and are all over the MSM touting the success of waterboarding.

Top architect and advocate, Dick Cheney, emerged from his undisclosed location to appear on Fox with Chris Wallace touting that waterboarding isn’t torture. I won’t insult our readers with the sickening video of this war criminal. You can view in the article at Think Progress.

. . . former Vice President Dick Cheney stridently defended Bush era torture programs, calling harsh interrogation tactics “the most important steps we took that kept us safe for 7 years.” He also advocated reinstating waterboarding, telling Wallace that enhanced interrogation “worked, and provided absolutely vital pieces of information.”

Cheney resurrected an old GOP talking point in insisting that waterboarding was not torture, despite testimony of people like CIA Director Leon Panetta to the contrary. “It was a good program, it was a legal program, it was not torture,” Cheney maintained.

Many former Bush administration officials have falsely credited torture tactics with leading to the raid on Osama bin Laden, but Cheney went further by insisting that torture was the key policy that has kept the country safe for a decade after the September 11th attacks.

Guest blogger Lawrence Rafferty at law professor Jonathan Turley’s site wrote that despite all the rationalization by these criminals “Torture is still Torture, and it is Still Illegal.”:

This entire week the torture enthusiasts have been back on all of the news channels exclaiming their happiness that their “enhanced interrogation techniques” worked.  Of course, they are talking about waterboarding and other methods of torture. Why are Michael Mukasey, John Yoo and other members of the George W. Bush administration once again declaring that torture is good policy and that it was successful in helping to get Osama Bin Laden?


The Bush Administration officials seem to be attempting to rewrite history by claiming their illegal torture techniques aided in the search for Bin Laden.  In former Attorney Gen. Mukasey and Prof. Yoo’s cases, they are both asserting that torture is effective and that is legal.  That’s right.  According to the Torture Twins, Mukasey and Yoo, they claim that waterboarding is legal.  Although I agree that President Obama has done the country a disservice by not prosecuting the officials who authorized and carried out the torture during the Bush administration, by no means does that inaction make waterboarding legal.  I guess if the Bush apologists keep saying it enough, they hope that Americans will believe them.  Mukasey and Yoo both sold out their souls for their jobs and their President.  I hope they can sleep at night.

Not only should the Obama administration be pursuing the prosecution of CIA officers who did the torture, they should be prosecuting those who gave the orders.

Buy, Buy, Buy, Buy, Buy!


Tue 16 Dec 08

Negative Homeowner Equity at New High

By Theresa McCabe, The Street

05/09/11 – 12:09 PM EDT

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Home prices in the United States dropped 3% in the first quarter of 2011, the largest decrease since 2008 when the housing market experienced its worst performance, and negative homeowner equity hit a new high, according to Zillow’s Real Estate Market Report.

Median home values fell 8.2% year over year to $169,600 and are expected to fall as much as 9% this year as foreclosures spread and unemployment remains high, Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 9% in April, up from 8.8% in March, the Department of Labor reported earlier this month.

“With accelerating declines during the first quarter, it is unreasonable to expect home values to return to stability by the end of 2011,” Humphries said.

Home prices were down 29.5% from their peak in June 2006. Humphries predicts that prices won’t find a floor until 2012.

Negative equity reached a new high in the first quarter, with 28.4% of U.S. homeowners with mortgages underwater, meaning they owed more than their properties were worth. This was up from 27% in the fourth quarter of 2010.

I’ll point out that The Street is Jim Cramer’s own web site.

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.

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

Glen Greenwald: U.S. Tries to Assassinate US Citizen Anwar al-Awlaki

That Barack Obama has continued the essence of the Bush/Cheney Terrorism architecture was once a provocative proposition but is now so self-evident that few dispute it (watch here as arch-neoconservative David Frum — Richard Perle’s co-author for the supreme 2004 neocon treatise — waxes admiringly about Obama’s Terrorism and foreign policies in the Muslim world and specifically its “continuity” with Bush/Cheney).  But one policy where Obama has gone further than Bush/Cheney in terms of unfettered executive authority and radical war powers is the attempt to target American citizens for assassination without a whiff of due process.  As The New York Times put it last April:

   It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said.  A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president. . . .

That Obama was compiling a hit list of American citizens was first revealed in January of last year when The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest mentioned in passing at the end of a long article that at least four American citizens had been approved for assassinations; several months later, the Obama administration anonymously confirmed to both the NYT and the Post that American-born, U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was one of the Americans on the hit list.

Ross Douthat: Whose Foreign Policy Is It?

I have never agreed with anything this man has written until now

For those with eyes to see, the daylight between the foreign policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama has been shrinking ever since the current president took the oath of office. But last week made it official: When the story of America’s post-9/11 wars is written, historians will be obliged to assess the two administrations together, and pass judgment on the Bush-Obama era.

The death of Osama bin Laden, in a raid that operationalized Bush’s famous “dead or alive” dictum, offered the most visible proof of this continuity. But the more important evidence of the Bush-Obama convergence lay elsewhere, in developments from last week that didn’t merit screaming headlines, because they seemed routine rather than remarkable.

One was NATO’s ongoing bombing campaign in Libya, which now barely even pretends to be confined to humanitarian objectives, or to be bound by the letter of the United Nations resolution. Another was Friday’s Predator strike inside Pakistan’s tribal regions, which killed a group of suspected militants while the world’s attention was still fixed on Bin Laden’s final hours. Another was the American missile that just missed killing Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who has emerged as a key recruiter for Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate.

Imagine, for a moment, that these were George W. Bush’s policies at work.

John Nichols: How Town Hall Protests Against Paul Ryan’s Plan Changed the Medicare Debate

Paul Ryan claims the protests heard so very loud and clear during the House Budget Committee chair’s town hall meetings in April had no influence on his thinking about Medicare.

Perhaps Ryan really does have a tin ear.

But the outcry over his plan to mess with Medicare, heard in Wisconsin communities from Milton to Kenosha, and at spring recess sessions in the districts of Republican freshmen from Pennsylvania to Florida, obviously influenced other Republicans.

Images from Kenosha – a historic factory town in Ryan’s district, where hundreds of people showed up to criticize his scheming to cut benefits for working Americans while giving billionaires and multinational corporations new tax breaks – were featured nationally on broadcast network news shows.

Cable news programs focused intense attention on the story. MSNBC’s Ed Schultz devoted much of a program last week to the outcry. (In addition to a blistering analysis of the congressman’s proposal by the host, this writer provided some on the ground reporting from Kenosha, including details of a brief interview with Ryan, who was typically dismissive of the popular discomfort with his plan.) But other networks — even Fox — at least touched on the congressman’s troubles.

The reporting was noticed in Washington where, last week, GOP leaders began almost immediately to distance themselves from Ryan’s plan to use Medicare funds to enrich the private insurance firms that have donated so generously to his campaigns.

Stephen L. Goldstein: “Shock Doctrine” Economics Ruining America

WARNING: Reading Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” will disturb your sleep and haunt your waking hours. If you’re a real American, it will make you want to scream – and do something to put “the bad guys” in their place. Everyone – especially Milton-Friedman, free-market lovers like Kingsley Guy – should read “Shock.” If enough people do so, it could save the country. If they don’t, our democratic/representative government and capitalism will be permanently replaced by the un-American, corporate-socialist state that has already taken hold – and it will be our own fault.

For 50 years, laissez-faire economist Friedman and his apostles at the University of Chicago have spread a doctrine based upon “the elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations and skeletal social spending,” according to Klein. Even worse is how they do it: For Friedman and his minions, widespread disasters (natural and man-made) are opportunities to make money. While victims are really or figuratively bleeding, too shocked to realize what’s happening, in cahoots with lapdog governments, they impose “deregulation, privatization, and cutbacks” on economies as the formula for recovery. Promising prosperity for all, they deliver widespread poverty and oppression.

Brent Blackwelder Obama Should Back Off Risky Nuclear Loan Guarantees

Well before the catastrophe at Fukushima began unfolding, a familiar word was heard in discussions about plans to build a new generation of reactors in this country. That word: risk.

With President Barack Obama and Congress pushing ahead with efforts to offer up federal construction loan guarantees totaling $54.5 billion, what was the risk of taxpayers getting stuck holding the bag in the event these nuclear projects defaulted? And, why should taxpayers even be expected to assume such a risk?

Before those critical questions were satisfactorily addressed, we were sadly reminded of the other definition of risk when it comes to nuclear energy. The toll of Fukushima won’t be known for years, but assuredly the cost, both human and financial, will be huge.

As public debate over nuclear safety once again flares up – with industry’s familiar assurances that “it can’t happen here” – let’s not allow the financial risks inherent in this energy choice to be overlooked.

Michelle Chen; Watchdogs Probe Labor Abuses in China’s Tech Industry

Never underestimate the power of a good public shaming. Western electronics firms were mortified in 2010 by reports of gruesome suicides of young workers in China, employed by the multinational tech giant Foxconn. Since the company runs a network of plants that churn out glistening gadgets for Apple, Dell and Hewlett Packard, the suicides scandalized tech brands that often market themselves as hip and progressive.

The months of damage control that followed led to promises to reform wages and working hours and to establish less Dickensian, more worker-friendly factory conditions. But has all that bad publicity (encapsulated most recently in a sensational theatrical production) paid off for workers?

This week watchdog groups have released a report to kickstart a global campaign to call attention to ongoing labor issues. The “Time to Bite Into a Fair Apple” campaign hopes to keep the pressure on both Chinese authorities and multinational firms to fulfill promises to make the manufacturing system more humane for hundreds of thousands of young Chinese workers.

Allison Kilkenny: NY Teachers Vow ‘Wisconsin-Style’ Protest

New York teachers are vowing to protest in the wake of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to layoff thousands of educators.

“Mr. Mayor, it’s not going to happen, and enough is enough!” shouted Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, as he whipped up a roaring crowd at the UFT’s spring conference in midtown New York.

A ballroom-full of educators rose to their feet, clapping and chanting, “Enough is Enough.”

A surprise guest, Wisconsin State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, the man who led 13 fellow lawmakers out-of-state in order to block Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union legislation, received a standing ovation from the crowd.

The UFT, along with many other unions, plan to draw tens of thousands of supports for the May 12 march from City Hall and other sites to Wall Street to oppose Bloomberg’s cuts and demand the big banks start paying their fair share.

Monday Business Edition

Monday Business Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 43 Stories.

From Yahoo News Business

1 Greece heads for audit after euro exit scare

by John Hadoulis, AFP

Sun May 8, 2:09 pm ET

ATHENS (AFP) – Greece heads for another audit of its battered finances this week after European officials closed ranks to quash fears of an inglorious Greek exit from the euro cited in a German online report.

A high-level team of experts from the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank will pore over plans by the Greek government to economise some 26 billion euros over three years to help bring down the country’s enormous debt.

“The mission will begin on Tuesday,” a finance ministry source said.

On This Day In History May 9

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

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

May 9 is the 129th day of the year (130th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 236 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1860, James Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, is born in Scotland.

Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM (9 May 1860 – 19 June 1937) was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. The child of a family of small-town weavers, he was educated in Scotland. He moved to London, where he developed a career as a novelist and playwright. There he met the Llewelyn Davies boys who inspired him in writing about a baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (included in The ), then to write Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a “fairy play” about this ageless boy and an ordinary girl named Wendy who have adventures in the fantasy setting of Neverland. This play quickly overshadowed his previous work and although he continued to write successfully, it became his best-known work, credited with popularising the name Wendy, which was very uncommon previously. Barrie unofficially adopted the Davies boys following the deaths of their parents. Before his death, he gave the rights to the Peter Pan works to Great Ormond Street Hospital, which continues to benefit from them.

Peter Pan

The classic Peter Pan starring Mary Martin. This is the 1960 version for NBC. Has been very limited in its showing. The DVD is long out of print and expensive to own.

The Shrill One Speaks

The Unwisdom of Elites

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: May 8, 2011

(W)hat we’re experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren’t responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people – in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.

(I)t was the bad judgment of the elite, not the greediness of the common man, that caused America’s deficit. And much the same is true of the European crisis.

Why should we be concerned about the effort to shift the blame for bad policies onto the general public?

One answer is simple accountability. People who advocated budget-busting policies during the Bush years shouldn’t be allowed to pass themselves off as deficit hawks; people who praised Ireland as a role model shouldn’t be giving lectures on responsible government.

But the larger answer, I’d argue, is that by making up stories about our current predicament that absolve the people who put us here there, we cut off any chance to learn from the crisis. We need to place the blame where it belongs, to chasten our policy elites. Otherwise, they’ll do even more damage in the years ahead.

Six In The Morning

US says it wants access to bin Laden widows

The women could answer questions about how much Pakistan knew

NBC, msnbc.com and news services

The United States wants access to Osama bin Laden’s three widows and any intelligence material its commandos left behind at the al-Qaida leader’s compound, a top American official said in comments broadcast Sunday that could add a fresh sticking point in already frayed ties with Pakistan.

Information from the women, who remained in the house after the commandos killed bin Laden, might answer questions about whether Pakistan harbored the al-Qaida chief as many American officials are speculating. It could also reveal details about the day-to-day life of bin Laden, his actions since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the inner workings of al-Qaida.

The women, along with several children also picked up from the house, are believed to be in Pakistani army custody. A Pakistani army official declined to comment Sunday on the request, U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.

The Week in Editorial Cartoons – The Hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the Bush Administration

Crossposted at Daily Kos and Docudharma

Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Buy this cartoon

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 8, 2011-


Pique the Geek 20110508: Nitrogen, Common and Essential

Everyone is exposed to elemental nitrogen every day.  Since it makes up about 78% of the atmosphere, it is impossible to avoid.  It is nontoxic, so being impossible to avoid is not in this case a problem.

Actually, it is good thing that nitrogen comprises that much of the atmosphere.  If the atmosphere were much richer in oxygen than it is (around 21%, the rest carbon dioxide and a few others), it would be impossible to fight fires.  More on that later.

In addition to being an inert diluent to oxygen in the atmosphere, nitrogen is also essential for life for many reasons, and we shall examine some of them in a bit.  It is also an essential building block for many important industrial materials and for fertilizers for plants.  Come with us after the fold and we shall examine this important element.

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