04/01/2014 archive

It was all worth(less) it.


The CIA Won’t Let Senate Report Settle ‘Debate’ on Whether Torture Led to Bin Laden

By: Kevin Gosztola Firedog Lake

Monday March 31, 2014 11:41 am

For former government officials who have defended torture techniques, this report poses a key threat to their ability to continue to appear on cable news programs, pen editorials for newspapers and participate in speaking engagements where they can claim torture played an effective role in leading the US to bin Laden and helped keep the country safe.

This key talking point makes it possible to convince audiences and hosts of news programs to ignore the unmistakable fact that the interrogation techniques authorized were torture and should not be used on any human being. If it is lost, they will only have their disingenuous fear and crude ideology to aid them when confronted over their role in the CIA’s rendition, detention and torture program.

Former vice president Dick Cheney said on “The Charlie Rose Show” on February 13, 2013, “KSM was more than anybody else [subjected] to enhanced interrogation techniques and more than anybody else provided us with key pieces of intelligence that we needed in order to defend the nation against al Qaeda.”

On January 29, 2013, Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA Counterterrorism Center head who authorized the destruction of videotapes of interrogations, “It’s a ridiculous assertion when a report says that enhanced interrogation program had no value or produced nothing. Frankly it’s disturbing. Because in my view it is an attempt to rewrite history. The narrative of this administration is that the enhanced interrogation program was torture and nothing came out of it, but in fact we were able to destroy al Qaeda because of it.”

Rodriguez used appearances on television, where he was promoting his book, Hard Measures, to defend President George W. Bush’s administration and the use of torture techniques on terrorism suspects. He also, like other former officials, benefited from the release of the film, Zero Dark Thirty, depicting the hunt for bin Laden because it garnered him invitations to speak about how he believed intelligence from torture had led to bin Laden’s execution.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden has maintained that, “as late as 2006, even with the growing success of other intelligence tools, fully half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from those interrogations.” On February 23, 2013, on Fareed Zakaria’s program on CNN, he said, “Part of that fabric in the hunt for bin Laden came from detainees against whom enhanced interrogation techniques have been used.”

John Rizzo, a former top CIA lawyer who oversaw whether torture techniques used on captives were “legal,” also during this same month, “This program was carried out, was originally carried out, evolved over the years, was refined, produced thousands of intelligence reports and was conducted, mind you, all those years, by career CIA officers, non-political public servants.”

“To say – to make a blanket statement that nothing of any value ever came out of these techniques, I just think beggars the imagination. I just don’t buy that.”

Paul Ryans’s April Fools Joke: 2015 Budget Plan

Why Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) decided to release his latest budget proposal on April 1 will most likely not be answered except with some guffaws. Calling it the Path to Prosperity is another joke, or prank if it even gets to the House floor for a vote. It’s more like the Road to Ruin except for the 1%. His proposal cuts government spending over the next 10 years to the tune of $5.1 trillion dollars mostly on the backs of the middle class but mostly the poor. It will increase military spending:

In his plan, military spending through 2024 would actually rise by $483 billion over the spending caps established in the 2011 Budget Control Act “consistent with America’s military goals and strategies,” while nondefense spending at Congress’s annual discretion would be cut by $791 billion below those strict limits.

In all, Mr. Ryan says, spending would be cut by $5.1 trillion over the next decade. More than $2 trillion of that would come from repealing Mr. Obama’s health care initiative, the Affordable Care Act, a political move that has become much more difficult with the closing of the first enrollment period. As many as 10 million Americans have gotten health insurance through the law, either through private policies purchased on insurance exchanges, through expanded Medicaid or private policies purchased through brokers but subsidized by the law.

As with past budget proposals, Mr. Ryan seeks to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, then turn the health care program for the poor into block grants to the states – saving $732 billion over the decade. He would also cap and block-grant food stamps, starting in 2020, cutting that program by $125 billion in five years. The budget relies on imposing new work requirements on food stamp and welfare recipients.

Some of the headlines from The Hill tell most of the story for the rest of Ryan’s fantasies:

Ryan budget sets sights on Dodd-Frank and Ryan budget attacks Obama’s climate agenda.

Talking Points Memo‘s Sahil Kapur shines light on the biggest contradictions that will have politicians twisting to explain on the campaign trail:

The new Republican budget will adopt cuts to Medicare under Obamacare that the party is attacking Democrats for ahead of the 2014 congressional elections.

And it won’t include cuts to Social Security that Republicans bashed President Barack Obama for omitting from his budget proposal just six weeks ago.

The blueprint, to be unveiled Tuesday by House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), will shine a light on stark contradictions in the GOP’s stance on these two programs. Slashing the retirement safety net is an overarching goal for wealthy donors and party elites, but their elderly voting base strongly opposes any cuts. While Republicans warn of a looming debt crisis if Medicare and Social Security aren’t scaled back, they’re knocking Democrats for Obamacare’s $700 billion in Medicare payment cuts to hospitals, private insurers and other providers.

A difference between this budget fantasy and Ryan’s other dreams is that it was scored by the Congressional Budget Office before its release. At FDL Action, Jon Walker points out another problem, it won’t achieve what the GOP says it wants, eliminating the deficit and a balanced budget:

The problem is that the CBO has recently downgrade its revenue projections making it harder for Ryan to meet his goal of eliminating the deficit in 10 years. If the deficit was really a top priority for Republicans they could have made the tough decision to raise taxes or put forward even more cuts spending. Instead they decided to basically cheat to get a better CBO score. [..]

This budget is a purely statement of principle by Republicans since it has no chance of becoming law or even being the starting point for a negotiation. In this statement of principle Republicans had to choose between a real plan to balance the budget or their other priorities like tax policy and defense spending. By going this route they made it clear the national debt is at best a second tier concern for them. [..]

Republicans have repeatedly had to the chance to choose between reducing the deficit and keeping taxes low for rich people and once again they proved they will pick rich people every time.

Ryan would like everyone to think he’s serious. The truth is that the is just a very bad running April Fool’s joke.

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: Climate Signals, Growing Louder

Perhaps now the deniers will cease their attacks on the science of climate change, and the American public will, at last, fully accept that global warming is a danger now and an even graver threat to future generations.

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that since 1990 has been issuing increasingly grim warnings about the consequences of a warming planet, released its most powerful and sobering assessment so far. Even now, it said (pdf), ice caps are melting, droughts and floods are getting worse, coral reefs are dying. And without swift and decisive action to limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other sources, the world will almost surely face centuries of climbing temperatures, rising seas, species loss and dwindling agricultural yields. The damage will be particularly acute in coastal communities and in low-lying poor countries – like Bangladesh – that are least able to protect themselves.

Joe Nocera: A Step Toward Justice in College Sports?

If you were going to hold up a school as being exemplary in the way it puts athletics in, as they say, “the proper perspective,” Northwestern University would certainly be one you’d point to. For instance, although it lacks the kind of winning tradition – at least in the big-time sports – that other schools in the Big Ten can boast of, it proudly points to the 97 percent graduation rate of its athletes.

Yet buried in last week’s decision by Peter Sung Ohr, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board – in which he said that the Northwestern football team had the right to form a union – was this anecdote about Kain Colter, the former Northwestern quarterback who is leading the union effort. In his sophomore year, dreaming of going to medical school someday, Colter “attempted to take a required chemistry course.” However, “his coaches and advisors discouraged him from taking the course because it conflicted with morning football practices.” Eventually, after falling behind other pre-med students, he wound up switching his major to psychology, “which he believed to be less demanding,” according to Ohr.

Ohr’s essential point was that unlike the rest of the student body at Northwestern, football players had little control over their lives. Their schedules were dictated by the needs of the football team. They had bosses in the form of coaches and other university officials who could fire them. They had to abide by a million petty N.C.A.A. rules, and they lacked many of the freedoms and rights taken for granted by students who didn’t play sports. They put in up to 50-hours a week at their sport – vastly more than is supposedly allowed under N.C.A.A. rules. But then, every school finds ways to evade those rules, whether they have athletics “in perspective” or not.

Dean Baker: The Tax Code in Action: Charity Starts at the Top

According to press accounts, former Senator Jim DeMint is likely earning in the neighborhood of $1 million a year for heading up the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing Washington think tank. The fact that right-wing think tanks pay their top people lots of money is not exactly news. After all, they have lots of wealthy donors who are happy to cough up this sort of money. But the part of the story that might get people upset is the fact that the rest of us are subsidizing Mr. DeMint’s hefty paycheck.

This subsidy comes through Heritage’s status as a tax exempt organization. This gets them out of paying various state and local taxes, but most importantly it means that the contributions it receives are tax deductible for the rich people who make them. That means that when the Koch brothers or their equivalent throw $100 million at the Heritage Foundation, $40 million of this contribution comes out of their tax bill.

Immanuel Wallerstein: Libertarian politics in the United States

Has the time come for a shake-up of the U.S two-party stranglehold?

The general elections of most countries with parliamentary systems have largely functioned in the same way. They have had some regular alternation between two parties, one ostensibly left-of-center and one ostensibly right-of-center. In these systems, there has been little difference between the two main parties in terms of foreign policy and only a limited set of differences on internal politics, centering on issues of taxation and social welfare.

However, the actual mechanics of the elections in different countries vary. The system used in the United States has been possibly the most constraining in maintaining this two-party pattern. This is the result of two features in the U.S. Constitution. One is the exceptionally important role of the president, leading parties to put winning the presidential election as their first priority. The second is the curious system by which the president is chosen – an electoral college, in which, for 48 out of 50 states, the method of choice is a one-round election in which the winner of a plurality in a given state takes all of its electoral votes.

The combination of these two features has made it virtually impossible for “third party” candidates to win presidential elections or to be more than “spoilers.” Up to now, libertarians have largely run as “third party” candidates. Libertarianism has never been, therefore, an important force in affecting policy choices or electoral preferences. The seriousness of the attempts by Sen. Rand Paul to obtain the Republican nomination has changed all that.

Robert Reich: The Distributional Games

It’s true that history and policy point to overall benefits from expanded trade because all of us gain access to cheaper goods and services. But in recent years the biggest gains from trade have gone to investors and executives while the burdens have fallen disproportionately on those in the middle and below who have lost good-paying jobs. By the same token, most Americans are saying “no deal” to further tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. In fact, some are now voting to raise taxes on the rich in order to pay for such things as better schools, as evidenced by the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York. Conservatives say higher taxes on the rich will slow economic growth. But even if this argument contains a grain of truth, it’s a non-starter as long as 95 percent of the gains from growth continue to go to the top 1 percent — as they have since the start of the recovery in 2009.

Harvey Wasserman: The Nuclear Omnicide

In the 35 years since the March 28, 1979, explosion and meltdown at Three Mile Island, fierce debate has raged over whether humans were killed there. In 1986 and 2011, Chernobyl and Fukushima joined the argument. Whenever these disasters happen, there are those who claim that the workers, residents and military personnel exposed to radiation will be just fine.

Of course we know better. We humans won’t jump into a pot of boiling water. We’re not happy when members of our species start dying around us. But frightening new scientific findings have forced us to look at a larger reality: the bottom-up damage that radioactive fallout may do to the entire global ecosystem.

When it comes to our broader support systems, the corporate energy industry counts on us to tolerate the irradiation of our fellow creatures, those on whom we depend, and for us to sleep through the point of no return.

On This Day In History April 1

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.

April 1 is the 91st day of the year (92nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 274 days remaining until the end of the year. April 1 is most notable in the Western world for being April Fools’ Day.

On this day in 1700, English pranksters begin popularizing the annual tradition of April Fools’ Day by playing practical jokes on each other.

Although the day, also called All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, its exact origins remain a mystery. Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes. These included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.

Historians have also linked April Fools’ Day to ancient festivals such as Hilaria, which was celebrated in Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises. There’s also speculation that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.

April Fools’ Day is celebrated all around the world on the April 1 of every year. Sometimes referred to as All Fools’ Day, April 1 is not a national holiday, but is widely recognized and celebrated as a day where everyone plays all kind of joke and foolishness. The day is marked by the commission of good humoured or funny jokes, hoaxes, and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members, teachers, neighbors, work associates, etc.

Traditionally, in some countries such as New Zealand, Ireland, the UK, Australia, and South Africa, the jokes only last until noon, and someone who plays a trick after noon is called an “April Fool”.

Elsewhere, such as in France, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S., the jokes last all day. The earliest recorded association between April 1 and foolishness can be found in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392). Many writers suggest that the restoration of the January 1 as New Year’s Day in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.

The Breakfast Club: 4-1-2014

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 10:30am (ET) 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 BeerBreakfast_web_zps646fca37.png

This Day in History


National Journal, March 24/14

Millennial Madness: What Happens If Young Voters Bolt Both Parties?

New study shows choosiest voters itching to disrupt two-party system.

My generation had just two options politically – Democrats or Republicans, and that made sense to us. To my kids’ generation, binary choices are absurd, especially when the choices are bad, which is why the two major parties are in danger of losing the future.

In a must-read study, political scientist Michelle Diggles of the moderate Democratic think tank Third Way, created a sociological profile of the Millennial Generation and projected how those attitudes might affect U.S. politics when young voters age and dominate.

Millennials have come of age in a period of increasing availability of information and expansive customization of goods and services. Their experiences have led them to an `a la carte worldview, including in politics. They may be voting for Democrats in wider margins than Republicans, but there’s no indication that they have bought the “prix fixe” menu of policy options historically offered by the Democratic Party, nor that brand loyalty to the Party will cement them as Democrats forever. Yet while Republican claims that these voters are winnable in future elections are plausible, they, too, have been asking younger voters to agree to a multi-course tasting menu with limited options. Millennials are pragmatic – they want to know what works and are willing to take ideas from each side. They eschew ideological purity tests of the past. In short, they are winnable by both parties, if only policymakers understood and reflected their values.

What Diggles has done is virtually unheard of in politics today: She set aside her ideological preferences and preconceived notions to ruthlessly assess attitudinal data in a political vacuum. Unlike many in Washington who seem to believe that social changes start with politics, Diggles knows the reverse is true: A fast-changing populace, driven by a hard-to-peg rising generation, will change politics in ways we can’t fully fathom.

More and Better™…

March Madness 2014: Women’s Regional Finals Day 1

Time Network Seed School Record Seed School Record Region
7:30 ESPN 1 Notre Dame (35 – 0) 2 Baylor (34 – 4) East
9:30 ESPN 1 UConn (37 – 0) 3 Texas A&M (27 – 8) MidWest