FBI Raids GOP Goose Stepper

ME F.B.I. agents on Tuesday raided and temporarily shut down the offices of a small federal watchdog agency that is charged with protecting the rights of government whistle-blowers but has been accused of retaliating against whistle-blowers in its own ranks.

The raid on the downtown Washington headquarters of the agency, the Office of Special Counsel, and another at the home of its director, Scott J. Bloch, followed accusations that Mr. Bloch had destroyed evidence on government computers that might demonstrate wrongdoing.

Mr. Bloch, who has held the post of special counsel since January 2004, has denied intentionally destroying evidence from his agency’s computers, though he has acknowledged paying $1,000 of public money to a technology company, Geeks on Call, to scrub his own government computer in 2006. He has said he was trying to rid the computer of software viruses, an assertion challenged by members of Congress and by lawyers representing current and former employees of the office… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

Bloch has a long history or religious right activism and abuse of office, especially against the GLBT community.  I’m just geeky enough myself to know that a standard deep format, a task that can be accomplished by anyone with rudimentary computer skills, will rid the computer of viruses and will cost no more than $100 – $150.  A $1,000 wipe overwrites existing data so many times that the original data can never be recovered.

‘No Acquittals’ at Gitmo

29bush_hitler The former chief prosecutor here took the witness stand on Monday on behalf of a detainee and testified that top Pentagon officials had pressured him in deciding which cases to prosecute and what evidence to use.

The prosecutor, Col. Morris D. Davis of the Air Force, testified that Pentagon officials had interfered with his work for political reasons and told him that charges against well-known detainees “could have real strategic political value” and that there could be no acquittals.

His testimony completed one of the more unusual transformations in the contentious history of Guantánamo. Colonel Davis, who is on active duty as a senior Air Force official and was one of the Pentagon’s most vocal advocates of the Guantánamo military commissions, has become one of the most visible critics of the system.

Testifying about his assertions for the first time, Colonel Davis said a senior Pentagon official who oversaw the military commissions, Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann of the Air Force Reserve, reversed a decision he had made and insisted that prosecutors proceed with evidence derived through waterboarding of detainees and other aggressive interrogation methods that critics call torture.

Called to the stand by a Navy defense lawyer and testifying before a military judge, Colonel Davis said General Hartmann directed him last year to push war crimes cases here quickly. He said the general was trying to give the system legitimacy before a new president took office. He testified that General Hartmann referred to the long difficulties the Pentagon had had in operating the military commissions and said, “If we don’t get some cases going before the election, this thing’s going to implode.”

Spokesmen for the Pentagon and General Hartmann declined to comment on Monday, saying that the questioning was continuing before the military judge…

Inserted from <NY Times>

I first posted about Col. Davis on February 21. The GOP Reich likes to compare these tribunals with the Nuremberg trials, but in Nuremberg we did not extract testimony under torture and we did not decide the verdicts before the trials took place. Some might argue that some of these terrorists do not deserve a fair trial. Whether or not this is true, what they do or do not deserve is not relevant. This is not about who that are. It’s about who we are. At Nuremberg, we tried and convicted German judges for running exactly the same kinds of courts that Bush and the GOP are running here. If we ignore our own standards of justice to combat terrorism, then the war on terror is already over and the terrorists have won.

All articles cross-posted from Politics Plus

They’re After Me!

Tom12-2007-200 It had to happen sooner or later, and yesterday afternoon it did. I received my first campaign call in which a human, not a machine, was on the other end of the line, so I spent about forty five minutes chatting with a lady who was urging me to support Hillary Clinton. Except for interrupting me several times early on, once she got her planned talking points out of the way she was polite, respectful, and willing to settle down and talk issues.

I told her that I am an undecided voter, but that I will support whichever Democrat wins the nomination in the general election. I also told her that I am a B-list political blogger, but she did not seem to know what a blogger is.

I asked her why Hillary has not supported a single-payer health care system. She said that her brother has had problems with the VA and that she thinks it may be because government health care isn’t that good. I explained that we can leave the care private, but make the coverage public, cutting the insurance industry out of their obscene profits and coverage decisions. I told her that health care decisions should not be left to greedy corporations for whom profit trumps care. She agreed that was a better idea, and suggested that Hillary might switch to such a plan after she was elected. She went on to stress that Clinton’s plan was superior to Obama’s. I asked her in what ways it was superior. She didn’t know the details but knew that it was.

I asked her whether or not Hillary would pursue criminal charges against Bush and his minions for war crimes and other crimes while in office. She did not know. I pointed out that Obama had committed to have DOJ investigate them. She said she hopes that Clinton will too, and suggested that, although they should be tried for their crimes, it might take a long time, like it did with Pinochet. I pointed out that Pinochet had been charged, but never tried.

I asked her why Hillary had never admitted her error in voting for the Iraq war. She said that was Bush’s fault, because Clinton was going on what she thought was reliable intelligence. I told her that I knew and had documented, before the war, that the intelligence was was flawed with far less resources than a Senator enjoys. If I could find that out, why couldn’t Clinton. She didn’t know.

I told her that I was displeased with some of Hillary’s campaign tactics. She said that politics is a dirty business, and I should be glad to have a candidate who can do that well, because those skills will be needed against McCain.

At the end of each of these discussions, she kept coming back to one central theme. The party needs a candidate that can win in November, and that although Obama is a wonderful person, Clinton is the candidate who can win. After ignoring that several times, I rose to the bait. I brought up the last debate, and asked her if Clinton had not said that Obama could win too. She replied that Clinton had to say “Yes, yes, yes”, because she was on the spot, and the media would have roasted her, if she had said anything else. She repeated that Clinton really is the electable candidate, and Obama is not. So I asked, “So are you telling me that Clinton lied when she said that?” Dead silence. Then she said that it wasn’t really lying, it was just saying what she had to say at the time, and asked what she was supposed to do when put on the spot like that? I said, “Well I’d hope she would have realized that the American people deserve the truth, even if that truth is not what we want to hear.”

That undid the poor lady. I could almost hear her thinking that she wished she had never called me, as she said she had to get on to the next person she had to call. She asked me if I would vote for Clinton, and I told her I am still not committed.

I was not impressed with her knowledge of the issues, and frankly, turned off by her insistence that Obama is not electable. After Clinton committed herself publicly that both are electable, that issue should be off the table.

In fairness, I have not yet received a similar call from the Obama campaign, and when I do, I will be just as hard on that person as I was on this poor lady, who remained personable and respectful throughout my inquisition.

On the other hand, if McConJob’s people call, the crapola is going to hit the fan… big time!! smile_tongue

All articles cross-posted from Politics Plus

It’s not Torture When We Do It

torture The Geneva Conventions’ ban on “outrages against personal dignity” does not automatically apply to terrorism suspects in the custody of U.S. intelligence agencies, the Justice Department has suggested to Congress in recent letters that lay out the Bush administration’s interpretation of the international treaty.

Lawyers for the department, offering insight into the legal basis for the CIA’s controversial interrogation program, reasserted in the letters the Bush administration’s long-held view that it has considerable leeway in deciding how the conventions’ rules apply to the harsh questioning of combatants in the war on terrorism.

While the United States is legally bound by the conventions’ Common Article 3 and its requirement to treat detainees humanely, the definition of humane treatment can vary, depending on the detainee’s identity and the importance of the information he possesses, a Justice Department official wrote last September and this March to a Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee.

“Some prohibitions . . . such as the prohibition on ‘outrages against personal dignity,’ do invite the consideration of the circumstances surrounding the action,” Brian A. Benczkowski, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, asserted in one of the letters.

Benczkowski’s letters were provided to The Washington Post by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who asked the Justice Department to explain the legal foundation for President Bush’s executive order last year authorizing the CIA’s continued interrogation of terrorism suspects. The existence of the letters was first reported last night by the New York Times.

A spokeswoman for Wyden said the administration’s suggestion that the Geneva Conventions could be selectively applied was “stunning.”

The Geneva Convention in most cases is the only shield that Americans have when they are captured overseas,” the spokeswoman, Jennifer Hoelzer, said in a phone interview. “And for the president to say that it is acceptable to interpret Geneva on a sliding scale means that he thinks that it is acceptable for other countries to do the same. Senator Wyden — and I believe any other reasonable individual — finds that argument appalling.“… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Washington Post>

Like my Senator, I also find the notion that the ban on torture is selective appalling.  Bush, every administrator who facilitated torture, and every legislator who voted in favor of torture, including McConJob, are all criminals.

McCain: Fact, Lies and Video Tape

Keith Olbermann and Paul Waldman discuss McConJob’s record of lies, Katrina, lobbyists, and the free pass he is receiving in the MSM.

“No Progress,” says Abbas

26settlement map Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Friday that he failed to achieve any progress in Middle East peace talks with President Bush and was returning home with little to show for his visit.

In an interview, the Palestinian leader sounded pessimistic about the prospects of achieving a deal with Israel this year, despite a U.S. push that began five months ago at a summit in Annapolis, Md.

“Frankly, so far nothing has been achieved. But we are still conducting direct work to have a solution,” Abbas said.

He said the biggest obstacle is Israel’s continued expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian-occupied territories.

“We demanded the Americans implement the first phase of the road map that talks about the cessation of settlement expansion,” Abbas said, expressing disappointment that the United States has not put more pressure on Israel to stop. “This is the biggest blight that stands as a big rock in the path of negotiations.”

Asked for comment, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said: “President Bush is helping to push the process forward. This wasn’t a meeting in which major breakthroughs were expected.

“Ultimately, this is for the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to an agreement. Each party has more to do – and given the serious commitment of the leaders, the president remains confident that defining a state by the end of the year is still possible.”

Israel is pushing forward with building projects on disputed land in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and is refusing to take down illegal settlement outposts, release Palestinian prisoners, halt military incursions, and dismantle roadblocks that disrupt daily life… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <San Francisco Chronicle>

What the Chronicle reported about this is accurate, as far as they went, but they failed to tie in how Bush and the GOP have worked behind the scenes to prevent peace by signing off on Israel’s illegal settlements in a secret deal, which I reported HERE.

The Straight Talk Con

mccain4 Senator John McCain sells himself for the presidency as a champion of campaign finance reform, a sworn enemy of Congressional handouts and a maverick who is immune to the corrupting influence of big money. In two campaigns, he has vowed not to dispense favors to contributors.

Humans being humans, and senators being senators, it defied belief that Mr. McCain would not at some point have done a little something for a special friend back home. As it turns out, he has. David Kirkpatrick and Jim Rutenberg reported in The Times on Tuesday that Mr. McCain has used his influence and official position several times to benefit the real estate empire of Donald R. Diamond, a wealthy, 80-year-old real estate developer.

For his part, Mr. Diamond has successfully shaken the money tree for various McCain campaigns and already has raised $250,000 for this year’s presidential effort.

There is nothing illegal about this, but it is more evidence that Mr. McCain is as mortal — or compromising — as the next politician. Mr. McCain has accepted corporate contributions for pet projects and relied heavily on lobbyists to help run his campaigns and Senate office. And when land swaps like the ones he arranged for Mr. Diamond involve a subsidy from taxpayers, which they often do, they are no different from the pork-barrel projects that Mr. McCain decries daily on the stump. Pork is central to Mr. McCain’s economic program. He says he would help pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts by getting rid of it.

A McCain spokeswoman, Jill Hazelbaker, told The Times that Mr. McCain “has done nothing for Mr. Diamond that he would not do for any other Arizona citizen.” That is supremely disingenuous, or Arizona’s citizens are supremely blessed. In the mid-1990s, Mr. McCain’s staff helped Mr. Diamond snap up some prime California coast that he turned for a $20 million profit. The senator also sponsored two bills in 1991 and 1994 (and is now sponsoring a third) authorizing Mr. Diamond to swap land that he owned for thousands of acres of public land that he developed at considerable profit… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

I’d say the Times is being far to generous here. Instead of calling him “mortal”, why noy just come out ant speak the truth. McConJob is a lying GOP hypocrite!