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.

Supply-side Jesus Required in Iraq

26Christian2 When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.

Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement.

Last month, Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. In November, he was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.

Eileen Lainez, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department, declined to comment on the case, saying, “The department does not discuss pending litigation.”

Specialist Hall’s lawsuit is the latest incident to raise questions about the military’s religion guidelines. In 2005, the Air Force issued new regulations in response to complaints from cadets at the Air Force Academy that evangelical Christian officers used their positions to proselytize. In general, the armed forces have regulations, Ms. Lainez said, that respect “the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs.”

To Specialist Hall and other critics of the military, the guidelines have done little to change a culture they say tilts heavily toward evangelical Christianity. Controversies have continued to flare, largely over tactics used by evangelicals to promote their faith. Perhaps the most high-profile incident involved seven officers, including four generals, who appeared, in uniform and in violation of military regulations, in a 2006 fund-raising video for the Christian Embassy, an evangelical Bible study group.

“They don’t trust you because they think you are unreliable and might break, since you don’t have God to rely on,” Specialist Hall said of those who proselytize in the military. “The message is, ‘It’s a Christian nation, and you need to recognize that.’ ”

Soft-spoken and younger looking than his 23 years, Specialist Hall began a chapter of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers at Camp Speicher, near Tikrit, to support others like him.

At the July meeting, Major Welborn told the soldiers they had disgraced those who had died for the Constitution, Specialist Hall said. When he finished, Major Welborn said, according to the statement: “I love you guys; I just want the best for you. One day you will see the truth and know what I mean.”

Major Welborn declined to comment beyond saying, “I’d love to tell my side of the story because it’s such a false story.”

But Timothy Feary, the other soldier at the meeting, said in an e-mail message: “Jeremy is telling the truth. I was there and witnessed everything.”

It is unclear how widespread religious discrimination or proselytizing is in the armed forces, constitutional law experts and leaders of veterans’ groups said. No one has independently studied the issue, and service members are reluctant to come forward because of possible backlash, those experts said… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

26ChristianFascism Were this a single isolated incident, I would be inclined to pass it off as one man’s fanaticism, but in context with ongoing attempts by the Bush/GOP  Reich to proselytize out troops, this can only be viewed as an intentional violation of the Constitution by the GOP.

I documented HERE, that according to the Treaty of Tripoli, unanimously approved by the US Senate on June 7, 1797, the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.  Thus the claims made by Major Welborn are lies.

Speaking as a Christian, I’m all for Christianity, but the dogma of the religious right is not Christian.  Their attempts to impose their supply-side gospel of hate, war, death, bigotry, greed, and intolerance is criminal.

Bush/GOP Block Vets’ Votes

25Project-Vote The ability of injured veterans to vote in November’s presidential election rests in the hands of Bush Administration officials, who have so far refused demands from advocates and lawmakers that the Department of Veterans Affairs help hospitalized veterans register to vote.

“‘It is an insult to those who have fought to spread democracy and freedom overseas to be denied the right to participate in their own democracy here at home,'” wrote Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) to the Department of Veterans Affairs in March. “‘If each facility took a few simple steps to provide voter registration materials, the VA could do its part to guarantee access to voter registration.'”…

…In response, VA Secretary James Peake opposed efforts by lawmakers to get the federal agency to provide voter registration opportunities under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 “‘without any legal basis or rational explanation,'” said Kerry, as reported by AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld on April 10.

Peake claimed that “department policy restricts partisan political activities in VA facilities and the department also does not have the resources to be responsible for a large-scale voter registration effort,” wrote Rick Maze of the Marine Corps News on April 18.

Peake was responding to Feinstein and Kerry, who had written the department in both March 2007 and 2008 concerning voter registration for veterans. The senators never received a reply to the 2007 letter from the former VA Secretary James Nicholson, although the VA has since “‘engaged in litigation against voter registration efforts by third party groups in VA facilities,'” according to the senators’ 2008 letter.

“The litigation cited in the senators’ letter refers to Preminger v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Menlo Park suit where the VA argued before federal district and appeals courts that, in essence, political activity, including First Amendment speech and voter registration efforts, should not occur in its facilities because those activities were not medical in nature and were political, [veteran voting rights attorney Scott] Rafferty said, summarizing the litigation.”

“‘The argument that providing access to voter registration at facilities would distract from the medical goals is as unfortunate as it is counterproductive,'” the senators wrote. Not only is the “medical-only rationale” counterproductive, it is untrue, according to Rafferty. The attorney claims VA facilities have been used across the country for university libraries, parks, and even “pro-Republican demonstrations” as wells as partisan voter registration drives, according to a March 18 report by Rosenfeld.

The issue with voter registration at government agencies under NVRA is not exclusive to the Veterans Department.

“‘America, among western democracies, is unique in putting the responsibility on the individual, not the state, to register voters,'” said Project Vote Deputy Director Michael Slater. “‘Today, 63 million Americans, about a third of eligible voting age population, are not registered to vote.'”

“‘When we try to shift the onus from the individual to the state, we see reluctance — and the VA is one example,’ Slater said, saying that many state social service agencies that already are required to offer voter registration opportunities to public aid recipients have not followed through.” For example, if California registered as many food stamp recipients as Oregon, there would be an additional 180,000 voters in the state, he said.

“There is just this huge potential if government agencies like the VA finally offered voter registration.”

“Veterans who have not previously registered, as well as registered voters who move, must reregister with new addresses in order to vote,” an activity well-established at motor vehicle offices across the country, the most visible and well-implemented aspect of the NRVA (and the source of its “Motor Voter” nickname). “By not helping the injured veterans to do so,” Rosenfeld wrote, “it is likely that former soldiers seeking care at VA facilities will lose their right to vote in 2008.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Open Left>

GOPHypocrites_r_Us Now that these maimed veterans, who have given us their best, are no longer useful as cannon fodder in the Bush/McBoomBoom/GOP war for oil, greed and conquest, The Reich wants to disenfranchise them. I suspect that it is because nobody understands the costs of this horrible war more than the heroes that went into the meat grinder and paid the price. This is the thanks they get! They deserve better!! But Bush, McHypocrite and the GOP have consistently vetoed, filibustered and opposed almost all attempts by Democrats to improve the lot of our vets.

EU Urges US Not to Resume Executions

25whyDoWeKillPeople A total of 39 European countries issued a common declaration urging the United States not to resume executions.

The moves follows an April 16 ruling by the US Supreme Court, which by concluding that death by lethal injection does not violate the constitution has put an end to a de facto moratorium on capital punishment in the US.

“The European Union notes with disappointment the United States Supreme Court’s decision,” said the statement issued on behalf of all 27 EU member states and endorsed by 12 other countries.

“In light of this US Supreme Court decision, we strongly encourage the continuation of the de facto moratorium in place within the United States allowing the ongoing debate on the complex issues involved to be thoroughly deliberated,” it added.

At least 14 executions are reported to have been postponed while US judges considered their verdict. Three of these are now expected to take place this northern summer.

The EU is unanimously against the death penalty and in December submitted a resolution, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, calling for a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to abolishing it.

“The EU recalls that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the application of capital punishment represents an irreparable and irreversible loss of human life. No legal system is immune from mistakes and there is no reliable evidence that the death penalty provides added value in terms of deterrence,” EU governments said in their joint statement.

The EU statement was endorsed by 12 other European countries, including Norway, Turkey, Croatia, Serbia and Azerbaijan.

Inserted from <The Age>

This time, the US should follow the advice of our more civilized neighbors and leave the ranks of those nations who still practice such barbarism. Both parties are at fault here, but the GOP is especially rabid on this policy, conforming that they are, in fact, the pro-death party.

Who Hates Women and Minorities?

GOPKKK Yesterday I posted an article HERE, supporting the Fair Pay Act. The right ring ideologues on the Supreme Court enabled pay discrimination against women and minorities by misinterpreting the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the GOP filibustered the Fair pay Act, and it was defeated. Here is the complete list of Senators who believe that pay discrimination should continue:

Alexander (R-TN), Allard (R-CO), Barrasso (R-WY), Bennett (R-UT), Bond (R-MO), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX),Craig (R-ID), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Dole (R-NC), Domenici (R-NM), Ensign (R-NV), Enzi (R-WY), Graham (R-SC), Grassley (R-IA), Gregg (R-NH), Hatch (R-UT), Hutchison (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Kyl (R-AZ), Lugar (R-IN), Martinez (R-FL), McConnell (R-KY), Murkowski (R-AK), Reid (D-NV), Roberts (R-KS), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Stevens (R-AK), Thune (R-SD), Vitter (R-LA), Voinovich (R-OH), Warner (R-VA), and Wicker (R-MS)

Hagel (R-NE) and McCain (R-AZ) did not vote, but you won’t believe what McDubya had to say!!

mccain2 McCain explained his opposition to the bill by claiming it “opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems.” He added that instead of legislation allowing women to fight for equal pay, they simply need “education and training“:

“They need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else,” McCain said. “And it’s hard for them to leave their families when they don’t have somebody to take care of them.

“It’s a vicious cycle that’s affecting women, particularly in a part of the country like this, where mining is the mainstay; traditionally, women have not gone into that line of work, to say the least,” he said.

… [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

If McHypocrite and the GOP have their way, you ladies won’t worry your pretty little heads about equal pay, anf you minorities will head for the back of the bus. Is there any place in the Senate or the White House for people with such an attitude?

I say NO! What do you say? What are you going to do about it?

All articles cross-posted from Politics Plus

Pass the Fair Pay Act

23fairpay Last year, the Supreme Court tossed aside longstanding legal precedents and government practice to make it much harder for an employee to sue over unlawful pay discrimination.

The 5-to-4 ruling came in the case of Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Alabama, who over several years received smaller raises than men in comparable positions. A jury found that Goodyear violated Ms. Ledbetter’s rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But a majority of the Supreme Court decided she was entitled to nothing based on a cramped view of the 180-day deadline for filing such claims. They decided that Ms. Ledbetter had to sue within 180 days of the company’s discriminatory raises and that the persistence of unfairness from check to check was not relevant.

Fortunately, the Senate is scheduled to consider a modest bill on Wednesday that is aimed at restoring the original intent of the law. It poses a test of each senator’s commitment to combating pay discrimination.

Sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, the bill would re-establish that the deadline for making a charge of pay discrimination under Title VII runs from when a worker receives unequal pay, not from the day a company first decided to discriminate, as the Supreme Court wrongly insisted.

Many employers keep salaries and raises confidential, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg aptly noted in her dissent in the Ledbetter case. By making it clear that the 180-day clock restarts with each discriminatory paycheck, the act avoids rewarding employers that obscure lower raises given on the basis of such considerations as gender or race… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

mccain-no I fully support this legislation that illustrates two key points.  First, the time is way past due for women to receive equal pay for equal work.  As things stand, women in the workforce receive 60%, on average, of what do.  That’s obscene.  Second, the Supreme Court has become so skewed to the extreme right that they had to fit their heads all the way up their nether regions to come up with such an ideologue decision.  McConJob had promised to appoint ‘strict constructionists’ to SCOTUS, justices who share the extreme ideology of Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas.  If this happens, say goodbye to the Constitution.  It really will be ‘just a piece of paper‘, if he is not defeated in November.

More Military Waivers for Felons

22army …Recruits were allowed to enlist after having been convicted of crimes including assault, burglary, drug possession and making terrorist threats.

The statistics were released by Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

He has given the Pentagon a month to hand over up-to-date details on the number of waivers granted, reports on how the recruits have performed and information about how the waivers are related to meeting recruitment goals.

Pentagon statistics show the Army granted 511 felony waivers in 2007, just over twice the 249 it granted the year before. The Army aims to recruit more than 80,000 new soldiers a year.

The Marines — which recruits fewer new service members each year than the Army — also reported a rise in waivers for felonies, with 350 granted in 2007, compared with 208 in 2006.

“There was a rapid rise in 2007 in the number of waivers the Army and Marine Corps granted to recruits convicted of serious felonies,” Waxman said in a letter Monday to David Chu, the under-secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

“I understand that there can be valid reasons for personnel waivers and recognize the importance of providing opportunities to individuals who have served their sentences and rehabilitated themselves.

“At the same time, concerns have been raised that the significant increase in the recruitment of persons with criminal records is a result of the strain put on the military by the Iraq war and may be undermining military readiness,” he charged… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <CNN>

Because I work with prisoners, you know that I’m all for giving people a second chance, but I doubt that a second chance has anything to do with this at all.  Instead, it reflects the desperation of Bush, McConJob and the GOP for cannon fodder to grind-up in their failed war for oil and conquest.  A war zone is NOT an place to put people with documented issues with coping skills.