Friday, August 5, 2011

Federal Judge Allows A US Intelligence Officer's Torture Suit Against Rumsfeld

Federal Judge Allows A US Intelligence Officer's Torture Suit Against Rumsfeld 

Obama: It Became Necessary to Destroy the Economy to Save It
On February 7, 1968, US forces demolished Ben Tre, a provincial capitol in South Vietnam. An Army Major declared, 'It became necessary to destroy the town to save it." On August 2, 2011, President Obama signed the draconian law to raise the US debt limit and unravel our social safety net. He should have quipped, "It became necessary to destroy the economy to save it."

On February 7, 1968, US forces demolished Ben Tre, a provincial capitol in South Vietnam.   An Army Major declared, 'It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."   

On August 2, 2011, President Obama signed the draconian law to raise the US debt limit and unravel our social safety net. He should have quipped, "It became necessary to destroy the economy to save it."

Sifting through the ashes of this catastrophe, Liberals can glean five grim lessons.   First, Washington politicians do not understand how the US economy works. 

 It's not that complicated: a robust economy depends upon steady consumption by average Americans, not millionaires and billionaires.   

Working folks aren't consuming because they either don't have the money or are saving it because they are fearful.  
These Americans aren't going to spend more because the debt crisis got resolved.   They are worried about their jobs and the jobs of family members and friends.   

They understand the debt-limit crisis had nothing to do with jobs and that Washington pols don't get it.   That's why average Americans are pissed off at both Parties.

Second, the Obama Administration has no jobs message because it doesn't know what to do to create jobs.   

Since Obama became President most of us have assumed that Barack, a smart person, would eventually figure out the US needs a massive stimulus program  a public works program similar to FDR's WPA  to create jobs. 

 Initially Obama supporters believed he didn't do this because he was getting bad advice from people like Larry Summers and Robert Rubin.   We waited.  

Summers and Rubin left and we expected Obama to pick up the jobs banner and run with it.   Instead he repeated the Republican mantra: "Washington has to get its house in order and then there will be jobs."

The Republicans have a wrong-headed but consistent message: reduce taxes and government and the economy will magically blossom.   

The Reagan and Bush years demonstrate this ideology is BS, but there is no countervailing message because the Obama Administration is lost. 
If the President really believed the number one problem facing America was jobs he would have refused to negotiate with Republicans when they manufactured the debt limit crisis; Obama should have said, "This has nothing to do with creating jobs and will make the economy worse. 

Congress, get to work on America's real problems!"

Complaining the President "lost control of the narrative" assumes that he had a message but didn't know how to distribute it to the American people.

This suggests that if Fox News and Rush Limbaugh disappeared then Obama would command the airwaves and we would all understand his "solution."   But Obama doesn't have a message because he doesn't understand what's going on.

The third lesson Liberals have learned is that even if the President understood what is happening and had a compelling narrative it wouldn't have made any difference because Obama is not willing to fight for his position.  
To paraphrase the old Blues refrain, "He's a lover not a fighter."

We've now seen at least five examples where Obama had an opportunity to make a real difference and lost it by being overly accommodating: the amount of the original stimulus, whether or not to break up "too-big-to-fail" banks, health care, the federal budget crisis, and the debt crisis.   (It's probably true that the President caved to the military on Afghanistan, but we don't know as much about that negotiation.)   In the debt crisis negotiation, Republicans got what they wanted because the President was soft.

The fourth lesson is that, emboldened by success, Republicans are going to continue to follow their "hostage taking" strategy.   We've already seen this with their attack on the FAA.   It's street wisdom that submitting to a bully's demands only encourages him.   Republicans will use the upcoming Federal budget negotiation as their next big opportunity to advance their slash and burn agenda.

The fifth and final lesson is that the economy continues to be in bad shape and despite the Pollyannaish assurances of the Obama Administration we’re likely to find ourselves in the dreaded "double dip" recession.   The United States of America is adrift, heading for a sea of icebergs, without effective leadership.

It didn't have to be like this.   President Obama had two opportunities to call the Republicans' bluff and chose not to.   In December he could have refused to sign any budget deal that did not include ending the egregious tax cuts for millionaires and raising the debt ceiling.   On August 2nd, he could have refused to sign a debt-limit agreement that did not include new revenues.   In both cases he could have dared the Republicans to shut down the economy.

The bottom line for Liberals: we're on our own.   It's naïve to expect help from President Obama.   The economy will continue to spiral downward and Liberals will have to figure out how to save it. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.

30 Years Ago Today: The Day the Middle Class Died ...a letter from Michael Moore
Friday, August 5th, 2011

From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, "When did this all begin, America's downward slide?" They say they've heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how "lowly" your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated.

Young people have heard of this mythical time -- but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, "When did this all end?", I say, "It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981."

Beginning on this date, 30 years ago, Big Business and the Right Wing decided to "go for it" -- to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves.

And they've succeeded.

On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired every member of the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) who'd defied his order to return to work and declared their union illegal. They had been on strike for just two days.

It was a bold and brash move. No one had ever tried it. What made it even bolder was that PATCO was one of only three unions that had endorsed Reagan for president! It sent a shock wave through workers across the country. If he would do this to the people who were with him, what would he do to us?

Reagan had been backed by Wall Street in his run for the White House and they, along with right-wing Christians, wanted to restructure America and turn back the tide that President Franklin D. Roosevelt started -- a tide that was intended to make life better for the average working person.

The rich hated paying better wages and providing benefits. They hated paying taxes even more. And they despised unions. The right-wing Christians hated anything that sounded like socialism or holding out a helping hand to minorities or women.

Reagan promised to end all that. So when the air traffic controllers went on strike, he seized the moment. In getting rid of every single last one of them and outlawing their union, he sent a clear and strong message: The days of everyone having a comfortable middle class life were over. 

America, from now on, would be run this way:

* The super-rich will make more, much much more, and the rest of you will scramble for the crumbs that are left.

* Everyone must work! Mom, Dad, the teenagers in the house! Dad, you work a second job! Kids, here's your latch-key! Your parents might be home in time to put you to bed.

* 50 million of you must go without health insurance! And health insurance companies: you go ahead and decide who you want to help -- or not.

* Unions are evil! You will not belong to a union! You do not need an advocate! Shut up and get back to work! No, you can't leave now, we're not done. Your kids can make their own dinner.

* You want to go to college? No problem -- just sign here and be in hock to a bank for the next 20 years!

* What's "a raise"? Get back to work and shut up!
And so it went. But Reagan could not have pulled this off by himself in 1981. He had some big help:


The biggest organization of unions in America told its members to cross the picket lines of the air traffic controllers and go to work. And that's just what these union members did. Union pilots, flight attendants, delivery truck drivers, baggage handlers -- they all crossed the line and helped to break the strike. And union members of all stripes crossed the picket lines and continued to fly.

Reagan and Wall Street could not believe their eyes! 

Hundreds of thousands of working people and union members endorsing the firing of fellow union members. It was Christmas in August for Corporate America.

And that was the beginning of the end. Reagan and the Republicans knew they could get away with anything -- and they did. They slashed taxes on the rich. They made it harder for you to start a union at your workplace. They eliminated safety regulations on the job. They ignored the monopoly laws and allowed thousands of companies to merge or be bought out and closed down. Corporations froze wages and threatened to move overseas if the workers didn't accept lower pay and less benefits. And when the workers agreed to work for less, they moved the jobs overseas anyway.

And at every step along the way, the majority of Americans went along with this. There was little opposition or fight-back. The "masses" did not rise up and protect their jobs, their homes, their schools (which used to be the best in the world). They just accepted their fate and took the beating.

I have often wondered what would have happened had we all just stopped flying, period, back in 1981. What if all the unions had said to Reagan, "Give those controllers their jobs back or we're shutting the country down!"? You know what would have happened. The corporate elite and their boy Reagan would have buckled.

But we didn't do it. And so, bit by bit, piece by piece, in the ensuing 30 years, those in power have destroyed the middle class of our country and, in turn, have wrecked the future for our young people. Wages have remained stagnant for 30 years. Take a look at the statistics and you can see that every decline we're now suffering with had its beginning in 1981 (here's a little scene to illustrate that from my last movie).

It all began on this day, 30 years ago. One of the darkest days in American history. And we let it happen to us. Yes, they had the money, and the media and the cops. But we had 200 million of us. Ever wonder what it would look like if 200 million got truly upset and wanted their country, their life, their job, their weekend, their time with their kids back?

Have we all just given up? What are we waiting for? Forget about the 20% who support the Tea Party -- we are the other 80%! This decline will only end when we demand it. 

And not through an online petition or a tweet. We are going to have to turn the TV and the computer and the video games off and get out in the streets (like they've done in Wisconsin). Some of you need to run for local office next year. We need to demand that the Democrats either get a spine and stop taking corporate money -- or step aside.

When is enough, enough? The middle class dream will not just magically reappear. Wall Street's plan is clear: America is to be a nation of Haves and Have Nothings. Is that OK for you?

Why not use today to pause and think about the little steps you can take to turn this around in your neighborhood, at your workplace, in your school? Is there any better day to start than today?

Michael Moore

P.S. Here are a few places you can connect with to get the ball rolling:
Showdown in America
Democracy Convention
Occupy Wall Street
October 2011
How to Join a Union, from the AFL-CIO (They've learned their lesson and have a good president now) or UE
Change to Win
High School Newspaper (Just because you're under 18 doesn't mean you can't do anything!) 

Congress just can’t win. Most voters still lack confidence even their own local representative and want to replace every single one of them.

No matter how bad things are, 63% of Likely Voters believe Congress can always find a way to make them worse. Only 20% disagree with this pessimistic assessment.

If they could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 62% would vote to dump all the current legislators and start over again. Just 15% would keep the existing Congress, while 23% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

It’s not just Congress in general that make voters skeptical. Just 32% of voters are even somewhat confident that their own representative in Congress is actually representing their best interests. Sixty-five percent (65%) don’t share that confidence.

Eighty-two percent (82%) of voters believe members of Congress should take a 25% pay cut until the federal budget is balanced .

“During the debt ceiling debacle, voters listened to members of Congress like they were the boy who cried wolf,” says Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports,. “While official Washington obsessed over the minute-by-minute silliness, voters expected all along that the debt ceiling would be raised without making significant spending cuts.”

Forty-nine percent (49%) don’t even think the government will actually cut the spending agreed upon .

Voter approval of the job Congress is doing also has fallen to a new low as just 6% believe the legislators are doing a good or an excellent job.   Voters are more convinced than ever that most congressmen are crooks .

It’s important to note that this survey was taken while the clock was ticking down on a debt ceiling decision but before a final deal was reached. Last week, most voters disapproved of how both parties were handling the debt ceiling debate .

These surveys suggest there has been little change in the voter disgust expressed in Election 2010. Last September, just prior to the midterm elections, 62% said that Congress could always make things worse. In January of last year,32% were confident that their official representatives actually had their best interests at heart.

It should be noted that these attitudes have been around for a while. InSeptember 2008, 59% would have voted to replace the entire Congress.

There is little partisan disagreement on any of these questions, but the Political Class sharply disagrees with the negative assessments of Congress.

While 73% of Mainstream voters, for example, think Congress can always make things worse, 56% of the Political Class disagree. Seventy-three percent (73%) of those in the Mainstream also would vote to replace the entire Congress in the next election if they could, but just 30% of Political Class voters would do the same.

Interestingly, however, the Political Class is only slightly more confident than Mainstream voters that their congressional representatives are actually representing the voters’ best interests.

Midterm elections and a change of power in the House of Representatives haven't lowered the level of voter discontent with the federal government. Sixty-nine percent (69%) remain at least somewhat angry with the current policies of the federal government , including 38% who are Very Angry.

Just 30% think it is at least somewhat likely that the federal budget will bebalanced for even a single year during their lifetimes .

House Speaker John Boehner is the only congressional leader whose favorables are up noticeably this month, but his negatives have risen even more as the debate over raising the federal debt ceiling dragged on.

Americans still list being a member of Congress as the least favorable on a list of nine professions.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A judge is allowing an Army veteran who says he was imprisoned unjustly and tortured by the U.S. military in Iraq to sue former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld personally for damages.
The veteran's identity is withheld in court filings, but he worked for an American contracting company as a translator for the Marines in the volatile Anbar province before being detained for nine months at Camp Cropper, a U.S. military facility near the Baghdad airport dedicated to holding "high-value" detainees.
The government says he was suspected of helping get classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces enter Iraq. But he was never charged with a crime and says he never broke the law.
Lawyers for the man, who is in his 50s, say he was preparing to come home to the United States on annual leave when he was abducted by the U.S. military and held without justification while his family knew nothing about his whereabouts or even whether he was still alive.
Court papers filed on his behalf say he was repeatedly abused, then suddenly released without explanation in August 2006. Two years later, he filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington arguing that Rumsfeld personally approved torturous interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis and controlled his detention without access to courts in violation of his constitutional rights.
Chicago attorney Mike Kanovitz, who is representing the plaintiff, says it appears the military wanted to keep his client behind bars so he couldn't tell anyone about an important contact he made with a leading sheik while helping collect intelligence in Iraq.
"The U.S. government wasn't ready for the rest of the world to know about it, so they basically put him on ice," Kanovitz said in a telephone interview. "If you've got unchecked power over the citizens, why not use it?"
The Obama administration has represented Rumsfeld through the U.S. Justice Department and argued that the former defense secretary cannot be sued personally for official conduct. The Justice Department also argued that a judge cannot review wartime decisions that are the constitutional responsibility of Congress and the president. And the department said the case could disclose sensitive information and distract from the war effort, and that the threat of liability would impede future military decisions.
But U.S. District Judge James Gwin rejected those arguments and said U.S. citizens are protected by the Constitution at home or abroad during wartime.
"The court finds no convincing reason that United States citizens in Iraq should or must lose previously declared substantive due process protections during prolonged detention in a conflict zone abroad," Gwin wrote in a ruling issued Tuesday.
"The stakes in holding detainees at Camp Cropper may have been high, but one purpose of the constitutional limitations on interrogation techniques and conditions of confinement even domestically is to strike a balance between government objectives and individual rights even when the stakes are high," the judge ruled.
In many other cases brought by foreign detainees, judges have dismissed torture claims made against U.S. officials for their personal involvement in decisions over prisoner treatment. But this is the second time a federal judge has allowed U.S. citizens to sue Rumsfeld personally.
U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen in Illinois last year said two other Americans who worked in Iraq as contractors and were held at Camp Cropper, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, can pursue claims that they were tortured using Rumsfeld-approved methods after they alleged illegal activities by their company. Rumsfeld is appealing that ruling, which Gwin cited.
The U.S. Supreme Court sets a high bar for suing high-ranking officials, requiring that they be tied directly to a violation of constitutional rights and must have clearly understood their actions crossed that line.
The case before Gwin involves a man who went to Iraq in December 2004 to work with an American-owned defense contracting firm. He was assigned as an Arabic translator for Marines gathering intelligence in Anbar. He says he was the first American to open direct talks with Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, who became an important U.S. ally and later led a revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida before being killed by a bomb.
In November 2005, when he was to go on home leave, Navy Criminal Investigative Service agents questioned him about his work, refusing his requests for representation by his employer, the Marines or an attorney. The Justice Department says he was told he was suspected of helping provide classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces attempting to cross from Syria into Iraq.
He says he always denied any wrongdoing.
Follow Nedra Pickler's coverage of legal affairs at

Echoing a line she used during the debt ceiling debate, Pelosi falsely claimed Republicans want to destroy air, water and food by keeping the country solvent. But she upped the ante just a bit. Now, she claims Republicans want to destroy everything. .

Thursday morning, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Think Progress progressives and other reporters Republicans want to destroy literally everything.

"We just passed a bill, 1.2 trillion dollars in cuts. If it were about reducing the deficit, the statement has been made about seriousness to do that. This isn’t about that. This is about destroying – it isn’t about reducing the deficit, it’s about destroying the public space. It’s about destroying public…federal involvement in education," she said.
Echoing a line she used during the debt ceiling debate, Pelosi falsely claimed Republicans want to destroy air, water and food by keeping the country solvent.  But she upped the ante just a bit.  Now, she claims Republicans want to destroy everything.

"It’s about clean air, clean water, food safety, public safety. You name it, they’re there to diminish it, destroy it," she added.
Duane Lester writes at All American Blogger:

How many mouth breathing, Che t-shirt wearing, skinny jeans clad Leninists do you think were in that room just nodding and tapping away at their keyboards?”


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