Video of last night’s coup:
March 10th, 2011
Video of last night’s coup:
March 10th, 2011
March 10th, 2011
Wisconsin Republicans staged a surprise and possibly illegal attack and passed the bill destroying the rights of the state’s public sector workers. Recall efforts are in progress, as is a boycott of businesses that supported Governor Walker.
WI Senate leader explains on FOX that bill is about 2012 elections (not finances)
Collective bargaining bill passes Senate, Thursday vote scheduled in Assembly
By Mary Spicuzza and Clay Barbour
In a surprise move late Wednesday, Senate Republicans used a series of parliamentary maneuvers to overcome a three-week stalemate with Democrats and pass the governor’s controversial budget repair bill.
With a crowd of protesters chanting outside their chambers, Senators approved an amended version of Gov. Scott Walker’s bill, which would strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees. The new bill removes all fiscal elements of the proposal but still curbs collective bargaining and increases employee payments in pension and health benefits.
After the session, Senate Republicans scattered, answering no questions. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a statement, “Enough is enough.”
No one could explain Wednesday how the Senate managed to pass components of the original bill that seemed to have fiscal elements, including changes in pensions and benefits.
Fitzgerald’s spokesman, Andrew Welhouse, said Republicans were following the advice of their legal counsel, who told them which parts of the bill could be passed.
The move ended a bizarre two-and-a-half hour stretch of state government in which the Senate surprised everyone by gaveling in quickly and sending the governor’s bill to a conference committee, scheduled for less than two hours later.
Word quickly spread that the Republicans were planning to ram the measure through in committee by stripping the fiscal elements of the bill. Within an hour, the rotunda began to fill with angry protesters, while an even larger crowd gathered outside the building.
The conference committee lasted less than 15 minutes, and featured an angry speech by state Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, who accused the Republicans of violating the state’s open meeting law and “trampling on democracy.”
“Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of law,” he said, referring to the short notice given for the meeting.
Typically, 24 hours’ notice is required for a public meeting. There are exceptions, but it was not clear Wednesday, that the conference committee met those standards.
Attorney Robert Dreps, an expert in media and political law, said exceptions can be made if notice is “impossible or impractical.”
“It raises a lot of serious questions,” he said. “I don’t think they can satisfy the standard for giving such short notice for that committee meeting.”
Moments later, the Senate adopted the bill, 18-1, with only Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, voting no. The Assembly is expected to take up the measure at 11 a.m. Thursday.
The bill approved Wednesday was sent to the Assembly, which is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Thursday.
Outraged Senate Democrats, still holed up in Illinois, said they may come home to join the protest.
“Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, in a statement released shortly after the vote. “Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people. We will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government.”
It has been three weeks since Senate Democrats left the state in an effort to stall the passage of Walker’s proposal.
In that time, both sides have failed to reach an agreement on a compromise to the bill. The sticking point has been collective bargaining.
Walker and Republican leaders have repeatedly said that collective bargaining is a budgetary issue and as such, they could not strip fiscal components from the measure. None of the Republican leaders would comment following the vote, but Walker issued a statement in which he praised the move.
“The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused,” Walker said. “In order to move the state forward, I applaud the Legislature’s action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government.”
Democratic Senators on Wednesday immediately criticized the move, saying the Republicans’ maneuver proves their goal has always had more to do with ending collective bargaining for public employees than balancing the budget.
“They have been saying all along that this is a fiscal item; we’ve been saying it is not,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, from Illinois. “They have been lying. Their goal is to bust up the unions.”
Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, called the maneuver undemocratic and “almost barbaric.”
March 9th, 2011
Former Iraq interrogator, and torture opponent, Matthew Alexander discusses Donald Rumsfeld’s recent “memoir”:
Known and Forgotten: Rumsfeld’s Memoir
By Matthew Alexander, Former Senior Military Interrogator and Amnesty Volunteer
It would have been a better title for former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s recently released memoir. There are things Rumsfeld remembers and things he has conveniently forgotten. What we called in the interrogation room “selective memory.” What’s most striking about the memoir, however, is the blatant hypocrisy.
Take for instance, his assertion in Chapter 39 (page 582) that “None of the authorized interrogation methods…involved physical or mental pain. None were inhumane.” What planet are we on? The Category I techniques he approved include stress positions for up to four hours. Anyone who’s been through basic training knows that maintaining a stress position for four hours would be the very definition of pain. But apparently, for Mr Rumsfeld, there’s no difference between standing at your work podium in your cushy Pentagon office and squatting for four hours straight. No pain, indeed.
Rumsfeld also doesn’t consider it painful to be confronted with one’s phobias, for instance to have aggressive dogs placed inches from one’s face. To Rumsfeld, that’s probably just a fun way to spend a Saturday. Of course, this is from a guy who’s made a career out of Washington’s steak rooms.
He also approved, in Category II, forced grooming and forced nudity. Rumsfeld would like us all to forget that the prohibition per military regulations is not against torture. It’s against Cruel, Inhumane, and Degrading treatment. So Mr Rumsfeld, how about strolling once around the halls of the Pentagon in your birthday suit? Then you can explain to us how forced nudity is not humiliating. Not all of us share your selective memory.
But the most appalling part of Rumsfeld’s memoir is the twisted logic and McNamara-like pompousness that led to the tragedy of Abu Ghraib. The logic goes like this. He says he rejected waterboarding for military use because the technique might be appropriate if used by a few, highly trained CIA agents, but “Tight limits on interrogation, such as those contained in the Army Field Manual, are appropriate for the U.S. military. Tens of thousands of detainees passed through U.S. military custody in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
So according to the former SecDef, if he had allowed waterboarding, it would have corrupted the forces and led to the widespread torture and abuse of detainees. But the same logic doesn’t apply to the torture and abuse techniques that he approved.
Worse, in the same chapter (again page 582) he admits that the interrogation of Muhammed al-Qahtani did go beyond the interrogation techniques he approved. Why? Precisely because he set the precedent that breaking the rules once in a while is okay, as long as it keeps us safe. It’s a point he makes over and over again. So if the Secretary of Defense, the highest ranking official in the Department of Defense, approves rule-breaking in limited cases and people then exceed those limits, it’s not the same logic that he used to reject waterboarding. It’s insanity. And then it gets more insane.
Indulge me for a moment. Do a search for in this chapter on interrogations for the word “future” or the words “long-term.” You won’t find them because not once does Donald Rumsfeld, with his many years of experience in strategic decision-making, ever consider the long-term future ramifications of approving the torture and abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody. You won’t find any discussion of the fact that it became Al Qaeda’s number one recruiting tool (a fact I witnessed, and my Task Force tracked, while I oversaw interrogation of foreign fighters in Iraq).
You won’t hear Rumsfeld discuss how future adversaries will think twice about surrendering to U.S. troops as they have in past conflicts like World War II and the first Gulf War. That will have a real cost in U.S. lives. And you want read any discussion about how some of our allies have hesitated to work with us because they don’t want to be involved in U.S. policies on detention. You certainly won’t hear what I heard in Iraq. That is, detainees saying from the very start of the interrogation that we were all torturers, an obstacle that made all of our jobs much more difficult. Who knows how much intelligence information we never received because of Rumsfeld’s decision to make torture and abuse official policy? That certainly had a cost in lives too.
What you also won’t read in Chapter 39 is the term “World War II.” Because what Rumsfeld and the other torture supporters consistently fail to acknowledge is that we made it through that war, facing much graver threats to our national security, without using Category I or II techniques.
Rumsfeld’s final grave sin, however, is to cite retired General Michael Hayden, the former Director of the CIA, in saying that the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was justified because he provided half of all we know about Al Qaeda, a claim that has been thoroughly debunked. Ninety percent of what Hayden and Rumsfeld claim KSM gave us was the same information he gave to an Al Jazeera reporter two years earlier in Pakistan. What an amazing revelation. And absent from this discussion is the glaring failure of 183 waterboarding sessions. KSM never gave up the one thing that any good interrogator would have said was the key objective of those interrogations – the location of Osama bin Laden.
There are actions that former Secretary Rumsfeld accomplished that have had significant positive impact on the U.S. military’s ability to fight future conflicts, such as ridding us of obsolete weapon systems and preparing us for future small scale wars. But along with this kudos, we must place the blame for one of the worst stains in the history of the United States Military – the torture and abuse of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prisoners, precisely where it belongs. This was a complete selling out of the very principles so many Americans have died defending. And the blame belongs squarely on the former Secretary’s shoulders.
Amnesty International continues to campaign for Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration who authorized the use of torture to be held to account for their actions and to gain justice for those wrongly detained and abused. Take action and add your voice to those demanding that President Obama follow through on his campaign commitment to make this the anti-torture Presidency.
March 9th, 2011
Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) has issued the following letter regarding the treatment of alleged Wikileaks source Bradley Manning. This letter is a follow-up to our January 3 letter, also to Secretary Gates, which can be read here: http://www.psysr.org/about/programs/humanrights/gates-manning-letter.php. Please help it obtain wide distribution.
Open Letter on the Humiliating Treatment, Including Forced Nudity, of PFC Bradley Manning
March 9, 2011
The Honorable Robert M. Gates
100 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Dear Mr. Secretary:
Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) remains deeply concerned about the solitary confinement conditions under which PFC Bradley Manning is being held at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. When we wrote you on January 3, 2011, we warned of the severely deleterious effects on the psychological wellbeing of those subjected to solitary confinement. We also expressed alarm over PFC Manning’s subjection to cruel and potentially harmful treatment during this lengthy pre-trial period when he has not been convicted of any crime and is presumed innocent by our Constitution and justice system.
We write you again today because news reports, including those in the New York Times, indicate that PFC Manning’s conditions of confinement have recently become even more severe. According to these reports, which quote officials in charge of PFC Manning’s care, PFC Manning is now being deprived of his clothes at night and is forced to stand naked for inspection in the morning. This is apparently being justified as a “precautionary measure” to prevent PFC Manning from injuring himself.
As an organization of psychologists and other mental health practitioners – many of whose members have worked in mental hospitals, the criminal justice system, and with veterans – PsySR can state unequivocally that removal of clothing is not an accepted or reasonable procedure for avoiding self-injury.
There is no publicly available information suggesting that PFC Manning is at heightened risk of self-harm. However, if this is a real concern of the military officials, it is imperative to recognize that forced nakedness (and solitary confinement) is designed to induce helplessness, humiliation, and shame – all of which are potential risk factors that increase the possibility of self-harm. We note that forced nakedness is so disturbing that it is banned for use by military interrogators in the 2006 Army Field Manual.
We are also concerned that the confinement conditions and treatment experienced by PFC Manning may interfere with the right to a fair trial. Literature on the harmful psychological consequences associated with the abuse to which PFC Manning is being subjected suggests that his ability to assist in his own defense may be compromised.
Our country and the entire world were shocked by the pictures of Iraqi detainees being kept naked at Abu Ghraib. PFC Manning’s treatment, because of its needless and destructive cruelty, also shocks the conscience. Mr. Secretary, Psychologists for Social Responsibility calls upon you to rectify the inhumane and harmful treatment of PFC Bradley Manning immediately. Given your purported concern regarding PFC Manning’s suicidality, we also urge you to release him from solitary confinement as soon as possible as a first step in addressing his mental health needs.
We are also providing a copy of this letter to President Obama, as he and his administration bear the ultimate responsibility for PFC Manning’s treatment.
Stephen Soldz, Ph.D., President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Trudy Bond, Ph.D., Psychologists for Social Responsibility Steering Committee
3 comments March 9th, 2011
Says it all. [Taken inside Wisconsin Capital building, in Madison, March 8, 2011.]
March 9th, 2011
Mona Eltahawy is an Egyptian columnist often seen on cable TV discussing the Mideast and North African protests
March 8th, 2011
Wisconsin Senate Republicans took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public coffers while they insist the state workers take massive salary cuts and lose their rights, because they’re “greedy.”
At least three of the Wisconsin state Senate Republicans currently demanding that public workers sacrifice benefits, wages and even collective bargaining rights for the sake of the budget have applied for and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal farm subsidies, a Huffington Post review of state and federal records shows.
From 1995 through 2009, state Sens. Luther Olsen, Dale Schultz and Sheila Harsdorf all had stakes in farms that received between them more than $300,000 in taxpayer funds.
March 8th, 2011
The Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, of which I’m a founder, has just issued a new Timeline documenting the involvement of psychologists and torture. Here is our Press Release:
Coalition Launches Online Timeline Chronicling 9/11 Decade of U.S. Torture and Detainee Abuse
Psychologist and American Psychological Association Involvement Highlighted
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 7, 2011
CONTACT: Stephen Soldz
The Coalition for an Ethical Psychology today announces the release of an interactive online Timeline (www.ethicalpsychology.org/timeline) detailing the roles of psychologists in the torture and unethical treatment of national security detainees over the years since the 9/11 attacks. The Timeline also constitutes the most comprehensive record of the partnership between the American Psychological Association (APA) and the U.S. national security sector in expanding and legitimizing torture and abuse.
The Coalition’s Timeline speaks to diverse audiences: human rights scholars, policymakers, health professionals, social scientists, military ethicists and intelligence professionals, educators, journalists, social activists, churches, and conscientious citizens. It brings together information which otherwise is only available through hundreds of separate sources.
As the Timeline reveals, the psychology profession is directly implicated in the U.S. government’s program of torture and detainee abuse as psychologists designed, implemented, monitored, and researched the torture program. Furthermore, the APA was complicit in these abuses by providing crucial political and ethical support for psychologist involvement in coercive interrogations.
The Coalition Timeline, which currently has over 350 entries, is fully searchable and will be regularly updated as new information becomes available. Suggestions for additional events to include are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We encourage you to share the webpage (www.ethicalpsychology.org/timeline) with colleagues, listservs, and other groups and individuals to whom it may be of interest.
Please also read the Coalition’s statement: “Reclaiming Our Profession: Psychology Ten Years After 9/11″.
The Coalition for an Ethical Psychology is dedicated to putting psychology on a firm ethical foundation in support of social justice and human rights. The Coalition has been in the lead of efforts to remove psychologists from torture and abusive interrogations.
March 7th, 2011
Former Guantanamo Chief Prosecutor takes on the hypocrisy whereby thee US condemns human rights abuses by others while committing them and protecting the perpetrators from accountability. Alas, Davis got this published in the British Guardian, not any US paper:
America’s much abused moral authority
As former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo, I know that until the US rights the record on torture, its human rights calls ring hollow
By Morris Davis
Once upon a time, Americans across the political spectrum were united behind efforts to prevent torture and punish torturers. The United States signed the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) in 1988 when Republican Ronald Reagan was president. A Democrat-controlled Congress ratified it in 1994. The CAT says, “No exceptional circumstance whatsoever … may be invoked as justification of torture,” a principle the US endorsed without reservation. The CAT requires nations to enact domestic laws criminalising torture, and in 1994, a torture statute was added to the US criminal code.
A Republican member of Congress sponsored the War Crimes Act in 1996, which made “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions – like torture – federal crimes. He wanted Americans abused by former adversaries to get the justice they deserved but had been denied. The measure passed a Republican-controlled Congress by unanimous consent and President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, signed it into law.
Americans were solidly against torture when they believed they were beneficiaries of anti-torture laws. But then, the 11 September 2001 attacks occurred – and created an exceptional circumstance used by some as justification to draw new lines between right and wrong.
Susan Crawford had held key posts in Republican administrations dating back to Reagan; then, in 2007, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates appointed her head of the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.In an interview with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward published a few days before President George Bush left office in 2009, Crawford explained why she dismissed charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani, the so-called 20th hijacker. “We tortured Qahtani,” she said; “His treatment met the legal definition of torture.”
US government officials in other detainee cases reached similar conclusions:
• Judge James Robertson, in the case of Mohammedou Salahi, found “ample evidence” that “Salahi was subjected to extensive and severe mistreatment at Guantanamo.”
• Military commission judge Colonel Stephen Henley concluded that Mohammed Jawad endured “abusive conduct and cruel and inhuman treatment” and that his abuse “was not simple negligence but flagrant misbehaviour”. Judge Henley suggested those responsible “face appropriate disciplinary action.” None has.
• In the trial of East Africa embassy bomber Ahmed Ghailani, federal Judge Lewis Kaplan granted a motion to block the testimony of the only witness connecting Ghailani to the explosives used in the bombings. Ghailani said he revealed the identity of the witness while being tortured at a secret CIA site, an allegation US government prosecutors did not dispute. In his opinion granting the defence motion, Judge Kaplan said:
“The court has not reached this conclusion lightly. It is acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world in which we live. But the Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction. To do less would diminish us and undermine the foundation upon which we stand.”
In a memo in early 2003, Jack Rives, the US Air Force judge advocate general at the time and now executive director of the American Bar Association, warned senior government officials that “several of the exceptional (interrogation) techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law and the (military criminal code)” and put “the interrogators and the chain of command at risk of criminal accusation”. Bush administration officials ignored the warning.
“The US government adopted an unprecedented programme of coolly calculated dehumanising abuse and physical torment to extract information. This was a mistake, perhaps a disastrous one. It was a collective failure, in which a number of officials and members of Congress of both parties played a part, endorsing a CIA programme of physical coercion.”
In a speech in May 2009, President Barack Obama said that in the wake of 9/11, the US government made some decisions “based upon fear rather than foresight” and the nation “went off course”. He rejected the notion that “brutal methods like waterboarding” were necessary to keep America safe and added that such tactics “undermine the rule of law” and “alienate us in the world”.
President Obama recently warned Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi that the brutality inflicted on his own citizens was “outrageous and it is unacceptable”, saying it violates “international norms and every standard of common decency”. He said those responsible “must be held accountable”. President Obama ended his remarks by saying “the United States will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people.”
The United States cannot stand up for justice and the rule of law when it sits idly on its own record of torture. It diminishes the weight of its moral authority to influence others around the world when it treats its binding legal obligations as options it can choose to exercise or ignore. If President Obama is sincere about standing up for fundamental values, then America’s actions must live up to its rhetoric.
Morris Davis is a retired US military officer. He was chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay in 2005-2007. He is the executive director of the Crimes of War Education Project
March 7th, 2011
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