Friday, December 17, 2010

The US is not a democracy

SecDef Gates, with the apparent support of President Obama, has openly declared that the US is not a democracy.

Gates: Public opinion can't sway Afghan commitment

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. can't let public opinion sway its commitment to Afghanistan.

Gates says it's the responsibility of leaders to focus on the public interest and the long-term implications of U.S. involvement in the region.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Americans to view the country's effort in Afghanistan as aimed at protecting their families and their future.

Gates and Clinton spoke Thursday at the White House following President Barack Obama's remarks on a newly finished classified report on the Afghan war.

Its very simple, in a free country that is a democracy, public opinion does matter. Because in a free democracy, power resides with the people. Government officials exist only to represent the will of the people and to execute (ie, the executive branch) the will of the people.

When government officials stand up and tell you to your face that public opinion does not matter, then what they just told you is that you do not live in a free democracy.

Note that the remarks followed President Obama's at the same event. Which most likely means that they were pre-approved by the White House. And if not, Mr. Obama certainly didn't grab a microphone and object to these anti-American, anti-democracy statements. Remember, Mr. Obama could call Mr. Gates into his office and fire him at any time. Cabinet officials only serve at the pleasure of the President. If Gates isn't fired for saying this, then its the same as if Obama says it.

Gates and Obama .... the USA is no longer a free democracy.

The USA needs a democracy movement. Are there any unused colors left? The Turquoise movement? The Puce movement?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Torture of Bradley Manning

The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning's detention By Glenn Greenwald

Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months -- and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait -- under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture.


Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a "Maximum Custody Detainee," the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs.


In his widely praised March, 2009 New Yorker article -- entitled "Is Long-Term Solitary Confinement Torture?" -- the surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande assembled expert opinion and personal anecdotes to demonstrate that, as he put it, "all human beings experience isolation as torture." By itself, prolonged solitary confinement routinely destroys a person’s mind and drives them into insanity. A March, 2010 article in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law explains that "solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture."

For that reason, many Western nations -- and even some non-Western nations notorious for human rights abuses -- refuse to employ prolonged solitary confinement except in the most extreme cases of prisoner violence. "It’s an awful thing, solitary," John McCain wrote of his experience in isolated confinement in Vietnam. “It crushes your spirit." As Gawande documented: "A U.S. military study of almost a hundred and fifty naval aviators returned from imprisonment in Vietnam . . . reported that they found social isolation to be as torturous and agonizing as any physical abuse they suffered." Gawande explained that America’s application of this form of torture to its own citizens is what spawned the torture regime which President Obama vowed to end:

This past year, both the Republican and the Democratic Presidential candidates came out firmly for banning torture and closing the facility in Guantánamo Bay, where hundreds of prisoners have been held in years-long isolation. Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain, however, addressed the question of whether prolonged solitary confinement is torture. . . .

This is the dark side of American exceptionalism. . . . Our willingness to discard these standards for American prisoners made it easy to discard the Geneva Conventions prohibiting similar treatment of foreign prisoners of war, to the detriment of America’s moral stature in the world. In much the same way that a previous generation of Americans countenanced legalized segregation, ours has countenanced legalized torture. And there is no clearer manifestation of this than our routine use of solitary confinement . .

We don't use piano wire and electrodes. But that doesn't mean we don't torture. Read the quote by John McCain again. We, as a nation, are subjecting this young man to torture that crushes the spirit. That's always the saddest thing when one sees interviews with torture victims. The psychological scars that it leaves for a lifetime.

And all of this because the young man actually believes in freedom and democracy. Freedom means that power resides with the people. The rulers only represent the people. But a free democracy can not exist without the people knowing what the rulers are doing. Without that knowledge, any elections or other mechanisms by which the people choose their rulers become charades without meaning. Its the knowledge of what the government is doing that allows a free people to decide to approve those actions, or to make changes to reject them. When the government hides this information behind a veil of secrecy, they are staging a coup that removes the power from the people and places in the hands of the officials who decide what the citizens get to know.

One could say that 98% of the American people voted in favor of parties that support the torture of Bradley Manning, the arrest of Julian Assange, and the censorship and suppression of Wikileaks. But is this truly the opinion of the American people, when the very documents that Wikileaks is allowing the world to see show just how completely the policies of this government differ from what their official version tells the American voters?

The American people consistently tell pollsters that they oppose torture. They consistently say they want our soldiers home from the wars. The American people consistently oppose the commission of war crimes. Yet, the same citizens vote for political parties and candidates who conduct torture, and keep the wars and all their inherent crimes going and going and going.

Which leaves this as the question. Are we seeing that the American people lie to pollsters about their opposition to torture and these wars? Or, are we seeing elections that simply show how completely they are lied to by their politicians and government? Do 2% of the American people oppose torture? Or do some 60% of the American people oppose torture?

We can only know the answer to that question if the American people know the truth about their government. Bradley Manning acted in support of freedom and democracy in the most fundamental way possible. In response, this nation that prides itself as the champion of freedom and democracy is subjecting him to soul crushing torture. Instead, we should be giving Bradley Manning a medal.

BTW, at times in the last few weeks, typing into your browser has only revealed the censorship policies of the US government, as all you would get was a Site Not Found error. If that happens again, you can find wikileaks, by using a site like this one that will forward you on to one of wikileaks many and moving locations around the world. Or, as of today, this site has a list of wikileaks mirrors around the world. The links on the left of this site have been updated to point to this services.

When you see that Site Not Found error, you may think Wikileaks has been defeated. But remember, the one thing they really, really don't want you to know is that there is resistence everywhere. Wikileaks is alive and well. But they could use your support and a donation if you can give it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Corporate Prisoner

Lawyer Cites Visa, MasterCard as Assange’s Release Delayed

British Judge Howard Riddle may have approved Julian Assange’s release on bail, but the WikiLeaks founder remains held for at least another 48 hours over a pair of rows with the Swedish government and America’s major credit card providers Visa and MasterCard.

The Swedish government has appealed Assange’s release on grounds that he poses a flight risk. The judge’s terms of release would require him to submit to a curfew, electronic tagging, and to report to the police every evening.

But perhaps the bigger problem is that the assorted supporters of Assange who are putting up the 240,000 pounds in bail are being told that they have to put up the entire amount in cash, because Visa and MasterCard have barred contributions to WikiLeaks.

According to Assange’s lawyer, who insists that the detention is turning into a show trial, he was told credit cards could not be used for the bail. Visa and MasterCard denied having put any bar on making payments to the British court system.

The 48 hour delay in Assange’s release for the appeal appears to be little more than a formality, as Judge Riddle has expressed annoyance at Swedish lawyers’ refusal to produce any evidence against Assange in their extradition request. The struggle to come up with all that money in cash might take a bit longer.

So, lets see ... just so I understand this.

There's no evidence to hold Mr. Assange. The British judge is criticizing Swedish officials for their 'refusal to produce any evidence against Assange'.

But, Mr. Assange is still in jail. Apparently because Visa and MasterCard want him in jail.

The rather obvious question would seem to be, if there is no evidence produced against Mr. Assange he, why is he forced to produce 240,000 British pounds in order to gain his freedom? For a fair and just legal system, the rather obvious course to take when there is no evidence against a prisoner is to release them. Instead, despite the lack of any evidence, Mr. Assange is forced to surrender 240,000 in cash, and then submit to harsh restrictions that force him to check in with authorities every day.

Gee, I wonder what they do when they actually have evidence against someone?

The way this is going, when someone shows up with the required 240,000 to gain the freedom of the man against whom there is no evidence, they'll probably be arrested just for carrying so much cash. After all, if you don't use Visa and Mastercard and instead carry large sums of cash, you are automatically regarded as suspicious and a probably criminal.

Welcome to the world where the banks run everything. If Visa and Mastercard want you in jail, then you stay in jail. Who cares about courts? Who cares about evidence? Who cares if you have friends who have the where-withal to meet this ridiculous bail amout? Visa and Mastercard want him in jail, so they refuse to process the payments. Thus, Visa and Mastercard appear to have a final veto on anyone being released from jail.

Hopefully, someone leaks the diplomatic cables between USA and Sweden and Great Britain over this fiasco. It seems rather obvious that indispensable nation that promotes freedom around the world is responsible for both the weak charges against Assange as well as this farce in the British courts.

And, aren't you glad you elected Obama and got so much change from what Bush would have done in this situation? Ever get the feeling that Obama spends his days staring at a sign on his desk that reads "What Would Dubya Do?" before making every decision?

Love those around you. Give them love this holiday season, instead of gifts. And if you do feel the need to buy them something, pay with cash. Don't use your Visa or Mastercard. Pay with good old fashioned cash, and hit them where it hurts them.

Update: Now its apparently the British government overturning the ruling of its own judge and deciding to arbitrarily keep Mr. Assange in prison. This is why the colonies decided that some sort of basic ground rules in the form of state and federal constitutions were a necessity to secure real libery.

Which reminds me. We just had Bill of Rights day. A celebration of the time when the ruling elite of this country gave in and allowed the people of this country to have a Bill of Rights. In exchange with, we the people of this country allowed the government to form and gave it certain powers to protect and secure our liberties. Remember that without the Bill of Rights, the Constitution would never have been approved.

The Bill of Rights are not optional guidelines to be enforced only when convenient. Instead, these are the rules set by the American people for the US government as the essential conditions for the very existence of the US government.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Lets take a look at the nation's priorities after two years in Obamaland.

-- Bush's tax cuts for the rich are good and should stay in place. The Democrats didn't make any serious effort to repeal these, not even when they temporarily held a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. No surprise, since most of these Democrats are millionaires themselves.

-- Defense spending rises the first two budgets. Now the Democrats appear to be fighting to keep it as high as possible. It certainly does not seem to be viewed as a place to cut the deficit.

-- Same goes for 'intelligence' spending, and that giant bucket of corporate pork known as the Dept of Homeland Security.

-- Wall Street gets anything they want. When they say they need hundreds of billions of dollars, they get it. When they say they want the Fed to take over all the bad debt that the Wall Street pryamid schemes created, the Fed is glad to do so. No one gets prosecuted for a con that turned non-verified signature loans into AAA rated securities. No serious reform of Wall Street.

-- For everyone else who might want a hand in this worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, everyone gets a cold shoulder. Oh, the defecit is so bad that there's no help available. And now, we get the good news that we have to give away our retirements to corporate America to pay for all the billions that get spent everywhere else.

The rich are spending a lot of money on TV ads and bought columnists and editorials about the 'deficit' right now. And of course, its anything that doesn't benefit the rich, like Social Security and Medicare, that has to be jetisoned to solve this so-called crisis.

But hey, here's an alternate deficit reduction plan.

-- Put taxes back to where they were before Bush Jr took office.
-- End the wars. That's hundreds of billions a year of 'off-budget' money we can save.
-- Cut back on Defense, Intelligence spending, and on Homeland Security.

On Defense, we spend more than the rest of the world combined. And most of the rest of the top ten are our allies like England and France. We spend way, way, way too much on our military.

On Intelligence, these are the people who didn't see 9-11 coming. And who didn't see the fall of the Berlin Wall. From Iraq to Iran, our 'intelligence' community mainly seems paid to produce what the White House wants to see. Surely we can just outsource the writing of these fictional intelligence estimates to some Indian tech writers online and save some money here.

On Homeland Security, that's mostly just pork. Here's an example for your holiday travel ... those big full body scanners that take the naked pictures of you in the airports. Thing is, they don't work. Oh, they cost millions and millions of dollars. So somewhere out there is a company that's happen to have gotten the contract, probably with the help of a well-paid, uh, well-contributed to, congress-critter. But, they don't detect non-metal stuff like explosives all that much better than metal detectors. The tech has been around for 20 years, and no one thought this would work until it became someone's highly intrusive pork barrel project. You are being virtually strip searched to improve some corporation's profits and to keep contributions flowing to some congress-critter. Have a happy holiday in corporate America. Surely there's some deficit trimming to do this tree.

-- End corporate welfare and close corporate tax loopholes.

Now, I'm not the CBO, so I can't score such a plan. But, I'm guessing all of the above provides plenty of cuts to the deficit, and at the same time frees up enough money that we can have some real stimulus to those of us who don't get million-dollar wall street bonus checks.

And of course, its silly to be trying to cut the deficit in the midst of a depression in the first place. That's so Herbert Hoover. But that's today's Democrats. Herbert Hoover would be right at home in this modern Democratic Party.