Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
Eighteen beliefs you probably have if you are a republican.

 

To be a Republican nowadays you have to believe concurrently that:

 

 1. Jesus loves you, but shares your deep hatred of homosexuals, gay marriage, gun control advocates, conservationists, animal rights activists, and Barack Obama.

 

 2. "Support our troops" means backing old white men who have no qualms about sending other people's kids to die in wars we can't win in countries whose people hate us for being there.   

 

 3.  The best way to restore growth and prosperity to the US economy is to fire your workers and outsource everything possible to Asia.

 

 4.  Venture capitalists who makes millions of dollars slicing and dicing companies and loading the unlucky ones with so much debt that they have to declare bankruptcy and cease operations cannot possibly continue to create jobs unless they get huge tax breaks and pay at an average rate of 14% or less; otherwise, they won't be "incentivized" to go on making millions while transacting important business on the golf course. 

 

5.  Being a lesbian, petty thief, or drug addict is a sign of moral degeneracy unless you're the daughter of a conservative politician, investment banker, or extreme right-wing radio host. Then it's either laudable or an illness for which the appropriate remedy is prayer, not punishment.

 

6.  The National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council are trying to protect the public, but non-profit public interest groups like the Sierra Club, The Trust for Public Land, and  the Urban Land Institute only care about taking away our freedoms and turning everybody into tree huggers and vegetarians.

 

7.  Providing comprehensive family health care and generous job benefits to members of Congress, federal employees, ...

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
The Cuban Missile Crisis and Ownership of the World

The world stood still 50 years ago during the last week of October, from the moment when it learned that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba until the crisis was officially ended -- though unknown to the public, only officially.

The image of the world standing still is the turn of phrase of Sheldon Stern, former historian at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, who published the authoritative version of the tapes of the ExComm meetings where Kennedy and a close circle of advisers debated how to respond to the crisis.  Those meetings were secretly recorded by the president, which might bear on the fact that his stand throughout the recorded sessions is relatively temperate compared to other participants, who were unaware that they were speaking to history. 

 

Stern has just published an accessible and accurate review of this critically important documentary record, finally declassified in the late 1990s.  I will keep to that here. “Never before or since,” he concludes, “has the survival of human civilization been at stake in a few short weeks of dangerous deliberations,” culminating in “the week the world stood still.”

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Published: Monday 3 September 2012
Now that Holder and Durham have concluded that prosecutions of the individuals involved are unlikely to result in convictions, it appears certain that no CIA officer will be prosecuted in a U.S. jurisdiction. Prosecutions of Bush officials responsible for authorizing the “enhanced interrogation” techniques have also been ruled out.

 

U.S. human rights groups have roundly condemned Thursday’s announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that the Justice Department will not pursue prosecutions of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers who may have been responsible for the deaths of two prisoners in their custody.

The announcement appeared to mark the end of all efforts by the U.S. government to hold CIA interrogators accountable for torture and mistreating prisoners detained during the so-called “Global War on Terror” launched shortly after the Al Qaeda attacks on Sep. 11, 2001.

For rights activists and for supporters of President Barack Obama, it was the latest in a series of disappointing decisions, including the failure to close the detention facility at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba. They had hoped Obama would not only end the excesses of President George W. Bush’s prosecution of the war, but also conduct a full investigation of those excesses, if not prosecute those responsible.

“This is truly a disastrous development,” said Laura Pitter, counter-terrorism advisor at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “To now have no accountability whatsoever for any of the CIA abuses for which there are now mountains of evidence is just appalling.”

“It completely undermines the U.S.’s ability to have any credibility on any of these issues in other countries, even as it calls for other countries to account for abuses and prosecute cases of torture and mistreatment,” she told IPS.

“Continuing impunity threatens to undermine the universally recognized prohibition on torture and other abusive treatment and sends the dangerous signal to government officials that there will be no consequences for their use of torture and other cruelty,” noted Jameel Jaffar, deputy legal director of the

Published: Friday 3 August 2012
This year’s Aug. 6 memorials have special significance. They take place shortly before the 50th anniversary of “the most dangerous moment in human history,” in the words of the historian and John F. Kennedy adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., referring to the Cuban missile crisis.

 

Aug. 6, the anniversary of Hiroshima, should be a day of somber reflection, not only on the terrible events of that day in 1945, but also on what they revealed: that humans, in their dedicated quest to extend their capacities for destruction, had finally found a way to approach the ultimate limit.

This year’s Aug. 6 memorials have special significance. They take place shortly before the 50th anniversary of “the most dangerous moment in human history,” in the words of the historian and John F. Kennedy adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., referring to the Cuban missile crisis.

Graham Allison writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that Kennedy “ordered actions that he knew would increase the risk not only of conventional war but also nuclear war,” with a likelihood of perhaps 50 percent, he believed, an estimate that Allison regards as realistic.

Kennedy declared a high-level nuclear alert that authorized “NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots ... (or others) ... to take off, fly to Moscow, and drop a bomb.”

None were more shocked by the discovery of missiles in Cuba than the men in charge of the similar missiles that the U.S. had secretly deployed in Okinawa six months earlier, surely aimed at China, at a moment of elevated regional tensions.

Kennedy took Chairman Nikita Khrushchev “right to the brink of nuclear war and he looked over the edge and had no stomach for it,” according to Gen. David Burchinal, then a high-ranking official in the Pentagon planning staff. One can hardly count on such sanity forever.

Khrushchev accepted a formula that Kennedy devised, ending the crisis just short of war. The formula’s boldest element, Allison writes, was “a secret sweetener that promised the withdrawal of U.S. missiles from Turkey within six months after the crisis was ...

Published: Monday 11 June 2012
“A rare interview with Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro and first lady Vilma Espín”

In a Democracy Now! special, we begin our hour on Cuba with a rare interview with Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro and first lady Vilma Espín. Mariela Castro is best known in Cuba for her ardent support of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights and as the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana. During a rare visit to the U.S., Castro discusses her work in Cuba battling anti-LGBTQ discrimination. 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: In a Democracy Now! special, we begin our show today with a rare U.S. interview with the daughter of the Cuban president, Raúl Castro, and First Lady Vilma Espín. Her name is Mariela Castro. She’s best known in Cuba for her ardent support of gay, lesbian and transgender rights and as the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana.

Mariela Castro was recently granted a visa for a rare trip to the United States.Democracy Now! had a chance to sit down with her last week at the Cuban consulate here in New York City. We talked not only about her work combating homophobia, but also her thoughts on the Cuban Five and what’s happening in Cuba 50 years after the start of the U.S. embargo. She called on the United States ...

Published: Sunday 15 April 2012
“The U.S. now has one of the lowest levels of income mobility in the developed world.”

Ozzie Guillen may not fit any psychological profile. His outrageous

comments coupled with his lofty status in the sports world seem to place
him in his own standard deviation. But he's bowing down now, in a moment
of adversity, to the impassioned opponents of socialism and the freedom to
say something positive about it. He's acting like millions of other
Americans conditioned to equate criticism of free market capitalism with a
lack of patriotism.



"Benign envy," according to Princeton researcher Susan T. Fiske, is the
act of longing for the status of another without wishing ill on that
person. It is a feeling nurtured in the public by the 1%, through their
self-promotion as American success stories, and by constant reminders of
the superiority of individual initiative over government involvement. Much
of America buys into it. Including Ozzie, who except for his position and
salary would seem like a member of the 99%.



As a lifelong Chicagoan and White Sox fan, I love Ozzie Guillen. But it's
disappointing to see him kneel like a penitent sinner at the capitalist
altar. Understandably, it's getting scary for the people at the top. They
need a submissive America. They need the masses to believe that anyone can
make it with a little hard work, even though the facts and public
sentiment are going against them. The U.S. now has one of the lowest
levels of income mobility in the developed world. And a recent Pew Survey
revealed that "conflicts between rich and poor now rank ahead of three
other potential sources of group tension - between immigrants and the
native born; between blacks and whites; and between young and old." As a
result, Mitt Romney has to spin the debate to "the bitter politics of
envy" to shame us all for questioning the job creators.



So ...

Published: Wednesday 11 April 2012
“The growing global influence of Latin America, particularly Brazil and Mexico, also calls for greater cooperation and consultation with the region’s leaders on global issues.”

"The United States must regain credibility in the region by dealing seriously with an unfinished agenda of problems, including immigration, drugs, and Cuba – that stands in the way of a real partnership," according to Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue (IAD).

 

 

The 20-page report, entitled "Remaking the Relationship", described current inter-American relations as "generally cordial but lack(ing) in vigor and purpose". It suggested that Washington, in particular, has failed to fully come to terms with Latin America's strong economic and political progress over the past two decades.

 

 

It also concluded that the two sides "need to do more to exploit the enormous untapped opportunities of their relationship in economics, trade, and energy", as well as to work more closely together on global and regional problems.

 

 

"They need to breathe new life and vigor into hemispheric relations," it stressed.

 

 

"If the United States and Latin America do not make the effort now, the chance may slip away," the report warned. "The most likely scenario then would be marked by a continued drift in their relationship, further deterioration of hemispheric-wide institutions, a reduced ability and willingness to deal with a range of common problems, and a spate of missed opportunities for more robust growth and greater social equity."

 

 

Coming on the eve of the Cartagena Summit, where many of these same issues are expected to claim center-stage, the report represents as much of a consensus of elite opinion in both Americas as can be found.

 

 

Washington's 40-year-old drug war and its impacts on the region will be major agenda item as a result of an unprecedented push by Latin American ...

Published: Thursday 26 January 2012
“Predictably, both candidates’ main focus was a hard-line stance toward Cuba and a hope for regime change.”

The two leading candidates in the Republican primary, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, came to Miami on Wednesday to win the support of tens of thousands of Cuban Republican voters by blasting the Castro brothers and outlining their plans for improving U.S-Latin American relations.

Predictably, both candidates' main focus was a hard-line stance toward Cuba and a hope for regime change.

First up was Gingrich, who spoke before about 250 people at Florida International University's Wertheim Performing Arts Center. A much more aggressive policy toward Cuba is needed to bring about a "Cuban spring" and usher in democracy, he said during a morning speech.

Romney chose a much more symbolic setting for his afternoon address on Latin American: The Freedom Tower where thousands of Cuban exiles were processed when they first entered the United States.

Romney and Gingrich agreed that they disagree with President Barack Obama on Cuba policy.

"This president does not understand that by helping Castro; he is not helping the people of Cuba; he is hurting them," Romney said to cheers inside the ornate downtown Miami building . "I want to be the American ...

Published: Thursday 12 January 2012
“Protesters voiced anger with President Barack Obama’s failure to close the prison and with his approval last month of the National Defense Authorization Act.”

Chants of "Guantanamo has got to go" echoed down Pennsylvania Avenue on Wednesday as a crowd of rain-dampened protesters marked the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first 20 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

More than 800 people demonstrated in what they said was solidarity with the 171 inmates who remain in the prison, as well as the unknown numbers detained at the U.S. military prison at Bagram, Afghanistan.

Protesters voiced anger with President Barack Obama's failure to close the prison — which he promised to do during his 2008 presidential campaign — and with his approval last month of the National Defense Authorization Act, which codified the U.S. government's authority to detain prisoners, including U.S. citizens, indefinitely without trial.

"President Obama is largely responsible for the failure to close Guantanamo, and his administration should not take its progressive base for granted," said Vincent Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal advocacy group that represents some Guantanamo detainees.

"Guantanamo is one part of an illegal, inhumane and unjust global detention policy," Warren said. "Our message: 'No excuses, shut it down.'"

Protests by human rights groups also were planned across the country in Miami, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago, and around the world in cities such as Paris, Toronto, Madrid and Berlin.

In Washington, 171 people in orange jumpsuits and black hoods led a procession from Lafayette Park, across from the White House, to the Supreme Court. They represented the prisoners who continue to be held in legal limbo at Guantanamo years after the newly inaugurated Obama ordered the facility closed within 12 months.

No arrests were reported in the protest, which followed several smaller protests at the White House after Obama's Dec. 31 signing of ...

Published: Thursday 12 January 2012
“Deghayes was a prisoner there. Air Force Col. Morris Davis was chief prosecutor of the military commissions there from 2005 to 2007.”

Ten years ago, Omar Deghayes and Morris Davis would have struck anyone as an odd pair. While they have never met, they now share a profound connection, cemented through their time at the notorious U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Deghayes was a prisoner there. Air Force Col. Morris Davis was chief prosecutor of the military commissions there from 2005 to 2007.

Deghayes was arrested in Pakistan and handed over to the U.S. military. He told me: “There was a payment made for every person who was handed to the Americans. ... We were chained, head covered, then sent to Bagram [Afghanistan]—we were tortured in Bagram—and then from Bagram to Guantanamo.”

At Guantanamo, Deghayes, one of close to 800 men who have been sent there since January 2002, received the standard treatment: “People were subjected to beatings, daily fear ... without being convicted of any crime.”

While Deghayes and his fellow inmates were suffering in their cages, the Bush administration was erecting a controversial legal framework to prosecute the Guantanamo prisoners. It labeled those rounded up “enemy combatants,” argued they had no protections under the U.S. Constitution, nor under the Geneva Conventions, no rights whatsoever. Guantanamo became a legal black hole.

When I asked Col. Davis if he felt that torture was used at Guantanamo, he said:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt. I would say that there was torture. Susan Crawford, a Dick Cheney protegee, said there was torture. John McCain has said waterboarding was torture, and we’ve admitted we’ve waterboarded. There have been at least five judges in federal court and military courts that have said detainees were tortured.”

Chained, ...

Published: Thursday 5 January 2012
“The uproar regarding the NDAA’s potential treatment of U.S. citizens as ‘enemy combatants,’ without rights to counsel or trial, in the war on terror is simply the realization of a misguided, immoral, and ineffective domestic and foreign response to terrorism.”

The irony of it all is way more telling than the State of the Union address that we will hear in a few weeks. A constitutional lawyer who was freely elected president signs into law an act that betrays the very principles that the nation he represents was founded on. While the more cautious of us might shy away from the word fascism to describe a nation’s military having the right to detain citizens without trial, it is certainly not hyperbole. There has already been an onslaught of criticism regarding the controversial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that Congress legislated and President Obama signed into law on January 1, 2012.

Historically, the NDAA was a spending bill that set the annual budget for the US military. Recently, the guaranteed passage of the NDAA has been used by legislators—in spite of vehement rhetorical opposition by progressive and GOP legislators, the bill still passed, unsurprisingly, with overwhelming support (86-13 with one abstaining in the Senate; 322-96 with eleven abstaining in the House)—to craft the policies and politics of the war on terror.

The same day President Obama signed the NDAA, activists with Witness Against Torture (WAT) began preparing for a January 3, 2012 trial to defend themselves against charges stemming from a June 2011 protest when they 

Published: Tuesday 13 December 2011
“Several Caribbean countries, including the United States and Cuba, met last week in the Bahamas to talk about response plans. U.S. officials got an opportunity to see the Cuban disaster-response plans.”

As Cuba prepares to embark on a new round of exploratory offshore drilling, U.S. officials are slightly more enlightened about the island nation's plans in the event of a catastrophic oil spill on the scale of last year's Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Several Caribbean countries — including the United States and Cuba — met last week in the Bahamas to talk about response plans. U.S. officials got an opportunity to see the Cuban disaster-response plans; Cuba already has participated in a mock response drill in Trinidad with the Spanish oil company that's doing the first round of drilling. That company, Repsol, also agreed to allow U.S. inspectors from the Interior Department to look at the rig that will be doing the drilling.

Sarah Stephens, the executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, said she was encouraged that Cuban and American officials had met, along with other nations that have an interest in regional oil production.

"There should be a lot more direct conversation and collaboration between the U.S. and Cuba and others about the rig, because it's inevitable," she said.

U.S. officials say their priority is mitigating any potential threat to the United States and its territorial waters from oil drilling in Cuban waters. They say they've done nothing to facilitate oil drilling in Cuban waters, and that their main goal is to be prepared for the possibility of a spill and how they'd respond to it.

"The United States will continue to engage multilaterally to advance regional collaboration and to ensure responsible stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea," the State Department said in a statement issued before the meeting in the Bahamas.

Although U.S. officials say they're not actively working to keep Cubans from drilling in their own waters, the Cuba embargo that's been in place since the 1960s may have slowed things ...

Published: Wednesday 9 November 2011
“That's more than 30 times the cost of keeping a captive on U.S. soil.”

Guards get combat pay, just like troops in Afghanistan, without the risk of being blown up. Some commanders get to bring their families to this war-on-terror deployment. And each captive gets $38.45 worth of food a day.

The Pentagon detention center that started out in January 2002 as a collection of crude open-air cells guarded by Marines in a muddy tent city is today arguably the most expensive prison on Earth, costing taxpayers $800,000 annually for each of the 171 captives by Obama administration reckoning.

That's more than 30 times the cost of keeping a captive on U.S. soil.

It's still funded as an open-ended battlefield necessity, although the last prisoner arrived in March 2008. But it functions more like a gated community in an American suburb than a forward-operating base in one of Afghanistan's violent provinces.

Congress, charged now with cutting $1.5 trillion from the budget by Christmas, provided $139 million to operate the center last year, and has made every effort to keep it open - even as a former deputy commander of the detention center calls it "expensive" and "inefficient."

"It's a slow-motion Berlin Airlift - that's been going on for 10 years," says retired Army Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti, a West Point graduate who in 2008 was deputy commander at the detention center.

Both its location and temporary nature drive up costs, says Zanetti. While there, he wrote a secret study that compared the operation to Alcatraz, noting that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had closed it in 1963 because it was too expensive.

At Guantanamo, everything comes in by barge or aircraft "from paper clips to bulldozers," Zanetti says, as well as the revolving guard force. Also, more recently, a massage chair for stressed-out prison camp staff.

Zanetti, now a Seattle-based money manager, was a financial adviser in civilian life before his New Mexico National ...

Published: Tuesday 16 August 2011
“A prudent resort to terror should avoid risk to the perpetrator.”

Editor's note: The following excerpt from Noam Chomsky's book “Hegemony or Survival” was originally published on TomDispatch in October of 2003. As Tom Engelhardt says “In these dog days of summer 2011, a little reminder of the history of American-style terror might indeed be just what the doctor ordered.”

The Batista dictatorship was overthrown in January 1959 by Castro's guerrilla forces. In March, the National Security Council (NSC) considered means to institute regime change. In May, the CIA began to arm guerrillas inside Cuba. "During the Winter of 1959-1960, there was a significant increase in CIA-supervised bombing and incendiary raids piloted by exiled Cubans" based in the US. We need not tarry on what the US or its clients would do under such circumstances. Cuba, however, did not respond with violent actions within the United States for revenge or deterrence. Rather, it followed the procedure required by international law. In July 1960, Cuba called on the UN for help, providing the Security Council with records of some twenty bombings, including names of pilots, plane registration numbers, unexploded bombs, and other specific details, alleging considerable damage and casualties and calling for resolution of the conflict through diplomatic channels. US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge responded by giving his "assurance [that] the United States has no aggressive purpose against Cuba." Four months before, in March 1960, his government had made a formal decision in secret to overthrow the Castro government, and preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion were well advanced.

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