The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 30th, 2015: Hello, Cuba!

Cuba has finally been removed from the “State-Sponsored Terrorism” list, leaving only 3 nations on the short list: Iran, Sudan and Syria.

And about fucking time. C’mon, we at least have to make some concession to the fact that OUR abomination of a hellhole, that stinking albatross around America’s neck that seems to get little notice anymore, that unholy, immoral “Pit of Despair” known as GTMO, occupies part of THEIR country. We – the United States of America – cannot claim much of a moral high ground when we are deliberately and indifferently crushing hundreds of souls, day by day, year by year, simply because the greatest nation on the face of the earth ever doesn’t want to admit to or clean up the horror it spawned.

Sorry, where was I? Oh, here’s a few articles on Cuba’s elevation in status:

As The New York Times’ Julie Hirshfeld Davis reminds us, President Obama gave official notice of his intent to Congress on April 14th, 2015, beginning the 45-day “Congressional notification period”, which expired yesterday. An excerpt:

“Cuba’s removal from the terrorism list was harshly criticized by several declared or prospective Republican presidential candidates and members of Congress, a sign that the détente may become an issue in the 2016 campaign.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, who is widely expected to run, called the decision “further evidence that President Obama seems more interested in capitulating to our adversaries than in confronting them.”

The House speaker, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said the administration had “handed the Castro regime a significant political win in return for nothing.” He vowed that the House would ensure that sanctions on Cuba would stay in place.”

One Washington Post article mentions that Jeb also said “I call on Congress to keep pressure on Cuba and hold the administration accountable.” [Does he mean the Cuban “administration”, or the Obama “administration”?] On Congress’ role, the article says:

“Removing the terror designation lifts only some of the numerous U.S. trade barriers against Cuba. An economic embargo remains in effect, and reversing it requires a congressional vote. President Obama has said he hopes to work with Congress to get it lifted.”

Why does President Obama, after all this time, still hold out any hope that Congress will work with him towards any goal? I mean, to Congress, Obama is just continuing his communist/socialist/Muslim/dictator/America-hating/atheist agenda, right? (sigh) Moving on…

A very informative WasPo article by Ishaan Tharoor helps to explain how a country qualifies for the “State-Sponsored Terrorism List”, and why some nations that one would think belonged on the list aren’t. The article also discusses nations who were previously on the list but have been removed. i.e., Iraq (maybe because we totally fucked up their country and left it in no shape to sponsor terrorism?); Libya (maybe because we killed enough members of Mohumar Gaddafi’s family that he finally cried Uncle Sam?) has this article, which adds a bit to the Speaker Boehner knee-jerk bluster:

“The communist dictatorship has offered no assurances it will address its long record of repression and human rights at home,” Boehner said in a statement.”

Fair enough, but ONLY if Boehner promises to end the Republicans’ long record of repression and human rights violations in OUR country AND theirs.  Better ‘tend to that log in your own eye’, Boehner.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 15th, 2014: Surreal

While the vast majority of the current political, cultural, and social events have become increasingly surreal, here’s just a few examples of the WTF? society in which we are floundering.

In the wake of the release of the Senate Torture Report (“Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Committee’s Study on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program”), the defensive reactions of some are wandering in the realm of surrealism. There was that, pardon the expression, bimbo on Fox screaming that “America is AWESOME!”, there’s Dick Cheney calmly and coldly dragging Dubya under the same bus that HOPEFULLY runs down Cheney.

There’s surreal hypocrisy, as in Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (spit!) stating that there’s nothing in the Constitution that prohibits torture. From HuffPost:

“Scalia…said that while there are U.S. laws against torture, nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists. “I don’t know what article of the Constitution that would contravene…”

[How did this scumbag get to be a Supreme?]

“In 2008, he used the example of the hidden bomb [ala the fictional Jack Bauer in 24]. “It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn’t, I don’t know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn’t do that,” he said.”

On the other hand, regarding a real imminent potential crisis situation:

“In January, Scalia seemed less concerned about the safety of residents of Los Angeles when the court heard arguments about whether anonymous tips could justify a traffic stop. Urging the lawyer for two suspects appealing their conviction to stand firm, Scalia suggested that not even information that a carload of terrorists heading to Los Angeles with an atomic bomb would be enough to justify police stopping the car, if the tip came from an anonymous source. “I want you to say, ‘Let the car go. Bye-bye, LA,'” Scalia said.

Then there’s surreal racism/white privilege in ‘law enforcement’. As this Daily Kos diary points out, why aren’t vicious white criminals called “thugs”? One particular white Texas criminal who brutally murdered a white prosecutor, the prosecutor’s wife, and the assistant prosecutor, was:

“…a felon who had a prior record of burglary and theft. Yet somehow he had amassed a veritable arsenal of weapons as prosecutors during the penalty phase of his trial revealed:

“On Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors assembled the arsenal of weapons found in Williams’ storage unit in the courtroom. The guns were displayed on three wooden racks in the middle of the courtroom, 42 handguns in the middle and 22 long guns flanking each side. In front of the racks were boxes of ammunition — thousands of rounds were recovered — and a crossbow. Bullets were loose in bags, as well as still packaged in boxes.”

Now let’s switch to more palatable surrealism: I ran across this assemblage of ’30 surreal photos’ while I was clearing out/sorting my emails at work–Wayne had sent me the link in a 2012 email, noting that he liked this photo:

"Seemingly Surreal Swallows in a Snowstorm" - photo by Keith Williams

“Seemingly Surreal Swallows in a Snowstorm” – photo by Keith Williams

While I found many of the “surreal” photos to be too contrived – I like the ones where a simple alteration of one’s perspective reveals a glimpse of other-worldliness (see “Towering”, among others) – I agree with Wayne, I love the swallows photo. For more of photographer Keith Williams’ bird photos, I highly recommend checking out his gallery – makes a nice palate-cleanser.

This is our daily open thread – go ahead, speak up!

The Watering Hole, HumpDay, June 4, 2014: Breaking Gnus: Obama to Offer New Prisoner Bargain With the Taliban

Tweeter calls in another Zoo Exclusive

Tweeter calls in another Zoo Exclusive


With polititians and pundits heating up over the prisoner exhange that saw the release of 5 Taliban leaders in exhange for one American Soldier, President Obama is taking a bold step by conducting further discussions aimed towards the release of the remaining 149 or so prisoners still held in Guantanamo. Early reports by annonymous sources indicate that the President is on the verge of making yet another deal with the Taliban.

According to low-level interns in the White House document shredding room, Obama has struck a hard bargain with the renegade Taliban government: for every Republican Senator they agree to take, Obama will release 2 prisoners held at Guantanamo; should the Taliban accept all of the Republican Senators, the remaining prisoners will be exchanged on a one-for-one basis with Republican members of the House of Representatives.

Republicans expressed immediate outrage. “If an American Soldier is worth 5 Taliban, a Senator should be worth at least 10!” one eexclaimed. On the other side of the aisle, a Democratic aide observed “It’s about time we got rid of those terrorists once and for all. They’ve caused more damage to the United States than all the prisoners in Guantanamo put together.”

Senator McCain reportedly commented, “I’ve been a prisoner of war, and I can tell you it is pure hell. Whatever I can do to relieve the suffering of those poor men, I’ll do it.” After an aide whispered in his ear, the Senator continued, “But I’ll be damned if I let this President, or any other President, for that matter, negotiate with Congress, I mean, Terrorists!” His aide then quickly whisked McCain out of the room.

Calls to the White House were met with the standard “The White House can neither confirm nor deny these reports.”


The Watering Hole, Monday, April 8th, 2013: Close GTMO Now!

Until Chris Hayes spoke so strongly and eloquently about the ongoing hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, I was completely unaware that it was happening.

“…of the 166 detainees left at Guantanamo over half of them have already been cleared for release, meaning that the government does not have a case against them and does not think they pose a threat to the United States. And yet they languish at the prison at Guantanamo…The dozens of men who have been cleared by the United States government for release should be released immediately, should be paid restitution, and offered legal residence in the United States.

If that sounds radical or outside the boundaries of political feasibility, I would say that shoving tubes up the noses of men a few times a day to force them to stay alive in our prisons, even though we readily admit we have to no reason to continue to keep them, is pretty damn radical, too.

According to a Miami Herald article from March 3rd,

“Under that procedure[force-feeding], military medical staff strap a captive into a feeding chair and pump a can of Ensure nutritional supplement into each man’s stomach through his nose twice a day.

President Obama issued an executive order to close the Guantanamo detention facility back in 2009, and has stated:

“It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it. I want to be very clear that our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for the remaining Guantanamo detainees that cannot be transferred.”

It is abundantly clear that the political grandstanding and fear-mongering are blocking such a goal. However, since 2009, President Obama seems to have put the detainee issue on the back burner. And despite the undeniable fact that 86 of the 166 remaining detainees have been cleared for release, and the majority of the other detainees have not even been officially charged with anything, there are plenty of idiots (mostly Republican) who still believe that these prisoners are the “worst of the worst” terrorists. These idiots also seem to suffer under the delusion that if Guantanamo is closed down, the prisoners will be let loose into the streets of America, even though there have been offers from States with empty prisons to take in any or all of them if necessary. However, continued incarceration of most or all of the prisoners is unthinkable to any sane and humane person.

The detainee hunger strike has been going on since about February 6th. RT news has a timeline from that date through April 6th (in reverse chronological order.)

Groups such as Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, are all calling for the detention center to be shut down. From John Knefel at Rolling Stone, Pillay says:

“The continuing indefinite incarceration of many of the detainees amounts to arbitrary detention.” “The United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold.”

In the meantime, according to the Huffington Post, the press is being blocked from access to the prison base; worse, due to the sequester cuts, even some of the detainees’ lawyers are unable to see their clients, with military flights to Guantanamo being cut back in frequency. Yet, prior to the sequester, the DoD had requested approximate $250,000,000 in funding to upgrade the facility and additional building – why?

The United States of America gave up its moral high ground when we went to war in Iraq based on a lie. We cannot continue this treatment of, if it weren’t for the thrice-damned PATRIOT Act, “prisoners of war.” The detainees who have been cleared for release MUST be released, and the others either charged and tried in civilian courts or released as well. This blackest stain on our country must be cleansed.

If/when the hunger strikes start to gain real national attention, perhaps that simmering pot on the back burner will start to boil over.

This is an Open Thread. What’s on your mind today?

Spreading the Word of Christ through Terror

Nine alleged members of a Christian militia group that was girding for battle with the Antichrist were charged Monday with plotting to kill a police officer and slaughter scores more by bombing the funeral — all in hopes of touching off an uprising against the U.S. government.

It’s time for “Trial by Media.”

They were plotting a terrorist attack, in the Name of Christ. By taking up arms against the United States, they are unlawful enemy combatants. They should be sent to Guantanamo, waterboarded and subjected to other harsh interrogation techniques until they reveal the rest of their terrorist network. It’s time to go all Jack Bauer over their white Christian asses! They don’t deserve a trial. Reading them their rights is just coddling to terrorists!


Somehow, I don’t think you’ll hear the Right-Wing talking heads spewing the above venom. More likely, they’ll be saying what they were plotting is a justifiable reaction to Obamacare.

Your thoughts are welcome.

add to : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

The Republican Version of the 6th Amendment

This is the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution, written in response to King George’s abuse of the judicial system:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

On Friday, November 13th, 2009, I received this email from

Today Barack Obama is going to announce that the terrorist mastermind of September 11th, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be sent to New York City for a criminal trial in a civilian court.

In that trial, the terrorist will get all the rights afforded an American citizen in a criminal trial, including the right to a fair trial, the right to a taxpayer funded attorney, the right to review all the evidence against him, potentially including classified intelligence matters, the right to exclude evidence against him including, potentially, any confession obtained through enhanced interrogation techniques, etc.

This, then, is the Republican version of the 6th Amendment:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence. the accused shall be guilty.

One important point Erik and his ilk miss: the 6th Amendment is not limited to “American citizens.” It applies to “the accused” regardless of citizenship.

Secessionists v. the Military Commissions Act of 2006

Under Bush’s Military Commissions Act of 2006, anyone determined to be an “unlawful alien enemy combatant” may be picked up and held without charges until the end of the “war on terror” i.e. for the rest of their life., without getting a phone call, without access to an attorney, or outside contact of any kind.

Under the Military Commissions Act, a person who has supported hostilities against the United States is an enemy combatant. The terms are broad enough to encompass people who speak at secession rallies.

They become an “unlawful enemy combatant” if they don’t wear a recognizable insignia identifying them as belonging to an army or militia. i.e. if they are not wearing a uniform, like those photographed carrying pistols and assault rifles to Obama’s meetings this past August.

The only step left, to become an “unlawful alien enemy combatant” is to declare secession. Once that is done, U.S. citizenship is renounced.

IN SUMMARY: the minute Secessionists declare independence from the United States, they become “unlawful alien enemy combatants” and may be captured, detained indefinitely, and questioned, possibly with the “legal” techniques they support as being highly effective in rooting out valuable intelligence information leading to the arrest of their co-conspirators.

Rumor has it Bush built detention centers across the country designed to hold thousands of such folks.

add to : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook