The Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, aka the Senate CIA Torture Report, is a legalistic summary of the Torture committed in our name during the post-9/11 War on Terror, matter-of-fact descriptions of acts that, whatever enhanced euphemism we use to mask the truth, are acts of Torture.
Let that word hang there like an indelible shit stain.
Stick your hand in it, rub it in on your clothes. Don’t worry, you won’t have any new stink there that wasn’t there before. This is America, where hideous violence on your behalf has been the name of the game for well over 200 years. Don’t be shy. There’s plenty of stink to go around.
Because also in the news: multiple summary executions of citizens by law enforcement, including a 12-year old boy who was romping on a playground across the street from his house. The police fatally shot him within 3 seconds of getting out of their car. Because reasons.
Because also: the State of Georgia executed a man with the functional intelligence of an 9-year old - an African American represented at trial by a knee-walking drunk who was also a racist and embezzler. Because Justice.
Because also: the movement to make the 2nd Amendment the primary ruling principle of our civic lives has led to, yet again, a mentally unstable person opening fire on students at a school. And oh, because also, a prominent member of the Open Carry movement shot her husband and daughter. Newtown, two years ago today. It was a teachable moment, remember? Because Freedom. The better to keep us safe.
And nobody seems the least bit surprised. Upset, for a minute, but unsurprised. Now, what’s on the teevee?
Welcome to the New Normal. But really, what’s new about it?
Unfortunately racism is still apart of our society, and will most likely be for a long time to come.
There is a bitter debate over racism these days — specifically, whether or not it still exists in a way that actually matters. The argument against goes something like, “Sure, there are neo-Nazis and KKK and YouTube comment sections out there, but we’ve got a black president, for Christ’s sake! Racism has been banished to the craziest fringes of society.”
But science says that’s just not true — the prejudice persists, we’re just less aware of it, and there’s tons of proof that we’ll get into starting … now:
I have a 20-year-old son, and I have a 12-year-old son, and I’m so afraid for them. … This is about a war machine. It is us against the [expletive] machine!”
—Rapper Killer Mike
Perhaps the saddest thing is: We don’t really know what the truth is. We don’t really know if Killer Mike—his voice breaking on stage this week after the Ferguson grand jury decision—is correct in his perception that America’s police departments are less protectors of the peace than monstrous “war machines” leveled against the nation’s poor and minorities.
Certainly we are seeing those kinds of sentiments expressed in protests in cities across the country, which are so reminiscent of previous bursts of inner-city rage—after the 1991 beating of Rodney King in L.A., or the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo in New York. But no one knows for sure how serious the problem is—now, or then—because there simply are no reliable national data on police violence in the United States. The data are lacking because police departments keep almost all those numbers to themselves, in defiance of a 20-year-old federal law—the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act—requiring the Justice Department to compile an annual report on “the use of excessive force” by police.
The story of the various failed national efforts to compile and release such data—or to obtain any reliable numbers on violence by police officers at all—is just another dimension of an issue that Monday’s grand-jury decision threw into relief: a sense that police departments across the country are simply not held accountable enough. Whatever the particular circumstances that led a grand jury to decline to indict Darren Wilson, police officers are typically given the benefits of all doubts in the use of force and are rarely prosecuted, criminologists and other experts say. And because a substantial portion of these alleged police abuses of law and justice appear to be directed against blacks and other minorities in certain communities—not the white-dominated power structure in their own communities—it rarely becomes a notable issue, at least until a Michael Brown-type killing provokes enough violence and outrage in the streets for the TV cameras to pay attention
This maybe the one bright side to the recent Sixth Circuit ruling reinstating gay marriage bans in four states. If the supreme court actually does its job, it will effectively declare all state and federal laws banning gay marriage unconstitutional thus paving the way for marriage equality across the board in America. The celebrations the religious right homophobes are certainly having now, maybe premature. Than again there’s no guarantee the Supreme court will be on the right side of history. Ian Millhiser reports.
On Thursday afternoon, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit just became the first federal appeals court in the country to side with marriage discrimination. Although the immediate effect of this court’s 2-1 decision is that marriage equality will not quickly become the law in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, the most important consequence of the Sixth Circuit’s holding is that there is now a “circuit split” on the question of whether same-sex couples must be allowed to marry under the Constitution. A circuit split, which occurs when two or more federal appeals courts disagree on the same question of law, is one of the most common reasons that the Supreme Court agrees to hear a case. Thus, the Sixth Circuit’s decision on Thursday all but guarantees that the justices will decide whether the Constitution’s promise of equality extends to gay people in all 50 states.
To date, the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits have all sided with equality, along with nearly every single federal trial judge to consider the question after the Supreme Court struck down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Moreover, the Supreme Court has stood aside and allowed the federal appeals court decisions supporting marriage equality to take effect. The momentum is clearly against discrimination, and Judge Jeffrey Sutton’s opinion for the Sixth Circuit shows a keen awareness of this fact. His decision reads like the Custer’s Last Stand of judicial opinions. In it, he tries to anticipate every single legal argument that can be raised in support of marriage equality, and then he attempts to bat it down.
People who know me know I am usually pretty calm and not prone to go on Howard Beale-esque rants about how crooked and nasty politics can be.
But after what happened this Nov. 4 I can no longer sit idly by. This years midterm elections were an appalling travesty on multiple levels. It’s not just the results themselves that upset me, but the fact those results were evocative of a hopelessly broken elitist political machine that has done little good and plenty of harm to the so-called “Greatest Country in The World” for far too long now.
It might be easy for you to sit back and dismiss my views because I am an immigrant and not a true, full blooded American but the fact is, I’ve been here for 7 years and I’ll be here for the foreseeable future. This is as much my country as it is yours and I have every right to be concerned about the direction in which it’s headed.
That said, let me break down point by point why I really hate American politics today.
The Two Party System
Because of how the American political machine is constructed, there are really only two viable parties. The Democratic and The Republican. It’s probably more difficult in the United States than any other developed country in the world to get elected as a 3rd Party candidate. Oh sure, every so often an Independent will make a few waves and win a seat or two but we have never had any viable 3rd parties in this country compared to Canada and most European nations.
Politicians and voters are expected to come down on one side or the other, with virtually no room for a middle ground. That’s not a recipe for prosperity.
Hyper partisanship/Go Team Go!
Politics should never be framed as a battle of Good vs. Evil, rather it should be more like Good vs. Good. Republicans and Democrats alike should be concerned with the well being of all Americans. Compromise should be the norm, not the exception to the rule.
When one party demonizes the other and forces people to choose sides like it’s some kind of war, nothing constructive comes of it whatsoever. And when I say nothing constructive I mean nothing legislatively. How can you be expected to compromise with the guy across the table when you utterly despise him?
Hyper partisanship means that, based on our beliefs, we are all labeled as either “Liberal” or “Conservative” and instantly profiled. That is to say that, if my views mark me as a Liberal, I instantly become not only a Liberal, but a tree hugging communist who never expects anyone to work hard for their money, smokes pot and listens to weird New Age music. If my views identify me as Conservative I am now a racist, homophobic, religious, Neo confederate redneck who loves me some guns.
Of course Americans are a diverse people and it’s absolutely ridiculous to, in the face of such diversity, adopt such a black and white approach to how people think and feel about the world.
I’ve never understood why these are necessary. They do nothing but undermine the Presidency and create legislative gridlock. Consider Obama’s Presidency:
2008-2010: Democrats control the House and Senate
2010-2014: Republicans control the House, Democrats control the Senate
2014-2016: Republicans control the House and Senate
That means that, out of an eight year, two term Presidency Obama only gets about two years to constructively get anything done. A GOP house isn’t going to do much for him and a GOP Senate on top of that now means he’s practically reduced to President-in-name-only because he might as well be powerless.
In Canada, we have an election and whoever we choose to elect gets a full four years at the helm. Now of course depending on how things go that means it can either be four hurtful years or four helpful years but regardless, it gives the ruling party time to actually enact legislation rather than be tied up in endless gridlock.
Changing things up every two years to me seems a far more costly and far less effective form of governance. How can we expect a President to effectively achieve his legislative goals if the legislature is constantly changing? It’s like if a caddie kept swapping clubs out of his golfers bag every few holes and still expected him to shoot a 67.
Not only do we have midterms every two years, but the Presidential elections are every four. I know this scheduling is written right in to the Constitution and will probably never be changed, but I still dislike it.
Having more elections and firmly scheduled elections means that politicians are constantly campaigning and never governing. An article I read a couple of days ago said that given the current political climate the 2016 Presidential campaign begins on Nov. 5, 2014.
I find that campaign timeframes in America are ridiculously long. I’ve previously stated that, in Canada, the law allows for a MAXIMUM of I think 60 days between when an election is called and when the vote is held. That means Canadian politicians spend a lot more time working and a lot less time (and money) campaigning.
This is, of course, not exclusive to America. Attack ads have been part of the political game for close to 30 years now. I find though, that since the election of Barack Obama, the amount of negative campaigning and attack ads and just plain dirty politics has increased exponentially.
I’m sure we all remember the person who snuck into a nursing home and took pictures of Thad Cochran’s ill wife during the Mississippi GOP primary. It’s bothered me for years now how much politics has become more about trashing the other guy than championing your own positions.
Sadly, I don’t see this trend changing anytime soon.
Of course, I saved the Worst for last.
I firmly believe that nothing. NOTHING has been more damaging to American politics than the Citizens United decision. Because of this, the power of government has been definitively and permanently handed over not to the American people but to the Corporations and special interest groups who are now free to spend Billions of dollars annually on politics and politicians.
What tiny bit of power the little guy had left is gone forever. Politics isn’t for you and me anymore. It’s for Company Presidents and Directors of the Board. It’s for Bankers and Investors. It’s for Real Estate Moguls and Sports Agents. It’s for “Think Tanks” and Advocacy groups.
The entire power of the U.S. political system has been given, on a silver platter even, to a very elite and very moneyed group of people who will not hesitate to use that power to further their own ends at the expense of everything and everyone else.
Now it might be easy to read all this and assume that I hate America.
But I don’t.
I want nothing more than to see growth, prosperity and liberty for ALL Americans.
I love this country. I love what America has traditionally stood for.
What I hate is what has happened to this country and how what should be the finest example of democracy in the world has turned into a crooked, corrupted, distorted cash filled trash heap with little hopes of being cleaned up anytime soon.
At the beginning of this essay I referred to Howard Beale. I think it’s safe to say given the state of politics in this country today, there’s plenty of Americans out there who have every right to be and indeed ought to be Mad as Hell.
“I’m not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it’s not science-based.”
Those were the recent words of nurse Kaci Hickox, who successfully fought Maine’s 21-day home quarantine order last week after she returned from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.
Hickox first made headlines last month after she was detained in a plastic isolation tent near the Newark airport and later transferred to Maine. The 33-year-old Hickox then defied Maine’s stay-at-home quarantine orders and went on a bike ride, prompting a showdown of sorts. Hickox’s defiance highlighted the science, fear, hysteria, and politics surrounding a disease that has no cure but just arrived to the United States—with four known cases nationwide—from Ebola-ravaged West Africa.
“We have been researching this disease for 38 years, since its first appearance in Africa. And we know how the infection is transmitted from person to person. And we know that it’s not transmitted from someone who is asymptomatic, as I am and many other aid workers will be when they return,” Hickox, who worked for Doctors Without Borders, told Meet the Press Sunday.
Hickox’s plight demonstrates the powers that health officials—from the federal level to every state—have when it comes to preventing infectious diseases. And because time is of the essence to stop an outbreak, officials don’t need a court’s authority to involuntarily confine someone. As New York attorney and CNN analyst Paul Callan described those powers, they’re “as American as apple pie” and date on the books back to the 1872 battle against yellow fever.
The president has to go to the border.
I know all the arguments against it. It’s a photo-op. It won’t help. He will get no credit—let alone any cooperation—from the vandals in the Congress for having done so. He will not even get the $3.7 billion the country needs to cope with the present crisis, let alone any movement on comprehensive immigration reform. He will get no credit for demonstrating even the outer trappings of “leadership.” The flying monkeys will howl all the louder that it is a political stunt, and that he should have done it sooner, and (in essence) that he personally should have intervened back in 2008, when lame duck C-Plus Augustus signed the well-intentioned law that is at the root of the current crisis.
Perhaps the current president should have leaped across the desk and knocked the pen from his predecessor’s hand. And, at the more shadowy end of things, I understand completely the genuine security concerns that would arise if this particular president of the United States were to show up in an area that may soon be bristling with armed yahoos. I understand all of that. I don’t care.
The president has to go to the border.
Because that’s what presidents do.
More: No Options
'My husband kills kids with drones': Michelle Obama's viral pic fuels anti-drone campaign http://t.co/bC8AmRoDuN pic.twitter.com/4CMkw8jPXa
They have retweeted this several times today already. The comparison is terrible on so many levels, not least of which is RT’s lack of coverage of Russian violence against Muslims around the world:
Thousands of Russian nationalists planned to march in Moscow on Monday in an annual show of anger against the presence of Muslim migrants that has previously spilled into violence.
The city-sanctioned demonstration was to take place through the same blue-collar region on the city’s outskirts that saw riots break out three weeks ago over a stabbing murder blamed on a citizen of Azerbaijan.
Organizers hope to bring up to 30,000 people out on the streets in a show of Slavic pride.
In many countries in Eastern Europe, current violence against Muslims is intimately linked to anti-immigrant sentiment as well as historical developments. In the Russian Federation, people from the Caucasus and Central Asia—both Russian citizens and foreigners— suffer the highest proportion of bias motivated violence.
Incidents of personal violence have in some cases been a response to the war in Chechnya and associated terrorist attacks.
At the same time, comprehensive reporting on attacks against migrants from these areas remains unavailable, as the victims tend to fear police abuse or arrest and are least likely to report bias-motivated attacks. Attacks on immigrants from these regions are generally perceived to be motivated by racism, but sometimes have an overlay of religious hatred and intolerance: many people from the Caucasus and Central Asia are Muslims. In a particularly horrific case in August 2007 that seemed to bridge these different aspects of intolerance
The mullah’s moderate approach, and the Kyrgyz migrant’s arrest on Islamist charges, suggest several clues for understanding Islam in Russia. First, we should acknowledge the constantly shifting resonance of Islam and politics in Russia. Second, along with Evangelical Christianity, Sunni Islam is one of the fastest growing religious faiths within Russia, and Muslim converts have increasingly come from ethnic backgrounds that extend beyond the “traditionally Muslim” groups of the Middle Volga, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Third, Sunni and Shia Muslims in Russia, especially (but not only) migrants, are increasingly monitored and arrested throughout the federation. Fourth, dangers of street level, haphazard Russian nationalist aggression, augmented by official policies against selected Muslims, could stoke a backfiring cycle of serious violence that could then create the very polarization and extremism that most rational government officials have been trying to avoid.
(For diverse perspectives, see also: Geraldine Fagan Believing in Russia; Hans-Georg Heinrich, Ludmilla Lobova, Alexey Malashenko, eds. Will Russia Become a Muslim Society?; Sergey Markedonov The Rise of Radical and Nonofficial Islam Groups in Russia’s Volga Region; Shireen Hunter Islam in Russia; and Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, ed. Religion and Politics in Russia.)
Some Russian nationalists argue that forceful repression of Muslims is the only way to “stem the tide” of Muslim migrants and extremism. However, street violence and official crackdowns have only exacerbated the intertwined interethnic and interreligious tensions. In 2006, in the town of Kondopoga, Karelian republic, a brawl in a café involving Chechen migrants and local Russians turned into a massive civil disturbance lasting several days, in part because of Russian nationalist calls over the Internet for reinforcements against “the Muslims.” Several other “mini-Kondopogas” ensued. The more recent, better-known Manezh Square Moscow riots in 2010 pitted Russian soccer fans and nationalists against those perceived to be from the North Caucasus after a young fan was killed by a man from Kabardino-Balkaria. In 2013, further injuries were incurred when interethnic riots broke out at the Biriulovo market on the outskirts of Moscow, with police seeming to condone Russian youth violence as they arrested many sellers from the Caucasus.
Such disturbances are sometimes fueled by Islamophobic slander against Muslims, and they have sharply increased a climate of mutual suspicion in Muslim and Russian Orthodox communities. This is the context for terrorism that has led to escalating security measures in the North Caucasus and the Middle Volga regions. Muslim youth Jihadists, termed “brothers who have gone to the forest,” are allegedly creating underground cells using impassioned Russian converts as well as local and migrant activists. The recent firebombing of four Russian Orthodox churches in the republic of Tatarstan may mark another stage in the cycle.
Muslim and Russian Orthodox elders jointly have condemned the bombing as a “provocation” to turn Tatarstan into another Chechnya. Religious leaders also worry that police overreaction may be a function of enterprising police copycat accusations of crimes or of central authorities’ quota-like expectations of arrests. Three additional terrorist bombings in the southern Russian town of Volgograd in the lead up to the Sochi Olympics have intensified everyone’s security concerns.
Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the general who ousted an elected president and is set to become Egypt’s next head of state, called on the United States to help fight terrorism to avoid the creation of new Afghanistans in the Middle East.
In his first interview with an international news organization in the run-up to the May 26-27 vote, Sisi called for the resumption of US military aid, worth $1.3 billion a year, which was partially frozen after a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
Asked what message he has for US President Barack Obama, Sisi said: “We are fighting a war against terrorism.”
“The Egyptian army is undertaking major operations in the Sinai so it is not transformed into a base for terrorism that will threaten its neighbors and make Egypt unstable. If Egypt is unstable then the entire region is unstable,” said a quietly spoken Sisi, wearing a dark civilian suit.
“We need American support to fight terrorism, we need American equipment to use to combat terrorism.”
It is possible, that Egypts actions in the last few years do not make it the most strident partner in this battle:
“The army could not have abandoned its people or there would have been a civil war and we don’t know where that would have taken us. We understand the American position. We hope that they understand ours.”
The Brotherhood was banned as a terrorist organization in December. Former president Mohamed Mursi, ousted in July after mass protests, is facing capital charges, while the group’s spiritual guide, Mohamed Badie, has been sentenced to death along with hundreds of supporters among the Brothers.