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Obama Administration Continues to Defend Bush Torture Policies

This is not unexpected, but still very dispiriting.

The Obama administration argued in court documents filed today that four former detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp who have sued over their treatment have no constitutional rights.

The suit was brought by four British men who say they were beaten, shackled in painful stress positions, threatened by dogs and subjected to extreme medical care during their time in the lockup at the US naval base in Cuba.

They also say they were harassed while practicing their religion, including forced shaving of their beards, banning or interrupting their prayers, denying them prayer mats and copies of the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book, and throwing a copy of the Qur’an in a toilet.

Donald Rumsfeld, war criminal

Donald Rumsfeld, war criminal

Daphne Eviatar briefly summarized the case, Rasul vs. Rumsfeld, in the Washington Independent.

According to their legal complaint, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed claim they traveled to Afghanistan in October 2001 to offer humanitarian relief to civilians. In late November, they were kidnapped by Rashid Dostum, the Uzbeki warlord and leader of the U.S.-supported Northern Alliance. He turned them over to U.S. custody – apparently for bounty money that American officials were paying for suspected terrorists. In December, without any independent evidence that the men had engaged in hostilities against the United States, U.S. officials sent them to Guantanamo Bay.

Continue reading

Unemployed Chronicles – the saga continues: a rant with sprinklings of joy

Frida Kahlo - Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

Frida Kahlo - Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (and a black PUMA too!)

Here I am – and one million apologies to my fellow Conflucians.  I’ve been a gawd-damn mess the past couple of weeks.  Our dearest Katiebird told me that everything that I’m going through healthwise is actually stress.  I didn’t follow her words – but being the enlightened sage that she is, I have to finally admit she is right.   I’ve felt defeated, depressed dehumanized and demoralized.  I’ve stayed away from writing because I don’t want to project this ickiness to everyone.  There was a particular episode that brought me to that point – but there are some warm happy highlights despite the crap that is being me right now.  Be forewarned, this a rant.  Here goes: Continue reading


Tomorrow is the 38th birthday of my youngest child…”my baby”..How he hates to hear me refer to him in that way.  It is amazing to me that time has gone by so rapidly.  At 24 I was the mother of 4 kids under the age of 5!  And to think I survived those years is amazing.

As the youngest, he was also the “feistiest” of the bunch.  You had to be if you wanted to be heard.  He spent the first 12 months basically attached to my hip while I wiped peanut butter and jelly from upturned  faces, changed diapers, loaded the washing machine,  mediated arguments, picked up toys, made beds,  read stories,  and tried to keep a semblance of order in our little corner of the world.

At 13 months he learned to escape his playpen and get out of his crib.  He was showing us early on that he was not to be restricted by boundaries, real or imagined.  He taught himself how to swim at 3 and learned to ride a two wheel bike by the age of 4.  His vocabulary mirrored mine although he spoke with a lisp and had trouble with his R’s and W’s.  “Fucky Fwied Chicken” was his special treat and he was not shy about screeching his pleasures from the top of his lungs.

He learned to read before going to school and could do his numbers and letters with ease since he copied the older kids’ work.  For awhile he insisted on wearing his red “popcorn” sweater even in the sweltering heat.    To this day there is still no adequate explanation.

He would get on his Big Wheel every morning and pay visits to the neighbors out doing yard work.  Apparently he loved nothing more than to repeat everything I said for their amusement.  In his baby world, I was without peer!

They had to drag him off me the first day of Kindergarten.    Our mutual time together had come to a fork in the road.    He and I both knew that he was no longer my “baby” but a boy on his way to adulthood where “ Mommy” was transformed into “Mom” and our roles were slowly evolving.

He played sports but was never spectacular.  He was dutiful and earnest, but he was never going to set the world on fire through athletics.  He accompanied me to polling booths and learned how to move the lever for the Democrats.    In school they wanted to move him up a grade because he was bright but I resisted since I knew he was not emotionally ready and he never knew that.  He loved to read and his favorite was the “Little House on the Prairie” set he borrowed from his sister.    He denies that today but it is a fact.

I can still see him in his soccer or baseball uniforms.  His layers of winter clothes.  His altar boy garb.  His Cub Scout attire.  His cowboy outfit and little boots.  His silly school pictures.    His Halloween costumes.  His graduation pictures.  His wedding day.  All memories tucked away in the “Randy file”.

His world was torn apart when his father left.  The grief was evident on his face.  A child of 12 whose sense of security was being yanked from his hands and out of his control had to hurt.  A wound was formed but not ever completely cauterized.    I wish I could restore that but I am unable to bring it back.

At 16 he was hired into his first job as a “bag boy” in a local market.  He learned how to manage money and saved up for his first car.  He bought his own clothes and put money away for college.  At 18 he left home and joined the ranks of many other undergrads just feeling their own way for the first time.    Weekend visits consisted mostly of laundry and time for friends.    Mom was just someone who occupied the homestead during his absence.   At 24 he left for Boston, basically never to return.  He met a nice girl from Lexington and a few years later they were married.  His home was elsewhere now and I accepted it, although bittersweet.  My son is now a Vice President of a fine company with a nice wife, children, home, friends.    And I know he is no longer mine.

It took him awhile to see that the world is not black and white but more gray than he realized.  It took him awhile to understand that life is not always played to a script but has a way of reaching out and biting you in the butt when you least expect it.  It took him awhile to understand that sacrifice has its place and having it all is just a saying.  It took him awhile.

He hates reminiscence.    Did not like to be reminded that he was once a child who did childish things.  But I could always pull from my “Randy file” the things that made him who he was and is.  He never gave me any trouble and I was always proud of him but he viewed these episodes as “sudsy”.  That is until he had his own children.

He wept the day his first daughter was born.  The weight of her melted his heart.  Her every thought, word, deed was recorded in his mind.  The reaction to his second daughter was the same.  No amount of pictures or videos was too much for him.  He dotes!

On his 38th birthday I wish him to be able to live to see a healthy 100!  Gathering and filing the data that is his life.  His children, his grandchildren, his dreams fulfilled!    And though I will not be here to continue the “Randy file” that started on the day of his birth, it will always be a part of who he is and what he has become.Happy Birthday, my once little boy!    My heart is full.

Obama: Financial Crisis is all about me.

Yesterday at Obama’s appearance before the Business Roundtable (h/t msclutterbuck in comments),

Richard Parsons, chairman of beleaguered Citigroup Inc., asked if Obama could offer some help in a national battle “between confidence and fear.”

“A smidgen of good news and suddenly everything is doing great. A little bit of bad news and ooohh , we’re down on the dumps,” Obama said. “And I am obviously an object of this constantly varying assessment. I am the object in chief of this varying assessment.”

“I don’t think things are ever as good as they say, or ever as bad as they say,” Obama added. “Things two years ago were not as good as we thought because there were a lot of underlying weaknesses in the economy. They’re not as bad as we think they are now.”

Oh really? Does Dear Leader know about the Obamavilles popping up around the country?

Tent city, Sacramento, CA

Tent city, Sacramento, CA

The sea of tents along Sacramento’s American River is growing by the day. Newcomers just pick a spot and prop up a tent.

“Anywhere from 20 to 50 people a-week are showing up out here that just became homeless,” said one resident.

Does he know that people in Elkart, IN have been reduced to begging for food handouts?

Canned tomatoes for the hungry in Elkhart

Canned tomatoes for the hungry in Elkhart

Roughly 1,600 familes picked up food and other items sent by a charity to economically distressed Elkhart, Ind., which has an unemployment rate of 18.3 percent.

The 13 semitrailers that came to Elkhart carried more than $2.1 million worth of food, enough to help sustain about 5,200 families for a week. In addition to those who picked up supplies Tuesday, Feed the Children arranged for shipments to 3,600 northern Indiana families.

So no, Barack, it really isn’t all about you.

Meanwhile, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner is heading a staff of one and quite a few people are asking why Obama isn’t finding him any help.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is supposed to have 17 top deputies helping him run his massive department. But none have been confirmed [1].

“The secretary of the treasury is sitting there without a deputy, without any undersecretaries, without any, as far as I know, assistant secretaries responsible in substantive areas at a time of very severe crisis,” is how President Barack Obama’s economic adviser and former Fed chairman Paul Volcker put it a couple weeks ago [1]. He called it a “shameful” state of affairs.

To hear Treasury officials tell it [2], there’s no problem. Geithner hasn’t been short on new plans or new billions for the financial sector in his first weeks on the job, they say. And he still has time for his morning workout [3].

Well thank goodness Timmy can still find time for his morning workout. Maybe he and Barack should get together at the gym and come up with some names for those Treasury appointments? After all, even after they are chosen, they have to be confirmed by the Senate. And maybe they should try finding some nominees who weren’t in on causing the financial crisis in the first place–that might cut down on the vetting problems.

Frankly, I find it embarrassing that the U.S. response to the global crisis is becoming a laughing stock among financial experts. And why aren’t the phones being answered at Treasury? The Brits have been complaining about this for awhile now.

Check out this rant from Willem Buiter’s blog at the Financial Times.

Since the Obama administration took over on January 20, the US Treasury has effectively been out to lunch. As widely reported (see e.g. this account in the Financial Times), Sir Gus O’Donnell (as cabinet secretary the top UK civil servant) has attacked the “absolute madness’ of the US spoils system, where a new Federal administration replaces the entire top stratum of the civil service with new officials possessing the right political connections and leanings. Quite a few of these top officials need to be confirmed before they can start working. This can take months. Many of the new officials have no political, government or administrative experience and spend most of their first months in office trying to figure out where the washroom is instead of designing and implementing policy.

Buiter says the “spoils system” in the U.S. government which allows officials to appoint their unqualified cronies to positions that require real expertise has led to the “emasculation of US macroecononomic policy making.”

The price of the US spoils system has been high, if the quality of economic policy making in Washington DC by the Obama administration is anything to go by. The Obama administration’s handling of the financial crisis and the recession-verging-on-depression has been surprisingly fumbling and kak-handed. The economic team should have hit the ground running following a lengthy transition period and the appointment to the top positions of experienced economic policy makers like Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, Peter Orszag and Paul Volcker. But there is little evidence of coherent teamwork. Instead we are treated to repeated examples of the Unfinished Symphony (Geithner) or of A Night at the Improv (Summers).

In the US Treasury, Timothy Geithner has come up with a number of half-baked plans, under the grand umbrella of the Financial Stability Plan of February 10. These plans are not worked out to the point that they can even be evaluated properly, they are not costed properly and, except for the money left from the TARP and the funds approved by the Congress for the US$ 787 bn fiscal stimulus plan, they are not funded.

That the half-worked-out fiscal-financial rescue plans of the US government are not funded is due to a deeper flaw in the US political economy than the spoils system. It reflects the extreme polarisation of American society and of the polity. This may have started as early as the Vietnam War years, accelerated during the Reagan administrations and exploded during the George W. Bush administrations. Almost any departure from the status-quo is subject to de-facto veto from some well-organised and well-funded special interest coalition. During times of war and economic crisis, policy paralysis is costly.

But the fact that the economic plans of the administration are only half worked out is due to the fact that, except for the Treasury Secretary himself, the entire top of the Treasury is vacant. it is even possible that Geithner has to make his own coffee, a task normally delegated to a Deputy Secretary. This is an insane situation that no self-respecting country should allow to continue.

With Geithner under-supported and over-worked, Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council, has jumped into the macroeconomic policy fray with gusto, but not, unfortunately, with the benefit and backing of careful analysis.

Whew! That’s a scathing indictment if I ever saw one! Tim Geithner’s and Larry Summers’ ears must be burning. But I suppose if Obama read it, he’d just continue to preen and think it’s all about him. But while he’s focusing on “me, me, me,” the U.S. economy is crashing and burning. Is there anyone who can talk some sense into our narcissist in chief?