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Editor, The Konformist
Thursday, Nov 19, 2009
The administration guts its own argument for 9/11 trials
By Glenn Greenwald
"What I'm absolutely clear about is that I have complete confidence in the American people and our legal traditions and the prosecutors, the tough prosecutors from New York who specialize in terrorism" -- Barack Obama, yesterday.
"Holder said five other Guantanamo detainees would be tried by military tribunals. The five include Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, who is accused of masterminding the 2000 attack on the USS Cole warship in Yemen; and Canadian Omar Khadr, accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan" -- NPR, yesterday.
"'Administration officials say they expect that as many as 40 of the 215 detainees at Guantanamo will be tried in federal court or military commissions . . . . and about 75 more have been deemed too dangerous to release but cannot be prosecuted because of evidentiary issues and limits on the use of classified material' . . . If true, that means that there are 75 so-called 'Fifth Category' detainees who might be subject to indefinite detention without trial" -- The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, yesterday, quoting The Washington Post.
Can anyone reconcile Obama's homage to "our legal traditions" and his professed faith in jury trials in the New York federal courts with the reality of what his administration is doing: i.e., denying trials to a large number of detainees, either by putting them before military commissions or simply indefinitely imprisoning them without any process at all?
During his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, Eric Holder struggled all day to justify his decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial because he has no coherent principle to invoke. He can't possibly defend the sanctity of jury trials in our political system -- the most potent argument justifying what he did -- since he's the same person who is simultaneously denying trials to Guantanamo detainees by sending them to military commissions and even explicitly promising that some of them will be held without charges of any kind.
Once you endorse the notion that the Government has the right to imprison people not captured on any battlefield without giving them trials -- as the Obama administration is doing explicitly and implicitly -- what convincing rationale can anyone offer to justify giving Mohammed and other 9/11 defendants a real trial in New York? If you're taking the position that military commissions and even indefinite detention are perfectly legitimate tools to imprison people -- as Holder has done -- then what is the answer to the Right's objections that Mohammed himself belongs in a military commission? If the administration believes Omar Khadr belongs in a military commission, and if they believe others can be held indefinitely without any charges, why isn't that true of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? By denying jury trials to a large number of detainees, Obama officials have completely gutted their own case for why they did the right thing in giving Mohammed a trial in New York.
Even worse, Holder was reduced to admitting -- even boasting -- that this concocted multi-tiered justice system (trials for some, commissions for others, indefinite detention for the rest) enables the Government to pick and choose what level of due process someone gets based on the Government's assessment as to where and how they're most likely to get a conviction:
Courts and commissions are both essential tools in our fight against terrorism . . . On the same day I sent these five defendants to federal court, I referred five others to be tried in military commissions. I am a prosecutor, and as a prosecutor, my top priority was simply to select the venue where the government will have the greatest opportunity to present the strongest case with the best law. . . . At the end of the day, it was clear to me that the venue in which we are most likely to obtain justice for the American people is a federal court.
Does that remotely sound like a "justice system"? If you're accused of being a Terrorist, there's not one set procedure used to determine your guilt; instead, the Government has a roving bazaar of various processes which it, in its sole discretion, picks for you based on ensuring that it will win. Even worse, Holder repeatedly assured Senators that the administration would continue to imprison 9/11 defendants even in the very unlikely case that they were acquitted, citing what they previously suggested was their Orwellian authority of so-called "post-acquittal detention powers." Is there any better definition of a "show trial" than one in which the defendant has no chance of ever being released even if acquitted, because the Government will simply thereafter assert the power to hold him indefinitely without charges?
I understand that sending even a limited number of Terrorism suspects to federal court is politically difficult and controversial, as the last couple of days have demonstrated. But by refusing to embrace and defend the core principle of justice at stake here -- that a distinguishing feature of our political system is that we don't imprison or kill people without charging them with a crime and proving their guilt in a real court, and that military commissions and indefinite detention are un-American (which Democrats argued under Bush) -- the Obama administration has made it far more difficult for it to defend what it is doing, as well as for those who want to defend their decision to give trials to 9/11 defendants.
To see how that works, here is part of the exchange I had on MSNBC this week with George Pataki, while debating trials for 9/11 defendants:
MR. GREENWALD: If you look at how the British treated the people who did the London subway bombings, the Spanish who treated the people who did the Madrid subway bombings -- even India just put on trial the sole surviving terrorist who perpetrated the Mumbai massacre last year. Even Indonesia gave trials in their real cities to the people who blew up the nightclubs in Bali.
It's only the American conservatives who are feeding the terrorist agenda by saying that we're too scared to hold trials --
MR. RATIGAN: Hold on, Glenn.
MR. PATAKI: Can I respond to that, Dylan? Only the -- only the -- only the American conservatives? Then tell me why Obama and Holder are using military tribunals against those who blow up Americans in acts of war overseas? They're just picking these particular terrorists for trial in New York because they blew up civilians in New York. So what their logic is, "Kill thousands of civilians and you can get a civilian trial; kill one or two overseas, and we're going to use military tribunals."
That makes no sense.
For those wanting to defend the administration, what's the answer to that? The same thing happened when Rep. Nadler, as part of the same segment, tried to defend the Obama administration's decision to try the 9/11 defendants in New York:
REP. NADLER: I think that our tradition is that people accused of heinous crimes get trials, and they get trials in the area in which the crime is committed, which is right here. And I think it's exactly the right thing to do. . . .That's the way it ought to be, and we ought to show the world that we adhere to our traditions of justice and that these terrorists are not going to cause us to abandon the law.
MR. PATAKI: ... We are going to use military tribunals. They're saying they're perfectly fine for some terrorists, but these terrorists they're going to try here. What's the justification for that, Jerry?
REP. NADLER: Well, I -- well, I don't think there is any justification.
MR. PATAKI: I don't either.
The administration should have the courage of its convictions and defend jury trials as a linchpin of American justice, which would entail giving them to all Terrorism suspects not captured on any battlefield. But by refusing to do so -- by exhibiting the very cowardice of which Holder accused Republicans, i.e. denying Terrorism suspects a trial -- the administration has no cogent argument to make in its own defense. It's just another case of the administration wanting to bask in the rhetorical glory of "the rule of law" while simultaneously trampling on it for petty political convenience.
Arkansas evangelist gets 175 years for child sex
Preacher Tony Alamo had been accused of getting `married' to young girls
Fri., Nov . 13, 2009
TEXARKANA, Arkansas - Evangelist Tony Alamo was sentenced Friday to 175 years in prison for taking underage girls across state lines for sex, effectively punishing him for the rest of his life for molesting children he took as "brides" in his ministry.
During Friday's hearing, some of Alamo's victims testified about how their families were destroyed while the evangelist took over their lives.
Alamo, 75, had been convicted in July on a 10-count federal indictment. U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes said Alamo used his status as father figure and pastor and threatened and threatened the girls with "the loss of their salvation."
"Mr. Alamo, one day you will face a higher a greater judge than me; may he have mercy on your soul," Barnes said.
Just before Barnes sentenced Alamo, the evangelist offered a brief statement to the court praising God then later adding:
"I'm glad I'm me and not the deceived people in the world."
Alamo's lawyers said they planned to appeal Barnes' ruling. His defense offered a doctor who said he suffered from hardening arteries, diabetes, glaucoma and other health problems. However on cross-examination the doctor acknowledged he saw Alamo only once in 2004 and that the purpose of Alamo's visit was to get an eye lift to make him appear younger.
The evangelist will stay in Texarkana pending a Jan. 13 hearing in which Barnes will decide whether Alamo's victims will get restitution from him. After that hearing, Barnes said Alamo would go to a federal prison that has hospital facilities.
A woman Alamo took as a child "bride" at age 8 challenged the evangelist from the witness stand Friday to submit himself to God's judgment. Reading from lined notebook paper, she said Alamo tore her family apart by taking her as a child bride and described how she shook uncontrollably when he first molested her.
"You preyed on innocent children," she said staring down Alamo, who wore yellow prison scrubs and a windbreaker for the hearing.
"You have the audacity to ask for mercy. What mercy did you show us?" she said.
A moment later she asked, "What kind of man of God does what you have done?"
The woman told Barnes that she planned to become an FBI agent in order to help other child sex abuse victims.
Two other child brides testified. One, who said she is now employed full-time and has a life of her own outside of the ministry, said she hoped Alamo would spend the rest of his life in jail.
"Maybe the real God, not the God you made up, will have mercy on your soul," the woman said.
Barnes said there was ample evidence that Alamo engaged in a pattern of molesting younger and younger girls in his ministry.
Alamo accused his victims of lying, as he has done throughout his prosecution.
Ford Fusion Named Motor Trend Car of the Year
Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Auto Writer
DETROIT (AP) -- The 2010 Ford Fusion was named Motor Trend magazine's car of the year Tuesday, beating out the Toyota Prius, BMW 7-Series, Chevrolet Camaro and others in the closely watched competition.
It was yet another accolade for Ford Motor Co.'s midsize sedan, which got high reliability scores in the most recent rankings from Consumer Reports and was the top-selling car made by a Detroit automaker through October. U.S. Fusion sales were up 15 percent in the first 10 months of this year, to 148,045, despite a 25 percent drop in overall car sales.
Still, the mid-size Fusion continues to lag behind the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord -- perennial leaders in the competitive U.S. mid-size market.
Motor Trend said the Fusion can compete with the Camry and Accord in performance, comfort and fuel efficiency. It praised Ford for offering several versions of the Fusion, including a fuel-efficient gas-electric hybrid and a sporty version with a V-6 engine.
"Ford has proven its resilience in these tough times by delivering to market a car with broad appeal to a broad range of consumers," Motor Trend Editor in Chief Angus MacKenzie said in a statement.
Motor Trend considered 23 new or significantly refreshed vehicles. The Fusion, introduced in the 2006 model year, was redesigned for 2010 with a new lineup of engines and transmissions, new exterior and interior and new options, including the Sync entertainment system and a blind-spot warning system.
Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of global product development, said the 2010 Fusion has a sportier look and better fuel economy than previous versions. It gets 34 miles per gallon on the highway when equipped with a four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The gas-electric hybrid version gets 41 miles per gallon in the city.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, Buick LaCrosse, Lexus HS 250h and Hyundai Genesis coupe were among the cars Motor Trend considered. The Fusion also beat out other Ford models, including the Mustang sports car and Taurus sedan.
It was the first time a Ford car had won since 2003, when the Ford Thunderbird got the honor, Kuzak said. Ford's 2009 F-150 was Motor Trend's truck of the year last fall. The Nissan GT-R was the car of the year for 2009.
"It reinforces the progress that we've made, particularly on the car side of the business," Kuzak told The Associated Press. "When people think of trucks they think Ford, but we needed to put Ford cars and crossovers in people's consideration."
Motor Trend conducts road tests on each vehicle and judges vehicles in six categories: design advancement, engineering excellence, intended function, efficiency, safety and value.
Miracle Whip joins in Stephen Colbert's mayonnaise fun
Northfield-based Kraft rolls with comic Colbert's satiric punches
By Mike Hughlett
November 13, 2009
With Miracle Whip's street cred called into question -- OK, let's assume that's possible -- the venerable sandwich spread's maker, Northfield-based Kraft Foods Inc., took to the airwaves in its defense Thursday during Stephen Colbert's show.
On Oct. 15, the late-night comedian ran a parody of a Miracle Whip ad, deriding the product as "Miracle Wimp" and extolling mayo as the condiment with "plenty of attitude."
Kraft's original ad sports a youthful, in-your-face theme, complete with a herd of 20-somethings frolicking to a distorted guitar riff. "Don't blend in, don't be ordinary, boring or bland," the ad commands. "In other words, don't be so mayo. ... We are Miracle Whip, and we will not tone it down."
So Colbert rolled-out "The Mayo-lution will not be televised," an homage to -- as he put it -- the "illest condiment in the hiz-ouse."
Kraft sensed a marketing opportunity. It booked four spots on Colbert's Thursday night show. The ad footage was the same as that parodied by Colbert, but Kraft modified the voice-overs and copy, said company spokeswoman Joyce Hodel. In other words, Kraft is running with Colbert's gag.
Lost in the mayo bashing is the fact that Kraft is also one of the country's two main mayonnaise manufacturers. What's up with that, Miracle Whipsters?
"We think there is room for both," Hodel said.
Michael Moore says Democrats' healthcare bill is giveaway to insurance industry
By Raw Story
Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
In a speech broadcast on Canadian television Tuesday, Michael Moore savaged the Democrats' healthcare bill, calling it a gift to the health insurance industry, which he argues will make $70 billion more as a result of mandated health insurance.
"The health insurance companies are going to make an extra $70 billion dollars as a result of Americans being forced to buy their health insurance," Moore quipped. "What company wouldn't love this bill?"
Moore argues that the health insurance industry isn't really upset about healthcare reform. His assertions -- which mirror those of some on the left -- highlight the challenge that Democrats in Congress face on healthcare reform. On the left, critics say that the bill doesn't go far enough in ensuring universal care; on the right, critics say the proposal will lead to a government takeover of healthcare.
"So all of the wailing that they're doing about this bill -- believe me, the health insurance companies are not that upset about it," Moore said. "In fact, they helped write this bill."
"It's not universal health care," he continued. "Thirteen million people will still not have health insurance in the United States.
"And the drug companies signed a deal with Obama to keep them out of it, because they agreed to reduce their prices by $8 billion in the first year of the healthcare bill," he asserted.
But he noted that because these companies allegedly raised prices in the last year by $10 billion, they still come out $2 billion ahead.
"When you create a society that essentially is in that state, it's very easy to run an ad on the nightly news about what a third world country Canada is, and about how people are dying on the sidewalk here because they can't get in to see the doctor," he added. "You actually believe that stuff. Because of the education you've been given, because education is such a low priority. Our schools are in such disarray. And our media doesn't do anything to help educate people in the way they need to be educated."
"It's not that you need to become more like America," Moore said. "America needs to become more like you. We need to become more Canadian-like."
"A hospital will hire a foreclosure company to go after someone's home and have them thrown out on the curb because they haven't paid the hospital bill," he added. "Something is seriously wrong with this."
New Orleans-Area Residents 'Vindicated' by Katrina Ruling Against Army Corps of Engineers
Thursday, November 19, 2009
NEW ORLEANS New Orleans-area residents have been "vindicated" after a historic ruling that found the Army Corps of Engineers negligent in failing to prevent Hurricane Katrina flooding, an attorney in the case said Thursday.
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the corps' failure to properly maintain a navigation channel led to massive flooding during Katrina in August 2005.
Lawyer Joe Bruno, who represented plaintiffs in the case against the Corps of Engineers, praised the decision and said those affected by the devastating storm have been "vindicated."
Another speaker at the news conference said residents are finally seeing justice served and vowed that the decision will stand.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval sided with five residents and one business who argued the Army Corps' shoddy oversight of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet led to the flooding of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward and neighboring St. Bernard Parish.
He said, however, that the corps couldn't be held liable for the flooding of eastern New Orleans, where one of the plaintiffs lived.
Duval awarded the plaintiffs $720,000, or about $170,000 each, but the decision could eventually make the government vulnerable to a much larger payout.
The ruling should give more than 100,000 other people, businesses and government entities a better shot at claiming billions of dollars in damages.
Bruno, one of the lead plaintiffs lawyer, said the ruling underscored the Army Corps' long history of failure to properly protect the New Orleans region.
"It's high time we look at the way these guys do business and do a full re-evaluation of the way it does business," Bruno said Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Buzkashi, Or Quidditch, Kabul-Style
"Bloody, barbaric, free-for-all," or the must-see ticket for the 2012 London Olympics? Welcome to the wonderful and frightening world of Buzkashi, a sport which, thanks to our prior scrubbing of the Taliban from Afghanistan, is now bigger than ever:
Is the world ready for a sport played with a headless goat carcass? Haji Abdul Rashid thinks it is and has big plans: corporate sponsors, television rights and beyond. "We want it to become an Olympic sport," says Rashid, who heads the Buzkashi Federation.
To understand how ambitious even crazy this is, consider the game. Buzkashi, which means "goat grabbing," is a violent sport with virtually no rules. Players, called chapandaz, gallop at breakneck speed over a dusty field, fighting over a dead animal without a head. Once dominated by powerful warlords or tribal leaders, buzkashi is attracting a new generation of businessmen who are using the game to meet contacts and get clients, explains Said Maqsud, who owns a Kabul-based security company that employs more than 1,000 people. "That is a new concept," Maqsud says. "Now businessmen like me can be involved."
Rashid knows the game needs to be standardized to export the sport, played principally in Afghanistan and some Central Asian countries. Previous efforts to impose consistent rules have gone nowhere. The game has no rounds or time limits. Galloping horses regularly spill off the field, sending terrified spectators running for safety. Some games are played with 12-man teams; others are scored individually with hundreds of horses careening around the field. "It's very violent," says Maqsud, who also has seven buzkashi horses. "Animal rights activists wouldn't like it.".
If you conclude this sport might not be right for you due to it's lack of things, like, "rules," there is a key regulation: when you're carrying the headless, 100 pound goat carcass down the field toward the circle of chalk, you may whip ONLY the horses. Because it often results in broken bones and trampling, the whipping of other players is strongly discouraged!