Archive for April, 2008

April 28, 2008

THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: ARREST BUSH

Bush Confesses to Waterboarding. Call D.C. Cops!

“Why are we talking about this in the White House?” John Ashcroft nervously asked his fellow members of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee. (The Principals were Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General Ashcroft.)

“History will not judge this kindly,” Ashcroft predicted.

“This” is torture. Against innocent people. Conducted by CIA agents and American soldiers and marines. Sanctioned by legal opinions issued by Ashcroft’s Justice Department. Directly ordered by George W. Bush.

An April 11th report by ABC News describes how CIA agents, asked by previous presidents to carry out illegal “black ops” actions (torture and killings), had become tired of getting hung out to dry whenever their dirty deeds were revealed by the press. When the Bush Administration asked the CIA to work over prisoners captured in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, Director George Tenet demanded legal cover. The Justice Department complied by issuing a classified 2002 memo, the so-called “Golden Shield,” authored by Office of Legal Counsel Jay Bybee. “Enhanced interrogation techniques”–i.e., torture–were legal, Bybee assured the CIA.

Tenet was a good boss, a CYA type. He wanted to protect his agents. So he got the Principals to personally sign off on each act of torture.

“According to a former CIA official involved in the process,” ABC reported, “CIA headquarters would receive cables from operatives in the field asking for authorization for specific techniques.” Can we beat up this guy? Can we waterboard him?

The Bushies weren’t otherwise known for dwelling on details. Osama was in Pakistan; they invaded Afghanistan instead. Two years later, he was still in Pakistan. They invaded Iraq. Bush and his top officials still found time to walk through every step of torment a detainee would suffer in some CIA dungeon halfway around the world.

“The high-level discussions about these ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were so detailed, [Bush Administration] sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed–down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic. These top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top Al Qaeda suspects–whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding, sources told ABC news.”

Bush knew.

Not only did he know, he personally approved it. He likes torture.

“Yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue,” he confirmed. “And I approved.”

When the U.S. signs a treaty, its provisions carry the full force of U.S. law. One such treaty is the U.N. Convention Against Torture, of which the U.S. is a core signatory. As Philippe Sands writes in his new book “Torture Team:” Parties to the…Convention are required to investigate any person who is alleged to have committed torture. If appropriate, they must then prosecute–or extradite the person to a place where he will be prosecuted. The Torture Convention…criminalizes any act that constitutes complicity or participation in torture. Complicity or participation could certainly be extended not only to the politicians and but also the lawyers involved…”

George W. Bush has publicly confessed that he ordered torture, thus violating the Convention Against Torture. He, Cheney, Rumseld, Rice and the other Principals must therefore be arrested and, unlike the thousands of detainees kidnapped by the U.S. since 9/11, arraigned and placed on trial.

Because the torture ordered by Bush and his cabinet directly resulted in death, they must additionally be charged with several counts of murder. Fifteen U.S. soldiers have been charged with the murders of two detainees at the U.S. airbase at Bagram, Afghanistan in 2002. They were following orders issued by their Commander-in-Chief and his Principals.

One of the Bagram victims was Dilawar, a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver. “On the day of his death,” reported The New York Times on May 22, 2005, “Dilawar had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days. A guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend…Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.”

At least four detainees have committed suicide at the torture camp created by George W. Bush after 9/11 at Guantánamo Bay. Twenty-five more made 41 unsuccessful attempts to kill themselves. The conditions of their confinement–ordered by Bush and his Principals–constitutes torture. It no doubt prompted their deaths.

If George W. Bush were an ordinary citizen, there can be little doubt that he would face a long prison sentence for the scores of acts of torture he authorized both specifically and generally. Four of the seven white hillbillies charged with the kidnap-torture of a black woman in Logan County, West Virginia are now in jail for at least the next ten years.

If Bush weren’t president, he would face murder charges. The maximum sentence in a federal murder case is death.

If Bush and his co-conspirators are not above the law, if the United States remains a nation where all citizens are equal, they must be arrested and indicted. But by whom?

The Supreme Court has never resolved the question of whether a sitting president can be arrested by civilian authorities. Even if he were charged and convicted, many legal experts say he could issue himself a pardon.

However, leaving the presidency in the hands of an self-admitted torture killer is unacceptable. Congress could ask a U.S. Marshal to arrest Bush as part of impeachment charges. But the ultimate outcome–removing him from office a few months before the end of his term–seems woefully inadequate given the nature of the charges. In any case, Democrats have already said that impeachment is “off the table.”

Bush could be extradited to one of the countries where the torture and murders were committed–such as Afghanistan or Cuba. But he could claim immunity as a head of state.

There is, however, a person who could begin holding Bush and the others accountable for their crimes.

She is Cathy L. Lanier, the 39-year-old chief of D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. Chief Lanier, take note: you have probable cause to arrest a self-confessed serial torturer and mass murderer within the borders of the District of Columbia. He resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Go get him.

History is calling, Chief Lanier. Your city, and your country, needs you.

COPYRIGHT 2008 TED RALL

April 27, 2008

Happy Earth Daze
posted by Susan Stark

This past week has been about the environment, coinciding with Earth Day on the 22nd. I was a little less than enthusiastic.

Unfortunately, like many holidays, this one has been compromised by those who oppose the very spirit the holiday is supposed to represent. Corporations used the event to trot out their “environmentally friendly” junk that people can whip out their credit cards for. And that includes the trotting out of ethanol and other supposedly friendly “biofuels” (never mind that biofuels cause increases in the price of food as arable land is used to grow gas). But the whole point of Earth Day is not to “buy” environmental products.

The whole point of environmentalism is to consume less. That is, to decrease your energy and material footprint on the planet, thus reducing global warming and the overconsumption of natural resources.

In the so-called developed world, especially in the US, this is not always easy to do. But it’s possible. You can start by doing this:

1) To decrease your energy footprint, make it a rule in your household that the last one leaving a room must turn off the lights and other appliances being used.

2) To decrease your energy footprint, install night-lights in the hallways so you can see without having to turn on the over-head lights. Night-lights use less energy.

3) To decrease your energy footprint, unplug ALL appliances in the household when they are not being directly used. All of them. Many appliances, such as a stereo or cable/satellite box, use energy even when not turned on.

4) To decrease your energy footprint, find out if there are any public transportation facilities where you live (train or bus), and use them as much as possible. Even out in the country, there may be a county bus system you can use.

5) To decrease your energy footprint, use a scooter, bicycle, moped, or your own two feet to get around instead of lazily using the car to go to the corner store or anywhere else nearby.

6) If you have a gas-guzzling automobile, go online or check around to see if you can have your vehicle modified so that it uses less gas per mile. Needless to say, this will decrease your energy footprint dramatically.

7) To decrease your energy footprint in the summertime, use a fan instead of air-conditioning. A fan uses less energy than the other. Also, take cool showers instead of hot showers. Not only do cool showers keep you cool, they also use less energy than hot showers. And, if it is REALLY HOT, take a t-shirt, run it under cold water, wring out the excess water, and put it on. This will keep you cool for hours. You can also wet your hair to keep you cool.

8) To decrease your energy footprint in winter, shut down the heat when there will be no one in the house or apartment. If you worry about pipes freezing, see what you can do to prevent this. If you want plants in the household that don’t die without heat, get plants like small cedars or spruce trees or any other type of evergreen plant. When there are people in the house or apartment, bundle up as much as possible and keep the heat on low. To keep cold air outside and warm air inside, put duct tape or weather stripping on the cracks of your windows and on the doors that you don’t use very often.



Reducing Waste:


1) If there is any item in your possession that you have no use for anymore, but can still be used by someone else, do not throw it away. Either give it or sell it to someone you know who wants or needs it, such as a friend, co-worker, family member, or neighbor.

2) There is website you can go to that can help you reduce waste:

http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites.html

At this site, you can post one or more items that you are either selling or giving away. You can also obtain items that others are selling or giving away. Here is another extemely useful website you can use:

http://www.freecycle.org

At Freecycle, you can give or obtain items, but only for free. Hence the name “Freecycle”.

3) You can do the traditional method of decreasing waste, and that is to give items to your local charitable organizations (Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc.).

4) If you have electronic appliances that no longer work, you can recycle these:

http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/recycle/ecycling/donate.htm

You can also do a google search on where you take e-waste to in your local area.

5) Finally, when you buy anything, try to buy it used. As much as possible.

6) And most finally, when considering buying an item (like a video game) or a service (like cable tv) of any kind, ask yourself, do I really need this crap?

April 27, 2008

Cartoon for April 28

Actress/singer Miley Cyrus–the “Miley” is short for “Smiley” (yes, really)–has just signed a book deal. For her memoirs. She’s 15.

April 25, 2008

Cartoon for April 26

I was reading recently about the typical pattern of an abusive relationship. Then I realized that it seemed terribly familiar.

April 24, 2008

Cartoon for April 24

Sorry for the late posting of this cartoon. Technical BS and all that.

I don’t expect most people to understand this one; it’s a satire of art comix (the kind that appear in the NY Times Sunday Magazine) where nothing much happens and the characters are all sad and lonely. Which is pretty much the state of mind of Bush as he dreams of a time when he’ll finally get more quality time with his beloved.

April 24, 2008

Ted Rall Interviewed (in English and French)

There’s a lengthy interview with me at a French comics website BDtheque, both in English and in French. Check out the English language version here. The French language version is ici. (“B.D.” stands for “Bande Désinée” in French, which means comics.)

Among the highlights of this interview are shots of the cover of the new French edition of “La Route de la Soie en Lambeaux” (that’s “Silk Road to Ruin” to you Murkins) and the artwork for next year’s graphic novel “The Year of Loving Dangerously.” No, I haven’t learned how to draw more realistically. The art is by Pablo J. Callejo, noted for the “Bluesman” series from NBM. It’s my story, and I wrote it.

April 22, 2008

THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: ONE NATION, UNDER A HEARTLESS GOD

Why Is America So Mean?

“The 82nd,” the man ahead of me in the security line at the Kansas City airport said. He was 64 and white, very Hank Hill and not the kind of guy you’d typically see chatting up a skinny 20-year-old Latino dude. But they were both veterans. Common ground is a given.

“I was in the 82nd too,” the kid told the old man. I looked down. The kid’s legs were gone. He was standing on metal. Implausibly and heartbreakingly, white Converses adorned the tips of his prosthetic legs. High tops.

On the other side of the metal detector, I caught up with the young vet (Iraq? Afghanistan?). HomeSec was giving him the whole treatment: arms stretched out, the wand, stern expressions and stupid questions. The wand beeped and beeped. The TSA guy scowled. “I’ve got titanium all the way up my spine,” the kid explained.

You’re kidding me, I thought. After what he’s been through. After what he’s done for his country. I wanted to scream: Bastards! You should wave him around the checkpoint. Here, sir, we’d like to offer you a seat in first class. No, no, no charge.

I bit my tongue. Here in the land of the twee and the craven, I know when to shut up. That’s what we do now. Airports are nodes of high-intensity fascism in a nation settling into authoritarianism lite. Hassle the bastards and you might end up dead. I had a flight to catch, doncha know.

Have we, at long last, any decency?

In one respect, the three remaining presidential candidates say, “Yes, we do.” They’ve promised to close Gitmo.

What ought to happen to the nearly 300 detainees is obvious. Hand each of them an apology, a bag of cash–a million bucks wouldn’t be nearly enough for what they’ve been through–and a plane ticket home. Those who can’t return to their countries of origin because their U.S.-backed dictatorships would murder them receive a penthouse suite in the U.S. city of their choice.

I’d let them switch places with their guards and 300 top-ranking members of the Bush Administration for a couple of days first. No questions asked. Just get on the plane, and don’t forget your bag o’ cash.

Anyway.

Here’s how messed up, how separated from common sense justice the United States of America has become: We might close Gitmo. But we’re keeping the inmates!

“When it comes to closing Guantánamo, talk is cheap,” Columbia law professor Matthew Waxman tells The Los Angeles Times. Because, you see, the U.S. government has violated the victims’ rights so egregiously for so long that there’s no longer a legally appropriate way to process them.

“Especially vexing,” says the paper, “are scores of foreign detainees: Officials lack evidence to prosecute, but warn against setting them free.” It’s an 800-year-old Western legal principle called habeas corpus: you can’t hold a person in custody without charging them. Oh, wait–Bush got rid of that.

“Because there is little evidence against them that could be used in a U.S. court, government officials fear that a federal judge could order them freed,” the Times continues. Heaven forbid that we release people, even if there’s no evidence they’ve done anything wrong. What’s next? Taxing the rich?

“Then you would have 100-plus future sleeper-cell members unleashed in Kansas,” a “midlevel official” told the Times. No grain silo would be safe.

Gitmo inmates have been waterboarded, urinated upon by U.S. soldiers, violently force-fed and driven to suicide. Some of the “dangerous terrorists” (John McCain’s description) were 12 years old when Afghan warlords sold them to U.S. forces for cash bounties. They’ve grown up in Gitmo. When do we finally, at long last, decide that they’ve suffered enough?

Maybe we should just shoot them.

It’s not just foreigners. Even for its own native-born wretches, America couldn’t find a path to fundamental decency if it were lit up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

In ancient Rome, executioners abided by a rule: If they failed to hack off your head after three swings of the blade, they set you free. Not here. Men condemned to lethal injection wake up screaming; the guards administer more poisons and barbiturates.

Veterinarians abandoned the three-drug cocktail used to kill inmates in most states because they considered it cruel to animals.

Many death row prisoners are innocent. Sometimes they even manage to prove it before their executions. “At least 205 men and one woman nationwide have been exonerated through DNA evidence since 1989, including 53 who…were convicted of murder,” reports The New York Times. But what happens to those who are set free?

No compensation is enough for someone who serves years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. But society ought to come up with something.

There ought to be money. Millions and millions of dollars. So much that the victim of a judicial miscarriage never has to work again. It wouldn’t bring back the lost years, the shattered relationships and murdered moments. But it would be a start.

Then again, this is America. We don’t apologize, much less try to pay penance. Here’s $24 and a cheap suit. Too bad about those 15 years. Thank you for playing. Want compensation? Find a lawyer who’ll work for $24 and sue.

Ah, but there’s a catch: you need a law under which to file a lawsuit. 36 of the 50 states have laws that specifically prevent innocent ex-prisoners from going to court to seek the damages they ought to have been given without asking. Twelve of the remaining 14 have limits. (New York and Maryland do not.) California caps total payouts at a stingy $100 a day, up to a maximum of $10,000–even if they lock you up for 20 years by mistake.

As individuals, Americans are generous to a fault. They do the right thing, or at least they try. The disconnect occurs when we express our collective will, through our courts and government officials. Our laws and our politicians are mean, cheap and callous.

COPYRIGHT 2008 TED RALL

April 21, 2008

Cartoon for April 21

Clinton and McCain pile up on Obama, accusing their fellow millionaire, for seeming “elitist.”

April 18, 2008

Cartoon for April 19

All over the country, local policemen are tracking suspects to steal their DNA. Yes, really.

April 16, 2008

Cartoon for April 17

How low can the Fed go?