Thursday, December 30, 2021

Gitmo attorney discusses representing a man at Guantanano

Many years ago I wrote a piece for Huffington reflecting on my representation of men at Gitmo. Shepard takes this to a whole new level. 

What I've Learned as a Lawyer Representing Prisoners at Guantanamo

Lieutenant Commander Shepard is a military officer and attorney in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He currently serves as a managing defense counsel with the Military Commissions Defense Organization.

In August 1944, Pvt. First Class Louis Cooperberg, a U.S. Army medic, wrote to his sister Eleanor in Brooklyn of his experience treating wounded Nazi soldiers on the front line. “I give them the same care, the same treatment I give our own boys,” Private Cooperberg wrote. “Yet all the while, I know these same men have killed my cousins and aunts and uncles in Poland, have tortured and killed without compunction, and despise me because I am a Jew. But I treat them.”

Jews under Nazi occupation were still being hunted down and murdered, yet Private Cooperberg ministered to all those in his care as equals. This ethos reflects the very best of American values: recognizing the humanity in everyone, even our enemies, and treating those in our custody with dignity and respect.

It’s worth reflecting on this ethos now 20 years after 9/11, one of the darkest days in our country’s history. Like Private Cooperberg, many Americans shone brightly after that darkness, unifying against horrendous acts of evil by coming together in ways that affirmed what our country stands for and, just as importantly, what it stands against.

But after 9/11, many others turned away from our values. Around the globe, American agents arrested men on thin allegations of terrorist activity, and secreted them away to clandestine black sites for years of torture or — to use the legally approved euphemism — enhanced interrogation. Many of those arrested eventually made their way to the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which was established 20 years ago, in January 2002.

American leaders have all too often excused our moral departures at these black sites, and in the prison at Guantánamo, as an end justifying the means. But even if one was to set aside the immorality or illegality of the means, the ends have proven both ineffective and counterproductive, pushing this country ever further down a path of forever war and incalculable loss.

And, as underscored at a recent hearing in Guantánamo, we cannot ignore the immorality. At that hearing a Pakistani man named Majid Khan, who went to high school in suburban Maryland, described the brutal beatings, forced sodomy, and other inhumane treatment he said he suffered at the hands of American interrogators: Tubes covered in hot sauce before being inserted into his nasal cavities. Repeated simulated drownings. Garden hoses forcibly inserted into his rectum.

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After hearing Mr. Khan, a jury of senior military officers condemned their government’s behavior. The handling of detainees, they wrote in a letter to the court, was a “stain on the moral fiber of America” and “should be a source of shame for the U.S. government.” They acknowledged Mr. Khan’s misdeeds — he served as a low-level operative for Al Qaeda — but found that our treatment of him was akin to the “torture performed by the most abusive regimes in modern history.”

Compare this horror with the grace of Private Cooperberg, who healed those who believed, he wrote, that he had “no right to breathe the same air as the rest of the world.” It would have been understandable had he made excuses to avoid treating wounded Nazis. Instead he saved their lives.

As a Jewish American military attorney assigned to defend some of the men we have kept in Guantánamo, I feel a strong kinship with Private Cooperberg. After all, many of the individuals I represent are alleged to have been part of Al Qaeda, an organization dedicated to attacking both America and Jews.

To be clear, my clients have not expressed antisemitism or hatred toward me. My primary client isn’t alleged to have attacked America — he’s alleged to have been tangentially involved with an attack in Indonesia — yet he was brutally tortured and has been in prison for nearly two decades. Regardless, my colleagues and I assist these men not because we support the crimes they are alleged to have committed, but because we believe that our country should hold itself to the highest standard of basic decency and human rights.

As an attorney and military officer, I am duty bound to defend my clients, a mission which our country and Constitution demand. Likewise, as a Jew, I was taught the core value of seeing humanity in all people — even enemies. And as an American, I was taught that everyone has certain unalienable rights, and that the protections of fair trialsdue process and a prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment apply regardless of the alleged crimes.

Those who seek to abrogate these rights, who take shortcuts, who bow to near-term political or ideological expediency, forget the basic tenets of what this country truly stands for, what once made us a beacon of light for those struggling around the world.

Private Cooperberg’s letter closed with a warning that the true enemy is “any people who proclaim themselves better than all other peoples, and then set out to prove it by murder and trickery and by the stupidity of those who never bothered to reason for themselves.”

As Americans, we are constantly presented with the choice of what our moral role in the world should be. We can pick a path of turpitude and compromise, choosing amoral, shortsighted means of attacking those who seek to harm us. But such choices come with consequences — they severely erode our relationships abroad, and weaken our moral core at home.

Alternatively we can choose to illuminate the many darknesses of the world with the power of our example, and reclaim the grace and humanity we find in the best efforts of the Americans who have come before us.

If we’re going to choose the latter path, we must acknowledge our mistakes, and show we can learn from them. What’s happened at Guantánamo is an example of one such error. Twenty years on it is time for us to choose how — or if — we can begin to repair the damage.

The choice is ours. But I think I know what Private Cooperberg would have us do.

Lt. Commander Aaron J. Shepard, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, United States Navy (@GTMOCatch22) is a military officer and attorney. He currently serves as a managing defense counsel with the Military Commissions Defense Organization. The views expressed do not reflect those of the Defense Department, the U.S. government or any of its agencies.[--this last part is of course unfortunate]

Monday, December 27, 2021

The Talking Dog looks back at our year.....


No one says it better than the dog...

...... What does this mean? Well, it ties in nicely with the overall theme of this blog, to wit, trying to fill some of the space left open by the mainstream media on some of the bigger issues of the day, one of which is the national security state and its war on terror, especially “Guantanamo Bay.” Obviously, one of the biggest sources of mainstream media information ever to come out about GTMO was the Wikileaks treasure trove of GTMO data. Among the curators of this data was our good friend Andy, (who testified at Assange’s hearing in London). Andy has been at the forefront of journalists throughout the world on matters GTMO, despite being an independent, not permanently attached to any major news organization. Although I am nowhere even near Andy’s league in terms of my own journalism, I have still compiled over 70 interviews on the subject (referenced here). While there are “mainstream journos” on the beat (Carol Rosenberg, now at the N.Y. Times being the first that comes to mind), for the most part, I have to say that not just GTMO, but treatment of our military’s prisoners everywhere (CIA black sites, Bagram/Kandahar, GTMO, etc.), or the drone wars, or frankly, just how wide the bloody war on terror actually is, has received a strangely limited amount of coverage from the main stream media, which as I note, has created some openings for “independents.”

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Musical Interlude

 In memory: John Lennon murdered 12/8/1980

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

THE OTHER BIG LIE --- updated

 Lindsay Graham is so tiring. He gets on the same bandwagon every time Guantanamo gets mentioned. The return to the battlefield. For those not paying attention my great senator Dick Durbin has put language in the latest defense authorization bill to close Guantanamo. Read his speech here.  The senate is discussing it now.  watch here. (at least watch the first few minutes to see the powerful video).

I did several studies of this particular issue over the years. The numbers of who went back to the battlefield were all over the place- one day 100 the next day 7 - etc. And then what qualifies as a battlefield is of course interesting - Seems writing articles criticizing the US is a battlefield.

Here is one of those articles.

and here is another.

I guess I am on the battlefield too!

Friday, December 3, 2021





Wednesday, November 24, 2021

From Roger Fitch and our friends down under at Justinian....

 After dithering for weeks, the Justice Department has indicted Trump's mate Steve Bannon for contempt of congress. Some had worried that the ever-cautious attorney general, Merrick Garland, would delay charging Bannon, or not charge him at all; after all, in October, Garland let the five-year statute of limitations run against Michael Cohen's unindicted co-conspirator in the Stormy Daniels hush-money payments: "Individual-l", one Donald Trump.

It was another Houdini escape for El Caudillo de Mar-a-Lago. The payments, clear violations of election law, were under investigation by the Federal Election Commission as Trump's term ended, but holdover Republican appointees on the evenly-divided commission engineered a case closure on technical grounds.

If scandal and disgrace fail to sink Trump or his Republican caucus, there's still a faint prospect that the  congressional insurrectionists could be expelled, as they were in 1866, and Trump himself could be disqualified (or "lustrated") from office. 

It's essential that Trump be stopped from standing again, as all the indications are that he's planning a coup in 2024; that's why so much depends upon the work of the House Select Committee that is currently investigating the unsuccessful 2020 coup attempt. 

Even as the committee was sitting, shocking new evidence emerged of Trump's efforts to cling to power, e.g, the Eastman memos, and now, the Ellis and McEntee memos. Jenna Ellis was a Trump campaign lawyer; Johnny McEntee was the 29-year-old White House personnel director who forced out Defence Secretary Mark Esper for (among other things) resisting Trump's efforts to involve the Pentagon in his Putsch.

Even with the overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing, there's little time left for house Democrats to deal with Trump. The recent Virginia state elections exposed the continuing credulity of Republican voters, a softening of Democrat support and most worryingly, 2020 Biden voters with a short memory.

In November 2022 there will be congressional elections. Inflamed by the ceaseless Stolen-Election lie and powered by gerrymanders that would make Bjelke-Petersen blush, Trump's Fox-fed Lumpenproletariat will regain control of the House of Reps and put an end to its inquiries into Trump's malefactions. 

Yet there's no lack of ongoing litigation (here's the latest list), with a fresh grand jury inquiry into the Trump Organisation. Trump remains in personal legal peril with the January 6th jailings: his aiding and abetting the Capitol occupation would be one of the easiest cases for prosecutors to prove. As well, there's the incriminating Hatch Act violations of underlings in which he's implicated.


Monday, November 22, 2021

When the FBI is claiming to be the good guy...

ALWAYS QUESTION IT.... GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — In the torturous history of the U.S. government’s black sites, the F.B.I. has long been portrayed as acting with a strong moral compass. Its agents, disgusted with the violence they saw at a secret C.I.A. prison in Thailand, walked out, enabling the bureau to later deploy “clean teams” untainted by torture to interrogate the five men accused of conspiring in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But new information that emerged this week in the Sept. 11 case undermines that F.B.I. narrative. The two intelligence agencies secretly arranged for nine F.B.I. agents to temporarily become C.I.A. operatives in the overseas prison network where the spy agency used torture to interrogate its prisoners. The once-secret program came to light in pretrial proceedings in the death penalty case. The proceedings are currently examining whether the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and his four co-defendants voluntarily confessed after years in the black site network, where detainees were waterboarded, beaten, deprived of sleep and isolated to train them to comply with their captors’ wishes. At issue is whether the military judge will exclude from the eventual trial the testimony of F.B.I. agents who questioned the defendants in 2007 at Guantánamo and also forbid the use of reports that the agents wrote about each man’s account of his role in the hijacking conspiracy. READ THE REST HERE....

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Musical Interlude

Monday, November 8, 2021

Majid Khan (continued)

I have been thinking about this alot. About the 7 members of the military jury who asked for clemency for Mr. Khan. About the one hold out. The one holdout who probably was the reason why the sentence for Mr. Khan was 26 years instead of the minimum 25 years. The holdout who could not even say that the minimum is good enough. Maybe I have been focusing too much on that one hold out. The asshole as I have been frequently describing him or her. Fortunately there are others who can get past the one hold out. Fellow Gitmo attorney Joe Margulies is one of those who looked at the more positive side of this. Call it a hope for humanity. "And that is what seven senior U.S. military officials on Majid Khan’s panel told the United States government. They didn’t use my language. They used the language of constitutional betrayal. Due process. Disregard. Affront. Justice. They used the language of national values, damning the abuse heaped upon Khan as “closer to [the] torture performed by the most abusive regimes in modern history” and “a stain on the moral fiber of America.” But most of all, they used the language of shared humanity, insisting that Khan is, and has always been, within the circle. He was “a young man reeling from the loss of his mother,” “a vulnerable target” for recruitment no different from “many others.” “He is remorseful and not a threat for future extremism.” In short, he has a past that brought him to this day and a will that can take him elsewhere. He is human. He is one of us. Seven of eight panel members, each writing in their own hand, joined the letter. The panel recommended clemency for Khan. In the law, clemency pairs with mercy and is extended in those cases that “merit an exemption from punishment.” More than eighteen years ago, Khan begged his torturers for the same mercy. They ignored him. In a courtroom in Cuba, his plea was finally heard. May we all listen." Thank you Joe. Read the rest of Joe's post here.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Sentencing of Majid Khan

Sorry -- some technical problems with the story about the sentencing of Mr. Khan. I will try to fix and get it up in the next day or so...patience.

The Talking Dog on Majid Khan's "trial"

 As I said in my post yesterday I will have more reflection on this tomorrow as I process and finish a couple of other things. However, the Talking Dog has already processed and here is what he has to say.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

This is just some of the torture my country inflicted on men at Guantanamo...

 Again from the New York Time's Carol Rosenberg:

Mr. Khan gained attention with the release of a 2014 study of the C.I.A. program by the Senate Intelligence Committee that said, after he refused to eat, his captors “infused” a purée of his lunch through his anus. The C.I.A. called it rectal refeeding. Mr. Khan called it rape.

The C.I.A. pumped water up the rectum of prisoners who would not follow a command to drink. Mr. Khan said this was done to him with “green garden hoses.”

“They connected one end to the faucet, put the other in my rectum and they turned on the water,” he said, adding that he lost control of his bowels after those episodes and, to this day, has hemorrhoids.

He spoke about failed and sadistic responses to his hunger strikes and other acts of rebellion. Medics would roughly insert a feeding tube up his nose and down his throat. He would try to bite it off and, in at least one instance, he said, a C.I.A. officer used a plunger to force food inside his stomach, a technique that caused stomach cramps and diarrhea.

The intelligence agency declined Thursday to comment on the descriptions offered in the hearing but noted that its detention and interrogation program ended in 2009.

Mr. Khan also said he received beatings while nude and spent long stretches in the dark and in chains — at times shackled to a wall and crouching “like a dog,” or with his arms extended high above his head and chained to a beam inside his cell.

Before the C.I.A. moved him from one prison to another, he said, a medic inserted an enema and then put him in a diaper held in place by duct tape so he would not need a bathroom break during flights. For one brutal transfer, he said, guards used duct tape to blindfold him. Once in his new cell, he removed the diaper but found peeling the tape off his face “especially painful because it ripped off my eyebrows and eyelashes.”

read the rest here.

Friday, October 29, 2021

musical interlude


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Happy Birthday Talking Dog....

 a mere child!

Some of us use our birthdays to do a real reflection on our lives and our world. I don't count myself in that group but I am so very grateful for my dear friend "the dog" to remind us what is really happening and what is really important.

From the dog's birthday of the plague year post (2nd edition):

Meanwhile, stuff is happening! In hobby-horse news, a GTMO detainee has prevailed in a habeas case for the first time in over a decade. This comes just as the same detainee (and another) were approved for transfer, bringing to 13 the number of men officially held at GTMO even though our government says its OK to release them. Cause for optimism, in that front. Literally 1/3 of the men at GTMO are now “cleared for release” (actual release… pending?), with 12 “eligible for [kangaroo court] military commissions” and 14 still in the “forever prisoner” category. What does this mean in the great scheme of things? Well I’ll tell you.

If we can somehow get it together and clear out and close down GTMO via some mechanism other than the natural death of the last prisoner, it will mean that our government (whichever party pulls it off) has managed to overcome the almost infinite structural obstacles to accomplishing anything constructive, particularly when there are bullshit media elements as well as presumably the Christianist elements of the military industrial complex who are standing in the way. And aside from it being morally and legally necessary to close down one of our premier symbols of “executive overreach” (by which I mean war crimes, torture, racism, etc.), it will at least take away a major “what about your red Indians” talking point by the world’s dictators, who rightly tell us to fuck off when we dare criticize their human rights records.

Read the whole bday post here.

Read the whole thing!!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Habeas WIN (not my client!) UPDATED

 Federal Judge Mehta has granted the great writ in Asadullah Haroon Gul’s case. All of the details are still classified and we will wait with baited breath to see whether Biden will do the right thing and honor the Court's decision and set Mr. Gul free -- or do as his predecessors have done and fight and appeal. But for now it is a win and for that we are all happy. One of the snags in Mr. GUl's case is that he is Afghani and it is uncertain how he could be returned to his homeland. You can read more about Mr. Gul and his case here.

And for more discussion on what this case means and what could come next read this.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

From Roger Fitch and our friends down under at Justinian

 ≈   ≈   ≈

Blowback from the "war on terror" of the early 2000s still affects the supreme court docket: one of the first cases argued in the court's new October term was that of Abu Zubaydah, the long-suffering, much-abused Guantánamo internee

Zubaydah's detention and mistreatment was one of the earliest emanations of that time when George Bush, aided and abetted by congress, effectively blew up the rule of law, and consequently, federal criminal (and sometimes civil) justice: not just through torture, but in the torture cover-up, repeatedly claiming, in shameless bad faith, the so-called state secrets privilege

The Zubaydah case, now in the supreme court, directly confronts the question, how does the privilege apply when the "state secret" - the fact that Poland assisted CIA torture - is not a secret at all

The Poles themselves have already acknowledged their participation and even paid damages to Zubaydah, in the European Court of Human Rights; however, they haven't gone so far as to give tours of the former US torture facilities, as the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan.

An amicus brief filed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism demonstrates why the case does not in fact involve state secrets, more here, oral argument here

Although the justices appeared unlikely to rule in Zubaydah's favour on the state secrets issue, they seemed genuinely astonished that the prisoner's habeas petition had not been acted upon since 2008

The court will also hear another "state secrets" case this term, involving FBI surveillance.

Nine important cases are already on the supreme court's docket for the October term, including a case in which, surprisingly, public defenders joined the enemy gun camp in opposing New York's concealed-gun regulations

Berkeley law dean Erwin Chemerinsky has a preview of the supreme court's term, and a new book warning of the right-wing court's ominous agenda; the Nation's Ely Mystal, a Harvard lawyer, also paints a bleak view of the likely regressive direction of the court's new conservative supermajority. 

Berkeley's Chemerinsky: court's ominous agenda

In its recent recess orders overturning Biden administration executive orders, so at variance with the court's deferential treatment of Trump's orders, the majority seems to be siding with Republican party policy, issuing transparently partisan decisions; so far, the court has favoured Trump executive orders 28 times compared to zero for Biden. More here

If these shadow docket decisions are any indication, Donald Trump's ideological judicial appointments portend a partisan court that will be anti-progressive, anti-regulatory and pro-corporate, a rubber stamp for Republican causes and initiatives that will last for years.

The court has also weaponised lower court orders of Trump-appointed judges, as in the case of states' meddling in immigration, here and here. The district court judges, both sitting in Texas, ruled in response to red border states who oppose the Biden administration's immigration policies, policies heretofore considered exclusively within the purview of the federal government.

This latest supreme court mischief has only increased calls for judicial reforms, including additional members for the court.


Monday, October 11, 2021

Abu Z at the Supreme Court...

 My friend the Talking Dog has posted about the oral argument at the supreme court last week.

... here is an excerpt.. 

All of which is a long-winded explanation for my fascination with the Supreme Court’s taking up this issue now, at a time when the Biden Administration (like the Obama Administration, and for that matter, Dubya’s Administration) was committed to closing GTMO “if it could.” We will doubtless pass 20 years of GTMO when the decision comes down. Will the Court actually follow the law, and, for example, conclude that holding prisoners of war from the Afghan conflict, at least those who aren’t charged with war crimes, is illegal, now that the Afghan war is finally over? Will the Court find that state secrets does not apply when something is no longer secret nor an actual matter of national security? Let’s just say that my knowledge of the subject tells me that this isn’t how you bet. This Supreme Court, one third of whom was appointed by Donald Trump, might just want to keep the GTMO/Muslim prisoner demonstration project alive and well, in case someone like Trump (or perhaps Trump himself) decides to rev it up again for use against whatever enemies of the state happen to need disappearing.


Saturday, October 2, 2021

wrongful conviction day continued

 No wrongful conviction day would be complete without this song....

Wrongful Conviction Day

 That is the thing, right. There are the wrongly convicted. We have thousands here in the U S of A. I represent a few of them- but there are not enough attorneys with the time and inclination to handle these cases - and so the wrongly convicted sit in prison - trying on there own to represent themselves. But our system is to complicated for them to be successful.

But then there are the Guantanamo prisoners. They are not wrongly convicted because they have not been convicted of anything. The vast majority have never even been charged with any criminal act. 

This is really fucked up.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Happy Belated Birthday --- Talking Dog!

 I just wasn't paying attention and just like that the 20th birthday of The Talking Dog blog passed me by. I met The Dog several years ago when he interviewed me about my Guantanamo work. Since then we have become good friends. The Dog has helped proof read many of my filings over the years and our families have become friends as well.

Twenty years with a blog is an important milestone - not many blogs out there that can meet that. The Dog's website evolved into a discourse on Guantanamo and the people involved in the litigation. It needs to be saved as a piece of history and I am very pleased that The Dog has managed to salvage the entire blog after a hassle with the previous holder of the blog.

Read The Dog's 20th anniversary post here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

From Roger Fitch and his friends down under at Justinian...

 Historians will rightly blame George Bush for many domestic effects that remained, e.g, an armaments industry in overdrive and a security state. 

Above all, there is a re-jigged justice system that has sanctioned the prosecution of combatants and militarised civilian crimes, epitomised by the extrajudicial detention at Guantánamo and "trials" in its kangaroo courts

Astonishingly, liberal democracies like Australia and Canada (and briefly, Britain and Germany) allowed their citizens to be caught up in proceedings that violated their own laws as well as American and international law. 

Zbigniew Brzezinski: father of the Afghan folly

Opportunistic, malleable, incompetent or merely dishonest, bad lawyers were at the heart of the Bush Administration's derailment of law. John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Patrick Philbin, Robert Delahunty, Timothy Flanigan, Daniel Levin, Steven Bradbury, Jim Haynes and Alberto Gonzales joined in memos that ignored the Torture and Geneva Conventions, "authorising" practices that first-year law students would recognise as illegal. 

"National Security" brought such things before. Although it's disputed, the law professor Scott Horton believes Bush's lawyers were as culpable as Hitler's Night and Fog lawyers, tried at Nuremberg in the Altstoetter case:

"Justice Department lawyers were ... charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes arising out of the issuance and implementation of the Nacht-und-Nebel [decree]. The United States charged that as lawyers ... they must have recognized that their technical justifications for avoiding the application of the Hague and Geneva Conventions were unavailing, because these conventions were 'recognized by all civilized nations, and were regarded as being declaratory of the laws and customs of war' ... the two principal Justice Department lawyers ... were convicted and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment ...This judgment clearly established the concept of liability of the authors of bureaucratic policies that breach basic rules of the Hague and Geneva Conventions for the consequences that predictably flow therefrom."  

*   *   *

While Karen Greenberg has lamented the overall damage to America's rule of law caused by the 20-year "War on Terror", others are turning their attention to righting particular terror-war wrongs, e.g, Guantánamo, its inmates and former inhabitants, and the treatment of Detainee 001, John Walker Lindt.  

Among those speaking out have been human rights lawyers, prisoner advocates and members of the Guantanamo Bar. They point out that, following the end of hostilities in Afghanistan, there's little legal basis for military detention of "law of war" prisoners, not charged with war crimes. 

Many were non-combatants, seized outside Afghanistan, and only five percent were captured by US soldiers on the battlefield. All were presumed by George Bush to be unlawful fighters, fictional "enemy combatants".

Those who were in fact belligerents were often lawful ones, e.g, the five Taliban (see below) freed by Obama in a prisoner swap in 2014. 

They were fully entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions that the Pentagon had scrupulously provided in previous wars, e.g, PoW status hearings required under the Geneva Conventions and the US Code of Military Justice. The Vietcong received these, why not the Taliban? 

Instead, officials trying to follow the law were bullied, sacked or re-assigned (see Fitch here). 

Al Jazeera and the Times have more on the sordid history and present state of the Guantánamo project.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Lest we forget....

 And now for my usual September 12th posting.  Stephen Biko was murder on September 12, 1977.

20 years. so much has changed and not for the better.

 I don't normally post on 9-11 and since I missed it I am staying true to form. I have a few comments and then I will do what I always do on 9-11 (when I don't miss it) and that is to turn this over to my good friend the talking dog- who was in NYC at the time of the attack and very close to the scene at the towers.

But first, let me just say that 9-11 brought out the worst in my country. Yes, we were attacked and it was horrible and sad. But our response was dismal. We threw away our constitution, we threw away whatever good will could have come our way if we acted with restraint and compassion. Instead we unleased a 20 year war, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people and locking up mostly innocent Muslim men so that we could claim we caught bad guys. And we knew very early on that the vast majority of those men were not terrorists but our government had to keep up the charade. We as a country did not care and things have only gotten worse. Just like having that monster trump in charge during the pandemic - we had different monsters for our 9-11 emergency- W and Cheney during our 9-11 emergency. Bad actors in charge during difficult times is not a recipe for hope. we have blown it big time and now we must wait and see if we can right the course.

So let us see what our friend the talking dog has to say--

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Welcome 2 America


Friday, August 13, 2021

From Roger Fitch and Our Friends Down under at Justinian

Struggling out of the quagmire

The Roberts Supreme Court Court and its obstructions ... Gerrymanders could see the Republicans take back the House ... Members of the "sedition caucus" to testify before January 6 committee ... Big money behind the claims of election fraud ... Trouble ahead for Trump lawyers ... Roger Fitch, Our Man in Washington, reports 

An "impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex" -  psychological assessment of Donald Trump provided to Vladimir Putin in January 2015.

"Rating Outlook is Negative ... The failure of the former president to concede the election and the events surrounding the certification of the results of the presidential election in Congress in January, have no recent parallels in other very highly rated sovereigns. The redrafting of election laws in some states could weaken the political system, increasing divergence between votes cast and party representation. These developments underline an ongoing risk of … difficulty in formulating policy and passing laws in Congress…" - Fitch Ratings, July 2021.

 *   *   *

As expected, senate Republicans filibustered the Democrats' signature voting rights act for the usual (racist) reasons, and because of their well-founded expectation that stonewalling reforms will produce enduring one-party government at the next election.

If only the Democrats could carve out an exception for the filibuster, limited to constitutional issues, but that's difficult, due to rats in Democrat ranks. 

Filibusters aside, Biden and his party - with the vice-president's vote - have a working majority in the upper house, but they suffer from two backsliders, West Virginia's plutocrat senator Joe Manchin, and the slippery Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Sinema is so conservative that an Arizona Republic writer queried why she hasn't joined the Republican Party.

Senate Democrats have additional ideas for getting voting laws through the upper house, but a determined and mischievous conservative majority on the supreme court might still strike down new voting rights laws. 

Since the ascension of Chief Justice John Roberts, the decisions of the court's right-wing majority have increasingly aligned with the agenda of the Republicans who appointed them, in "total war" on congress, evident in Brnovich v DNC, the latest judicial attack on voting rights in the supreme court. 

There's a new book out on the groundwork that the Roberts Court laid for the current Republican assault on voting rights - obstructed throughout American history by the  court - and a vast suite of civil rights laws. A Progressive writer has a damning list of the worst decisions of the Roberts Court since the chief justice's appointment in 2005. 

The supreme court has been blessing gerrymanders since at least the notorious "second" decennial Texas redistricting of 2003 (heard and decided by the court in 2006). 

That was preceded by a Texas Democrat walkout, a tactic deployed again this year. It's a shame Obama didn't act in January 2009 - the last time  Democrats had a filibuster-proof congress - to pass laws preventing such shocking gerrymanders as that of Texas in 2003. 

Now Republicans are on the brink of retaking the house of representatives through gerrymanders that the supreme court effectively approved. Only four Republican-controlled southern states are needed to do it. One hopes that Biden's AG will meanwhile vigorously enforce existing laws abandoned by Trump's AG.

The only place safe for voting rights legislation now is in the state houses, where a newly-blue Virginia has gone from nearly worst, to one of the best.


Friday, July 23, 2021

Update from detainee Nasser who was released to Morrocco and is now home with family


"I was born again on July 19. My birthday is no longer March 4. I was born yesterday on July 19." Nasser added, "I have no words to describe my overwhelming sense of happiness and joy. It is like a miracle after 20 years to be home and celebrate Eid together with my family. I want to thank everyone, all the people who worked very hard and spared no efforts to make this possible."

Abdul Latif Nasser prior to his capture (on the left), and, in the center and on the right, during his 19-year imprisonment without charge or trial at Guantánamo. Image via his lawyers at Reprieve. More on his case is available in the NPR podcast The Other Latif by Radiolab.

h/o to world can't wait for the quote and photos.