The thumbscrew society Archives

September 29, 2006

A new caucus: Dems for Torture

From J Alva Scruggs:
House and Senate Votes on Torture Bill

Senate: 12 Dems out of 65 yeas

House: 34 proud Dems out of 254 yeas

The Dems caved in a major way. They couldn't even get it together for a statement of principle.

Done Brown

I discover, to my delight, that Sherrod Brown from Ohio was one of the 34 Democrats who voted for the Torture Bill. Sherrod, you may recall, is the guy who screwed Kosnik pinup boy Paul Hackett out of a promised Senate seat. The Kosniks subsequently discovered, predictably, that Sherrod wasn't so bad. But the pro-torture vote seems to shaken even a few of these hardened crackpot realists. No doubt they'll get over it, but it's fun, for the moment, to watch 'em squirm.

September 30, 2006


Here's a quote found on the "Democratic Underground" site -- and how I wish these cadaverish liberal remnants were underground, six feet underground. The writer shares Father Smiff's dismay at Sherrod Brown voting for torture:
You go on voting for people [like Brown -- JSP] who have legitimized torture and the breakdown of our constitution, and encouraging others to vote for them too. And when the descent into fascism becomes so obvious that you can no longer pretend it isn't happening, you have no right to wonder how we got there, because you helped it happen. You are responsible.
You know, I just can't get very worked up about this issue. Who's kidding who here? It's like finally getting around to passing the Nuremberg Laws in, oh, 1944. Whenever our rulers have needed to traduce our fundemental civil rights on a mass scale, they've managed to get along pretty well before this.
  • 1942 -- Japanese-American citizen internment
  • 1919 -- Mass deportations of "undesirable" citizens, and and last but not least,
  • 1876 -- Jim Crow begins his 90-year dance.

More egomaniac assholes, please

A correspondent writes:
From, which is an otherwise standard-issue jeremiad against the Administration's policies, something only an egomaniac and asshole would dare say.

Ralph Nader:

Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.
Except, of course, when the target was...Ralph Nader. To this day the donks are still bitter about how Nader "stole" the election from your fine blog pointed out a few months back, refer to

And of course, Ralph was always the heads-in-the cloud idealist...we're long past the period where Democrats had any principles left to betray.

The only light at the end of this Bush tunnel comes from many law professors and knowledgeable members of Congress, such as Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT), who believe that when this law reaches the Supreme Court, its offending and vague provisions will be declared unconstitutional."
I figure that's what was going through the heads of all the donks that signed on to the Torture bill... just wait until 2008!
Your editor agrees, of course, with all these observations except two. I don't think the Democrats have any principles to betray, except the principle of staying employed, and I don't think they had anything in their heads when they voted on the Torture Enablement Act except staying employed.

October 17, 2006

Out-Heroding Herod

According to The Note:
Today's Wall Street Journal has a letter to the editor from House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), arguing that the Military Commissions Act is "not tough enough on terrorists because there is no certainty the act will withstand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. If the act is tied up in litigation and eventually struck down, convicted terrorists could have a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card."
Anybody get the Journal in paper or online? I'd love to see the whole thing.

October 18, 2006

Whips and chains and Hillary

J Alva Scruggs passed along this gem:

Clinton Equivocates on Torture

Despite her apparent opposition to torture, Hillary Clinton said in a Daily News editorial board meeting yesterday that the practice is acceptable in some circumstances.

Clinton got a rousing reception from the human rights community, and seemed to take an uncharacteristically bright-line stance, in a recent statement on the Senate floor during the debate over torture.... But at yesterday's Daily News editorial board meeting, it emerged that she's not actually against torture in all instances, and that her dispute with McCain and Bush is largely procedural.

She ... said that there is a place for what she called "severity," in a conversation that included mentioning waterboarding, hypothermia, and other techniques....

"I have said that those are very rare but if they occur there has to be some lawful authority for pursuing that.... There has to be some check and balance, some reporting. I don't mind if it’s reporting in a top secret context....

Now there is a perfect liberal for you. Khmer Rouge police work is fine as long as all the forms are properly filled in.

March 21, 2007

Are there no workhouses?

Do you get a litte thrill, in spite of yourself, when you read something so unselfconciously horrific it gives you vertigo??

If so, allow me to recommend this, by "a political science professor at New York University":

In 2005, there were more than 7 million poor men ages 16 to 50 in the United States, and only half of them worked at all.... Poor men want to work and succeed, yet many cannot endure the slights and disappointments that work involves.... Congress is likely to raise the minimum wage, and wage subsidies for low-skilled men could also be increased. But if low wages are not the main cause of male nonwork, these steps will change little.
Can you guess where this is going? Yep, right the first time. Here's a teaser, expressed with just the right foreboding blend of bureaucratic disassociative surface sentiment and deeply buried sadism:
A better idea is to use the child support system, which requires absent fathers to support their families, and the criminal justice system, which is supposed to supervise many ex-offenders on parole after they leave prison.
Here's what this latter-day Gradgrind looks like -- surprise, surprise:

[Broken link]

March 23, 2007

No laughing matter

The GWOT hoax has a Brit chapter a good deal deeper than the recent Boston guerilla theatre. Seems to me horribly clear, however, this one, unlike Boston, is unfolding with a rush toward a furious final judgement.

The Wash Post reports:

A man accused of conspiring to bomb London's public transport system in July 2005 told a court Monday that he deliberately made fake devices that were not meant to explode but would spread fear and panic as a protest against the invasion of Iraq.... Muktar Said Ibrahim, 29, said he learned how to make the devices on the Internet, downloading a Web video on which an Arabic-speaking man in a ski mask described how to make explosives from hydrogen peroxide, an easily obtained household chemical...."When I saw how easy it is to make the stuff, the idea came to my head that I could use it to make fake explosives," Ibrahim told jurors at London's Woolwich Crown Court.

I believe him, and he's a hero to me. Recall, this event took place just after the fatal underground bomb attack, and it surely proved the system could not foil bombers, even when on high alert Ibrahim and his group all face a sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Ibrahim, who was born in Eritrea and moved to Britain at age 13, said he was angry about the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and had attended antiwar demonstrations. Finding these had little effect, he said, he decided to take "positive action."
In a related dragnet, Brit cops arrested three more suspects in the "real thing" bombing. Apparently, the authorities are in search of higher-ups, and links to foreign terror rings, that so far have eluded their investigators. Can't get a handle on 'em, eh chaps?

Terrorizing the state security forces, by showing up their holes, is a dangerous game. I recall just a day or two after the bomb attack one Brazilian-born "underground commuter" received about 5 slugs (iirc) while lying on the floor of his ride to work, because he was "acting funny."

September 18, 2007

"What If They Came For You?"

Did you know that under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, President Bush now has the power to declare anyone he wants, including U.S. citizens, to be an "enemy combatant" -- and imprison them indefinitely without access to our court system?

Indefinite imprisonment without judicial review is unconstitutional -- and fundamentally un-American. It's a hallmark of fascist dictatorships, not constitutional democracies like ours.

Fortunately, there is movement in Congress to restore this fundamental constitutional right. Tomorrow, Monday September 17th, the Senate is expected to resume debate on the Department of Defense Authorization bill, including S.185, the Specter-Leahy amendment to restore habeas corpus. The vote on this amendment will be the first full up-or-down vote in Congress on restoring habeas corpus.


What would I do? WHAT WOULD I DO?! Long before I was hauled off, I'd write a stern email to these Vichy Democrat senators I've listed, I can assure you! And I'd forcefully CC these Vichy Democrat representatives too, yes indeed! That would do something.

A bill to authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war, and for other purposes.

Carper (D-DE), Johnson (D-SD), Landrieu (D-LA), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Lieberman (D-CT), Menendez (D-NJ), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Rockefeller (D-WV), Salazar (D-CO), Stabenow (D-MI)

For good measure, I'd scold the House Vichy Democrats who voted to renew the Patriot Act and their counterparts in the Senate to boot. Then -- and with conviction! -- I'd go to this Senate vote and this House vote, to see who voted for the first Patriot Act. Those still in office should be scolded! Oh and yeah, while I'm at it, the Vichy Democrat dudes and dudettes of the Senate and House who voted to approve Patriot 0.8 (Beta) should be scolded. Those still in office, that is. Like that dude Leahy, who's so hot and bothered now. For extra emphasis, I'd send a useless fearmongering email blast to everyone still gullible enough to think opportunistic collaborators will change their ways and I'd issue an affinity credit card, serviced by FIA Card Services, formerly MBNA, now owned by the Bank of America.

More seriously, what would I do if "they" came for me? I have no idea. Prior to that, I'd disabuse myself of as many fatuous, fairy tale, political notions as I can identify and possibly look for something more productive to do.

December 13, 2008

Now, we torture

Experience, it seems, also counts a lot in discharging the important civic functions of torture, kidnapping, and privy murder:

House Democrat urges Obama to keep Bush's intelligence chiefs

The House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat said Tuesday he has recommended that ... Obama keep the country's current national intelligence director and CIA chief in place for some time to ensure continuity in U.S. intelligence programs....

Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said he also recommended... that some parts of the CIA's controversial alternative interrogation program should be allowed to continue....

Lawmakers have battled the last two years over whether the CIA should be required to follow the Army Field Manual when conducting interrogations. The Senate Intelligence Committee, for example, approved a fiscal 2009 intelligence authorization bill with language prohibiting U.S. intelligence agencies from using any interrogation method not approved by the Field Manual.

But Reyes opposed adding such language in his panel's version of the authorization bill, which the House approved over the summer.

Recall that this is the same Reyes handpicked by Nancy Pelosi (over equally crazed Jane Harman) to head his committee after the last-but-one Most Important Election in History, the '06 midterms.

I wonder when the Obama Kids will figure out that they voted not just for Mr Clean, but for Silvestre Reyes?

February 4, 2009

Obama, the torturers' friend

This just in, from the ACLU:

Obama Endorses Bush Secrecy On Torture And Rendition (2/4/2009)

NEW YORK – After the British High Court ruled that evidence of... torture at Guantánamo Bay must remain secret because of threats made by the Bush administration to halt intelligence sharing, the Obama administration [said]: "The United States thanks the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information and preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens."

At least the ACLU reacted a little more strongly than Human Rights Watch, celebrated here recently for delicately balancing human rights with imperial security, and coming down on the side of the latter. Anthony Romero, executive director od the ACLU, said,
"Hope is flickering. The Obama administration's position is not change. It is more of the same. This represents a complete turn-around and undermining of the restoration of the rule of law. The new American administration shouldn't be complicit in hiding the abuses of its predecessors."
Hope flickering, Anthony? It was blown out a long time ago, for anybody paying attention, if indeed it was ever lit. But this is a cavil. I'm glad they at least had something sharp to say.

Oh, the ACLU also

... sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urging her to clarify the Obama administration's position [and] reject the Bush administration's policy of using false claims of national security to avoid judicial review of controversial programs.
Take that, Hillary! Flickering, indeed.

February 10, 2009


From the Wall Street Journal:

Rendition Case Under Bush Gets Obama Backing

By EVAN PEREZ WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration backed the Bush administration's arguments in a lawsuit involving the practice of seizing terror suspects abroad and sending them to third countries for questioning. The case involves five men who claim U.S. operatives abducted them and sent them to be tortured in other countries. The men are suing a unit of Boeing Co., which they say provided aircraft to the Central Intelligence Agency for the "extraordinary rendition" program. Boeing declined to comment on the case.

Monday, Justice Department lawyers told the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court in San Francisco that the government believes state secrets and national security would be put at risk if the court allows the suit to proceed. That is the same argument the department used under President George W. Bush....

While President Barack Obama has promised to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and revoke other Bush antiterror policies, he is moving more cautiously on renditions. The practice dates back at least to the Clinton administration, and Obama officials have signaled they will continue the policy....

February 21, 2009

Steady as she goes, helmsman

From Reuters:

U.S. sticks with Bush position on Bagram detainees

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Friday told a federal judge it would not deviate from the Bush administration's position that detainees held at a U.S. air base in Afghanistan have no right to sue in U.S. courts.

...[T]he new administration faced a February 20 deadline to tell U.S. District Court Judge John Bates whether it would "refine" the Bush administration's position....

Barbara Olshansky, lead counsel for three of the four detainees and a visiting professor at Stanford Law School, said she was deeply disappointed that the Obama administration had decided to "adhere to a position that has contributed to making our country a pariah around the world for its flagrant disregard of people's human rights."

She said she hoped that the Obama administration was merely signalling it was still working on its position....

Some things never change; presumably hope is one of them.

When these items come across the ticker, sometimes I like to check the response on Daily Kos -- see how the teeter-totter stands between recognition and rationalization. It's pretty evenly poised on this one. A Kosnik with the sobriquet "givenoquarter" reported the dismal news, and added:

The Muslim world will see this for what it is: hypocrisy. Fanatical Islamists like bin Laden will use this evidence that, despite all the rhetoric, Obama is just more of the same--another Christian Crusader trying to destroy Islam. And some who were on the fence will be convinced by this and join the jihadists.

Once again, the terrorists win. Somewhere in Pakistan, bin Laden is laughing.

I love the way these folks have to "frame" -- as they would say -- even their humane and human impulses in the unquestioned context of the War On Terror(tm).

Comment on this post ran, as far as I could tell, about half and half pro-con. The first comment laid out the defense case:

My sense is that in court proceedings (2+ / 0-)
any incoming administration's default position is going to be to back their predecessors' line. That will be their position unless and until they've been able to look into the matter sufficiently to develop their own position.

by brainwave on Fri Feb 20, 2009 at 09:17:33 PM PST

"Brainwave" subsequently elaborated:
In reality, though, chances are that Obama hasn't (2+ / 0-)
even appointed the person who will be in charge to hammering out the Obama administration's policy on this matter.

April 23, 2009

Torture: the Bay Area is down with it

Van Mungo passed along this delightful item:

Pelosi briefed on waterboarding in '02

Nancy Pelosi denies knowing U.S. officials used waterboarding — but GOP operatives are pointing to a 2007 Washington Post story which describes an hour-long 2002 briefing in which Pelosi was told about enhanced interrogation techniques in graphic detail.

Two unnamed officials told the paper that Pelosi, then a member of the Democratic minority, didn't raise substantial objections.

Van observes, astutely, that "Sometimes the rabid right is a good source of information about the Dems". I couldn't agree more.

May 5, 2009

A man of most excellent fancy

Here's the devilish Mr Blum on our dear uncle, Samuel T. Torture, and our latest human-rights prez -- but aren't they all?

Ahh, the anguish Obie must feel! Here's the Blumer:

We're now told that Obama and his advisers had recently been fiercely debating the question of what to do about the Bush war criminals, with Obama going one way and then another and then back again, both in private and in his public stands. One might say that he was "tortured".
Nice turn, eh?

It's a human-rights violation to make anyone president of the United States who has a living soul.

Better a pickled, salted, dried-out silver-spoon zombie decider. At least in that case there's no further spiritual damage to be done, that Mom and Pop haven't already done for him.

May 9, 2009

Surprise, surprise

From the Washpost:

Top Pelosi Aide Learned Of Waterboarding in 2003

A top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended a CIA briefing in early 2003 in which it was made clear that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were being used in the interrogation of an alleged al-Qaeda operative, according to documents the CIA released to Congress on Thursday.

Pelosi has insisted that she was not directly briefed by Bush administration officials that the practice was being actively employed. But Michael Sheehy, a top Pelosi aide, was present for a classified briefing that included Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), then the ranking minority member of the House intelligence committee, at which agency officials discussed the use of waterboarding on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida.

A Democratic source acknowledged yesterday that it is almost certain that Pelosi would have learned about the use of waterboarding from Sheehy. Pelosi herself acknowledged in a December 2007 statement that she was aware that Harman had learned of the waterboarding and had objected in a letter to the CIA's top counsel.

Fellow witnesses of the primal crime -- no wonder Jane and Nan loathe each other so much.

June 29, 2009

Obama's Island

From The Washington Post:

White House Weighs Order on Detention
Officials: Move Would Reassert Power To Hold Terror Suspects Indefinitely

Obama administration officials, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, are crafting language for an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely....

Such an order would embrace claims by former president George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war....

After months of internal debate over how to close the military facility in Cuba, White House officials are increasingly worried that reaching quick agreement with Congress on a new detention system may be impossible....

"Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order," the official said. Such an order could be rescinded and would not block later efforts to write legislation....

[S]everal officials involved said they have found themselves agreeing with conclusions reached years earlier by the Bush administration: As many as 90 detainees cannot be charged or released....

"These issues haven't morphed simply because the administration changed," said Juan Zarate, who served as Bush's deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Indeed, the "issues haven't morphed" and it's not even clear that the administration has changed.

August 29, 2010

Status Intoxication

I don't want to start one of those ghastly "failure of the Left" threads, but I want to throw something out there. And that is, the Left has nothing to offer to people whose political concerns revolve around protecting their status.

People who complain about "big government", but vote for Military Keynesians and Corporate Millenarians aren't interested in any kind of democratic control of capital. That's the last thing they want. Look at what they do. They're sending bagmen to the federal government and those bagmen do their jobs, with a vengeance. The rank and file is hanging on to its status in capitalism's race to the bottom. Without extravagant corporate entitlements and federal contracts, they're sunk and they know it.

When the Left talks about material security and economic justice, they're adding "relative to whom and not at my expense", not relative to what they have in an absolute sense. They despise and mistrust their petty nobility and its plans, and rightly so, but they have no problem with the concept of petty nobility itself. A true left wing program would mean complete upheaval in their world.

September 19, 2010

The World's Longest Bureaucratic Cover-Up

The Torygraph reports:

Benedict XVI said it was “deeply moving” to recall the sacrifices made by Britons during the Second World War and paid particular tribute to nearby Coventry, which was heavily bombed during the Battle of Britain 70 years ago.


His words were particularly significant given controversy over his own wartime record. As a 14 year-old growing up in Germany, the then Joseph Ratzinger was drafted into the Hitler Youth and later enlisted in the anti-aircraft corps.

I felt badly for all concerned when I read that. I realize there's some justice in forcing the Pope to cringe and pander. His record since his Hitler Youth days has been none too pretty. There's also some justice in his choice of pandering topic.

Basil: So! It's all forgotten now, and let's hear no more about it. So, that's two egg mayonnaise, a prawn Goebbels, a Hermann Goering, and four Colditz salads.

Basil: Is there something wrong?

Elder Herr: Will you stop talking about the war?

Basil: Me! You started it!

Elder Herr: We did not start it!

Basil: Yes you did — you invaded Poland.

A little comic relief can go a long way to easing tensions, but the essential problem remains the same. The Church hierarchy continues in its efforts to exercise a proprietary control over the religious experience and continues to act as an extension of the state, regardless of the immorality of the state's functions. There was a chance for reform when the liberation theologians were a force, but the Pope helped squash that too.

It's extraordinarily difficult to recruit for a true vocation when the institutional purpose is the preservation of the institution, and the purpose is pursued regardless of the harms that come to others. So it's something of a miracle, if you will, that there are any good priests at all.

November 21, 2010

Puff piecery

I'd like to suggest an alternative title for this CNN puff piece.

Disgraced Fraud Artist Alarms Neighborhood Revitalization Organizers

The puff piece is about this guy:

NASD Fines Hantz Financial $675,000 for Fraud, Misrepresentations Related to Undisclosed Revenue Sharing Arrangements

Washington, D.C. - NASD announced today that it has fined Michigan-based Hantz Financial Services, Inc. $675,000 for fraud and misrepresentations relating to undisclosed revenue sharing arrangements, as well as other violations. John Hantz, the firm's President, CEO, founder and primary owner, was censured and fined $25,000 for failing to supervise the firm's revenue sharing activities and suspended from acting in a supervisory capacity for 30 days.

He's taken an interest in Detroit's urban farming movement. He wants some of the action. The urban farmers are quietly trying to make something out of a city that's been beaten and left for dead by a gang of corporate psychopaths. The last thing they need is renewed attention from the rent-seeking sector.

December 12, 2011

Levin/McCain Roll Call Vote


The votes are for the 2012 war funding bill, with the Levin/McCain indefinite military detention provision, amended to give the White House discretion over US citizens.

About The thumbscrew society

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in the The thumbscrew society category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

The theory of crackpot realism is the previous category.

The Wright stuff is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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