domingo, 31 de maio de 2009

Don't ask, don't tell?

The same view as Jon Stewart's, without the laughs

Op-Ed Columnist
Who Is to Blame for the Next Attack?
Published: May 31, 2009
Republicans in Congress have no plausible economic, health care or energy policies to counter the president’s. The only card left to play is 9/11.

sexta-feira, 22 de maio de 2009

Color of Change: Rush Limbaugh attacks Black folks

You won't believe what Rush Limbaugh just said. He accused President Obama of intentionally trying to wreck the economy, saying that Obama wants to put more people on welfare and food stamps, and implying that he wants to redistribute the country's wealth to Black people.1

This is not just an ugly attack on President Obama from Rush Limbaugh -- these are words from the man who is being held up as the face of the Republican Party. Virtually no Republican leaders have been willing to denounce his divisive rhetoric, or even disagree with him.2 Instead, they say he's an important part of their party, and a friend.

When Republican leaders refuse to denounce this kind of race-baiting from someone they call a leader, the message they send is that they embrace it. It's time to force Republican officials to say where they stand. Please take a moment to help us publicly confront them:

Here's what Rush said about President Obama's economic policies:

"The objective is unemployment. The objective is more food stamp benefits. The objective is more unemployment benefits. The objective is an expanding welfare state. And the objective is to take the nation's wealth and return to it to the nation's quote, "rightful owners." Think reparations. Think forced reparations here if you want to understand what actually is going on."3

It's a direct appeal to racial fear and paranoia, and it's deeply insulting to the President, to Black people, and to anyone who cares about the future of this country. We've seen this kind of thing from Rush before.4,5 But now, Republican politicians are refusing to denounce what he says, or even disagree with him. When they do, they usually take it back the next day, begging Rush to forgive them.6

Colin Powell is perhaps the only prominent Republican who has consistently stood up to Limbaugh and urged other Republicans to turn away from his divisive rhetoric. Powell recently said this: "I think what Rush does as an entertainer diminishes the party and intrudes or inserts into our public life a kind of nastiness that we would be better to do without."7

The response from Limbaugh and other Republicans? Rush repeated an old attack on Powell, accusing him of supporting Obama during the election solely based on race.8 Meanwhile, Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to attack Powell and make it clear that he stands with Rush Limbaugh when it comes to the future of the Republican Party.9

Rush speaks. Republicans in government do the work.

You might think Rush and Cheney merely represent the party's extremes, but that misses the larger context. The Republican Party has made it clear that they don't want Obama to succeed--even if it means further damage to the economy and to the lives of everyday Americans. It's evident in the 'no' votes Republican members of Congress cast against Obama's budget, the refusal of Republican governors to allow stimulus dollars to flow into their states, and their leadership's refusal to denounce the rhetoric coming from Rush and others. Rush has said clearly that he wants Obama to fail, and Republican elected officials have been clear in their actions.

Please join us in demanding that Republican leaders say publicly where they stand. Do they reject Rush Limbaugh's divisive fear-mongering, or do they stand with him? If they refuse to denounce what Rush said, they'll be making it perfectly clear what the Republican Party stands for. And we'll do our best to make sure the media tells the story.

-- James, Gabriel, William, Dani and the rest of the team
May 22nd, 2009

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1. "Rush Limbaugh: 'The Niggers Are Coming for Their Reparations!'" Jack and Jill Politics, 05-13-09

2. "The Man Who Ate the G.O.P." Vanity Fair, May 2009

3. See reference 1.

4. "Limbaugh on Obama: 'Halfrican American'," Media Matters, 01-24-07

5. The Today Show, NBC News, 05-21-07

6. "Forgive Me Rush, For I have Sinned," Talking Points Memo,

7. "Cheney backs Limbaugh over Powell on GOP future," Associated Press, 05-10-09

8. See reference 7.

9. See reference 7.

terça-feira, 12 de maio de 2009

2016 Summer Olympics as Obama Farewell Bash?

– 'W.H. lobbies for Olympics in Chicago,' by POLITICO's Kenneth P. Vogel: 'The Obama White House is playing an unprecedented role in the bid to bring the 2016 Summer Olympics to Chicago, with top adviser Valerie Jarrett spearheading an effort that draws on the international symbolism of his presidency. ... [T]he emerging effort by the White House is unusually pointed in its attempt to wrap the campaign around the president and his appealing image abroad - a strategy veteran Olympics watchers say is paying dividends and could result in an enormous hometown farewell party if Obama wins a second term. 'Without Obama in the White House, I would say there would be no chance whatsoever for the U.S. winning,' said Canadian IOC member Dick Pound. 'The United States is the only country in this race that has had an absolutely extraordinary transformational experience with the election of Obama, which weighs very heavily in its favor.' ... Obama ... has recorded two separate videos supporting the bid since his election as president, one for presentation to the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committee in Istanbul less than three weeks after defeating Republican John McCain, and a second that was shown to IOC members during a tour of Chicago last month.'

Source: Mike Allen's Politico Playbook Daily Update

quarta-feira, 6 de maio de 2009

Old news in Brazil

U.S. has a 45-year history of torture

The difference between American involvement in South American atrocities in 1964 and ‘enhanced interrogation’ now is that some modern-day officials appear proud of themselves.

By A.J. Langguth
May 3, 2009

As President Obama grapples with accusations of torture by U.S. agents, I suggest he consult the former Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle.

I first contacted Daschle in 1975, when he was an aide to Sen. James Abourezk of South Dakota, who was leading a somewhat lonely campaign against CIA abuses.

At the time, I was researching a book on the United States’ role in the spread of military dictatorships throughout Latin America. Daschle arranged for me to inspect the senator’s files, and I spent an evening reading accounts of U.S. complicity in torture. The stories came from Iran, Taiwan, Greece and, for the preceding 10 years, from Brazil and the rest of the continent’s Southern Cone.

Despite my past reporting from South Vietnam, I had been naive enough to be at first surprised and then appalled by the degree to which our country had helped to overthrow elected governments in Latin America.

Our interference, which went on for decades, was not limited to one political party. The meddling in Brazil began in earnest during the early 1960s under a Democratic administration. At that time, Washington’s alarm over Cuba was much like the more recent panic after 9/11. The Kennedy White House was determined to prevent another communist regime in the hemisphere, and Robert Kennedy, as attorney general, was taking a strong interest in several anti-communist approaches, including the Office of Public Safety.

When OPS was launched under President Eisenhower, its mission sounded benign enough — to increase the professionalism of the police of Asia, Africa and, particularly, Latin America. But its genial director, Byron Engle, was a CIA agent, and his program was part of a wider effort to identify receptive recruits among local populations.

Although Engle wanted to avoid having his unit exposed as a CIA front, in the public mind the separation was quickly blurred. Dan Mitrione, for example, a police advisor murdered by Uruguay’s left-wing Tupamaros for his role in torture in that country, was widely assumed to be a CIA agent.

When Brazil seemed to tilt leftward after President Joao Goulart assumed power in 1961, the Kennedy administration grew increasingly troubled. Robert Kennedy traveled to Brazil to tell Goulart he should dismiss two of his Cabinet members, and the office of Lincoln Gordon, John Kennedy’s ambassador to Brazil, became the hub for CIA efforts to destabilize Goulart’s government.

On March 31, 1964, encouraged by U.S. military attache Vernon Walters, Brazilian Gen. Humberto Castelo Branco rose up against Goulart. Rather than set off a civil war, Goulart chose exile in Montevideo.

Ambassador Gordon returned to a jubilant Washington, where he ran into Robert Kennedy, who was still grieving for his brother, assassinated the previous November. “Well, he got what was coming to him,” Kennedy said of Goulart. “Too bad he didn’t follow the advice we gave him when we were down there.”

The Brazilian people did not deserve what they got. The military cracked down harshly on labor unions, newspapers and student associations. The newly efficient police, drawing on training provided by the U.S., began routinely torturing political prisoners and even opened a torture school on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro to teach police sergeants how to inflict the maximum pain without killing their victims.

One torture victim was Fernando Gabeira, a young reporter for Jornal do Brasil who was recruited by a resistance movement and later arrested for his role in the 1969 kidnapping of Charles Burke Elbrick, the U.S. ambassador. (Elbrick was released after four days.) In custody, Gabeira later told me, he was tortured with electric shocks to his testicles; a fellow prisoner had his testicles nailed to a table. Still others were beaten bloody or waterboarded. When Gabeira’s captors said anything at all, they sometimes boasted about having been trained in the United States.

During the first seven years after Castelo Branco’s coup, the OPS trained 100,000 Brazilian police, including 600 who were brought to the United States. Their instruction varied. Some OPS lecturers denounced torture as inhumane and ineffectual. Others conveyed a different message. Le Van An, a student from the South Vietnamese police, later described what his instructors told him: “Despite the fact that brutal interrogation is strongly criticized by moralists,” they said, “its importance must not be denied if we want to have order and security in daily life.”

Brazil’s political prisoners never doubted that Americans were involved in the torture that proliferated in their country. On their release, they reported that they frequently had heard English-speaking men around them, foreigners who left the room while the actual torture took place. As the years passed, those torture victims say, the men with American accents became less careful and sometimes stayed on during interrogations.

One student dissident, Angela Camargo Seixas, described to me how she was beaten and had electric wires inserted into her vagina after her arrest. During her interrogations, she found that her hatred was directed less toward her countrymen than toward the North Americans. She vowed never to forgive the United States for training and equipping the Brazilian police.

Flavio Tavares Freitas, a journalist and Christian nationalist, shared that sense of outrage. When he had wires jammed in his ears, between his teeth and into his anus, he saw that the small gray generator producing the shocks had on its side the red, white and blue shield of the USAID.

Still another student leader, Jean Marc Von der Weid, told of having his penis wrapped in wires and connected to a battery-operated field telephone. Von der Weid, who had been in Brazil’s marine reserve, said he recognized the telephone as one supplied by the United States through its military assistance program.

Victims often said that their one moment of hope came when a medical doctor appeared in their cell. Now surely the torment would end. Then they found that he was only there to guarantee that they could survive another round of shocks.

CIA Director Richard Helms once tried to rebut accusations against his agency by asserting that the nation must take it on faith that the CIA was made up of “honorable men.” That was before Sen. Frank Church’s 1975 Senate hearings brought to light CIA behavior that was deeply dishonorable.

Before Brazil restored civilian government in 1985, Abourezk had managed to shut down a Texas training base notorious for teaching subversive techniques, including the making of bombs. When OPS came under attack during another flurry of bad publicity, the CIA did not fight to save it, and its funding was cut off.

Looking back, what has changed since 1975? A Brazilian truth and reconciliation commission was convened, and it documented 339 cases of government-sanctioned political assassinations. In 2002, a former labor leader and political prisoner, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was elected president of Brazil. He’s serving his second term.

Fernando Gabeira went home to publish a book about kidnapping the American ambassador and his ordeal in prison. The book became a bestseller throughout Brazil, and Gabeira was elected to the national legislature. In an election last October, he came within 1.4 percentage points of becoming the mayor of Rio de Janeiro.

But in our country, there’s been a disheartening development: In 1975, U.S. officials still felt they had to deny condoning torture. Now many of them seem to be defending torture, even boasting about it.

A.J. Langguth is the author of “Hidden Terrors: The Truth About U.S. Police Operations in Latin America.”


segunda-feira, 4 de maio de 2009

The Mellow Doctrine

Published: May 4, 2009
Foes of the United States have been disarmed by Barack Obama’s no-drama diplomacy. It is neither idealistic nor classic realpolitik.

Amazing what happens when you cast aside the testosterone.

I know bristling Dick Cheney believes America’s enemies now perceive “a weak president,” as do sundry Republican senators, but the truth is that foes of the United States have been disarmed by Barack Obama’s no-drama diplomacy.

Call it the mellow doctrine. Neither idealistic nor classic realpolitik, it involves finding strength through unconventional means: acknowledgment of the limits of American power; frankness about U.S. failings; careful listening; fear reduction; adroit deployment of the wide appeal of brand Barack Hussein Obama; and jujitsu engagement.

domingo, 3 de maio de 2009

Voices Reflect Rising Sense of Racial Optimism

Published: May 3, 2009
More Americans indicated that they were feeling optimistic about race relations, yet no one claimed that racial prejudice has disappeared.
In Tampa, Fla., Milton Patrick, 33, an auditor who is black, went to a baseball game this spring for the first time at the invitation of his white colleagues. In Karen Jackson’s multiracial Los Angeles office, where race, politics and religion were once taboo subjects, Ms. Jackson, a black woman, said people were engaging her in friendly and meaningful discussions. And in Brooklyn, Shel Harris, a black man, said he dropped his “skeptical, more on guard” attitude toward whites after working alongside so many on the Obama campaign.