Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Crime and Punishment: The Case Against Torture

March 31, 2009

In Spain, prosecutors are taking steps toward opening criminal investigations into six Bush-era officials to determine whether they violated international law by authorizing torture at Guantanamo Bay, reports The New York Times. The Spanish prosecutors' case is strong, say the paper's sources—especially as "crusading investigative judge" Baltasar Garzon (famous for issuing an outstanding order for the arrest of Chilean tyrant Augusto Pinochet) is on the case. Bushies under review include former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former Justice Dept. lawyer John Yoo, and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. Spain's claim of jurisdiction arises from five Spanish Gitmo prisoners who say they were tortured there. Legal experts note, however, that even if Judge Garzon issues the warrant, it would likely end up being purely symbolic, as the alleged criminals would merely have to remain in the US to avoid arrest. Nevertheless, Judge Garzon's reputation as a high-profile human rights crusader carries on.

Torture Produced No Intelligence?

For all of Dick Cheney's grumblings about the importance of "enhanced interrogation techniques," there have been few, if any, indications that it's actually produced any decent intelligence. Many intelligence experts and torture victims claim that harsh interrogations leads to false confessions and, according to a report in The Washington Post, their criticisms were accurate in the case of Abu Zubaida, an Al Qaeda member whom the Bush administration ordered waterboarded. While officials say the detainee produced useful, though mostly already known, intelligence before being tortured, after harsher interrogations he detailed a variety of terrorist plots that investigations failed to corroborate. In one case, his testimony led to the arrest of Jose Padilla, an American citizen held for more than three years by the military, accused plotting to detonate a WMD. He was never charged over the allegations, which proved dubious despite the spectacle surrounding his arrest.

Thomas R. Pickering, co-chairman of the International Crisis Group, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1989 to 1992 and William S. Sessions, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations from 1987 to 1993 suggest that America needs President Obama to name a nonpartisan commission to investigate the post-Sept. 11 policies and actions regarding the detention, treatment and transfer of security detainees. The mandate of this commission would not be to conduct a criminal investigation; that is the job of our criminal justice system. Rather, this commission would serve the vital purpose of presenting a full picture of policies and actions that followed the 2001 terrorist attacks. We must understand how we got where we are today to ensure that we correct our past mistakes and change our policies going forward.

The issue reminds me of a quote from Albus Dumbledore, penned by J. K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels. "It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities" Silverlady says, "All things in time".

Monday, March 30, 2009

Farewell John Hope Franklin

March 30, 2009

We mourn the passing of one of our nation’s most distinguished scholars, historian John Hope Franklin (March 25, 2009 age 94). His academic and civic contributions helped integrate the African-American narrative into American history – reflecting one of our nation’s most cherished goals of creating a stronger and more united America.

The author of the landmark study of African Americans, From Slavery to Freedom, Professor Franklin chaired the history departments at Brooklyn College and the University of Chicago, before becoming James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke University. The John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies and the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke remain as permanent monuments to his contributions in academia and public policy.

John Hope Franklin successfully bridged the gap between theory and practice. That was never more evident than his scholarly work on President Bill Clinton’s Task Force on Race – for which he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, his invaluable work on the history of African Americans, and his seminal research used in the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education.
Let us honor the lasting legacy of John Hope Franklin by maintaining the vibrancy of our nation through our commitment to progress and equality for all.

(Excerpts from "The Gavel" blog by Nancy Pelosi)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Special Relationship"-The Movie

March 30, 2009

It seems that I just can't stop writing about subtle politics in films as I discover them. Here's another interesting one coming up.

"Special Relationship" stars Julianne Moore as Hillary Clinton and Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton. No, the relationship in question is not that of the long married couple, but rather about then President Clinton's inappropriate relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky between 1995-97. As a result of this liasion, Clinton was threatened with impeachment and the future of his political career was uncertain.

The movie is the closing film of a political trilogy written by Peter Morgan following "The Deal" about Tony Blair's rise to power in the British Labour Party and "The Queen" which focused on the reaction of the British Royal Family to the death of Princess Diana. Filming of "Special Relationship" starts in the United Kingdom and the United States in July.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hillary the Movie

March 26, 2009

While there are some speculating about who will play the lead roles in"Obama the Movie", this week, the Supreme Court is viewing "Hilliary the Movie". The question is whether government can regulate a politically charged film as a campaign ad.

"Hilliary the Movie" is a Citizens United Productions film calling itself the "first and last word on what the Clintons want America to forget". The film presents 40 in depth interviews of people who have locked horns with the Clintons and others of note, e.g. former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, author and frequent t.v. guest commentator Ann Coulter, nationally syndicated radio host Michael Medved and former Clinton supporter Dick Morris to name a few.

David Bossie, producer, wanted to air television ads advertising the film during the 2008 Primaries. The federal courts said the ads would violate the McCain-Feingold Law , the popular name for the 2002 revisions to the nation's campaign finance laws. Judges called the movie a 90 minute political attack ad, ruling that as such, it would require financial backers to be named. The conservative group Citizens United appealed to the Supreme Court denying that the movie was a political ad. The group argued that their rights should be protected under the First Amendment as "precisely the type of uninhibited robust wide open debate and discussion the First Amendment protects and encourages". The case is Citizens United v.FEC 08-205.

Regardless of what the Supreme court decides, expect to see more politically charged movies from Citizens United. After Barack Obama secured the Democratic nomination for president, Bossie's organization came out with "Obama, the Hype Effect" and ran into the same legal problems. The group inserted free DVDs into local newspapers in Columbus (Dispatch), Cincinnati (Enquirer), Cleveland (Plain Dealer), Palm Beach, FL (Post), and Las Vegas (Review-Journal). Citizens United expects to produce 15 movies by the next presidential election in 2012. Among them, Bossie says, will be "Stimulate This", an indictment of the recently enacted economic stimulus package.

Information from Associated Press Writer Jesse J. Holland March 21, 2009 article spear headed this article. Links below offer more information on the subject:

http://www.hillarythemovie.com/ (Hillary the Movie)

http://www.citizensunited.org/ (Citizens United)

http://www.fec.gov/ (Federal Election Commission)

http://tinyurl.com/cfltxp (Background on this case)

Asleep at the Wheel

March 26, 2009

Looking back over the past decade, my conduct amazes me. I was asleep at the wheel.

I retired nine years ago and took a year off to shake off the obligations of a responsible adult. Surely I had earned time without the stress, confusion and demands of my life as a "corporate" executive. Eat, sleep, laugh, and be merry. It was a source of pleasure to forego wearing a watch...time no longer mattered. No meetings, no appointments, no deadlines at all. I spent my time concentrating on finding a residence in a new location, something in a warmer climate. Is there anywhere warmer than Las Vegas, NV? We said goodby to family and friends and headed for Sun City, my head still in the sand.

Floor tile, color schemes, and wood veneers for our new home were the focus of my attention. Lost in my own little world, I had no clue of the things taking place around me. Politics passed me by without notice. When I raised my head, George Bush was elected president. My heart was broken and I vowed to close my eyes to any and everything that had to do with him. I shut out the next four years (which unfortunately stretched into eight years). Still, I was adamant...George Bush was not my president. I took no notice of him in particular and government in general.

I raised my head eventually to listen to the Jr. Senator from Illinois as he addressed the National Democratic Convention and again when he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. That did it! My interest was piqued when he said "Yes, we can" and I studied each candidate's position on the issues. Totally engaged, I volunteered and worked at the campaign office and sat in the rain with 14,000 other supporters listening to my candidate speak. I followed the struggles along the road to the White House until the race had been run and my candidate was victorious with a 52% majority in the popular vote and more than 349 electoral votes. Barack Obama had been elected and soon would become the 44th President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world. I heard him say "I will be your president, too" to the thousands gathered in Chicago's Grant Park and I remembered all the negative feelings that washed over me after the last two presidential elections when George Bush had prevailed. I knew I'd never be caught asleep at the wheel again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Obama the Movie

March 24, 2009

Casting Call for Number 44

It was bound to happen. Yes, there's talk of an Obama movie and folks are voting on an appropriate actor to play Barack Obama. Of course, Will Smith comes to mind, but as much as I love Will, think outside the box.

There's a group petitioning that Harry Lennix play the title role. The talented actor has the background for the part having portrayed White House Chief of Staff Jim Gardner on Commander in Chief . (I enjoyed the show and actor Geena Davis as President Mackenzie Allen.) Lennix also starred as Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. in Showtime's Keep the Faith, Baby. His advocates say the Chicago native looks and sounds the part and is ready to deliver an Oscar level performance.

Check out more information about Harry Lennix at the website below:


BTW...What's a Barack Obama with his Michelle? Mentioned to play the role of the First Lady are Regina King, Kerry Washington and Theresa Randall.

What's your pleasure? Of course, the real deal is the story that the movie will tell. I'm sure we won't have long to wait.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Politics-The core of my focus

March 14, 2009

One of my great passions is my deep seated support of our nation's 44th President, Barack Obama. He takes office after 8 years of George Bush's politics and policies, as the country suffers the worse economic conditions in 80 years and wages two wars. There's more trouble in the Middle East. The housing market has crashed, Wall Street is in shambles and the poor and middle class are burdened to keep the rich getting richer. Unemployment is on the way to double digits. Health care costs continue to rise and energy and global warming are major issues which must be addressed. President Obama must wave a magic wand in his first 100 days to address and resolve all these issues or the press will crucify him (as they've already began to do even before he took office). And don't forget, he's saddled with the Conservatives, Rush Limbaugh and the Party of "No" while Bush and Company try to rewrite history and play spin doctor with the shame of their deeds.

I'll have my say in "Sweet Nothings". Welcome to my thoughts and views. Enjoy!