Saturday, October 27, 2007

Government Now Holding Phony Press Conferences

One can only wonder how many times this has gone on in the past......

Employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency posed as reporters and asked questions of an agency official during a press conference about the California wildfires.

With no reporters in the room, FEMA press relations staff members asked questions of Harvey Johnson, the agency's deputy administrator, that reporters had been posing to them throughout the day, Keehner said.
One staffer asked Johnson, ``Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?'' He replied, ``I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far.''

A staffer even said, ``last question,'' as if telling reporters it was time to wrap up.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Cowardly Reader Responds

I got a letter yesterday from some coward who would not even sign his own name. The person was responding to my recent profile in the Fresno Bee's opinion page. He began by saying that I was a puppet of and went on to say that I was ignorant of how much the rich actually paid in taxes. Perhaps the chart here will demonstrate that the top tax rate (represented by the purple line on the chart) has consistently fallen over the past 50 years from a high of 90% to less than half of that! The fact is that the tax burden on the wealthy is far less than it was 50 years ago. I am dumbfounded as to how any rich person can complain about today's tax structure. Also, note that the chart does not reflect the additional tax cuts for the wealthy under the Cheney administration!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Courts Now Helping FBI Hide Torture Practices

This is a disgusting little story about how an appellate court recalled a published opinion and then attempted to "recall" it to redact a portion about how we threatened a man that his family would be tortured if he did not confuse to being involved in 9/11. Turns out he was completely innocent. Ooooops!!!!! Click on the title (above) to read more detail about the court's shameless behavior.

The long and the short of it was that an Egpytian national, Abdallah Higazy, was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy's life is worth garbage at that point, but ... well, that's why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

So Higazy "confesses" and he's processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back. This is like something out of the movies. The radio belonged to the pilot, not Higazy, and Higazy was free to go, the victim of horrible timing. Higazi was innocent! He next sued the hotel and the FBI agent for coercing his confession. The bottom line in the Court of Appeals: Higazy has a case and may recover damages for this injustice.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Attorney General Just Like The Old One....

If the Democrats actually vote to confirm this schmuck, it will serve to really drive home the point that they are just really another wing of the Republican Party. What good is majority control of Congress if you continue to let people like this represent our government?

Mukasey repeatedly demurred when asked whether an interrogation technique that involves simulated drowning, known as waterboarding, constitutes torture and is therefore illegal. "I don't know what's involved in the technique," Mukasey said.

"That's a massive hedge," responded Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). "I mean, it either is or it isn't." Mukasey never directly answered the question.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto defended Mukasey, saying he "is not in a position to discuss interrogation techniques, which are necessarily classified," because he was not briefed on such programs.

Waterboarding generally involves strapping the prisoner to a hard surface, covering his face or mouth with a cloth, and pouring water over his face to create the sensation of drowning, according to human rights groups. The practice has been prosecuted as torture in U.S. military courts since the Spanish-American War.

U.S. intelligence sources have said the tactic was used by the CIA during interrogations of the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and several others.

"The United States' chief law enforcement officer should be able to say -- without hesitation -- that strapping someone to a board, stuffing a rag in his mouth, and pouring water over his head so he fears drowning is torture," Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement after Mukasey's testimony.

While Whitehouse and several other Democrats said Mukasey's new answers were disappointing, they did not indicate that they will oppose his confirmation. A committee vote on Mukasey's nomination could occur as early as next Thursday, with a full Senate confirmation vote likely by the end of the month.