Congress Supports Torture and Terror

As long as it happens to South Americans, its good for us, right?


RickB has the dirt:

here is the report:

214 Members of Congress missed the chance to stand up for human rights, justice and democracy, and voted to keep the funding for the SOA/WHINSEC flowing.

What is the SOA (emphasis mine)?

If you don’t know what SOA/WHINSEC is, basically it’s where the empire trains aligned latin nations police and military on how to torture and kill enemies to maintain imperial order:

The School of the Americas (SOA), in 2001 renamed the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,” is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.

This is brutal.  It is the politics of empire at any cost.

No party should support this, but especially not Democrats.  The DNC should withdraw all support for the traitors who voted for this.  Mask of Anarchy has a list of the Democrats who voted yes.  Why not write them a letter thanking them for doing their best to make torture a bipartisan issue.


Thompson Will Win the Republican Nod in 2008

In spite of all the attention Ron Paul has been getting online, Thompson is leading the polls.  He is even ahead of political unexploded shell Giulliani (The Liberty Papers):

Here’s the summary. Fred Thompson, who hasn’t even declared his candidacy, leads Rudy Giuliani 28% to 27%. Romney and McCain are tied at 10%. Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback get 2% each.

The top 3 candidates all have a multitude of issues that make them too much of a risk for the Republicans in 2008.  Fred Thompson has the best chance of emerging at the top of the pack come primary season.  The essence of his risk to the Democratic candidate boils down to his celebrity and the Reagan halo Republicans are certain to graft onto his spine.  Ironically, this operation was last attempted on George W Bush, the man Thompson inherits most of his political mantle from.  He has an unpopular position on the war, civil liberties, and in fact shares nearly every weakness Bush would bring to the table without the arguable benefit of the incumbency.

The fact is that Bush deserved the Reagan legacy.  His failures are a result of, not a departure from, conservative Republican politics.  Thompson would bring that same legacy to the 2008 elections.  What may seem like a canny framing to Republican strategists will prove a heavy burden to bear against a Democratic candidate in line with voters on the most pressing issues of the day.

Even some Republican candidates can see this(Raw Story):

On Tuesday, Ron Paul, a 10-term congressman from Texas and a Republican Presidential candidate, expressed serious doubts about the chances of a GOP victory in the 2008 Presidential race if the nominee is a ‘pro-war’ hawk.

“I don’t see how any Republican candidate can possibly win next year as being proponents of war and with the intention of spreading war into Iran,” he told MSNBC News. “And it looks like it’s going to happen if we don’t have a new foreign policy.

It looks like the Republicans have set themselves up to lose in 2008.

Bloomberg: You Cannot be Timid and Nonpartisan

There is some buzz around Bloomberg as a politician thanks to his departure from the Republican party to join the ranks of Independents. His talk of being “nonpartisan” is hardly anything new. But it provides some insight into one of the many problems with politics today. (Guardian, emphasis mine):

He declared his decision to drop his Republican affiliation on a campaign-style sweep through California, during which he criticised both parties in Washington for being too timid.

Recent speeches have also focused on national issues and he has repeatedly criticised the partisan politics that dominate Washington.

The politics of partisanship and the resulting inaction and excuses have paralysed decision-making, primarily at the federal level, and the big issues of the day are not being addressed, leaving our future in jeopardy,” he said on Monday at a University of Southern California conference.

There is a disconnect here. Invariably the discussion of moving beyond so called partisan politics is advocating for a very timid approach to politics. People disagree, and politicians, representing divergent viewpoints, have a responsibility to represent them. Disagreements over universal health care, the environment, or the war, are real battles that need to be fought. Clamoring for the non-partisan mantle is a rush to cave in and betray the values of the voters who put you into office. To be fierce and bold you must stand up for your beliefs.

When it comes down to it a nonpartisan approach to politics is an appeal to go with the crowd. It is the status quo over the will of the voters. At its extreme it says the single worst thing you can do as a politician is make an argument for a partisan position.

But even if there were a sense in claiming the answer is 5 when there is bickering over whether 2+2 is 4 or 6, it is anything but bold. Nonpartisan politics is the embodiment of timidity. Viewed through Bloomberg’s fractured idea of partisan politics his party switch looks less like an action of principle and more like another politician trying to be all things to all people.

Virginia: Purple and Homophobic

Virginia is a purple state. We have a Democratic governor and a Republican state legislature. We vote along the line for presidential candidates. The last election cycle indicates we are largely slipping towards the blue side of the spectrum.

Except when it comes to “those gays”. Virginia passed a measure banning same sex marriage 57% to 43%. This despite the the ban coming at the cost of protection against domestic abuse:

Attorneys at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Arnold and Porter, along with more than 200 attorneys and legal scholars around the state, have produced a 70-page memo detailing the unanticipated legal consequences of the gay marriage amendment—consequences including barring unmarried couples from the protections of state domestic-violence laws; nullifying trusts, wills, and medical directives between unmarried couples; and undermining custody and visitation agreements for children of unmarried couples. Characterizing the amendment as “the most expansive such proposal ever to have been put before the voters of any state,” the memo raises serious legal problems with its “exceedingly broad and untested language.”

That’s right, Virginia was so concerned about same sex couples having the same rights as heterosexual couples, they willingly risked domestic violence and other legal protections for all unmarried couples.


With such a stance a priority for homophobes and lobbying groups such as the Virginia Catholic leadership, is it any wonder that the direct effects of this law on homosexual couples are a joke to state officials?

So much so they are touting, touting, gym membership as a benefit! (Via Pam):

Virginia, the state where Mary, Heather and little Samuel live, has an extreme anti-gay amendment in place, and it is facing the same problem. The situation is so hostile that a f*cking meager benefit like this is being touted.

University trustees have agreed to allow the same-sex partners of faculty and students to join the university’s gyms paying a lower rate previously reserved only for married couples.

But even to do that, the agreement extends to any two people living together who share expenses.

The all inclusive wording of the new rule has been accepted by Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, although his spokesperson warned the school that McDonnell was only signing off on gym memberships and it should not interpreted as anything more.

Of course not. Don’t interpret it as any signal that there is equality under the law, or that religious hatred for homosexuals has no place dictating the rights of all citizens.

Virginia may have barely elected a Democrat to the Senate over an entrenched Republican, but Allen largely dug his own fortunes. The voters spoke loudly on an issue of civil rights and equality, and that voice was full of irrational hatred and fear. It is shameful that we as a state failed the litmus test this ballot question represented.

The stingy “benefits” being offered in the place of actual rights and protections is a slap in the face to University faculty.

We have a long way to go as a country when this is how a swing state views fundamental issues of equality, rights and justice.

Scapegoats and Taxes in Virginia

I’ve been thinking about the incoming civil traffic fines in Virginia. What appears on the surface to be another attempt by Republicans to raise taxes without appearing to do so (yes, you read that right, Republicans), it is also a telling example of scapegoating as a political tool.

Republicans in Virginia’s state legislature have an image problem when it comes to taxes, and this cuts right to their conservative credentials. After all, aren’t liberals supposed to tax and spend while conservatives cut and save? Instead you see Bush style conservatives cut and spend (hence our magnificent national deficit), and state Republicans covertly tax and overtly spend. The interplay of tax/don’t tax is a very healthy debate to have in government. It can help keep the crazier spending to a minimum, but ensure vital spending doesn’t impact the state’s fiscal health.

The attempts to hide the new taxes are not effective at all. The Distributed Republic writes on How Republicans take more of your money. The Daily Pundit notes:

Read the whole thing, and you’ll see what happens when a state legislature decides to turn the state police into tax collectors. The people who came up with this are using the old, “If you obey the law, you have nothing to fear,” canard.

That canard is very revealing. While The Morning Brew wonders if the fines will actually prevent traffic violations, that is not what they are designed to do. While talking with my friend Gene, he presented the problem of using the police to collect taxes:

If the new fines are intended as a deterrent, you will see less violations, and hence, less revenue. If they are primarily intended as a revenue vehicle, the you are in effect imposing a tax on an activity you have no intent of stopping.

Take a look at the estimates (WaPo via Metroblogging DC):

Albo and Del. Thomas D. Rust (R-Fairfax), who co-sponsored the fee legislation, project that $65 million to $120 million will be raised annually to cover costs of snow removal, pothole repair and grass-mowing. Money for Northern Virginia’s congested roads had to come from somewhere, they reasoned, and new taxes were not going to fly in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

Is this law intended to discourage people from ignoring stop signs and speeding? Or is it a hidden, calculated tax imposed by a party afraid of being branded as tax-hikers? Do you think those estimates include the number of infractions decreasing?

In order to avoid the “new taxes” problem, oily Representatives Albo and Rust have decided to hide that tax in a particular grouping of people:  Those who have broken a law.  These scapegoats are always readily at hand.  It is why the debate is framed over preventing “illegals”, rather than being about all immigration.

The state of Virginia is gouging its citizens, and making a two pointed wager:   Virginians will not care since this happens to “law-breakers”, and we will be too stupid to see this as a tax.

The only lack of vision comes from the legislators who voted for this tax increase (WaPo):

Prosecutors say that in addition to possibly handling more trials, judges might suspend fines they usually impose, knowing that a heavier civil fee awaits. The money from fines will go to county governments, which could then face a decline in revenue. Funds from the new fees will go to the state.

The increase in costs to the state could offset the projected earnings for the fines.

Fortunately some people are standing up to this:

Michael S. Davis, a veteran Fairfax defense attorney, said he plans to file a legal challenge to the fees the first time he encounters them. “If somebody from out of state does not have to pay the same price,” Davis said, “I think there’s clearly an equal-protection issue” under the U.S. Constitution.

He’ll be joined in the next election cycle by Virginia voters.