CIA torture, incompetence and deceit exposed in Senate report

Guardian:

The CIA’s post-9/11 embrace of torture was brutal and ineffective – and the agency repeatedly lied about its usefulness, a milestone report by the Senate intelligence committee released on Tuesday concludes.

LA Times: torture was ineffective:

The committee’s six-year-long review of thousands of CIA documents concluded that the harsh interrogations were ineffective and that the information learned, in most cases, could have been found using other methods. The report specifically says that the harsh tactics were not necessary to obtain details that led the CIA to Osama bin Laden’s courier and ultimately to Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

No wonder the CIA was so concerned about the report they broke into the computers of Senate investigators in an effort that was as futile as their torture program. NYT:

The battle over the report’s conclusions has been waged behind closed doors for years, and provided the backdrop to the more recent fight over the C.I.A.’s penetration of a computer network used by committee staff members working on the investigation. C.I.A. officers came to suspect that the staff members had improperly obtained an internal agency review of the detention program over the course of their investigation, and that they broke into the network that had been designated for the committee’s use.

Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein, produced this report. Republicans opposed it.

It is interesting to speculate why this issue should divide along partisan lines. So have at it. :-)

How did the MA Delegation vote on the NDAA?

"Niki Tsongas (MA-03) and Stephen Lynch (MA-08) both voted YES. Richard Neal (MA-01), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Joe Kennedy (MA-04), Katherine Clark (MA-05), and Bill Keating (MA-09) all voted NO." - promoted by Bob_Neer

On Wednesday, Democrats and Republicans decided that they could stop pretending to care about deficits and pass a bunch of corporate tax breaks.(8 of the 9 representatives from MA joined, the exception being Mike Capuano who was not in attendance this past week because of his wife’s illness.)

Then on Thursday, they showed us yet again that no one cares about the deficit except when it can be used as a rhetorical tool to cut social welfare spending and passed the deficit-increasing $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The FY 2015 NDAA is filled with wonders of bipartisan legislating: prohibitions on ending unnecessary weapons programs, a maintenance of existing prohibitions on releasing/transferring those imprisoned by the US at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, more military aid for Ukraine, more military aid for the Syrian rebels, even more military aid for Israel than Obama asked for, requirements to keep nuclear weapons in “warm” status so that they can potentially be used, $63.7 billion for the Pentagon slush fund, and the sale of sacred Native American lands to a foreign mining company.

Wait, there’s a sale of sacred Native American lands in the NDAA?

Of course there is:

The defense authorization act…also included a deal to give an Australian-English mining firm 2,400 acres of federal land in Arizona that includes sites sacred to the Apache and Yavapai tribes.The firm, Rio Tinto, owns a uranium mine in Africa in which Iran owns a 15 percent stake. A bill that backers could not get through Congress was added to the must-pass NDAA negotiations between Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who both will soon retire from the Armed Services Committee chairmanships. It gives Rio Tinto, through a subsidiary called Resolution Copper, ownership of vast acreage in the Tonto National Forest to mine copper. Many believe that copper will be shipped to China, which owns 10 percent of Rio Tinto.

But don’t worry: there’s still no authorization for the US’s bombing campaign against ISIS. Money for it? Sure. But an AUMF would require debate and, well, there’s just never time.

The NDAA passed with a comfortable margin of 300 to 119.

194 Republicans and 106 Democrats voted for it. 32 Republicans and 87 Democrats voted against it.

How did our representatives from here in Massachusetts vote?

Niki Tsongas (MA-03) and Stephen Lynch (MA-08) both voted YES.

Richard Neal (MA-01), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Joe Kennedy (MA-04), Katherine Clark (MA-05), and Bill Keating (MA-09) all voted NO.

If you were to actually look for the NDAA on the House Clerk’s website, you might have trouble at first. Then you will realize that it was attached as an amendment to the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act of 2014, which passed unanimously earlier this year. Don’t you love Congress?

(Adapted from an original post on the Daily Kos)

Joke Revue: "New Proposal Would Provide Grand Juries with Eyes"

Apologies for distracting everyone from the truly hilarious prospect of a Boston 2024 bid committee that says its goal is transparency, but won’t make the terms of its bid proposal public. Still, we do our best at the Joke Revue:

Borowitz:

New Proposal Would Provide Grand Juries with Eyes

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—On the heels of an initiative to provide police departments with body cameras, there is growing support for a plan to supply grand-jury members with eyes, advocates for the plan said on Wednesday.

“Body cameras are an important part of the solution,” said Harland Dorrinson, who is lobbying Washington to equip grand juries with the sense of sight. “But I strongly believe that if you take video evidence and add eyes, the combination would be unstoppable.”

Some critics of Dorrinson’s proposal say that it does not go far enough, and that in order to process information sent from their eyes grand juries would also need to be fitted with working brains.

“Yes, in a perfect world, all grand juries would have brains,” Dorrinson said. “But progress is an incremental thing. Let’s start with eyes and eventually work our way up to brains.”

G.O.P Aide Regrets that Attack on Obama Daughters Overshadowed Insults About Their Parents

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Republican congressional aide Elizabeth Lauten said on Sunday morning that she “deeply regretted” her attack on Sasha and Malia Obama because it “completely overshadowed the vicious insults I hurled at their parents.”

Appearing on Fox News, Lauten said, “If I had to do it over again, I’d leave the girls out of it so that the horrible things I said about their parents would have had a chance to shine through. I’m kicking myself about that.” …

“If what I’ve gone through helps others to do a better job of vilifying the President and the First Lady, it will all have been worth it,” she said.

Jon Stewart on The Eric Garner grand jury decision:

Has anyone else here worked on an Olympic Bid? I have, here's five reasons Boston ain't getting the games

I'm bumping up this excellent post in light of this evening's forum on the possibility of a Boston Olympics. One of the things of which Juliette Kayyem (on behalf of Boston 2024) tried to assure the audience was that the IOC and the USOC have changed - that they realize that having only authoritarian regimes host the Olympics would be bad, so they are changing their tune in some respects. (a) I'll believe it when I see it, and (b) even if that's true, many of the concerns jconway raises here still apply. - promoted by david

I did, for Chicago 2016 during my Mayoral Fellowship back in 2009. I rarely like to toot my own horn, but it was one of the most educating experiences I’ve had in my 25 years. Certainly one of the best public policy lessons.

So keep in mind five things:

1) The Host City and the IOC want completely different things

Watch the livestream of the first public forum on a Boston Olympics

Right now (started at 7 pm), you can watch a discussion being held at the Institute of Contemporary Art between representatives of Boston 2024 (Juliette Kayyem) and No Boston Olympics (Chris Dempsey).  Here’s the link.

UPDATE: Well, that was interesting.  Hopefully the Globe will post the hour-long video shortly.  I am left feeling like Boston 2024 wants to have it both ways.  On the one hand, any time anyone brings up something like the possibility of public funds being used to address cost overruns or the like, Kayyem (on behalf of Boston 2024) says no, absolutely not, the bid we have submitted would not allow for that.  But on the other hand, when the subject of (for example) replacing the food market at Widett Circle with an Olympic stadium came up, Kayyem’s response was whoa there, hold on a sec, no final decisions have been made, that’s all way off in the future, let’s not scare people when nothing like that has actually been proposed.

So what, exactly, has been proposed, and what hasn’t?  Well, of course, we don’t know, because the bid is not public.  Even Kayyem doesn’t know, because, as she just told us, she hasn’t read it.  Seems to me a perfectly obvious, perfectly sensible first step in this process, which both Boston 2024 and the US Olympic Committee claim should have transparency as a goal, would be to release the bids submitted by all four American cities to the public.  After all, what could they possibly be ashamed of?  What could they have to hide?

EDubs Coming to Holiday Party - December 14

Woo Hoo! - promoted by Bob_Neer

UPDATE
I’m pleased to announce the Senator Warren will be joining us. I have updated the guest list below with the Senator and a number of others.

It’s time for my annual Democratic holiday party. A special theme this year is celebrating BMG’s tenth anniversary. BMGers typically attend in force, although it is not exclusively a BMG event.

You’re all invited. Please join me at 17 Gary Circle in Westborough from 2 to 6 PM. It’s a football friendly, family friendly open house with people coming and going throughout the afternoon. I’ve got coat racks and a sign-in table set up in the garage. Children’s games are in the basement. It’s not for the claustrophobic. One BMGer told me that she came once and she’s glad she came, but she doesn’t plan to come again. Maybe she’s changed her mind and is ready to brave the crowds.

Expected guests include: Senator Elizabeth Warren, Secretary of State Bill Galvin, Auditor Suzanne Bump, Treasurer Elect Deb Goldberg, Congressman Jim McGovern, Congresswoman Katherine Clark, State Senators Jamie Eldridge, Tom McGee and Sal DiDomenico, State Reps Jen Benson, Carolyn Dykema, Paul Heroux, Kate Hogan, Chris Walsh and Representative elect Camine Gentile; District Attorney Marian Ryan, Governor’s Councilors: Marilyn Petitto Devaney, Bob Jubinville; Worcester County Register of Deed Tony Vigliotti. I’m pleased to mention that several people who ran for statewide office last year plan to join us: Joe Avellone, Mike Lake, Leland Cheung and James Arena DeRosa are all planning on stopping by. It’s a holiday open house with candidates coming and going like everyone else.

An added incentive to come to the holiday party is the chance to get a Democrat elected to a seat that is currently held by a Republican. Folks can knock on a few doors and then head over to my place for the big holiday party! I’ve created a separate facebook event for that. Both current Party Chair Senator Tom McGee and previous Party Chair John Walsh are planning on pre-party canvassing. I’ll be talking more about that race once we get through the holiday party. Instead of looking back at the Governor’s race, look forward to this winnable race. There are lots of voters to talk with out here. We’ve seen the poster around from Elizabeth Warren. “We can whimper, we can whine, we can fight back. Me? I’m fighting back.” RSVP here if you want to fight back and elect an outstanding Democrat, Jason Palitsch to this seat. While you are checking it out, like him on facebook as well.

Home of Kate Donaghue and Kim Simpson
17 Gary Circle
Westborough, MA 01581
Sunday, December 14 from 2 to 6 PM.
RSVP on facebook or directly to me at KateDonaghue AT aol DOT com.

Everyone is welcome. We are about a mile from the Westborough Commuter Rail station. We’ll arrange for a pickup for anyone who wants to come by train. Please note that street parking gets problematic. I’m encouraging people to park at the Middle School if possible. It’s at 20 Fisher Street in Westborough, just a couple of minutes walk.

Are you in? Let folks know!

Hope, community and problems with the “privilege” doctrine

An interesting discussion. - promoted by Bob_Neer

The concept of white privilege has been mentioned in many opinion pieces recently, inspired by the injustice of the recent grand jury decisions.   You can find lots of articles in the media about this concept, along with lots of vigorous debate.

It is a difficult debate: if you don’t agree you are automatically seen as clueless.   But I continue to disagree.  Not with the facts cited by proponents, not with the stories of terrible bias and injustice, not with the statistics about inequality.  But I see the concept as the wrong frame for thinking about issues of racial equality, fairness, education and community development.

The idea of a group being over-privileged is based on a false sense of scarcity. Most of the best things in the world are not a zero-sum equation. One person’s enjoyment a healthy urban community – beautiful parks and landscapes, libraries, books, the arts, vibrant churches, youth programs, fun places to shop and eat, free concerts – does not have to take away from the ability for others to enjoy the same things. The best things in life (“privileges”, community benefits) are not limited commodities.

The guilt/privilege conversation takes attention away from the real work of building healthy communities, strengthening education, removing barriers in job markets, expanding small business opportunities, improving and reforming policing. And it ignores the real strengths and successes and assets of urban communities and families.

The concept of white privilege is built on a flawed idea that the country is fundamentally structured around discrimination and inequality, that nothing is changing, and nothing will change.  What message does this give to people are working in their communities, workplaces, schools and churches toward positive social change?  Most importantly, what message does this give to children and teens who are assessing their own life goals and options?

A better frame of thinking is a focus on healthy community development and positive youth development.  A positive approach focuses on assets, not deficits, honoring the assets, strengths and successes found in people’s lives, families and communities.  Children and youth hear messages about the strength of their communities and are encouraged to get involved the good things that the community has to offer.

Do we really need to go over this? Don't pardon Mark Wahlberg. Obviously.

The celebrity websites are all atwitter with the news of Dorchester native and Hollywood megastar Mark Wahlberg’s application for a pardon.  His crimes were … well, here are a couple of excerpts from the original documents.  You be the judge.

Thanh Lam left his car carrying two cases of beer.  As he crossed the sidewalk, Mark Wahlberg attacked Thanh Lam.  Wahlberg was carrying a large wooden stick, approximately five feet long and two to three inches in diameter.  Wahlberg approached Thanh Lam calling him a “Vietnam fucking shit,” then hit him over the head with the stick.  Thanh Lam was knocked to the ground unconscious.  Th[e] stick broke in two and was later recovered from the scene.  Thanh Lam was treated overnight at Boston City Hospital.

After police arrested Wahlberg later on the night of April 8, 1988, Wahlberg was informed of his rights and returned to the scene of 998 Dorchester Avenue. In the presence of two police officers, he stated: “You don’t have to let him identify me, I’ll tell you now that’s the mother-fucker who’s head I split open,” or words to that effect….

Shortly after 9:00 p.m. on April 8, 1988, Hoa Trinh, an adult Vietnamese male who resides in Dorchester, was standing several blocks away from 998 Dorchester Avenue, near the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Pearl Street.  Hoa Trinh was not aware of the altercation outside of 998 Dorchester Avenue.

Wahlberg ran up to Hoa Trinh, put his arm around Hoa Trinh’s shoulder, and said: “Police coming, police coming, let me hide.”  After a police cruiser passed, Wahlberg punched Trinh in the eye, causing him to fall to the ground.

Police arrived and Hoa Trinh identified Wahlberg as the person who punched him.  Wahlberg was placed under arrest and read his rights.  Thereafter he made numerous unsolicited racial statements about “gooks” and “slant-eyed gooks.”

Trinh was permanently blinded in the eye that Wahlberg punched.  Wahlberg served 45 days in prison for these assaults.

And then there’s this one.

As [three black kids] were walking [home in Dorchester], defendants Michael Guilfoyle, Derek Furkart, Mark Wahlberg and another white male began to follow them on bicycles.  One of the defendants said to the [kids], “We don’t like black niggers in the area so get the fuck away from the area.”  The group of white males then chased the [kids], using their mopeds.  During the chase, the group of white males yelled, “Kill the nigger, kill the nigger” and each threw a rock at the Coleman brothers and sister…. [The next day,] the defendants … yell[ed] racial epithets…. Then … the group of white males began throwing rocks…. Defendants Furkart and Wahlberg also threw a rocks [sic], one of which hit Emily Harr, a white female.

And then there was the time that Wahlberg beat the crap out of his neighbor.

So now Wahlberg wants a pardon because his criminal record is apparently making it harder for him to open more restaurants.  Cry me a river, Marky.  Shoulda thought of that a long time ago.  Worse, he has not even made any effort to apologize directly to the victims of his assaults, instead apparently figuring that a statement that he regrets his actions is good enough.

Nam Pham, executive director of VietAID, a Vietnamese community organization in Dorchester, said Wahlberg should first apologize directly to Thanh Lam, a Vietnamese man Wahlberg beat with a stick more than a quarter century ago. Wahlberg also screamed obscenities and racial epithets.

“If I were him I would want the scar on my record erased,” Pham said of Wahlberg. “But I would also ask if I could help erase the scars on the victim.”

In a separate episode, some from a class that was harassed in 1986 by a group of teens that included Wahlberg were not impressed with his request for a pardon.Mary Belmonte, the class teacher, remembered leading her terrified elementary school students down a side street to avoid the hail of rocks. “I’m sure he’s sincere and he wants to clear his name,” Belmonte said. “It would be nice if he could apologize and really own up to what he was.”

Asked for further clarification, here’s what happened.

Wahlberg’s publicist did not return calls for comment.

LOL.  Better, more important things to worry about, I guess.  You know, Hollywood stuff.

The newly relaxed guidelines for pardons and commutations may actually do some good by, for instance, allowing for the reduction of ludicrously long sentences for selling drugs and the like.  But let’s be serious: any normal person with a record of violent assaults like Wahlberg’s wouldn’t have a prayer of receiving a pardon, especially in the first round of applications under the new guidelines.  If a Hollywood megastar succeeds … well, that doesn’t send a good message at all.  It seems to me that, while Wahlberg has obviously turned his life around in impressive fashion, there’s no convincing reason why he should not have to live with the small inconvenience that his criminal record continues to cause him.  That inconvenience is a lot smaller than the one Hoa Trinh continues to experience as a result of Wahlberg’s crimes.

MassBudget FAQ on automatic income tax rate cut

Read the comments. - promoted by Bob_Neer
The Governor recently announced the need to cut funding for school transportation, job training, health care, and other investments that support and strengthen our people and our economy. One of the reasons for these cuts was the anticipated triggering (which became official on Wednesday) of an automatic tax cut caused by a twelve year old law.This tax cut, which primarily benefits the highest income taxpayers, will cost the Commonwealth $145 million a year. It is part of a series of automatic income tax rate cuts that together will cost the Commonwealth $325 million this fiscal year. The annual cost could grow to over $800 million over the next five years. This could significantly weaken the Commonwealth’s ability to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, invest in expanding access to high quality education, and protect access to affordable health care.MassBudget’s new fact sheet Automatic Income Tax Rate Cuts: FAQ describes how this automatic tax cut works and examines its likely consequences. This tax cuts has its origins in a series of income tax cuts that began in 1998. Those tax cuts cost the Commonwealth over $3 billion a year and, in the years since, we have seen deep cuts in education, local aid, and other important public services (see chart to right).

The primary beneficiaries of the automatic tax cut will be the very highest income households (see chart below), who already pay a smaller share of their income toward state and local taxes than do other households.

Volcanic Ashes to Dunkin’ Donuts

"[A]ll the millions of immigrants who have come to America over the last 300 years – seeking a new life; a new beginning." Not all: hundreds of thousands of immigrants were dragged here in chains. Slaves totaled about 10-15 percent of the total US population at the time of the Civil War, and about a third of the population in the south. Wikipedia has an interesting primer on slavery's long history in Massachusetts. - promoted by Bob_Neer

As a Dunkin’ Donuts executive for over 19 years I was fortunate to witness and participate in the growth of an iconic American business. During this period Dunkin’ Donuts grew from a few hundred shops to many thousands spread throughout the world. I saw and experienced a lot more than can be expressed in this short column but one of most memorable experiences I had was working personally with many Portuguese immigrants who came to the United States from the Azores and ended up as Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees. Many of the Dunkin’ franchise shops in New England can be traced back to Portuguese immigrants from the small farming village of Saint Michaels in the Azores.

Interestingly it was a series of devastating volcanic eruptions that rocked the Azores in 1957-58 which led to a wave of Portuguese immigration into the United States. Against warnings that it was too narrowly focused and disruptive of efforts at larger more sweeping immigration reform, Senators Pastore of Rhodes Island and Kennedy of Massachusetts (later President Kennedy) championed The Azorean Refugee Act which permitted 1500 Azorean visas for entrance into the United States – largely from the volcanic and earthquake ravaged Azorean island of Fayal. This Act challenged the prior racial bias of our immigration quota system and helped pave the way to the passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Seeking economic opportunity and political freedom, the predecessors of the many Portuguese franchise owners in New England where amongst those who originally came to America under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

I worked with and became friends with a number of these immigrants as we all grew and prospered together while living the American Dream. The positive impact the Portuguese immigrant community has had on the growth and success of the Dunkin’ Donuts system can hardly be overstated. Their story is the story of America and all the millions of immigrants who have come to America over the last 300 years – seeking a new life; a new beginning.

UVA: Maybe not "The Rape School?"

Guardian:

Rolling Stone is walking back and apologizing for an explosive article it published about rape at the University of Virginia, admitting there “now appear to be discrepancies” in the key story in the article, about a woman who alleges that she was the victim of a calculated gang rape that took place by members of a fraternity at the school.

Rolling Stone:

In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.

To me, this new development just further underlines the central point of this history as a matter of law. As I wrote during our initial discussion of this story: “Rape is a felony, and one of the most serious violent crimes that can be committed. Colleges should immediately report all such incidents to law enforcement authorities. Let the courts sort out innocence and guilt. If schools want to pursue additional actions on their own, that is a separate discussion.”

We have a criminal justice system. Universities must use it, and not leave crimes unreported to authorities. Separately, as a civil matter, they have a duty to ensure a safe environment for all of their students.

 

Obama Jobs Boom Continues: Businesses Create 321,000 Jobs in November

Democrats create jobs and economic prosperity. Republicans destroy both. - promoted by Bob_Neer

The private sector created 321,000 private sector jobs in November, making 2014 the best year for job creation since 1999. Businesses have now added 10.9 million jobs during the six-year Obama administration (though that number is partially offset by the elimination of 1 million public sector jobs via misguided austerity policies). Compare that to just 1.1 million net jobs created during President George W. Bush’s entire eight years in office.

“November was the 50th consecutive month of positive job growth – the best stretch since 1939 – and the 56th consecutive month in which we’ve seen private-sector job growth – the longest on record,” says MSNBC’s Steve Benen, who created the chart below. “It remains very difficult for President Obama’s critics to explain these numbers: the hiring boom is underway after tax increases and full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”