Monthly Archives: August 2009

Godfather III

Just when I thought I was getting away from politics, when I thought I had exhausted the topic of torture and Guantanamo, I see the embarrassingly disgusting and partisan reactions to the DOJ Ethics Panel request for preliminary investigations into detainee abuse. Just like with Michael in Godfather III, right when I think I’m out, they pull me back in.

To avoid repeating myself too much, where I have already made my argument, I will only add the following:

  • Of course it is obvious why Just-Trust-Me-Dick is against investigations.  All roads lead to Dick. It is almost impossible to argue with a straight face that the legal memos giving cover to the enhanced interrogation program were provided in good faith. In that sense, the Dick Cheney’s should be investigated, not the CIA. But as Kitapsiz has frequently commented, “What difference would it make in any event, he already shot a man in the face while under the influence and escaped the law …” As a result, just like with Abu Ghraib, the small fish pay the price.
  • If credible claims of criminal activities exist or, in the alternative, if Dick Cheney is so sure that the CIA did nothing wrong, then why wouldn’t an investigation be a good thing? It would both reinforce the rule of law and set Mr. Cheney free.
  • It is ironic that Mr. Cheney and the CIA defenders are calling this investigation partisan. This investigation would not have happened but for Mr. Cheney’s call for the enhanced interrogation program in the first place, a radical change in policy that, as detailed in the IG Report, even the CIA operatives recognized would eventually led them to be investigated. So although Cheney is now crying “foul play”, an eventual investigation was both foreseeable and anticipated. In that sense, the CIA was set up by Cheney. Furthermore, why is Cheney so worried about the CIA’s feelings? Does he think they are little children that need constant coddling?
  • Most of Cheney’s fear-mongering about Obama making the U.S. less safe is directed at policy changes that took place during Bush’s second term and that Obama is simply continuing. Remember even Obama the sell-out is against Holder’s independent investigation.
  • The Bush Administration did everything in its power to fabricate evidence and conceal information regarding the War in Iraq and has even recently admitted to manipulating terror alerts for political gain. The political and media class have had absolutely no accountability whatsoever for the key roles they’ve played in the massive propaganda campaign that has caused immeasurable death and destruction. The issue of torture only highlights the pathetic state of our establishment media and the farce that is congressional oversight. As Glenn Greenwald has written, Congress and the establishment media have played absolutely no role in demanding transparency here. The only reason any of this information is being disclosed at all is because of lawsuits by human rights groups. This represents a major failure in how our systems of checks and balance and free press are supposed to protect us from government abuse.
  • We were led to believe that only the worst of the worst, the most hardened of terrorists were subjected to enhanced interrogation. We now know that to be false. We also know that numerous Guantanamo detainees who were tortured and kept in cages for years were later declared innocent, not by bleeding-heart left-wing socialists but by seasoned military judges.
  • The press has largely ignored the fact that some one hundred detainees died under the enhanced conditions and apparently others “just got lost”.
  • According to our treaty obligations and therefore as required by law (in conformance with the U.S. Constitution), the U.S. is obliged to investigate credible allegations of torture. Failure to do so may subject U.S. officials to criminal prosecution abroad. Once again, it was Cheney’s program that has set our guys up to become international pariahs.
  • Since when was Jack Nicholson’s Cheney-esque “You can’t handle the truth” character from A Few Good Men supposed to be the hero or Daniel Day Lewis’ from In the Name of the Father (tortured until he confessed to a terrorist bombing he didn’t commit) the villain?

Back in 1998 during my last semester in law school, I worked on a project for the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law where I spent most of my time reading and compiling the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, including all of the gruesome details of torture from the worst years of Cuba, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. For those of you who think that the IG Report is not so damning, it reads like it was right out of a Latin American dictatorship.

It’s interesting that we are supposed to be world leaders, beacons of light, yet the entire Republican Party and many Democrats, with an enabling press, are passionately against transparency and upholding the rule of law. As Juan Cole writes in reference to the CIA operatives who expressed concern about foreign prosecution,

But why weren’t they afraid of prosecution in U.S. courts? When did the U.S. go from having, in the Bill of Rights, among the most advanced human rights laws in the world to being a gulag backwater where it is only a trip to Holland that American torturers fear?

What is happening to us? Suddenly we are afraid of the rule of law. We refuse to innovate or even recognize, as in the case of health care, that other countries have models we can follow. Even in technology and infrastructure, we are falling behind (we are number 28 in the world in Internet connectivity speed). What is left of those infamous American values?



Filed under Essays, Obama 44

Re Joe Henderson

The background music to my life is generally filled with whatever Jazz is being shuffled on my iTunes library. On countless occasions I hear an amazing tenor saxophone solo that I just can’t put my finger on, and low and behold, it almost always turns out to be the versatile Joe Henderson. Although I have only a handful of his recordings as a leader, he is constantly popping up on my random playlists as a sideman for other musicians.

Here’s my Joe Henderson collection:

As a Leader:

As a Sideman:

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Too Hot


It’s hot, too hot. The daytime temperature in Madrid has not gone below 90F (30C) since the beginning of June, and I don’t have air conditioning. Three months of this continuous, unwavering heat takes its toll on you.

I could cool off at the local public pool, but that would be communism, right? Actually, I don’t go because a recent Leonard Lopate Show podcast totally turned me off to water leisure.

Sure, I would love to let myself get all worked up about

But it’s just too hot. Instead, I would rather spend time wedged between my fan and humidifier, finishing Olive Kitteridge, re-reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, watching the new seasons of Mad Men and the continuously disappointing Weeds, following the revived Real Madrid, and stressing about my upcoming Moroccan wedding.


Filed under Digressions, Essays, Literature, Living la vida española, Obama 44

Ramadan Mubarak, Bessaha Wlhna


The last two years I have spent the first days of Ramadan with my (now) Moroccan wife. Just as she has achieved an appreciation for Rudolph and Santa, I have learned to share in her excitement for Ramadan. Unfortunately this year we won’t be able to spend these first days together. Fret not, I still found my way to a few Moroccan run stores in Madrid and bought some of the typical goodies, including my favorite pastries.

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Filed under Friends / Family, Living la vida española

A Short Hiatus


I just got back from a short, offline hiatus in Menorca only to find that my Internet service was not working and that Obama had sold out again, pathetic. I think it was a sign to get back to reading books and not the news.

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Filed under Digressions

Status Quo You Can Believe In, Pathetic

The Obama Administration is testing the waters by leaking the possibility that it may abandon a public option component to its health care reform plan. In other words, it will once again cave to the lobbies, special interests, and the right-wing pro-ignorance American Taliban.

On everything from torture, Guantanamo, human rights, the use of military force, transparency, and now health care, Obama is nothing more than pretty words reinforcing the good old status quo. It is pathetic. The worst of all, though, is that so many ridiculously stupid people in the country believe that Obama is a radical. He is nothing but. He has proven to be part of the machine, and his inability to stick to something so basic, such a no-brainer, so elementary in every other advanced country in the world highlights just how dangerously our country is sliding into the abyss of thirdworlddom. Continue reading


Filed under Obama 44

Desperate Times


Normally when you see someone asking for money on a Metro train in Madrid it is an Eastern European Gypsy woman with baby in arms chanting her “una ayuda por favor, que Dios te bendiga” lament, or a musician or group of musicians playing for change. More and more, especially in my neighborhood, I am seeing homeless men from Eastern Europe who have lost their jobs due to the total paralysis of the construction sector.

But, I was truly shocked this morning when the person on the Metro begging for money was not a Gypsy woman or out of work Romanian but none other than my middle-aged castizo Spanish neighbor who I have been saying hello to in the hallways of my building for the past eight years.

President Truman had said, as I was reminded by my friend Angel, “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours”.

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Filed under Digressions, Living la vida española