Wednesday, July 16, 2008

US to Station Diplomats in Iran

By Farol

Well, this is a genuinely unexpected turn of events. From The Guardian:

The US plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years as part of a remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush.

The Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section - a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.

The news of the shift by Bush who has pursued a hawkish approach to Iran throughout his tenure comes at a critical time in US-Iranian relations. After weeks that have seen tensions rise with Israel conducting war games and Tehran carrying out long-range missile tests, a thaw appears to be under way.

The White House announced yesterday that William Burns, a senior state department official, is to be sent to Switzerland on Saturday to hear Tehran's response to a European offer aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff.

Futher, Ahmadinejad is not opposed to the idea of talking with the U.S.

It seems, on the surface at least, that the more "rational" factions of the administration and the military (Gates, Rice, Mullen, etc.) have won a significant victory over the bloodthirsty-deranged faction led by Cheney.

How will this play out? In one of two ways: either this is a genuine diplomatic overture that will lead to a "thaw" in relations with Iran in the near future, or it's a complete front designed to silence those critics who have called for more diplomacy with Iran (Iran will inevitably refuse to meet some kind of unattainable "demand" set by the U.S., Bush and company will say "I told you so", and then tell us that war is now the only option).

It's almost impossible not to be cynical about anything Bush does, but we can at least hope for the best. Actually, at this point, that's pretty much all we can do.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

U.S. Derived Torture Techniques From Communist China

By Farol

Torture is once again on the front page today, as the New York Times reveals that the "coercive methods" (including sleep deprivation, stress positions, and exposure to extreme temperatures) currently used on "terrorism suspects" at U.S.-controlled secret prisons around the world were "copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners."

(Note to the NYT: when the Chinese did these things, I'm pretty sure they were called "torture", not "coercive methods". And a significant number of U.S.-held detainees are not "terrorism suspects" at all. Many, in fact, have no credible evidence against them.)

There's sure to be a lot of hand-wringing about this (how low we've fallen!), but one important aspect that will probably be missed is that, according to the Air Force article, the Chinese torturers who first implemented these techniques were FULLY AWARE that they were eliciting false confessions. Therefore, it's fair to conclude that the higher-ups who initiated these techniques in U.S.-controlled prisons knew they were bound to produce, uh, bullshit.

Why would the U.S. government want to deliberately extract false confessions from its detainees? To create the impression of a vast horde of terrorists who are out to get us, thus justifying ongoing war and occupation all over the Middle East, perhaps?

Friday, June 20, 2008

House Caves on FISA

By Farol

The House just passed the Hoyer/Bush FISA "compromise" bill by a whopping 293-129.

Since this bill is a clear violation not only of the Fourth Amendment, but of the whole principle of equality under the law, I expect to see some real outrage on the part of all the visible "good liberals" out there. How about it, Obama? What about a rousing speech on the Senate floor decrying the violation of the Constitution, plus a vow to block this legislation with a filibuster? How about you, Frank Rich? Surely you're going to use your influential voice to incite your readers to mobilize on this issue?

All kidding aside, it's worth noting that the people who called in to C-Span as I was watching the House vote on this were almost all infuriated and saddened in equal measure. The disconnect between the words of these angry citizens and the spectacle taking place on the screen was shocking. (One woman reported that her representative's office hung up on her). It was enough to make you feel that democracy in this country is dead and buried.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It's Baaaaaaaaack

By Quill

Remember that abortion ban that got defeated by the people in South Dakota in 2006? The one without an exception for women's health? Well, like the creepiest of psycho-killers in your dreams, it's come back!

It's new name is Initiated Measure 11. Although the sponsors included exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the woman's health (so generous of you, folks!) make no mistake: this ban is about controlling women and it will put many, many of their lives at risk if it passes.

Fortunately for women everywhere, Planned Parenthood is organizing a HUGE grassroots movement against Measure 11. Head over to their blog at, where you can sign a pledge to fight the ban, learn ways to help out (even if you don't live in SD), submit slogans for the campaign, and respond to anti-choicers in the media.

If we're going to defeat this reprehensible measure, we'll need everybody in the pro-choice community to pitch in, so please do so.

I'll keep you updated.

The Second Coming of the FISA Flood

By Farol

The fact that Democratic leaders in Congress are utterly desperate to give amnesty to telecoms that broke the law by spying on Americans without a warrant should come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying even the slightest bit of attention to this issue. The only thing that's been preventing them from caving for this long has been intense grassroots activism. And no grassroots activist has pursued this issue with more dedication, passion, and knowledge than Glenn Greenwald.

In an amazingly short amount of time, Greenwald has assembled a diverse group of bloggers and activists to run ad campaigns against "blue dog" Democrats who support amnesty (and other destructive Bush policies). The group's short-term goal is to stop the sham "compromise" bill which the House Democratic leadership is now trying to force through Congress as quickly and quietly as possible (and which would guarantee immunity for the telecoms). The long-term goal is to create an organized, efficient grassroots movement devoted to civil-liberties issues. This is particularly important considering that, as Greenwald notes, Barack Obama has yet to take serious action on these issues. There is no guarantee that he will live up to his rhetoric should he become president.

I encourage everyone to head over to Greenwald's blog now to get all the details. The relevant posts are here, here, here, and here.

We're Back!

At long last, we're back.

We're both very sorry we haven't been around for the past few months, but the end of the school year and the beginning of summer (never the easiest time of year) has been even more hectic than usual this time around.

Still, though it may seem like we did, the truth is we never really went away. In between all the traveling and working we've been doing, we've kept up with the news and the blogosphere to the best of our ability, and it was only a matter of time before we were settled in enough to do more writing. That time has finally arrived.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Stuff We Wanted to Blog About This Week But Just Couldn't