Friday, August 28, 2009


This morning Dick Armey, former lobbyist for DLA Piper (a Washington law office) and current chairman of FreedomWorks (a conservative organization dedicated to advancing an agenda of "lower taxes, less government, and more freedom"), was interviewed on NPR by Steve Innskeep during Morning Edition.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of my morning nap (before work) being interrupted by Mr. Innskeep interviewing RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Steele, a man I DID NOT VOTE for in his Senatorial bid, was flustered, not able to explain how he could both support Medicare but be against a public option. I had hoped Mr. Armey's interview would be just as informative and nonacquiescent. Unfortunately, I was left screaming at my radio on my way into work.

Armey Encourages Good Manners at Town Halls

There were many things said in this interview that upset me.

He calls the interruptions, and down right theft, of town hall meetings as people acting "rambunctious" and being "colorful." He contends the source of the anxiety of disrupting citizens as their frustration at being talked "down to like a child," and they resent this.

I ask: when has a representative been able to speak to their constituents freely? Because of rebellious tactics to disrupt the meetings, very few Representatives or Senators have been given the chance to speak.

He believes "the source of the anger" of the constituents was because they saw their elected official as not taking them seriously, "as well informed citizens." Well, when they are spewing fabrications trumped up by radical conservatives, how is one to take such unfettered lunacy seriously?

Now Mr. Innskeep does bring up the fact that people have been instructed to interrupt town halls, and some have even brought guns to the protests outside the meeting. Mr. Armey then contends he knows of no one who has instructed people to do this, and sees these actions as counterproductive to their cause. But, I have to point out, he does not denounce those who have done it. He does not explicitly say it is wrong for citizens to carry weapons outside a Presidential town hall, nor does he say it is uncalled for when people compare our President to Hitler.

Mr. Armey goes on to say the pro-HCR citizens are not as "intense" as the anti-HCR persons. This makes me wonder what his definition of "intense" is. Is it disruptive, argumentative, rude? Is it radical, irrational, racist? If any of these come close to what he means by "intense," then no, the pro-HCR citizens are not so.

Of course, my definition of intense includes ideals such as dedication, knowledge, respect, and equality. But, then again, I'm not a conservative out to push an agenda that, ultimately, would allow more people to go bankrupt and/or die because of health insurance companies. I'm just little old, fair minded, wanting the best for all in this nation, me.

Mr Armey finishes his interview with a veiled threat to elected officials, saying should they vote for this bill, they risk not being reelected. Seriously, I screamed at the radio. Very very loudly.

The ironic part about Mr. Armey's conclusion is that I believe the exact opposite will happen. Should we pull this off, should the Democrats grow a set of balls, and use the power the American people granted them, they could change one the of greatest problems our country currently faces, and help millions of citizens, including myself.

Mr. President, Democrats in the House and Senate, this is the time to make HCR happen. Sen. Kennedy died without seeing "the cause of his life" fulfilled. It is time for that change. Make it happen!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And the Hits Just Keep Coming

After yesterday's information dump concerning the CIA & torture, I decided to spend some time reading the material released to the public. The following will be the highlights I'd like to share.

Special Review: CIA - Office of the Inspector General
Counterterrorism Detention & Interrogation Activities
September 2001 - October 2003


1- pg. 4 point 7: This is a long paragraph that starts by stating the Agency had Abu Zubaydah and another high value detainee in custody by November 2002. It ends, stating the Office of Medical Services provided care to the detainees. The middle is long and black. Hmm, why would they need care from doctors?

2- pg. 6 point 13: "there were instances of improvisation and other undocumented interrogation techniques."

Guess I found the answer to my previous question.

3- pg. 6 point 15 footnote 6: The difference between a "debriefer" and an "interrogator." "A debriefer engages a detainee solely through question and answer. An interrogator is a person who completes a two-week interrogations training program, which is designed to train, qualify, and certify a person to administer ETIs (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques). An interrogator can administer ETIs during an interrogation of a detainee only after the field, in coordination with Headquarters, assesses the detainee as withholding information. An interrogator transitions the detainee from a non-cooperative to a cooperative phase in order that a debriefer can illicit actionable intelligence through non-aggressive techniques during debriefing sessions. An interrogator may debrief a detainee during an interrogation; however, a debriefer may not interrogate a detainee."

Hmm, seems to me this policy can have a few negative outcomes.
1) How do you assess a person "is withholding information" or has "actionable intelligence"? What if they were just picked up off the street and sold to the US? We had a bounty out for those thought to be terrorists. How do we know people were not just turned in for the cash? In fact, we didn't, and some were.
2) By definition, an interrogator is a torturer. He steps in when the person isn't talking and "transitions the detainee from a non-cooperative to a cooperative phase." This type of logic is what leads to people giving false information just to get the pain to stop.
3) "Before 11 September (9/11) 2001, Agency personnel sometimes used the terms interrogation/interrogator and debriefing/debriefer interchangeably." This starts the footnote, and is where the whole premise runs into a problem. By changing the definition of interrogation to torturer, by taking away the true purpose of the position, they have twisted the minds of these officers. Whereas before they did what was legal and honorable, using their minds, getting close to the detainee, and manipulating the relationship they formed to get intelligence, now they believed the only way to manipulate the prisoner was with force. This is why the Geneva Conventions were created, to stop people from making the exact wrong decisions because of the emotions war illicits.

4- pgs. 7-8 point 18: "recognized that detainees may be held in US Government custody indefinitely if appropriate law enforcement jurisdiction is not decisions on any 'endgame' for Agency detainees have been made. Senior Agency officials see this as a policy issue for the US Government rather than a CIA issue. Even with Agency initiatives to address the endgame with policymakers, some detainees who cannot be prosecuted will likely remain in CIA custody indefinitely."

So, basically they are willing to hold them forever, and believe it is not their problem to figuring out what to do with them, and are not concerned about having them stand trial. That is a problem for "lawmakers."

So, when the Supreme Court found what the CIA was doing unconstitutional, it must have been a "lawmaker" who stopped them. Can anyone say grounds for a lawsuit? Our former President may soon loose his ranch in a few civil cases sometime in the future. [cough cough ACLU]

5- pg. 8 point 19: "The Agency faces potentially serious long-term political and legal challenges as a result of the CTC Detention and Interrogation Program, particularly its use of ETIs and the inability of the US Government to decide what it will ultimately do with terrorists detained by the Agency."

Wow, I couldn't have put it better myself. Because of their actions, they face the possibility (I would hope inevitability) of legal woes. Hit that one right on the head.

6- pg. 8 point 20: Of course, they blacked out ALL of the recommendations given by the investigatory team. Of course they don't want us to know what they suggested, because they probably did none of what was said. By not allowing us to know, they are trying to cover their asses for the future prosecutions that are coming.

7- Of all the notes made (21 in total) in the Summary, 6 were completely blacked out and another 4 were at least half, if not more, obscured. They are trying to hide their crimes. We need to bring all of the scandal out into the light and see where the chips fall. I don't care which side of the aisle authorized or knew about this. I want people arrested, tried, and sent to prison for the crimes they perpetrated.


8- pgs. 9-10 point 23: "In 1984, OIG investigated allegations of misconduct on the part of two Agency officers who were involved in interrogations and the death of one individual [redacted] Following that investigation, the Agency took steps to ensure Agency personnel understood its policy on interrogations, debriefings, and human rights issues. Headquarters sent officers to brief Stations and Bases and provided cable guidance to the field."

So, 1) the CIA has had a detainee die in their custody before the "War on Terror" was initiated & 2) they knew about human rights 20 years ago, but I guess it has slipped their mind since then.

Genesis of Post 9/11 Agency Detention and Interrogation Activities

9- pg. 11 point 25 footnote 7: "DoJ takes the position that as Commander-in-Chief, the President independently has the Article II constitutional authority to order the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants to gain intelligence information."

This statement makes me very nervous. 1) What/Who constitutes an enemy combatant? 2) Does that mean the President can give full authority for soldiers, spies, or even private contractors, to detainee anyone they personally dub an "enemy combatant" even if this person has done nothing legally wrong? That, to me, seems like too much power centered in one person's hands, with little recourse to derail.

The Capture of Abu Zubaydah and the Development of ETIs

10- pg. 14 point 34: "OTS also solicited input...regarding techniques used in its SERE training and any subsequent psychological effects on students. DoD/JPRA concluded no long-term psychological effects resulted from use of the ETIs, including the most taxing technique, the waterboard, on SERE students. (footnote 14) The OTS analysis was used by OGC in evaluating the legality of the technique."
footnote 14: "According to individuals with authoritative knowledge of the SERE program, the waterboard was used for demonstration purposes on a very small number of students in the class. Except for Navy SERE training, use of the waterboard was discontinued because of its dramatic effect on the students who were subjects."

So, they literally said 'its not bad' and then in the footnote said 'its bad enough we don't perform it on students anymore.' Do they really think people are so stupid as to NOT READ THE FOOTNOTES!?! If you were not willing to waterboard students," because of its dramatic effect," don't try to bullshit me into thinking it won't have the same effect on the people you are holding prisoner, IF NOT MUCH WORSE.

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
pg. 15

Here is my summary of the list of techniques detailed

1- Attention Grasp: grabbing the detainee with both hands by the collar and pulling them toward you

2- Walling: detainee pulled forward and then quickly pushed back; shoulder blades hit flexible false wall; head and neck supported with rolled towel to prevent whiplash

I wonder if the towel technique is OSHA approved for that purpose.

3- Facial Hold: keeps detainee's head immobile; open palm on each side of the face; fingers kept away from detainee's eyes

4- Facial or Insult Slap: fingers spread apart; contact between chin and earlobe

5- Cramped Confinement: detainee placed in confined space, usually a small or large box; usually dark; small box no more than two hours; larger box no more than 18 hours

How could you not call this torture when even our household pets aren't made to sleep in their own deification. This treats people as less than human, less even than animals.

6- Insects: harmless bug placed in confinement box with detainee

How are they to know it is harmless? What would be the reaction of the agents if a detainee had such a huge fear of insects, he suffered a heart attack and died? Would they have recognized it was torture then?

7- Wall Standing: detainee stands 4 to 5 ft away from a wall, legs shoulder width apart; arms outstretched, placing weight of the body on their fingertips against the wall; cannot reposition hands or feet

I can't imagine doing almost anything without the ability to readjust. The idea that anyone would be able to support themselves for any length of time is ridiculous.

8- Stress Positions: two examples given 1) sitting on floor, legs extended out straight in front, arms straight up in air & 2) kneeling on floor, leaning back at a 90 degree angle

This is how you tear muscle, dislocate joints, and cause permanent physical damage, that the naked eye can't see.

9- Sleep Deprivation: not to exceed 11 days

Am I wrong? I thought it was possible for a person to DIE without sleep for 10 days. They take it one day past that!

10- Waterboard: bind detainee to a bench with his feet elevated above his head; head immobilized; cloth placed over detainee's mouth and nose while pouring water onto cloth in a controlled manner; airflow restricted for 20 to 40 seconds; produces sensation of suffocation or drowning

When you threaten someone with no air, how can you not call that torture? When you make them to believe they are going TO DIE, how can you call yourself anything but a criminal? This is not how you fight wars. This is how you create terrorists.

And if these are the techniques given, I retch at the thought of the techniques "improvised."

I'm going to stop here for this post. The document I'm reading contains 159 pages. I just finished page 15. FIFTEEN!

If people aren't arrested and sent to jail for a very long time, if the previous administration is not held accountable for the atrocities it inflicted on these people (in the name of this country and a God who would never wish this from his followers), I don't know how we can call ourselves "the land of the free and the home of the brave." All I see right now are the ignorant, the inflicters, and the apathetic. It is time for justice.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Story I Never Heard

Back in June of this year, a nine year old girl and her father were murdered. Her mother, wounded, was able to shoot back at the attackers.

When I learned this, I asked myself, "Why have I not heard about this story before?" Easy answer: Another man was killed during that same time, by a person similar to the gang that killed this family.

In June, Dr. George Tiller was assassinated for the extraordinary work he did for women's health. Also in June, Brisenia Flores and her father were murdered.

I am so sorry to learn about this now. I should have known about it then. So much of our time is often wrapped up in one news story, we can loose sight on all other important matters. But, it is also worth noting, hate mongers and radicals do not stick to the 24hour news cycle, nor do they care if they loose their spotlight to another soldier.

The following are links to the story, including information on the shooters and the article that steered me to the info.

'Oh my God, I can't believe they killed my family'

Some neighborhood watch

Ignoring Shawna Forde

After this experience, Crooks and Liars will now be a part of my regular internet rotation.

Frankly, I was disgusted when I read this story. What kind of country have we become when shooting a 9 yr old girl in cold blood can be missed or ignored? And, as I write that, inside I know part of the reason has to do with her last name.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Before, During & After

So yeah, I cut my hair. I do it every four years, but I've never had it this short, at least not since birth. It's funny, I can't stop touching my hair now. And my SO loves it, too.

The braid will be on it's way to Locks of Love tomorrow. Hopefully this will help someone, while also adding to my karma bank.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I'm An Aunt Bitches!!!

If you have any intelligence at all, you can deduce from the title of this blog that I am over the hill ecstatic that my BFF (yes, I used the acronym, wanna fight about it?) gave birth this weekend. And by this weekend, I mean the ENTIRE weekend.

Okay, not quite, but it felt like it. Her water broke at 2:34a Saturday into Sunday. You may ask why I know the exact time of this momentous occasion. Well, it's because she sent out a text message to EVERYONE to let us know.

I must say, I owe a great debt to the internet and technology in general. We knew going in that she only wanted her husband and mother by her side. So, the rest of us who have a vested interest in this little life waited...and waited...and did I mention the waiting?

I love my BFF. She is so strong. I knew she was strong before, but I think enduring 24hrs of labor puts you among those who've stamped a ticket into Valhalla before they reach 30.

If you didn't know, I am a worrier. All through the day Sunday, I kept my cell phone out and by my side & my laptop on my lap, as I constantly hit refresh on Twitter and Facebook. I texted her husband a few times, trying to get updates. I was so happy when anything was said, just letting me know she was okay, if by okay you mean writhing in pain trying to push something big out of a small hole.

I got the text message at 2:32a, Sunday into Monday, letting me know my niece was now in this world. To calm my always worrying nerves, I asked how they were doing, and was relieve to find out she was nursing just fine.

I am so happy, it seems nothing could ruin my day. Which, of course, has just doomed me for the next 24hrs, but that's okay because my little niece is finally here and my BFF survived one of the hardest ordeals of any adult female's life.

SO MANY PICTURES TO TAKE. I'm going to go visit Wednesday and completely fill my memory card with shots of my little niece. I will get permission from Mom & Dad as to whether I can share her image with the world. And even if I can't, those images will be for me of that beautiful girl.

This child will be surrounded by SO MUCH (young, liberal, completely understanding no matter what) love. Watch out world; this kid is going to conquer you all.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Photos from work yesterday

We worked an event many hours away from home, but it was worth it. The views were awe inspiring. The setting, amazing. I would love to be wed here. I can't afford it, but still...

I most always love what people can do at these events: beautiful & fun.

Now that I have a card reader and can actually use my camera for fun, expect more pictures, just cause.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stepping Into the Fray

Monday I attempted to attend Sen. Ben Cardin's town hall meeting on the campus of Towson University. When I arrived, I soon found around 2000 people were there before me. I knew instantly I would not get in.

I had already planned on recording my experience through photos and audio. Since I was not going to make it inside, I walked around, took pictures, and recorded my conversations with people.

Here is my story, in pictures and sound.

I made this sign the day before, using art supplies left over from college, some sharpies, and the top of a document storage box.

Audio: at work, gearing myself up to go

Audio: the drive to the meeting

Audio: traffic

Audio: helicopter

Audio: just arrived

slight misspelling

Audio: O'Malley & Sarbanes chants
(Martin O'Malley is the current Democratic governor of Maryland; John Sarbanes is the current Democratic representative for Maryland's 3rd district, a position formerly held by Sen. Cardin.)

Audio: signs
The Pro HCR crowd and various signs.

Audio: describing an almost argument
Pictured below.

Audio: so many people; hot day

Audio: line growth

Audio: reading Anti HCR signs

Audio: Ladies, Canadian wait time fliers
Two young ladies were passing out fliers, comparing wait times for Canada versus wait times in the US. One said she was going into the medical field, as well.

My rebuttal to their assertions: Audio: A Canadian!
I was so happy to speak with an actual Canadian about HCR. He spoke about how he had the same surgery in both Canada and the US, and it took longer to have it here.

Audio: Pro HCR conversation
Spoke with the gentleman picture below. (Note to self: Need to work on getting faces into shots.)

Audio: multiple commentaries spliced into one
Kids playing, holding Pro HCR signs, their Mom watching while sitting in the grass.

Audio: Pro HCR conversation
Spoke with woman who had intense conversation with gentleman shown below.

Audio: part of the reason why I was there

Spoke with same woman about my situation.

Audio: Anti HCR conversation
I spoke with the man pictured above. It is a long conversation, occasionally going off topic. He was nice enough, even though I do not agree with his views.

Here is a trio of pictures I took during a heated conversation that day. Some Pro HRC folks stopped the escalation.

Audio: shirt lady
I helped a lady take off her over shirt and we spoke about why she was there.

Audio: explaining AstroTurf & gentleman as weakness

Audio: lead up to Green Shirt
Me trying to be ambitious.

Audio: aftermath
Me getting teary. He was not a nice person.

Audio: Pro HCR conversation
Quick conversation after I spoke with Green Shirt. Made me feel better.

Audio: Pro HCR conversation
Gentleman says one of the reasons people are here is because of who is in office.

Audio: commentary
"Why so few?" chant reaction.

Audio: commentary; Pro HCR chant

"Get a job" is your answer to HCR?
Hummer driver anti HCR = ironic

Audio: Anti HRC conversation - couple
The lady and gentleman I spoke with in this snippet were seated rather close to the street. At times, the noise from the chanters drowns out some of what that were saying.

Audio: overheard conversation; $1 a month
The gentleman in the white shirt had a conversation with the woman and gentleman sitting on the grass. White shirt, in the audio clip, is the one asserting that paying $1 a month can keep medical bills at bay. I tried to interject myself into the discourse.

Audio: Pro HRC conversation with duo
The gentleman shown below agreed to hold my sign while I walked around. I spoke a lot with the lady shown. She was very sweet. In the audio clip above, they speak as to why they came. She talks about her troubles with the health care industry, along with her ongoing medical problems.

Audio: gentleman from before checking in

The gentleman in the first photo below spoke briefly with me before he left. In our short conversation, we spoke about how it was important people were talking, even if they weren't changing minds.

Audio: two Pro HCR conversations
Spoke with a lady and a gentleman holding signs. She wanted to show there are people for the reform. He said our problems won't get solved on this street, but he was still there.

Audio: conversation with sign-holder before he left
In this exchange, we talk about elections, family & friends, and politics.

Audio: others documenting experience
Musing on not being the only one with a good idea.

Audio: Pro HCR - a president of nonprofit
He is the gentleman in the tie. Next time, I will get his head in the shot too.

Audio: lit sign
Note: After looking at the second (not shown) sign again, Gov. O'Malley is actually depicted holding a binder with papers. I guess it was suppose to symbolize a bill or law.

A few commentaries towards the end of the event.


Commentary: after the meeting was let out

Commentary: leaving

And my last words on the subject later night.

Final thoughts, before bed.
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