Saturday, May 3, 2014

Obama Orders Unusual Review of Cruelty

Today in Sociopathic Irony:

Fresh from a victory designed to forever keep the grisly details of all his extrajudicial overseas drone executions from the American public, President Obama has deftly pivoted away from his own hypocrisy by calling for a review of capital punishment here in the One Indispensable Nation.

That is because in the Land of the Free, as opposed to those anti-free "tribal areas," executions are open to the public, albeit by invitation only. And sometimes they don't go as smoothly and as silently as planned. The "botched" execution of an Oklahoma inmate is a case in point. The convict didn't oblige the State by going gently into that good night. It was not a clean, surgical strike. The guy suffered mightily under state-sanctioned torture. Witnesses were subjected to his impolitic lingering.

Death has a funny way of doing that to us sometimes, even in America, where we squeamishly like to keep our dead and dying under sanitized wraps.

The New York Times' Peter Baker is on it:
President Obama declared this week’s botched execution in Oklahoma “deeply disturbing” and directed the attorney general on Friday to review how the death penalty is applied in the United States at a time when it has become increasingly debated.
Weighing in on a polarizing issue that he rarely discusses, Mr. Obama said the Oklahoma episode, in which a prisoner remained groaning in pain after sedatives were apparently not fully delivered, underscored concerns with capital punishment as it is carried out in America today. While reiterating his support for the death penalty in certain cases, Mr. Obama said Americans should “ask ourselves some difficult and profound questions” about its use.
Whenever Obama is forced to concern-troll an issue that he would not otherwise touch with a ten-foot pole -- such as those extra-legal executions and NSA spying --  he suggests that we think deep thoughts, ask questions, have a debate... and, oh yeah, conduct the obligatory whitewash review:
Within hours, the Justice Department outlined a relatively narrow review focused on how executions are carried out rather assessing the entire system. But given Mr. Obama’s broader comments, supporters and opponents wondered whether he might be foreshadowing an eventual shift in position by the time he leaves office, much as he dropped his opposition to same-sex marriage in 2012.
Wonder away, supporters and opponents. Comparing the president's championing of the right to marry (for political purposes) to his championing of the right to live (for humanitarian purposes) is like comparing apples to oranges. You simply do not "evolve" a conscience where none has previously been shown to exist. See: Presidential Kill List.

“In the application of the death penalty in this country, we have seen significant problems — racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty, you know, situations in which there were individuals on death row who later on were discovered to have been innocent because of exculpatory evidence,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “And all these, I think, do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied.”
 But this is America, where we do still have trials by jury. People theoretically are given due process before being condemned to death. And if you are affluent and white, you even get all due deference. See: the Affluenza Defense. Outside the exceptional boundaries of the One Indispensable Nation of dispensable people, there's something called a Disposition Matrix. This is the unwritten law, dreamed up by the Obama administration, that proclaims that all men in the prime of their lives are considered guilty unless proven innocent ex-post mortem. And Obama has certainly never raised any "significant questions" about the possible innocence of those people. He has never ordered DNA testing on the human bugsplat staining the "tribal regions."
For now, Mr. Obama said his position had not changed.
“The individual who was subject to the death penalty had committed heinous crimes, terrible crimes,” he said of the Oklahoma inmate. “And I’ve said in the past that there are certain circumstances in which a crime is so terrible that the application of the death penalty may be appropriate — mass killings, the killings of children.”
By all credible accounts, Barack Obama is responsible for the mass killings of thousands of people. And transparent humble-bragger that he is, he has only seen fit to admit to the drone strikes against the four Americans targeted in his killing spree. Could it possibly be that he doesn't consider the lives of foreign "militants" (including children and wedding parties) as valuable or as concerning as the lives of American citizens? Is his campaign of extra-legal executions being "unevenly applied"?

In a piece written for the New York Review of Books, David Cole notes that the Senate decision that excuses Obama from coming clean about his own filthy deeds comes on the 10th anniversary of that other public spectacle of cruel and unusual punishment: the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal:
To this day, the United States has not held accountable any senior official for torture inflicted during the “war on terror”—not at Abu Ghraib, not at Guantanamo, not at Bagram Air Force Base, and not in the CIA’s secret prisons, or “black sites.” President Obama has stuck to his commitment to look forward, not backward, and his administration has opposed all efforts to hold the perpetrators of these abuses to account. Indeed, the administration has classified even the memories of the survivors of torture in CIA black sites, now housed at Guantanamo, maintaining that they and their lawyers cannot under any circumstance even talk publically about their mistreatment.
Otherwise, the consumer-spectators of America might get the unpleasant idea that war crimes are being both covered up and continuing,  and that the people they elected to represent them are cold-blooded sadists and worse.

But, whatever. Let's have a debate. Let's conduct a study. Let's cover it up. Pick the red team, pick the blue team,  and let's all go to the polls and pretend we're still living in a humane, democratic society.

Meanwhile, you can probably scratch Occidental College (Obama's peri-alma mater) off the list of potential presidential library sites. A gigantic satiric sculpture of one of his killer drones is currently on display at that California campus:

From the press release for the exhibit:
The centerpiece of "We Will Show You Fear in a Handful of Dust" is a full-scale model of a MQ-1 predator drone, and the public is invited to participate in its completion. Participants will use traditional methods to apply architectural grade mud to the surface of an industrially manufactured drone skeleton. In the dichotomy between the drone's form and its surface, the sculpture is intended to open a discussion about technology and foreign policy while inviting multiple propositions about cultural legacies and possible resistances in the era of global surveillance and warfare.
(the sculpture was completed with the help of the public in March, and will remain on display in the center of the campus through this month)
With this project, Finishing School continues to explore its ability to make unwieldy political issues tangibly personal. For more than 10 years, the collective has employed various strategies to create environments in which a viewer/participant voluntarily enters into a relationship (usually an uncomfortable one) with an idea that has previously been regarded as an abstraction.  At first glance the projects can appear to be light-hearted, as the collective generally uses an element of humor to disarm its audiences.  Topics spotlighted by their work have ranged from corporate and government impacts on individual freedoms, to interpersonal hierarchies, and now to our relationship with the fastest-growing new technology wielded for civilian and military use.
Wow. No wonder Barack high-tailed it out of there and fled to the elite Ivy League. President Transparency will not be going to an Occidental reunion any time soon, I reckon.


annenigma said...

Well I certainly tried to put in my two cents worth with the NYT but they wouldn't print it of course. I wonder how many other comments were dumped by the censors, I mean moderators. My comment echoed yours Karen, and I even toned it down so it would get in. It was actually pretty good, unlike this one. It kind of took the wind out my sails to see it vanish into nothingness, but I'm still frothing a bit over it, so I'd like another chance to say more than I could in the NYT.

Obama makes his decision each Terror Tuesday about who he will order executed based on his review of the Kill List...yadayadayada...

The American citizens he ordered executed without trial were killed for what heinous hideous crime exactly? One was killed for exercising his First Amendment right of free speech. His son was killed for being associated with his father - he went looking for him.

Apparently those are now capital crimes carrying the death penalty without arrest, charges, or trial IF it involves a perceived threat to the Empire. Words? Just words? Yes, you can be killed for 'just words' if that is what President Obama decides. (Anyone else remember Obama's plagiarized Just Words speech?)

At least death row inmates get presented with charges, a legal defense, trial, and appeals, however flawed those might be, and those prisoners actually admitted to heinous crimes and were found guilty. Yet we rightfully question the wisdom of executing them as well as the humaneness of the execution method.

The father/grandfather of the victims of state sponsored murder even went to court to try to stop the execution of his son, but the Obama Regime invoked State Secrets privilege and had his case tossed out. Talk about cruel and unusual. Imagine how that man felt when not only his son but his grandson were killed by drone despite his efforts as an American citizen to use the legal system to ensure his son had a fighting chance.

Oh, that's right - no one is given a fighting chance when it comes up against the Empire, thus the stealth drone killing campaign in multiple countries, and stealth secret raids by special forces in dozens of others, and denial of Constitutionally guaranteed legal due process. The Obama Regime actually claims that the Constitution does not guarantee citizens JUDICIAL due process, so any kind of process will suffice, such as Terror Tuesday's Kill List meetings.

I welcome Obama's review of executions as long as he includes his own (role in executions). I also welcome a review and test of the legality of these killings by the Supreme Court, without Constitutional Law expert Obama aborting that process by pulling out his State Secrets wild card to void our legal rights. I nominate Obama for the Nobel Prize for Hypocrisy.

Ok, I'll crawl back in my hole now. Thanks for letting me vent without a word limit.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Broadminded Bi-Brother BO, who has been doing doublegood work for the miniplenty* since the goodyears of the R** –– and even more so since Bi-Bro’s upboost of the Uniparty of Plushope –– has shown us once again the upvalue of duckspeak***. Should we, or should we not, unlife those unpersons who are on the Disposition Matrix more humanely? That is the question.

Just maybe, the treatment of ungood proles having their existence snuffed in the joycamps of The Homeland calls for more doublethink on the part of the minitrue**** through the use of thought-terminating clichés. Or, then again, maybe not.

* Ministry of Plenty, i.e., Wall Street (keeping the population in a state of constant economic hardship)

** Reagan Revolution

*** “To speak rubbish and lies may be ungood, but to speak rubbish and lies for the good of ‘The Party’ may be good.… Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all. This aim was frankly admitted in the Newspeak word duckspeak […]. Like various words in the B vocabulary, duckspeak was ambivalent in meaning. Provided that the opinions which were quacked out were orthodox ones, it implied nothing but praise, and when the Times referred to one of the orators of the Party as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker it was paying a warm and valued compliment.”

**** Ministry of Truthé#Thought-terminating_clich.C3.A9

Pearl said...

annenigma: I saw an excellent comment of yours yesterday to another article or columnist which got good recommendations but can't find what it was. And people are venting more and more. I always get my comments to Krugman at the very end even though I send it in early due to the verified writers who clog up the answers and of course no one gets a chance to read it because it is at the end of so many comments. However, many of those final comments with low recommendations are excellent. Don't give up. Have you seen all of Karen's columns in Truthout?

Jay - Ottawa said...

As some of you surely know by now, because you watched it as it happened, there was a big-time televised debate last night in Toronto between Glenn Greenwald (essentially alone, given the debating skills of his partner) and, on the other side, former surveillance honcho Michael Hayden and dirty-tricks, gadfly notary sophist Allan Dershowitz. Greenwald turned the audience around to his view as he mercilessly smoked the establishment types. At your convenience, you can link to “The Intercept” to stream the debate to your own computer. Lasts about as long as most movies for a Saturday night and is much more worth your time as education and entertainment.

One of the commenters at The Intercept (BenjaminAP 03 May 2014 at 4:28 pm -- now at the top because he’s the latest) posts within his comment a long quote from a speech by Greenwald (unrelated to last night’s debate). It encapsules an uncommon insight about the American legal system. I would boil it down to this: “Institutional promise serves rulers as potent pacifiers of the citizenry.” But you’ve got to read the entire passage yourself.

Pearl said...

Annenigma: It was the Merkel - Obama meeting at the White House where he voiced the immortal comment blaming Snowden for the strain in U.S.German relations. Lots of good angry responses including yours.

annenigma said...


The Public Editor recently wrote about the Verified situation and how those comments get to cut to the front of the line regardless of their merit, crowding out others more worthy. Some people said they won't even read a comment written by a Verified - with the sole exception being for Karen Garcia. Not surprising!

Many people including myself, reverse the order and read the newest first, at least after briefly checking out the top recommends and who wrote them. I was surprised to see in the Merkel-Obama piece how many Recommends some of the late comments garnered. It seems I'm not the only one who is avoiding the Verifieds by reversing the order, so don't assume few of us are reading them. It really depends on how many there are and how many they dump out at a time. I skim a lot and don't even bother recommending all the time.

Oh, and I forgot to add one more thing regarding Obama and executions. According to reports that no one has denied, he has bragged to his aides that he is "really good at killing people". He probably imagines that ordering executions puts him in the same league as War Veterans - a legend in his own mind. No PTSD or feeling suicidal for him though. That would require having a conscience.

I bet those who carry the burden of having pulled the trigger or pushed the button to snuff out those lives on his direct orders don't brag, especially when they know that innocents died. What kind of person would?

Karen Garcia said...

@annenigma and any other nyt commenters reading this:

Censorship and propaganda are definitely on the rise at the Gray Lady. (see Robert Parry's latest over at Consortium News, along with the comments.)

My advice would be to copy and save your comments for future use... either elsewhere at the Times, or if you like, you are always welcome to post them here. You can even lengthen them,add to them, email them directly to me and I can re-purpose them into a guest post. It is really a shame to put all that mental effort into writing something, only to have it rejected or "lost."

I recently complained to the Times moderators about the whole verified v. nonverified dichotomy, having noticed that they suddenly added a whole slew of green check marks to people who did not have the vaunted "long history" of commenting. I challenged them to at least make the regular writers verified. They replied that some magical algorithm is at work over which they have no human control -- and anyway, if it upsets me that much, they can do away with the verified system altogether. Typical corporate b.s. response.

I rarely comment any more because the two-tiered system offends my sense of democratic fair play. The exception is Krugman, because the moderators are on the ball with his columns, immediately posting many "unverifieds" along with the green check brigade. Forget the weekend op-eds, where there are usually no unverified comments appearing until well into Sunday morning. The quality of the comments on Dowd, for instance, has gotten pretty terrible. Top vote-getters are those who hurl the most insults at MoDo. Today, somebody wrote "blah blah blah" over and over and got hundreds of thumbs up.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Times change.

annenigma said...


Thanks for the kind offer to post our comments and even make them into a guest post.

Re: Verifieds. I had some questions and comments about Facebook and Verifieds that the NYT wouldn't publish. Mind if I share them?

I wonder where the algorithm comes from that NYT uses to select for Verified status/invitations. Joining Facebook is supposedly no longer required to become Verified, but are they now issuing invitations only to those already with Facebook accounts? If so, they are really creating a separate class.

I also wonder if the algorithm was written in-house or provided by some outside source like Facebook (who wrote it with input from an *Alphabet*, as happened with development of encryption), and does Facebook and their business partners get access to our comments and/or metadata? Facebook could serve as a convenient loophole providing an Alphabet with metadata, if not content, along with convenient deniability. *Alphabet=FBI/NSA/CIA/DIA/DHS...

I doubt Facebook is entirely out of the picture at the NYT despite claims it isn't an overt requirement. (Facebook reminds me of how IBM was deeply involved in government treachery in the past.) Facebook actually appears to be poised to become the official worldwide source of personal verified status, akin to Certificates of Authenticity awarded to websites. It would be a logical progression of their business and lucrative in terms of government contracts for them to vet the 'status' of all web activists, I mean commentators or bloggers. NYT could be serving as a test case, a proving ground to hone their system before launching it with other online newspapers - to weed out the riffraff of course.

By the way, does the algorithm includes key word filters? Why won't they tell us more about it if they are selecting and filtering our comments with it? Oh well, it's probably a secret, like most everything else these days which only piques the intense interest of someone like me.

Facebook seems to have a very special relationship with POTUS where Mark Zuckerberg can just call and get through to him anytime as if they were business partners. Journalists get embedded in war zones for the same reasons, to feed information to certain places, either to the public or possibly to the regime. In this case we may have both.

Unfortunately we are all increasingly being labeled and categorized nowadays. Just today I saw an article about Arizona's new drivers license where VETERAN is written boldly on their licenses. Why? Do they get special treatment if stopped? Or be enlisted to grab a gun in the event of an uprising? I believe they are all subject to recall into service anytime in their lives if ordered or stopped at a checkpoint. With a license they can't deny their usefulness as trained killers. Obama certainly would approve of that!

Excuse me, I have to go polish my tinfoil hat now.

annenigma said...

Clarification - I mean metadata/content to also include our comments that weren't published, our personal data when registering, keyword or other violations that flag us out of Verified eligibility, and the entire collection/storage of any of that data.

I question if any or all of it is available to third parties by whoever is actually providing the service of verifying us, whether it is the NYT or Facebook. How widely is it shared and with whom? Don't we have a right to know?

The NYT didn't want me asking those questions publicly but thanks to Karen I get a chance here. Thanks.

Pearl said...

In the article "President Obama and the World" by the NYTimes Editorial Board yesterday, it actually had some criticism of Obama's handling of various issues. This was followed by endless comments, some by recognizable names of verified critics of Krugman, defending the many virtues of his efforts and criticizing unfair commentsfabout his perceived inadequacies. Only a few responders of those I read had the guts to outline his mishaps and lack of ability in dealing with domestic and foreign policy.
There is a real conflict among members of the Democratic party about how to view President Obama's record which is creating divisiveness in the party and a discouraging image for the future.
We have to continue to speak up about the whitewashing of this administration and support those who do.
Karen, you are doing a masterful job along these lines as evidenced by the 1300 recommendations for your comment to Krugman's recent article. Some of the people ARE listening. Please put it in your website.

Cirze said...

Damn, Karen,

If I didn't read you every day I would have no idea what the news really is.

Thanks, gf. You rock!

And as to those wondering about the Facebook connections with the algorithms . . . remember how even the movie made a big deal of that huge money offer to Zuckerberg at the last minute from the private funder?

NSA money, honeys.

Just like you were thinking about IBM's involvement previously, annenigma.

annenigma said...


Thanks for mentioning Karen's post in 'Why Economics Failed' that got 1332 recommends so far (after adding mine). It was also chosen as a NYT Pick. I no longer read the NYT columnists or the comments there unless someone points out something special there.

We've come a long way in our understanding of what's really causing the problems in this country and world, thanks in large part to the writings of the astute and talented Karen Garcia and a few others like her.

Once we were few and now we are many more. That's progress. Keep up the good work, Karen.

Karen Garcia said...

Here's my comment on Krugman's Friday column, "Why Economics Failed."

It's not that economics failed. It's that the cult of Mammon succeeded.

The rich control all of us via such legalized bribery scams as Citizens United. The rich ensure that the austerity dogma is broadcast by their six media conglomerates, and that only two sides of one big business party are allowed to exist.

Wherever they detect an opportunity vacuum, wherever they smell another distressed pocket of humanity, they pounce.

A study by some Northwestern University researchers reveals that while the wealthy (they like to call themselves "thought leaders") intellectually accept Keynesian economics, they're de facto Scrooges.

Some findings:

--Only 16% of millionaires think climate change is "very important."

-- While two-thirds of Americans favor single payer health care, less than a third of the wealthy do.

-- The rich favor more government spending in only three areas: science, infrastructure, and education. Investment opportunities abound for charter schools, privatized toll roads, university research programs -- all funded on the public dime for private profit.

-- Only 19% of the wealthy believe the government should create jobs for the unemployed (as opposed to 68% of the general public). Less than half favor raising the minimum wage. Less than half think it is the government's job to see that nobody goes without food, clothing and shelter.

It's not that economics failed. It's that we're living in a nightmare reality show called "Plutocrats Gone Wild."

And this addendum:

Here's the link to the Northwestern study cited above:

One of its authors, Benjamin Page, also collaborated with Martin Gilens of Princeton on the just-released preview of a forthcoming report which concludes the USA is well on its way to becoming an oligarchy. That paper is here:

For this comment,I extrapolated heavily from the info in my post from a year ago, called "What Do the One Percent Want, Anyway?" which I linked to more recently in "Oligarchy USA" -- also reprinted in Truthout.

The fact that the ultra-rich sincerely do not give a shit never ceases to amaze, does it? Incidentally, the ultra-rich people interviewed by the Northwestern team were largely Obama supporters. It certainly explains a lot how his policies dovetail with their concerns.

annenigma said...

Will (aka Yuk Yuk) is usually the one to point these out, which he did awhile back but it's worth a repeat. It's George Carlin in a rant called 'Who Really Controls America'. He really tells it like it is in his usual colorful language.

He was so great. I miss him.

annenigma said...

Chris Hedges is sizzling in this one called 'The Post-Constitutional Era'.

Hedges says "And it means that if we do not rapidly build militant mass movements to overthrow corporate tyranny, including breaking the back of the two-party duopoly that is the mask of corporate power, we will lose our liberty."

Read the whole thing. He definitely makes the case.

annenigma said...

Well, there you go.

'US Government Begins Rollout Of Its 'Driver's License For The Internet'

The Obama Regime's 'National Strategy For Trusted Identities in Cyberspace' program is about to be rolled out. What a surprise. NOT.

And Facebook and NYT weren't in on the viability test phase?