Thursday, December 18, 2014

SO DO WE AND SHOULD WE TORTURE?


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

SO DO WE AND SHOULD WE TORTURE?

And we thought Jack Bauer on the Fox TV show “24” was heavy handed in his use of torture techniques.  Jack was a piker compared to CIA operatives who utilized about every method of pain infliction imaginable.  And then, Vice President Dick Chaney make it clear America had to move to “the dark side.”  The ends justified the means if we were to protect our freedoms.  But did we, and at what cost?

The controversy ignited last week when the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a damning report claiming that post 9/11, the CIA undertook an elaborate scheme to torture purported terrorists in violation of federal law.  The report also concluded that the program of “enhanced interrogations techniques” was incompetent and provided little useful information.  Democratic senators cheered, but Republicans, with a few exceptions shouted it was all about politics.  So what does a reasonable examination of the facts show?

First, torture is illegal under both U.S. and international law.  Specifically, 18 U.S. Code § 2340A, states: “Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”  No exceptions for any government official.  Cheney’s “dark side” argument doesn’t hold water under federal law.  If America wants to torture, then change the law.

Secondly, did CIA operatives actually torture?  I guess it’s how the “enhanced techniques” are defined.  The senate report describes detainees being water boarded, rectally force fed, repeatedly beaten, hanged and handcuffed to an overhead bar for 22-hour periods, left in total darkness and cold temperatures, hooded and shackled, forced to stay awake for up to 180 hours while “standing or in painful stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads in isolated cells with loud noise or music and only a bucket to use for human waste.”  Pretty damning evidence that these detainees were more than just “roughed up” a bit.

So is torture effective?  Not according to many in the military.  Republican Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.  He was repeatedly beaten, his ribs shattered, his arm rebroken, and he was kept in terrible conditions in solitary confinement for two years.  His opinion? You don’t get reliable information from torture.  Prisoners will say anything they think interrogators want to hear.  McCain said on the Senate floor last week that: “torture actually damages our security interests as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.”

McCain joins a long list of military generals and admirals, including former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who agree that torture is ineffective an essentially impairs efforts to gain reliable information. It’s strange that the most vocal proponents in favor of torture are those that never served a day in the military.  So called “chicken hawks” like Chaney, who received five draft deferments, and when asked why he did not join the service, responded that he had “other priorities.”  You can add just about every potential presidential candidate in 2016 who want to send your son or daughter off to war without volunteering to do so themselves.

CIA field officer and interrogator Glen Carle was a guest on my syndicated radio program last weekend, and he was forthright in saying it is implausible that torture gains any reliable information.  His book, The Interrogator, concludes that torture is ineffective and illegal. Carle writes: “The 'ticking time bomb' scenario rests on the flawed assumption that, somehow, torture would provide desperately needed information not otherwise obtainable in enough time to stop the threat. But when people are tortured, they will say anything to try to stop the pain."

After 9/11, a number of well-meaning government officials made decisions that they felt were necessary to protect the nation.  It’s easy to second guess.  Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and jailed those who opposed his views on the civil war.  During World War II, Roosevelt interred thousands of Japanese Americans out of fear.  But when the initial fears settle down, it’s critical that America retain a moral clarity.

If only it were as simple as Jack Bauer tried to make it in “24.”  But the world is not so black and white.  John McCain said it eloquently last week.  “The question isn’t about our enemies.  It’s about us.  It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be.”

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.

      





Wednesday, December 10, 2014

LANDRIEU FORGOT THE LESSON THAT ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL!


Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

LANDRIEU FORGOT THE LESSON
THAT ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL!

Former U.S. House speaker Tip O’Neill said it time and time again.  All politics is local. I interviewed Tip on a New Orleans television show I hosted back in the 1990s.  He went on for sometime that you have to be intimately involved in your home state, if you want to survive.  It’s a lesson that Senator Mary Landrieu forgot.

Some political pundits are saying that Landrieu’s defeat was based on national issues like Obamacare.  Not completely true.  Every issue discussed in Washington has a local slant.  If Landrieu was not able to localize the debate, she only has her own self to blame.  And it’s not second-guessing her campaign tactics now that the election is over.  There were obvious and common sense steps she could have, and should have taken years ago to make a re-election victory more plausible.

First all, knowing full well that she was to be engaged in the fight of her political life, Landrieu should have moved her family back to Baton Rouge several years ago.  The lady just wasn’t around.  Republicans kept pounding away at her multi-million dollar Washington mansion, and her only residence in Louisiana was her parents home.  For many voters, that just didn’t wash.  Her opponent, and eventual winner Dr. Bill Cassidy, has his primary residence in Baton Rouge where his family lives full time, and where he continued his work at a local hospital when he wasn’t in Washington.

Few voters ever saw Landrieu outside of a handful of major cities.  Landrieu handily beat Cassidy in Louisiana’s three largest municipalities:  New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport.  But she was decimated in less populated areas where locals know each other well, and also are well aware of personalities who come to visit.  I made a number of calls in parishes throughout Northeast Louisiana where I used to serve as a state senator, and where Landrieu was solidly defeated.  In call after call, I heard the same thing.  “We haven’t seen or heard from Mary Landrieu in years.”  At fairs, festivals, rotary clubs, and council meetings, neither she nor her staff ever showed up.  She became a Washington insider and lost contact with the folks that put her in office.

How about the charge that she supported the president 97% of the time?  The White House took a position on less than 25% of all votes taken by senators, and more than half of its positions involved presidential nominees and federal judges.  A number of Republican senators often voted with the President’s position, and Landrieu did so less than the vast majority of Democrats. Would Cassidy have opposed Landrieu’s votes to confirm the numerous Louisiana judges that Republican Senator David Vitter supported?  Landrieu should have aggressively stated that this is a phony issue, and that Cassidy needed to specifically say what presidential nominees he would have opposed.  But she just stood by and let the Cassidy attacks continue.

Obamacare?  Democrats right and left are running away from it.  Liberal New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D) said just this week it was a mistake.  Yet Landrieu keep hanging on.  Her position should have been: “Look, Obamacare is not working out, insurance companies are making a killing, and the program needs a major fix. What passed is quite similar to what Congressman Cassidy proposed when he was in the Louisiana legislature.  So we both made mistakes.  I’m ready to go back to the drawing board and change the law.”

And where was her opposition research?  In the final days of the campaign, Landrieu attacked Cassidy for billing hours at a Louisiana public hospital when he was actually in Washington.  A good issue, but why didn’t it surface months ago?  Landrieu let her opponent off the hook, rarely attacked him on his own voting record, and spent most of her time defending herself.  Any incumbent in a close race should be attacking and playing offense.  The lady spent most of her campaign on defense.  And that was a losing strategy.

Would this more aggressive localized approach made any difference?  Maybe not.  But in the end, Landrieu focused on raising out of state money, and ran a Washington based halfhearted campaign.  No, she did not lose her senate race in the final weeks.  She lost it years ago.  Old Tip is somewhere, shaking his head in disappointment.

*******

"I just know, before this is over, I'm gonna need a whole lot of serious therapy. Look at my eye twitching."  (Democratic?) Donkey (from Shrek, 2001)

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.

      







Thursday, December 04, 2014

TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF FERGUSON!


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF FERGUSON!

Do you know anyone who does not have an opinion of just what happened in Ferguson, Missouri?  The problem is that in trying to make some sense out of what has become a tragedy for everyone involved, misinformation has been spewed out from all sides.  Former New York Senator Daniel Moynihan summed up the incongruities well in saying that:  “You are entitled to your own opinion but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

For too many critics of what happened in Ferguson, personal opinions, at least in their own minds, have become the irrefutable facts of the calamity that unfolded.  So whatever it’s worth, here’s a list of what I consider to be factually based conclusions of what can be drawn from this disastrous confrontation.

First of all, it’s not reasonable to compare the Trayvon Martin case and Michael Brown.  Martin was not doing anything wrong and was being followed by a thug named George Zimmerman.  Brown is not nearly as sympathetic. He is shown on videotape committing a felony by attacking a convenience store clerk and robbing the store. He was a ruffian who, according to grand jury testimony, shouted profanities at and assaulted a police officer, refused to stop when the officer confronted him, then charged and grabbed for the officer’s gun.  It’s unclear what happened next, but it’s quite clear that Brown put himself in an extremely dangerous situation.

The county prosecutor is being blistered in the national press for not aggressively pushing for an indictment, and for giving the grand jury all available information.  Yeah, right! What generally happens is that the prosecutor gives the grand jury only what he wants them to see and hear, so as to make criminal charges a sure thing. Remember the old saying that a prosecutor, if he so desires, can indict a ham sandwich?  Have we come to a stage in the judicial process where a prosecutor, particularly when he may be uncertain himself that a crime has been committed, has to hide evidence in favor of the accused and refuses to allow all the evidence, both pro and con, to be made available to the grand jury?

Does whatever happened that night justify the orgy of anarchy that took place, no not in Iraq, but in Ferghanistan?  The destroying of businesses, many owned by African Americans who worked their whole lives to build up?  And who can forget Michael Brown’s uncle, who spiked the Ferguson mob fervor by shouting out to “burn this bi**h down,” followed by rioting, looting, burning down of businesses, and setting numerous police vehicles ablaze.

Finally, many are asking how come a city that is almost 70% black has a police department that is 94% white?  Of the six city council members, five are white.  The mayor is a white republican. The school board has seven members with one black in a school district that is 75% black.  So how can a city with an overwhelming majority of black citizens allow themselves to be governed by an overwhelming number of white public officials?

Remember the old saying that elections have consequences?  Well that’s what happened in Ferguson.  Black voter turnout was some three times lower than that of white voters.  In the last municipal election, just six percent of black voters showed up at the polls.  That means that 94% of local blacks opted not to participate and elect those who make the laws that govern Ferguson.

Under Missouri state law, voters in municipalities like Ferguson have the legal right to recall all of its elected officials.  But it takes a vote of the people, and the vast majority of Ferguson’s black community has shown an unwillingness to engage in the process of electing and governing.  What’s the other old saying, “you’ve got to pay to play”, and playing in this instance is simply showing up to vote on Election Day.

Yes, we have significant problems of race in America today. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough was right on this week when he said that “a young black man is treated much worse than a young white man on the street, in the courtroom, in jail.  There are two Americas when it comes to criminal justice.”  But a change in the civic fabric of America that pertains to race relations should not be defined by Michael Brown’s actions.  Leadership across the racial spectrum can find a better focal point than what happened in Ferguson.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

YOU OUTSIDERS, QUITE TELLING US WHAT’S BEST FOR LOUISIANA!


Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
New York City, N.Y.

YOU OUTSIDERS, QUITE TELLING US
WHAT’S BEST FOR LOUISIANA!

The political termites are swarming into Louisiana.  They are coming from everywhere; north and south-east and west.  All with one purpose in mind.  The want to tell us who we should vote for as the state’s next U.S. Senator.  I don’t know about you, but I get sick and tired of all these out of stators who must think we are too dumb down here in Bayou country to make up our own minds.

Republican challenger Bill Cassidy can’t seem to make it through his day without announcing some new out of state surrogate who will fly into Louisiana and tell us political retards just how we should vote. Kentucky senator Rand Paul charged in last week to tell a Cassidy campaign rally that Louisiana would sink into the Gulf of Mexico if voters don’t elect Cassidy on December 6th.  Now I happen to like Paul’s libertarian views on the erosion of Americana freedoms, but that doesn’t qualify him to tell us Cajuns and Rednecks whose best qualified to deal with problems down here in the deepest of the deep southern states.  I’m sure Paul’s presidential aspirations have nothing to do with his efforts to support Cassidy.

Sarah Palin also joined the Cassidy support team last week to ballyhoo his candidacy.  Just last month, Palin was in Louisiana backing Col. Rob Maness, who was eliminated in the first primary election.  I personally think Palin just likes coming down to Louisiana.  Considering it’s below zero in Palin’s Alaska hometown, and the sun rarely appears this time of year, she will probably volunteer to come back again next month to barnstorm in a futile effort to rehabilitate Gov. Bobby Jindal’s poll numbers.

The Cassidy list of out of stators hankering to lecture on what’s best for us include Sen. John McCain from Arizona, Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida, and Gov. Rick Perry from Texas, just to name a few.  And their message, at least in their own minds, must ring true.  Louisianans like you and I are just too stupid to make up our own minds as to who is best qualified to represent us in Washington.

Incumbent Mary Landrieu, who has represented the state for the past 18 years in the senate, also must think we need to flood the state with outside opinions as to what is best for us.  New Jersey Senator Corey Booker was in the Crescent City on Landrieu’s behalf last week, and she heads next week to a New York City penthouse to mingle with politicos and moneyed fat cats who support her Louisiana campaign.  She even was endorsed by the Houston Chronicle that editorialized:  “For Texas’ sake, Louisiana voters should elect Mary Landrieu to office.”  So if she looses on December 6th, there may be a future for her in Lone Star state politics.

Then there is the huge problem of out of state campaign money flooding into the coffers of both Landrieu and Cassidy, who eagerly seek out special interest donations.  Million of dollars in the first primary, and millions more in the runoff.  It seems like every TV commercial is paid for by some out of state lobbying organization. Again, outside special interest groups, who could care less about Louisiana problems, but are anxious to tell Louisiana voters how to vote.

How about this idea?  It’s simple.  Candidates for public office in Louisiana could only raise campaign funds within the district in which they are running.  So if a candidate is running for governor, he or she could only accept contributions from citizens of Louisiana.  If the office sought were mayor, then the candidate would be limited to raising campaign funds within the city limits.  No out of state money.  No out of district dollars.  Only those citizens who are eligible to vote for the candidate could make campaign contributions.

Letting only in state voters contribute to candidates would bring democracy back to where it should be.  Back to the state or district level.  That’s what the founding fathers envisioned.  Citizens voting for their own destiny free from outside influence.  Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

*******


"Elections are more often bought than won." - Rep. Lee Hamilton

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.