Barack Obama possible beef with New Orleans Saints over White House visit gaining steam

If the stories are true then this could be the biggest story of the month. I’ve been seeing stories all over the place about a small beef that looks like it’s gaining steam. It has to do with the New Orleans Saints visiting the White House because of their Super Bowl win. President Barack Obama has remained tight lipped about the subject.

Note to Saints administration: Just in case you’re wondering. President Obama’s administration probably has the juice and political skills to drop Saints jersey sales in an instant across the country. People might even bring them back for a refund. That’s just one of the things I can think of. Is it worth a couple hundred million to you to get a distorted message across?

I have no idea what the Saints are thinking. I’m trying not to think this is something racial. I don’t understand it.

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is a billionaire for the most part. Depending on how much value you put on the Saints. Think of that. I’ve researched a few billionaires. Most notably I followed Rupert Murdoch who weighs in at around 7 billion. I also did some research on Philip Anschutz, he owns Clarity Media which owns I’m independent by the way. You probably guessed that from reading some of my racier articles. Tom Benson has played his money pretty close to the vest. Not letting it get too far outside of Louisiana and Texas. Anschutz is worth more than Murdoch

Bobby Jindal could always get a job with New Orleans saints if politics don’t work out
Saints call rumors of White House visit delay "crap"
Saints deny report that politics are affecting Super Bowl champs’ visit to the White House
Politics keeping New Orleans Saints from the White House?

“These People Stole My F&*king Life”

These have been discouraging times for Americans who abhor torture, during what Bob Dylan refers to as the New Dark Ages here in America. And African-Americans, of all people, have always known that torture is as American as apple pie and that authorities who are guilty, are rarely brought to justice for that crime. But the conviction of one of the most brutal perpetrators of torture in an infamous Chicago police department has been a sweet vindication for some of the most forgotten people in this country.

Black people were tortured and lynched throughout the south in the Jim Crow era, and the perpetrators were never held accountable. Between 1889 and 1930, "over 3,700 men and women were reported lynched in the United States."

And violence was not just limited to the south, and not to the distant past. Chicago has long had a reputation for police brutality and the protection of "rogue" police officers. It has been widely accepted that "black men suspected of crimes didn’t leave interrogation rooms at Chicago’s Area 2 police station until they told detectives what they wanted to hear."

Near suffocation, beatings, electric shocks, were repeatedly reported by defendants as part of an effort to extract confessions. These practices were carried on from the seventies into the nineties in the city’s south and west sides, on untold numbers of victims.

But one of the most notorious perpetrators Jon Burge, a decorated former police lieutenant, was just sentenced to up to 45 years in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice.

One victim Darrell Cannon, tells about being tortured by the police:

By them not being successful in getting what they wanted out of me, they then did a third treatment, which was they put me in the backseat of a detective car. They unhandcuffed my cuffs from behind, put them in front. John Byrne [Burge?] had a gun to my head and told me, "Don’t move," when they redid the handcuffs. They put me sideways in the backseat of a detective car and made me lay down across the seat. They pulled my pants and my shorts down, and that’s when Byrne took an electric cattle prod, turned it on, and proceeded to shock me on my testicles.

They did this what seems like forever with me, but it wasn’t that long. At one point, I was able to kick the cattle prod out of the detective’s hands, and that knocked the batteries out. He got the batteries, put them back in. One of them tried to take his feet and put it on top of one of my feet, the other one did the same thing, to stop me from kicking. Then this is when they started using the electric cattle prod on me again, while telling me that they knew that I wasn’t the one they wanted, but I had information that could lead them to the other person that they wanted.

They continued to do this until finally I agreed to tell them anything they wanted to hear. Anything. It didn’t matter to me. You know, if they said, "Did your mother do it?" "Yes, yes, yes." Because the diabolical treatment that I received was such that I had never in my life experienced anything like this. I didn’t even know anything like this here existed in the United States.

Justice will not be done, however, until every torturer is behind bars and the victims released from prison and attempts made to compensate them, if that is even possible, for the torture and for the years they have lost sitting in prison cells.

In another part of the clip from Democracy Now above, lawyer Flint Taylor hails the conviction of Burge, and then begins to speak to our leaders in Washington, who have not seen fit to investigate accounts of torture ordered by our highest officials, and therefore, have denied the victims their God-given right to justice. He says (emphasis mine):

It was a wonderful victory for the African American community and all people here in Chicago who have fought so long and so hard for justice. This fight, as you’ve mentioned, has gone on for decades. It’s a human rights victory that should be understood across the entire country, because here in Chicago we’ve now done something, after thirty years of struggle, that has not happened anywhere else. And that is, we have a conviction of a torturer, a United States torturer.

And that is what the lesson needs to be taken by the Obama administration, who seems so leery to prosecute people like Cheney and people under his command for torture abroad by the US. Now we have an example. And actually, it was a Republican prosecutor who did this. So I think that we all across this country should take a lesson from Chicago. ..this jury, which only had one African American on it, spoke loudly and said no, it’s not right to torture. Doesn’t matter if you’re poor and black and a criminal.

And I think the message is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a terrorist either, or an alleged terrorist, that we cannot countenance torture in this country or by this country. And until all people who torture and all those people who are responsible for torturing are brought to justice, the conscience of Chicago and the conscience of this country cannot be cleansed.

Torture is the defining moral issue of our time. Over the past decade the leaders of our nation devised and implemented a torture program, knowingly in violation of our laws and treaty obligations, oversaw this program and had OLC lawyers provide legal justification for these crimes through twisted and heinous legal memos.

Now torture continues in secret prisons in Afghanistan under our "kinder, gentler" Democratic President, because we have sunk so low as a country that there is a tacit bipartisan agreement that torture is now part of American foreign policy.

As Pogo said, "We have seen the enemy and he is us."

Late Night: Money Money Money

You may have noticed that FDL is running a fundraiser. Or you may not have noticed, having only clicked over here accidentally after Googling “Scooter + Naked,” and are wondering who the hell this “Libby” person is when all you wanted to do was indulge your creepy Muppet fetish. In which case, give us fifty bucks or we’ll tell your mom!

Ha ha. That is a joke. More seriously, you may be wondering just exactly why FDL is running a fundraiser. Like all liberal blogs, is not FDL lavishly funded by George Soros (pictured here)? Well, yes. But truth be told, most of that scratch goes for Beagle Chow and to pay off the massive FCC fines resulting from a certain unnamed potty-mouth’s television appearances.

Or to be cereal for a moment. Actually, FDL is supported by you, real people, Americans perhaps even realer than the ones Sarah Palin blathers on about — real Americans who want to know what’s really going on in America, who want the kind of in-depth reporting and commentary provided by folks like Marcy Wheeler and David Dayen and Spencer Ackerman, folks who know what they’re talking about and don’t believe the MSM hype. You also want to take action to help move America in a more progressive, less nuts direction, to help end stupid wars and even stupider environmental destruction, and help bring to a close the Reign of Village Idiocy.

So if you can, please consider donating $50, $20, or anything you can spare in these horrendously desperate economic times, to help FDL push forward into the future, to bring you even more top-notch reporting and campaigning.

I mean, you could donate to NPR… Or you could donate to FDL, and you’d get to support journalism that just might make a difference. Also, our solemn pledge to you is that absolutely none of your contributions will ever go to Cokie Roberts.

Beats a tote bag all to hell, you ask me.

California Split Almost Evenly on Prop 19; Few Left Undecided about Marijuana Legalization

Vote Yes on 19 poster from 1972
Yes on 19 Marijuana Legalization Campaign Poster. (Bolerium Books/LA Weekly)

Proposition 19, the newly numbered California initiative to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis, would lose by a very close margin if the election was held today, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll:

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, also found that 48 percent of voters would support legalizing marijuana, compared to 50 percent opposed.

While voters who oppose Prop 19 slightly outnumber those who support it , the two-point difference is well within the poll’s margin of error, so the state is effectively evenly split on the issue. The numbers mirror the findings of a poll from the Public Policy Institute of California (PDF) taken back in May. It gave the pro-marijuana legalization side a slight edge, 49-48, also within the poll’s margin of error.

An interesting thing to note in both of these polls is how incredibly few undecideds there are. It seems almost all Californians have already taken at least a tentative initial position on the issue. Previous experience will tell you that persuading people to change their minds one way or the other is often a fairly difficult endeavor.

Prop 19 supporters’ best hope might be to find a way to increase turnout among young people (under-25 voters overwhelmingly favor legalizing marijuana, but tend to vote in very low numbers in midterm elections). If the issue remains this closely divided all the way through to November, Prop 19’s fate could easily rest on whether or not the issue gets young voters politically engaged in higher-than-usual numbers.

Amy Klobuchar Shreds Coburn’s “Concept of Freedom”

Senator Coburn spent about 20 straight minutes today whining to Elena Kagan about how much less freedom we have today than we did 30 years ago.

Which Amy Klobuchar promptly shredded–by far the highlight of today’s hearing. As she points out, back in Coburn’s idyllic free time, women were not represented on the Supreme Court–and barely were in Congress. (Though, note, she corrected herself later–Senator Kassebaum was serving in the Senate already by 1980.)

But then what would you expect from one of the C Street boys, huh?

Join me at the 6th National Gay Men’s Health Summit

The 6th National Gay Men’s Health Summit will gather together gay men (as well as, bi, trans men, other men who have sex with men and their allies) to reflect on and celebrate gay men’s lives while working on a brighter future for gay men’shealth and wellness.

In sunny Ft. Lauderdale, Florida hundreds of gay men and their allies from throughout the country and beyond will gather August 25-29, 2010, and convene at Sheraton Ft Lauderdale Airport and Cruise Port Hotel to share space together and engage about their exciting work and their lives while they attend the 2010 National Gay Men’s Health Summit. The theme of the event is "Creating a Brighter Future: The NextDecade of Gay Men’s Health" and will be held jointly with the 9th annual Southeast Regional Gay Men’s Health Summit.

Gay men are creative, strong, and resilient. We have developed our own home-grown social networks, support structures, definitions of community, communities and communal rituals, formulated systems and structures for and around health and wellness- all for and by us.

Gay men continue to create, build and sustain lives that are satisfying and fulfilling, even in the face of formidable obstacles, persistent stigma, and incredible challenges. One of the key challenges we face is to ensure that gay men and their allies continue to be involved in the strategizing and implementation phases of Health Care Reform- our voice will be heard. Another key challenge is to develop creative funding strategies and work alongside key policy makers while we simultaneously work with fellow advocates to shape policy such as ADAP and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Gay men face the challenge to fully explore and develop solutions to decrease health and wellness disparities.

At the Summit, gay men and their allies will continue to have frank and open dialogue about race, racism, identity and gender politics, aging and class. We will discuss these and other domains and paradigms for thinking about gay men's health. Our conversations will cover the broad spectrum of interests for gay men with key focus on strengths-based organizing, emerging issues, and other key hot topics. Gay-identified Trans men will certainly be a key area of dialogue with a focus on discovering, dreaming and agenda setting for gay transmen. We will also broach an intergenerational conversation around youth, adults, elders and ancestors, and the impact of a loss of a large part of a generation as a result of the AIDS epidemic with discussion of how to move forward together. We will look into an expansive research agenda to ensure a holistic approach that is also culturally responsive and appropriate toward gay men and their health and wellness.  We will explore our individual, collective and inter and intrapersonal sexual health through interactive workshops, laughter, and play- a journey of past, present, and future.

We will review and use the Gay Men’s Health Agenda to guide national efforts around political action and local organizing and rallying. The Gay Men’s Health Agenda will seat its first National Steering Committee in collaboration with its Leadership Core. We will continue to think outside the box, challenging and expanding social categories and promoting culturally appropriate and responsive directives with novel programmatic approaches.

For more information on submitting a proposal or to register for the Summit, visit the 2010 National Gay Men’s Health Summit website at: (more…)

Watercooler – Cigarette Tax: How High Is Too High?

Starting tomorrow, the cost of lighting up in New York will increase dramatically – again:

The (New York) Legislature passed a bill on Monday that will give the state the highest cigarette taxes in the country. The new law, part of an emergency budget measure to keep the government running, adds another $1.60 in state taxes to every cigarette pack sold starting on July 1, pushing the average price of a pack to about $9.20. The average price in New York City, which imposes its own cigarette taxes, will be even higher, nearly $11 a pack.

Wow. When I was a smoker back in the mid-to-late 90’s, I could get a pack of Camel Lights for less than two bucks. Of course, New York smokers are outraged, as are many advocates for the poor and working class – since cigarette taxes are inherently regressive:

People in lower-income brackets are statistically more likely to become addicted to tobacco. This is due to many factors, from lack of overall education to cigarette marketing strategies. When these lower-income folks not only pay the cost of their cigarettes, but also bear the excessive taxation associated with them, the final cost can take a substantial percentage of their income. People who earn higher wages pay a lower percentage of their overall income. This is the nature of the regressive tax, and it is not fair.

What do the Seminal readers think? Is it fair to jack up the "sin" tax everytime there’s a budget crunch? Why not raise taxes on items that wealthy people are more liklely to buy? Or better yet, why not just make the wealthy and large corporations pay all the income taxes they already should?

What’s on your mind tonight?

When There’s Nothing On The Horizon, You’ve Got Nothing Left To Prove

June 30, 2010
DOD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Brandon M. Silk, 25, of Orono, Maine, died June 21 of injuries sustained when the helicopter in which he was travelling made a hard landing. He was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

For more information contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at 270-798-3025.

Barry Eisler’s New Thriller Draws Upon U.S. Torture Program

Cover of Inside Out (image from

Barry Eisler’s new novel, Inside Out, was released in stores yesterday, and is already climbing the book sales charts. An excerpt from the novel was posted at Truthout the other day, under the title, “The New National Security State.”

The publication of Inside Out is a big deal, because until now no one has taken the headlines surrounding the Bush/Cheney/CIA torture scandal and made them the subject of memorable fiction. The book itself has an impressive bibliography, showing the amount of research that went into the tale of black ops special forces officer, Ben Treven, called upon to track down a former colleague who has stolen dozens of CIA torture videotapes and is blackmailing the U.S. government, lest he release them to a shocked world. Treven is in a race with a plethora of other agents from other parts of the government, as no one wants this evidence about U.S. crimes against humanity to be released.

The seriousness behind the fiction is evidenced by the recent article by Nick Baumann and Daniel Shulman at Mother Jones, which describes the Department of Justice investigation aimed at attorneys and their investigators, like John Sifton, for being, from the CIA’s standpoint, too conscientious in pursuing the defense of the Guantanamo prisoners whom they represent. Photographic evidence plays a role in this case, as the government is upset that investigators may have obtained pictures of CIA interrogators involved in rendition-torture cases, and shown them as part of a line-up of photos to their detainee clients. The attorneys apparently were hoping to find the interrogators involved in the torture of their clients, so they could subpoena them to court.

But for the U.S. government, it’s all about protecting their secret agents and their actions, even if it included torture sanctioned by the previous administration. As an article by Scott Horton on the Sifton case noted, 21 CIA agents were convicted by an Italian court in absentia last year for the rendition of Abu Omar, while there are pending arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents in Spain for the rendition to torture of Khaled El-Masri. But behind the actions taken against individual agents and interrogators lies the possibility of investigations and prosecutions of those who created, enabled, implemented and administered the torture program: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, the OLC attorneys, Donald Rumsfeld, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, Condi Rice, George Tenet, John Ashcroft, possibly even members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So the stakes around battles over evidence, especially photographic evidence, are quite high.

It is precisely that premise that makes Eisler’s novel, Inside Out, the exciting and engaging read that it is. It presents an enticing “what if…?” What if the torture tapes were not destroyed, but copies still existed and were used in a byzantine struggle between intra-governmental actors involved in blackmail, murder, and other crimes, all to cover up crimes that may be even worse than what has yet been revealed (the “Caspers”!)? [Click through for more.]

Tune in (or what does one say in the era of the Internet?) to the Firedoglake Book Salon, this Saturday, July 3, 5pm EDT/2pm PDT, to chat with Barry Eisler and myself about the thin line between fiction and truth on torture, on disappeared prisoners and black-site prisons, and more.