Saturday, February 19, 2005

Human Rights Watch: The Torture Scandal Continues

Army Destroyed Mock Afghan Execution Pics
NEW YORK - Pictures of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan posing with hooded and bound detainees during mock executions were destroyed after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq to avoid another public outrage, Army documents released Friday by the American Civil Liberties Union show.

The results of an Army probe of the photographs were among hundreds of pages of documents released after the ACLU obtained a federal court order in Manhattan to let it see documents about U.S. treatment of detainees around the world.

The ACLU said the probe shows the rippling effect of the Abu Ghraib scandal and that efforts to humiliate the enemy might have been more widespread than thought.

"It's increasingly clear that members of the military were aware of the allegations of torture and that efforts were taken to erase evidence, to shut down investigations and to humiliate the detainees in an effort to silence them," ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said.

What's the matter boys? Got something to hide?

ACLU: fresh army documents report continued abuse
In one file released today, an Iraqi detainee claimed that Americans in civilian clothing beat him in the head and stomach, dislocated his arms, "stepped on [his] nose until it [broke]," stuck an unloaded pistol in his mouth and fired the trigger, choked him with a rope and beat his leg with a baseball bat. Medical reports corroborated the detainee's account, stating that the detainee had a broken nose, fractured leg, and scars on his stomach. In addition, soldiers confirmed that Task Force 20 interrogators wearing civilian clothing had interrogated the detainee. However, after initially reporting the abuse, the detainee said that he was forced by an American soldier to sign a statement denouncing the claims or else be kept in detention indefinitely. He agreed.

An investigator who reviewed the signed statement concluded that "[t]his statement, alone, is a prima facie indication of threats." However, despite the medical report and testimony from other soldiers, the criminal file was ultimately closed on the grounds that the investigation had "failed to prove or disprove" the offenses.

So much for the Geneva Conventions.

AP: Iraqi Died While Hung From Wrists
SAN DIEGO - An Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA interrogation while in a position condemned by human rights groups as torture — suspended by his wrists, with his hands cuffed behind his back, according to reports reviewed by The Associated Press.

The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. The U.S. military said back then that the death had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances under which the man died were not disclosed at the time.

The prisoner died in a position known as "Palestinian hanging," the documents reviewed by The AP show. It is unclear whether that position was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations.

The spy agency, which faces congressional scrutiny over its detention and interrogation of terror suspects at the Baghdad prison and elsewhere, declined to comment for this story, as did the Justice Department.

Al-Jamadi was one of the CIA's "ghost" detainees at Abu Ghraib — prisoners being held secretly by the agency.

His death in November 2003 became public with the release of photos of Abu Ghraib guards giving a thumbs-up over his bruised and puffy-faced corpse, which had been packed in ice. One of those guards was Pvt. Charles Graner, who last month received 10 years in a military prison for abusing detainees.

Al-Jamadi died in a prison shower room during about a half-hour of questioning, before interrogators could extract any information, according to the documents, which consist of statements from Army prison guards to investigators with the military and the CIA's Inspector General's office.

One Army guard, Sgt. Jeffery Frost, said the prisoner's arms were stretched behind him in a way he had never before seen. Frost told investigators he was surprised al-Jamadi's arms "didn't pop out of their sockets," according to a summary of his interview.

Frost and other guards had been summoned to reposition al-Jamadi, who an interrogator said was not cooperating. As the guards released the shackles and lowered al-Jamadi, blood gushed from his mouth "as if a faucet had been turned on," according to the interview summary.

The military pathologist who ruled the case a homicide found several broken ribs and concluded al-Jamadi died from pressure to the chest and difficulty breathing.

Dr. Michael Baden, a distinguished civilian pathologist who reviewed the autopsy for a defense attorney in the case, agreed in an interview that the position in which al-Jamadi was suspended could have contributed to his death.

Dr. Vincent Iacopino, director of research for Physicians for Human Rights, called the hyper-extension of the arms behind the back "clear and simple torture." The European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of torture in 1996 in a case of Palestinian hanging — a technique Iacopino said is used worldwide but named for its alleged use by Israel in the Palestinian territories.

The Washington Post reported last year that after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the CIA suspended the use of its "enhanced interrogation techniques," including stress positions, because of fears that the agency could be accused of unsanctioned and illegal activity. The newspaper said the White House had approved the tactics.

Navy SEALs apprehended al-Jamadi as a suspect in the Oct. 27, 2003, bombing of Red Cross offices in Baghdad that killed 12 people. His alleged role in the bombing is unclear. According to court documents and testimony, the SEALs punched, kicked and struck al-Jamadi with their rifles before handing him over to the CIA early on Nov. 4. By 7 a.m., al-Jamadi was dead.

Navy prosecutors in San Diego have charged nine SEALs and one sailor with abusing al-Jamadi and others. All but two lieutenants have received nonjudicial punishment; one lieutenant is scheduled for court-martial in March, the other is awaiting a hearing before the Navy's top SEAL.

The statements from five of Abu Ghraib's Army guards were shown to The AP by an attorney for one of the SEALs, who said they offered a more balanced picture of what happened. The lawyer asked not to be identified, saying he feared repercussions for his client.

According to the statements:

Al-Jamadi was brought naked below the waist to the prison with a CIA interrogator and translator. A green plastic bag covered his head, and plastic cuffs tightly bound his wrists. Guards dressed al-Jamadi in an orange jumpsuit, slapped on metal handcuffs and escorted him to the shower room, a common CIA interrogation spot.

There, the interrogator instructed guards to attach shackles from the prisoner's handcuffs to a barred window. That would let al-Jamadi stand without pain, but if he tried to lower himself, his arms would be stretched above and behind him.

The documents do not make clear what happened after guards left. After about a half-hour, the interrogator called for the guards to reposition the prisoner, who was slouching with his arms stretched behind him.

The interrogator told guards that al-Jamadi was "playing possum" — faking it — and then watched as guards struggled to get him on his feet. But the guards realized it was useless.

"After we found out he was dead, they were nervous," Spc. Dennis E. Stevanus said of the CIA interrogator and translator. "They didn't know what the hell to do."

The Guardian is also covering the on-going human rights abuse scandal. We Americans have so much to be proud of, eh?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Sam Rivers

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Here's an extensive discography detailing the sessions and gigs that he's appeared at and/or led. This cat's been around the block and then some, and is one of the giants of the free jazz world. Although primarily known for his work on the sax, he's also an accomplished flutist and pianist. His compositions and gigs are typically very demanding of the listener, but well worth the effort.

I started getting into his music a few years back when I stumbled upon an out of print 1970s Impulse! album, Streams. That album is a recording of a live gig in which Rivers fronts a trio. It's a wild and wooly gig from the start to finish. From there I got into his Blue Note recordings, thanks to stumbling upon the Complete Blue Note Sam Rivers Sessions set on Mosaic at a bargain basement price (I just lucked out, given that those things tend to be pretty pricey even while in print). He knows his history, and can respectfully rework jazz standards (so he can play straight-ahead if need be) as well as create some very cutting edge free-form originals. My favorite sessions, like Streams, are purely improvised gigs where Rivers and crew don't impose a preconcieved structure or direction. The cats just get up on stage and hold a conversation. He's also done some larger ensemble works that are highly structured with minimal improvisation(and mildly reminiscent of 20th classical work). A lot of his gigs seem to eschew titles, sticking instead to movements which are usually centered around whatever instrument Rivers is playing at the time (tenor or soprano sax, flute, piano). I'm mainly a fan of his work during the 1970s (his live gigs and jazz loft sessions are truly priceless), but think that just about anything you pick up by this cat will be well worth it.

One interesting mismatch in his career was a brief stint in Miles Davis' band in 1964. Davis was primarily still stuck in the 1950s, playing a mix of original material and pop standards, whereas Rivers was primarily all about pushing the envelope by that point in his career. Needless to say, there was some friction, and one can feel the friction in the lone recorded live output of that brief footnote in both men's careers.

If you want to get more detail about who he is and what he's about I highly recommend Riversteppingstones, which culls together liner notes, reviews, and whatnot. That page will nicely set the stage and give the reader a context for his important contributions to the music.

In short, if I were to recommend specific albums, I'd say go with anything from his Blue Note period (if you can't find the Mossaic set, I'm partial to his last album for the label, Dimensions and Extensions, as well as Fuschia Swing Song), Streams and Hues from his stint at Impulse!, and Black Africa! Perugia (an out of print live gig from 1976 in Italy which was released in 1977 on the Horo label). He also appears on the Wildflowers 3-cd set (originally 5-lp set on of all labels Casablanca) which documents some of what was going on in the NY jazz loft scene circa 1976. You can't go wrong.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Sister Dorothy Stang


I'm a little late on this, but better late than never. Here's her obit, and here's a story that puts her murder in context. A clip:
Sister Dorothy was in the Boa Esperanca settlement when she was killed. She was travelling with two peasants to a meeting to discuss a settlement for the area, which has apparently been granted to peasants by the federal government but which is sought by loggers. The two men travelling with her escaped unhurt and may be able to identify the killers to police, reports suggest.

While the suspects' names have not yet been released, Sister Dorothy's supporters say there is little doubt as to who was responsible. While the local people called her Dora or "the angel of the Trans-Amazonian", loggers and other opponents called her a "terrorist" and accused of supplying guns to the peasants. The Pastoral Land Commission of the Roman Catholic Church, which she worked for, said in a statement: "The hatred of ranchers and loggers respects nothing. The reprehensible murder of our sister brings back to us memories of a past that we had thought was closed."

The continuing saga of Gannon/Guckert

Thanks to the tireless work of cats such as AmericaBlog:
I think I sense a growing Gannon firestorm - Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich, which quotes Dowd's and Rich's commentary on the scandal. See also OP/ED: Was Gannon Called to Testify in Plame Investigation? catches our faux journalist in another apparent lie. We also find out that "Gannon" was already in the White House briefing room before he was even part of any news organization! No small feat considering admission to the WH press corps requires affiliation with a legit news organization. Huh. See a similar post on Daily Kos for another take on this development.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Djinji Brown

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I stumbled onto this cat's work last year quite by accident while surfing the net to see where Marion Brown's appeared on wax and cd. Turned out that Djinji is Marion's son, and that periodically Djinji drops a track with Marion on it. Djinji's been in the music biz a while, it appears, primarily as an engineer or producer for a variety of hip-hop artists, has made the rounds as a dj, at one point very early in his career he fronted a hardcore/punk band, and he's been dropping albums and singles under his own name since the dawn of the new millenium. How to describe his work? Well, let's just say that when your parents include a dad who's a prominent avant-garde jazz sax legend & ethnomusicologist and a mom who studied anthropology and you're being raised in Bronx, you're likely to absorb a lot of influences. His own sound reflects that. It isn't hip-hop in any traditional sense, although that's definitely the vibe. He seems to groove on a lot of Latin, jazz, electronica, among other genres and weaves them together in a way that defies any easy categorization. His recordings are very eclectic, with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in - but keep in mind this is very focused eclecticism. As a reviewer puts it, this cat is sick - his recordings are must-haves.

The best way to familiarize yourself with his work and his vibe, short of actually listening to his work, is probably to check out some of his interviews. A pretty good interview can be found on Altrap.net: Djinji Brown Interview (by Timid). A brief bio can be found here. Personally, I really dig Sirround Sound and La Siete Potencias, and consider those to be good introductions to his world.

Straight Talk From A Journalist: Who'da Thunk It?

MSM reporter tells truth. No, really. Don't miss this.
Dallas, TX: The pictures of voting Sunday in Iraq and the incredible turnout demonstrate the determined will of a courageous people. Even if President Bush was wrong in invading Iraq, doesn't the result make it all worth while?
Rod Nordland: It was indeed a very heartening occasion. Still, Bush didn't invade the country to bring it democracy. By that reasoning, we should also invade Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, etc., none of which have anything even remotely resembling democracy. No WMD, remember, which was one reason, and no al Qaeda, the other reason--until after we invaded. And Iraq now is the biggest producer of terrorists in the world, which it wasn't before."

Lincoln, RI: The United States spent billions trying to establish democracy in the foreign culture of South Vietnam. What makes us so optimistic that we can do it in the Middle East where none exist now except in Israel?
Rod Nordland: Who's optimistic?

Richmond, CA: Shouldn't the U.S.A. invade Iran next? I think they certainly should.
Rod Nordland: I guess you're in favor of reinstitution the draft and raising an army of another million men in order to handle the extra work. Good luck selling that one to your fellow Americans."

Hopatcong, NJ: Do you, Masland and Dickey mean "F---ing Murderers" when you say "insurgents" and "fighters" in your STUPIDITY? I've grown sick and tired of you "politically incorrect" reporters. Why don't you have the gumption to call a spade a spade?
Rod Nordland: OK, you're an idiot. How's that?"

Hallowell, ME: why does Bush care so much about what happens in Iraq when there are so many poor, sick, poverty-stricken people in the U.S.?
Rod Nordland: Who said he cares?"

Boise, ID: With all of the blunders in tactics and with the shame of Abu-Ghraib on all Americans, why is Donald Rumsfeld still the Secretary of Defense??
Rod Nordland: Because a majority of American voters re-elected his boss.

Grand Rapids, MI: If WMDs don't exist in Iraq, where are the destroyed ones? Rod Nordland: I think they're in Atlantis.

Read the rest.

More on Gannon/Guckertgate

Via Truthout: "Jeff Gannon's" Secret Life by Eric Boehlert (originally featured on Salon.com)
Whether news that Guckert was able to go from posting his gay male escort services online to being ushered into the White House under a phony name on behalf of a fake news organization -- and was never asked to pass an FBI background check -- constitutes a real "story" among the Republican Party faithful, or the mainstream press corps, remains to be seen.


See also, Republican Web Site Airs Vile Anti-Semitism: "GOPUSA" Internet site suddenly deletes column calling George Soros "descendant of Shylock." This is more of an oldie but a goodie, that gives us a bit more insight into the kind of people we're dealing with over at GOPUSA/Talon.

William Rivers Pitt has his own take on his blog: 'Kill One, Warn One Hundred'. He may be right that the RWCM (or what he refers to as MSM) is getting more fearful of bloggers.

Note: see also, Billmon's Pieces of the Puzzle which weaves texts between the Gannon/Guckert scandal and a previous Bush I admin scandal involving male prostitutes.

Priorities

Jeff Gannon vs. Ward Churchill. Who's more problematic? Depends on whom you ask.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Gannon/Guckertgate

A Man Called Jeff is Americablog's exposé of the male prostitute turned "journalist" in the White House press corps. He's got quite a past to say the least, and his professional life was clearly not in journalism prior to mysteriously appearing in the Press Corps just days after Talon News was established. I'm still wondering how this guy got clearance in the first place. Either the White House is full of buffoons who wouldn't know how to handle a simple background check if their lives depended on it (rather ironic given that its occupants campaigned under the premise that they were serious about national security), or there was some effort to plant a propagandist in the press corps (quite plausible given other publicly exposed propagandists on the federal government's payroll). Still more curious, this guy happened to know a lot about the Plame affair that really needs to be investigated - pronto. There's more to the story than meets the eye, and there are some bloggers whose aggressive pursuit of this story will likely continue to clear the air (just look at what's been accomplished in just a couple weeks).

Note: the link is not exactly "work safe" so proceed with caution.

Monday, February 14, 2005

On the CD and MP3 players

Always good to have a bit of music in the background (while working) or foreground (while chilling out):

Pharoah Sanders - La Chunga Jazz Club, Nice France (7-24-1968) - private tape
Pharoah Sanders - Jazz Workshop, Boston (7-04-1974) - private tape
Sun Ra - God's Private Eye: Live at the Detroit Jazz Center (12-31-1980/1-01-1981) - no label
23 Skidoo - Urban Gamelan (1984) - Illuminated

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Hubris of the GOP is once more on display

Apparently, the average Republican legislator in the state of Texas is raised by rabid psychopathic wolves. I know...How on earth could I ever say such a thing about such fine upstanding pillars of their respective communities? All they want to do is prevent at the whim of the Texas Ethics Commission prosecutions of politicians, and furthermore prevent prosecutors from pursuing their investigations if they don't have the commission's okey dokey. I reckon this criminal investigation of Tom Delay has just got them folks fit to be tied.

Academic Freedom Watch Sunday

I'll have to say that the sheer moral outrage that I've seen expressed regarding a poorly worded phrase from an obscuroid essay is indeed something to behold. Of course the loudest calls for Churchill's scalp seem to come from the right-wing, which is no big surprise. The basic racist elitism that oozes out of the screeds of right-wing columns and blogs is old news at this point. If one isn't hip to that by now, one hasn't been paying attention. What I'll admit caught me a little off guard is that I run into self-described liberals who also want this guy fired. "What's up with that?" I'd ask myself. As I reflect a bit I think it boils down to a fairly basic element: Churchill's polemic makes him guilty of a cardinal sin in liberal circles. By attacking the fundamentally held view that the US government and its foreign policies are aimed at benefiting others, he slays a sacred cow. It is considered irresponsible to question that assumption, and I suspect that many of us here in the US never bother to examine that assumption. It's that assumption that makes it possible to view the 9/11 terrorist attack as senseless. When we see that the assumption does not hold up in the light of evidence (and for that forget the right-wing corporate media or mainstream history books, and go straight to Chomsky & Zinn, among others), we also see that such attacks may have been practically inevitable. We Americans really do need to re-examine how our government's actions appear to the rest of the planet - especially to those who live in the so-called third world. I suspect what those willing to look will find is going to be an eye-opener. What happened nearly three and a half years ago on our shores was truly horrific, but so too has the blood shed elsewhere in the name of making the world safe for corporate exploitation.

When it comes to sacred cows, I suppose you have the right to remain silent. Personally I think that one is duty bound to shout the truth from mountaintop to mountaintop, but that's currently not a fashionable perspective. In the meantime, for all those who are so Hell-bent on firing professors who harbor and express offensive beliefs, David Neiwert points out several right-wing extremists who hold academic positions. That such people have used their academic positions as a means to spread racist, eugenics, and anti-semitic propaganda is certainly disturbing and I think it's crucial that these people be exposed for what they are and that their screeds be countered as vigorously as humanly possible. That said, I draw a line when it comes to sacrificing academic freedom. I won't be calling for their firings any time too soon any more than I would for anyone else in academe precisely because colleges and universities exist to provide a safe haven for free inquiry.

"Neo Con Luv"

View the video here.
"Dick Cheney, why you so sexy..." indeed.