Torture Does Work

Torture is a poor way to obtain information, but nothing works better when you want to extract a false confession. The New York Times reports:

Iranian leaders say they have obtained confessions from top reformist officials that they plotted to bring down the government with a “velvet” revolution. Such confessions, almost always extracted under duress, are part of an effort to recast the civil unrest set off by Iran’s disputed presidential election as a conspiracy orchestrated by foreign nations, human rights groups say.

Reports on Iranian Web sites associated with prominent conservatives said that leading reformers have confessed to taking velvet revolution “training courses” outside the country. Alef, a Web site of a conservative member of Parliament, referred to a video of Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who served as vice president in the reform government of former President Mohammed Khatami, as showing that he tearfully “welcomed being defrocked and has confessed to provoking people, causing tension and creating media chaos.”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards, Mojtaba Zolnour, said in a speech Thursday that almost everyone now detained had confessed — raising the prospect that more confessions will be made public. Ayatollah Khamenei is supreme religious leader.

The government has made it a practice to publicize confessions from political prisoners held without charge or legal representation, often subjected to pressure tactics like sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and torture, according to human rights groups and former political prisoners. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of people have been detained.

They fear the confessions are part of a concerted effort to lay the groundwork for banning existing reformist political parties and preventing any organized reform movement in the future. “They hope with this scenario they can expunge them completely from the political process,” said Hadi Ghaemi, coordinator of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based group. “They don’t want them to come back as part of a political party.”

Is Palin Resigning Due To Embezzlement Scandal?

Sarah Palin’s decision to step down as governor of Alaska has led to considerable speculation on what would otherwise  be a very slow news day. Is it political suicide to quit midterm, both due to emphasizing her lack of experience and showing a lack of dedication to finishing the term she was elected to? Is it a political move which will turn out to  her advantage as she is free to campaign for other Republicans and establish her as a party leader? Or is this a forced move prior to an upcoming scandal?

Nobody really knows her real reasons, if this will hurt or help her in the long run, or if this is motivated by an upcoming scandal. Writing in The Daily  Beast (via Think Progress) Max Blumenthal speculates that the resignation was caused by an embezzlement scandal:

Many political observers in Alaska are fixated on rumors that federal investigators have been seizing paperwork from SBS in recent months, searching for evidence that Palin and her husband Todd steered lucrative contracts to the well-connected company in exchange for gifts like the construction of their home on pristine Lake Lucille in 2002. The home was built just two months before Palin began campaigning for governor, a job which would have provided her enhanced power to grant building contracts in the wide-open state.

SBS has close ties to the Palins. The company has not only sponsored Todd Palin’s snowmobile team, according to the Village Voice’s Wayne Barrett, it hired Sarah Palin to do a statewide television commercial in 2004.

Though Todd Palin told Fox News he built his Lake Lucille home with the help of a few “buddies,” according to Barrett’s report, public records revealed that SBS supplied the materials for the house. While serving as mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin blocked an initiative that would have required the public filing of building permits—thus momentarily preventing the revelation of such suspicious information.

Just months before Palin left city hall to campaign for governor, she awarded a contract to SBS to help build the $13 million Wasilla Sports Complex. The most expensive building project in Wasilla history, the complex cost the city an additional $1.3 million in legal fees and threw it into severe long-term debt. For SBS, however, the bloated and bungled project was a cash cow.