The Talking Dog

December 31, 2007, Perspectives

And so we come to the end of 2007, where, the party of primogeniture has trotted out its cast of affluent White males, and the other party's field is led by the potential first female President and potential first President of color.

For 2007, here at the talking dog, we have watched our regular blog traffic decimated by various factors, but, whether anyone reads them or not, the interviews have kept coming-- and if you count 'em up on the side-bar, you'll see that we're up to 50. Three dozen of those are directly in the "war on terror detention policy" area. Well, the year 2007 has brought us the GTMO census down to under 300 detainees, another Supreme Court case pending after argument, a new pro-torture attorney general, and the confirmation of the existence, and then of the destruction of, video-tapes of said torture. Let's just say that the Bill of Rights, and much of the rest of our Constitution, seems on less firm footing than at one time (say, 8 or more years ago), and with the Roberts Court in place... well, fasten your seatbelts (but don't talk about it, at least on the phone or the internet.)

And so, as the last 14 hours or so of 2007 here in Eastern Standard Time is upon us, we'll take this opportunity to give you this Bloomberg News Service report of Barack Obama as a 1st through 4th grader, where he was a "natural leader" (always running up to be head of the line) and "a tattle-tale" (accusing other kids of cheating in his not quite fluent Indonesian). From my perspective, I find this quite fascinating, one that the candidate's attendance in grammar school in Indonesia (NOT A MADRASSA, BTW, but either Catholic school or public school) garners interest, and further, that young Barry Obama even made an impression. Because some years later, when Barry attended college in Morningside Heights for two years and studied in the same international politics concentration as I did, he made the opposite of an impression. I didn't even know he was there; no one I know knew him. He didn't run for student office, didn't seem to participate in campus life, and quite frankly, barely registered (other than with the registrar). All an interesting change... in perspective. As I think about it, I find it comforting, actually, that unlike St. Hillary, the late teenage/early 20's Barry Obama wasn't clearly running for President of the United States, as we can assume so many others have been from a very early age.

But why this bizarrest of smears against a leading candidate just three days before the Iowa caucuses... that Obama was a tattle-tale at seven years old? One might begin to think that Mayor Mike Bloomberg, still the principal owner of his eponymous media empire, might be, you know, considering a run for President himself... or something.

Who knows why these things happen? This has been "Perspectives." Happy New Year, everybody.

Comments (1)

December 30, 2007, Asymmetrical colon cancer

It seems that 2007 wasn't going to end without at least one more Guantanamo (GTMO) detainee death (via Candace); in this case, the death of 68 year old Abdul Razzak, of Afghanistan, was attributed to colon cancer. This is the first "non-suicide" detainee death and fifth overall (three suicide deaths in 2006, one earlier in 2007), though, the death of a Saudi detainee earlier this year might well have been from medical neglect. Note that since that death, Saudi efforts to extricate its own citizens from GTMO have accelerated dramatically, and there are only around a dozen Saudis left at GTMO.

It's not as if we can any longer trust our own government to tell us (or could for some time). And as I've said before: if our government were up to anything good, it would want us to know. The very existence of a law-free zone like Guantanamo-- or the fact that it is but the tip of a much larger international gulag archipelago iceberg-- belies that anything good-- or truthful-- would be likely to come out of it. (For actual truth of the place from actual people who've been there, you can read any or all of my 36 interviews on the subject to date, including the most recent interview with Martha Rayner, with links to the others therein.)

Candace (interviewed here) has, once again, let me help with her historic original Supreme Court habeas corpus petition on behalf of her client Mr. Al-Ghizzawi, who is also suffering from medical neglect at Guantanamo, duly exacerbated from being in a super-max prison for nearly six years for having done nothing but being an Arab living in Afghanistan (with his Afghan wife and child) and then having been opportunistically sold to a bounty hunter for ultimate sale to American forces. Indeed, the military's own combatant status review tribunal cleared him, only to be overruled when a second CSRT appointed "got it right" and found him an enemy combatant on the same non-existent "evidence".

Another day at the office, if the office is Guantanamo Bay. Arbitrary, open-ended detention, without charge or trial, or reason. Waterboarding. Short shackling. Beatings. Hanging from hooks. Endless noises. Extreme temperature change. The lights never turned off. The hoods. Toilet paper doled out as "comfort items" for "cooperative behavior". The God knows what else. Habeas corpus revoked. Legal accountability gone. Tapes of the evidence conveniently destroyed. Will it ever end? And compared to some of our nation's other activities in this area, Guantanamo is relatively benign!

Just WTF has happened to this country?

Comments (1)

December 30, 2007, Remembering some of those we lost in '07

A bittersweet year in many respects.

One of the bitter parts was the untimely passing of Steve Gilliard, remembered here on the successor to his own "Newsblog", as well as a tad more... creatively?... in the Grey Lady.

We also lost Jim Capozzola. Other friends lost parents, including Lindsay's dad. And others we know lost loved ones as well.

All in all, a difficult year to take, especially for my fellow males in their 40's. There's always next year, which we hope, will be full of promise, and happiness, and success: material and spiritual, and all that sort of thing.

Comments (1)

December 30, 2007, Another eve of New Year's Eve

Right now... I got nothin'! Check out my American Street entry "Bid'ness as Usual" (I'm slated to be a regular weekly feature over at the Street... kind of like Bill Kristol.)

Comments (2)

December 27, 2007, Back to the drawing board...

That is one of the many implications of the shocking assassination of former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto by a suicide-bomber gunman in Rawalpindi, Pakistan today. Her death will doubtless cause a rescheduling (at a minimum) of parliamentary elections now set for 8 January (particularly as Ms. Bhutto's current partner in opposition, the other former PM Nawaz Sharif-- himself deposed by Musharraf-- has now indicated his party will boycott the election). Still, more immediate concerns must be dealt with in Pakistan. For one, at least 20 were killed in the attack that claimed Bhutto's life; around a dozen others have been killed in rioting that has broken out around that nation by Bhutto supporters.

In the long term, of course, this means that the half-assed policies of the Bush Administration towards Pakistan (more half-assed, as digby notes, because of this Administration's purging of experts on Pakistan from its ranks)... have utterly, utterly failed. The non-expert Pakistan experts decided that bringing the Harvard and Oxford Educated Ms. Bhutto back to Pakistan for a power-sharing arrangement would provide the best domestic (that's domestic American) fig-leaf for the miserably failed American policies toward Pakistan that have thus far shipped ten billion unaccountable dollars to Pervez Musharraf, money which has not been used to secure Pakistan's tribal agencies (such as the Waziristans) from either Taliban or al Qaeda presence or control, and which (as was the case with the free-spending St. Ron Administration)... has likely been used to prop up Pakistan's nuclear weapons export business... and, of course, has been used to prop up Musharraf himself, who has at least been mostly less heavy handed in his despotism than other Pakistani military dictators.

Of course, assuming that anyone took seriously the twin aims of our Global War on TerrorTM, to wit, taking on states that harbor terrorists, and taking on states that might proliferate weapons of mass destruction (especially doomsday nuclear weapons) to said terrorists... then one would have to conclude that American policies toward Pakistan, both before and after 11 September, are the ultimate in failed policy. Pakistan now harbors not merely terrorists, but al Qaeda's central leadership including OBL himself. Further, Pakistan not only possesses nuclear weapons, but its primary cash-crop appears to be Dr. A.Q. Khan's nuclear arms bazaar, which shipped nuclear material and bomb-making equipment everywhere from Libya to North Korea to Iran (though not to Iraq!)...and God knows where else. In short, American policy was designed to paper over these problems, rather than to address them either with carrots or sticks (such as permitting Pakistani textile imports here, though American governments would-- and would still-- prefer facing nuclear annihilation than facing the wrath of J.P. Stevens and senators from the Carolinas-- and John Edwards, I most especially mean you).

This is why Benazir Bhutto was brought back from her self-imposed exile: the first democratically elected PM in a Muslim country would, it was hoped, convince Americans that her presence in a Pakistani leadership group meant that Pakistan was now "democratic," and hence, not worth paying attention to... and especially, not to those other... problems (nothing to see here, folks... move along).

And so... it's back to the drawing board. Ms. Bhutto was well aware of the risks of returning to Pakistan; her own father was hanged on corruption charges orchestrated by his successor, Gen. Zia... Gen. Zia himself ended up dying in a suspicious airplane crash (he was warned not to travel that way). In neighboring India, of course, that nation's first elected female PM, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her own Sikh guards. In short, it's a dangerous part of the world. Nonetheless, good old Incompetetentalleezza Rice implored Bhutto to go back to Pakistan, with a promise that she could administer her share of American aid money, and maybe share power (and help divert attention from just how disastrous American policy toward Pakistan has been).

Well, that trick didn't work. Ms. Bhutto now pays the ultimate price for everyone's miscalculations-- including her own. And we have the fig-leaf of upcoming parliamentary elections while Musharraf continues his relatively benign despotism (unless you expect results re: Pakistan's nuclear proliferation or doing anything about Taliban and Qaeda leadership)... utterly collapsing. Where do we go from here?

Those who believe in a supreme Deity might well consider prayer.

Comments (1)

December 23, 2007, Happy Festivus!

And a Merry Festivus, as well.

Comments (0)

December 22, 2007, TD Blog Interview with Cass Sunstein

Cass Sunstein is the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor of Jurisprudence, Law School and Department of Political Science, University of Chicago. He is a contributing editor to The New Republic and is a frequent witness before congressional committees. After clerking for Justice Benjamin Kaplan of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court, he worked in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department as an Attorney-Advisor. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Law Institute. He has written numerous books and articles, including recently " 2.0," a discussion of, inter alia, how current technological and social trends (including blogs) intersect with democratic ideals and the American democratic structure. On December 22, 2007, I had the privilege of interviewing Professor Sunstein by e-mail exchange.

The Talking Dog: My customary first question (derived from my office being across the street from the WTC that day, as well as this) is where were you on September 11, 2001? You have, of course, lamented the polarizing trends that the internet accelerates; how would you respond to my proposition that the polarization was more greatly accelerated by other developments (talk radio, cable news screaming, objection to the Bush Administration's war policies after September 11th decried as treason, etc.) moreso than by internet developments-- i.e.polarizing blogs are merely following (albeit potentially accelerating them as well) other broader unfortunate societal trends?

Cass Sunstein: I was driving to my office in Chicago, listening to a sports talk radio show (a highly partisan one, I might add; pro-Chicago teams). I think you’re almost certainly right that the major polarizers have been the Bush Administration and talk radio (not including sports-focussed ones). It’s a clichÈ but true to insist that the Bush Administration should have been far less partisan, both after Bush v. Gore and after 9/11 – its “my way or the highway” approach has been a disgrace and a disaster. I say this as someone who had high hopes for the Bush Administration and who thinks that Bush’s major 9/11 address, before Congress, was among the greatest presidential speeches in the last quarter-century. What horrible disappointments since that time! What opportunities squandered, for the nation and the world.

The Talking Dog: Let me jump right in with your analysis of blog "echo chambers", which you believe are inconsistent with a healthy vibrant democracy because people should be, in your view, exposed to "unexpected" views more common in a news "general interest intermediary" such as an evening newscast or newspaper... how would you respond to my proposition that rather than a newscast, the big lefty blogs (I'm unsurprisingly somewhat less familiar with the big righties, though Instapundit doesn't have comments, I believe, although I once was more familiar with them)... still, taking the highest traffic liberal blog, for example, The Daily Kos (especially since Markos Moulitsas is, or was before Newsweek snagged him, anyway, much more likely to describe himself as a "political activist" or "Democratic activist" rather than as a "journalist"), if you look at The Daily Kos or Atrios or other similar blogs (at least on the liberal side) as the equivalent of a vibrant and virtual political club (like a party, Kos even has yearly conventions!)-- or a "deliberative enclave"--and while conveying facts and links and so forth, are doing so in the context of public policy advocacy and if generating an "echo chamber" doing so for the purpose of actually advancing an agenda within the democratic process-- i.e., attempting to aggregate the kind of power necessary to get anything done in our system? And indeed-- the fact that an unmoneyed citizen acting on their own (at least without an accompanying campaign contribution check) is unlikely even to get an appointment with their own member of Congress let alone have a serious chance to influence legislation a bigger part of the problem than these attempts to (my words) level the playing field?

Cass Sunstein: Sure, you’re right, partisan blogs are participating within the democratic process. No doubt about that. And the Internet allows more voices to be heard, which is a good thing, even a great thing. On balance, the Internet is good for democracy. (My 2006 book Infotopia explores some of the positive sides; it’s the happy sibling to the darker 2.0.) But two things may both be true, if they do not contradict each other. It is also true that echo chambers, made possible by the Internet, can increase (unjustified) extremism, decrease diversity among like-minded people, increase errors, and make people see their fellow citizens as enemies or adversaries in some kind of quasi-war.

The Talking Dog: I take it that you are familiar with research to the effect that public radio and television listeners and viewers tend to have not merely a more liberal view of the world, but a more accurate view of the world for example, at least on some issues, reality having a distinct liberal bias according to Stephen Colbert). Do you view that observation of a "news service" apparently engendering misinformation (as I do) as more troubling than a blog "echo chamber"... or IS that precisely what happens in an echo chamber, i.e., the very problem is the lack of conflicting views leading to a failure of an actual basis to ascertain accuracy?

Cass Sunstein: More than one thing can be troubling. (AIDS is troubling, so is terrorism, so is climate change.) The problem with echo chambers is that those who live there tend to end up thinking a more extreme version of what they thought before they started to talk – and that is unhealthy for participants and for democracy, at least if people have not heard conflicting views. Terrorism itself is an extreme version of what I’m exploring here. (By the way, reality has no liberal bias, though liberals may like to think it does.)

The Talking Dog: Of course, individual politicians (and as you note, your own faculty at the Univ. of Chicago) have blogs of their own, and in their own name; however, other times, blogs seem to be bearding for broader political agendas. Do you see it as a problem when political parties (and while I think both parties are guilty of this, the right does a far more effective job of this than the left, as alleged liberals such as me tend to be more unable or unwilling to follow marching orders than our friends on the right). This includes managing to coordinate talking points with blogs at the same time that figures in the media are repeating them and politicians may be giving speeches on the floor of Congress using the same talking points... what Peter Daou has called a triangle between political parties (or "the political establishment"), blogs ("the netroots") and the media... While I view that trend-- coopted blogs-- of either party-- as a potentially serious problem for democratic discourse--though at the moment the right is far more effective at this-- especially when done without disclosure of the relationships-- how do you see it?

Cass Sunstein: This is a definite problem. If there is an association between a party and a blog, disclosure is important. People should know if there is a lack of independence.

The Talking Dog: Similarly, you recognize that one of the government's functions in the course of "regulating the internet" is the prevention of fraud for example; what's your view of fraud BY the government (as I.F. Stone would say, all governments lie) such as Armstrong Williams being paid to pretend he is an objective journalist rather than on the payroll of the Dept. of Education or other paid political advocacy masquerading as public service announcements (whether on the taxpayers' dime or not)?

Cass Sunstein: This sort of thing is terrible – an indefensible abuse of public trust by all involved, and damaging to the democratic process as well.

The Talking Dog: My friend Lindsay Beyerstein turned down the job of John Edwards campaign blogger , before it was famously offered to Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan; Lindsay then noted, among a number of problems with the offer, that many things she wrote would likely prove to be liabilities to Edwards. It was observed that the bloggers chosen by the Edwards camp were popular precisely because they were likely to throw red-meat to their hungry fans, i.e., preach to the choir, and in the strongest of terms; both Ms. Marcotte and Ms. McEwan famously resigned in an episode somewhat damaging to Edwards, for precisely the reasons that Lindsay anticipated. That said... do you recognize the empirical "chicken-egg" problem in your analysis of "blog echo chambers" (i.e. in the most popular blogs, either side, there is an overwhelming volume of liberals linking to liberals and conservatives linking to conservatives)... to wit, these blogs are popular by and large because they tell their audiences what they want to hear... in other words, large numbers of people WANT an echo chamber as compared to a general interest intermediary, at least when it comes to their blog reading, and the blogs likelier to be "general interest intermediaries", at least in the political realm, are by and large likely to be less popular because people LIKE their echo chambers? Or in your view is that precisely the problem... people like "The Daily Me".... and if given the opportunity, prefer to drown out views they disagree with?

Cass Sunstein: Sure, many people like echo chambers. A little social science: It turns out that if people find that others agree with them, they tend to rate those others as more competent and more likable -- and that if people find that others agree with them, they tend to rate themselves as more competent or more likable. So there is a natural human tendency to congregate with like-minded types. But from the democratic point of view, that tendency should be resisted.

The Talking Dog: Again, going back to my earlier question, is this at all a bad thing if what people are actually doing is banding together for political action, rather than for the equivalent of watching the 6:00 news (which they can effectively do if they follow all of the links provided, which often lead right back to newspapers and conventional media, i.e. general interest intermediaries); or put another way, the Louis Brandeis adage you cite about our greatest threat to freedom being an inert people... to the extent that "echo chambers" are in fact hotbeds of political activism, and actually providing necessary leverage to get a viewpoint across in our democratic process-- even arguably at the risk of generating some degree of extremism in some people?

Cass Sunstein: Great question – discussed at length in the book. A virtue of echo chambers is that they can increase activism. Another virtue is that they can create what Yale law professor Heather Gerken calls second-order diversity – that is, diversity across sources of information, rather than diversity within such sources. These are important points to consider.

The Talking Dog: Whether or not blogs are "echo chambers", there are tens of millions of them and counting on an internet with effectively infinite variety. By contrast, there are still only a handful of broadcast media, and as vast as cable is, still a comparative handful of outlets there. Worse still, these few outlets (and the handful of print media with circulations larger than Daily Kos) tend to be "the respectable" media in terms of their influence on political discourse, at least inside the Beltway. Further, you've noted the tabloidization effect of regular media (which I believe explains the popularity of the most popular political part... not to mention the popularity of Sean Hannity). That said, and given that the broadcast media, at least, operate effectively on a free government gift of their broadcast spectrum, you have suggested that a fairness doctrine for them did not work and wasn't all that good idea (because it often led them to NOT air certain viewpoints altogether, lest they have to air alternatives). My question is... why is that a BAD thing... in other words, doesn't this greatly act as a form of "self-regulation" ensuring that broadcasters (at least) will have to be eminently more careful in their pronouncements... again, for "general interest intermediaries"... why wouldn't this be a good thing, on balance... (in many ways, far more important than whether or not Janet Jackson has a 'wardrobe malfunction", i.e., the current obsession with broadcast regulation)? Or am I mistaken that you intended your discussion to go beyond the internet itself, which we both agree is sufficiently vast and open not to require such rules?

Cass Sunstein: I think that the fairness doctrine is ill-suited to the current era, simply because there are so many sources of information. Television has lots of stations, not just a few, and so requiring CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC to attend to dissenting views, or to cover public issues, probably is more trouble than it is worth. Voluntary self-regulation is great for broadcasters as for all others, certainly if the self-regulation leads in good directions!

The Talking Dog: Let me turn briefly to your former Univ. of Chicago colleague Senator Barack Obama (and coincidentally my college classmate at Columbia)... and I understand you are informally advising Sen. Obama. You have commented that you believe he is less disposed to surround himself with his own "echo chamber" than other politicians, and is the kind of person encouraging of contrary views... how would you rate his use of the media amidst his overall campaign themes (Facebook recruiting, web fundraising, Oprah, etc.) in light of your best hopes for how a democratic discourse best operates?

Cass Sunstein: I am a big admirer of Sen. Obama, and I think his overall campaign has been excellent, in terms of democratic discourse. He’s almost always generous to those who disagree with him, he’s substantive, he’s among the fairest candidates in the last decades, and he doesn’t condescend to the electorate. Sometimes he even tells people things that they don’t want to hear. I haven’t followed his use of Facebook and web fundraising, but I think the founders would be impressed with his campaign.

The Talking Dog: There are many who believe that the Clinton campaign official (Mr. Shaheen) who recently tried to get Sen. Obama's "youthful drug use" into the press and Senator Bob Kerrey's repeated references to Obama's Muslim ties were classic examples of surrogates being used -- so apologies could be issued later, if at all, while trying to insulate the candidate herself from the smear. In fact, they DID create news stories about these "issues." Is this kind of tactic (used to perfection with "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth"-- which your book observed really took off after some bloggers challenged Kerry's contention of "Christmas in Cambodia")... particularly new, and anathema to democratic discourse, or is this particular kind of negative campaigning (including this sort of surrogate attack-- now made faster and arguably easier to cover up at internet speed!) as old as the republic itself, and just "part of the playing field"? Further, without necessarily disclosing advice you may be giving him (!), how do you think Sen. Obama-- or any other candidate-- should counter the further use of this tactic in the future in a way that is consistent with both advancing democratic discourse and still preserving their campaign's viability?

Cass Sunstein: I don’t know enough about the history of campaigning to answer the first question. (Apologies.) On the second, I guess I think the best response is to point out what is true, and also to say something about what is fair. I’m a lawyer, though, and hardly a specialist on how to run campaigns!

The Talking Dog: Finally, my traditional lawyer's final weasel question... is there anything else I should have asked you but didn't, or anything else that my readers and the public needs to know on these vitally important subjects?

Cass Sunstein:Do we have space? (I put most of what I know into the book; admittedly, it’s short!) Terrific questions and many thanks.

The Talking Dog: I join all of my readers in thanking Professor Sunstein for that interesting interview, and interested readers should take a look at " 2.0".

Comments (0)

December 20, 2007, Wack a poll?

Wonkette gives us this very interesting post examining the back story of the current press-self-instrospection-and-self-aggrandizement-du-jour, to wit, the Grey Lady's sitting (possibly at the behest of McCain, or possibly not) on a story about Sen. John McCain doing some sort of improper favor for a female telecom lobbyist, allegations McCain, through his lawyer Bob Bennett (remember him?) denies.

I'm actually more interested in the point made by Wonkette at the end of her post (I suspect that this will end up being something like a Keating 5 scenario-- poor judgment, but nothing dreadfully sinister on McCain's part... but who knows, really?)... oh yes, her point... why now? McCain had been written off as dead, well behind at least four other candidates-- despite two of them literally being clown acts (one an extra from Hee Haw, the other from the set of the Sopranos, and a third "serious" candidate actually quite literally from the set of Law and Order).

And now that he is showing signs of not only a campaign resurgence, but of a possible outright win in New Hampshire (not in Iowa, as he has sworn off ethanol, agribusiness welfare seemingly the national religion of Iowa) ... just as McCain won it in 2000... now... THIS.

Don't know. I understand that Hillary is (rightly) being blamed for the sudden spate of Obama smears... could she be also responsible for the "Edwards love child" stories now circulating... or this to take out McCain (doubtless ordered while having lesbian sex with Janet Reno over the body of Vince Foster in the black helicopter)? Surely that nice Mitt Romney would never do anything like this, would he?

Don't know... it does seem that anytime anyone in this race-- either party-- reaches a certain polling threshold, something comes along to... knock them down. In the case of Rudy, of course, it's well deserved. But it keeps happening to everyone. I guess the nominees from each party will end up being the ones with the thickest skulls.

Funny that.

Comments (0)

December 19, 2007, Contempt of Court Congress EVERYTHING

The peripatetic Bruce the Veep sends this Grey Lady article which surprises us not, in its revelations that key White House officials were intimately involved in the decision to destroy CIA tapes of the torture interrogations of "high value prisoners" Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. This all matters, of course, because a law suit on behalf of GTMO detainees is moving forward in a Washington courtroom, wherein it is contended that the basis for holding said detainees is that someone screamed out their names during torture.

Let's look at our White House participants in the cover-up decision to destroy the tapes:

Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.

Never heard of any of them.

One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been “vigorous sentiment” among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify which White House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Ths Bush White House? That's hard to believe.

The destruction of the tapes is being investigated by the Justice Department, and the officials would not agree to be quoted by name while that inquiry is under way.

I have no doubt that Attorney General Mukasey will get to the bottom of all of this.

Until their destruction, the tapes were stored in a safe in the C.I.A. station in the country where the interrogations took place, current and former officials said. According to one former senior intelligence official, the tapes were never sent back to C.I.A. headquarters, despite what the official described as concern about keeping such highly classified material overseas.

That's probably Thailand, but who knows?

Top officials of the C.I.A’s clandestine service had pressed repeatedly beginning in 2003 for the tapes’ destruction, out of concern that they could leak and put operatives in both legal and physical jeopardy.

Notice which kind of jeopardy was mentioned first.

The only White House official previously reported to have taken part in the discussions was Ms. Miers, who served as a deputy chief of staff to President Bush until early 2005, when she took over as White House counsel. While one official had said previously that Ms. Miers’s involvement began in 2003, other current and former officials said they did not believe she joined the discussions until 2005.

Besides the Justice Department inquiry, the Congressional intelligence committees have begun investigations into the destruction of the tapes, and are looking into the role that officials at the White House and Justice Department might have played in discussions about them. The C.I.A. never provided the tapes to federal prosecutors or to the Sept. 11 commission, and some lawmakers have suggested that their destruction may have amounted to obstruction of justice.

To coin a phrase... ya' think?

This has been... Contempt of Court Congress EVERYTHING

Comments (1)

December 17, 2007, Standing up for our Constitution

Quite literally, as Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut...the Constitution State... stood on the floor of the Senate in defiance of his [I don't have enough vile things to say about him] "leader" the worthless piece of *&^% Harry Reid, who took our money and support last year to become majority leader apparently so he could advance the Bush agenda as well or better than Mitch McConnell could. (Even more ironic, as his fellow Connecticut senator, "independent Democrat" Joe Lieberman announced his endorsement not of Dodd, but of Republican John McCain... thus probably killing any chances McCain may have had, and again making all of us ask, just wtf was Al Gore thinking when he picked Holy Joe?)

Anyway, Dodd's somewhat embarrassing-to-Reid maneuver forced Reid to withdraw the piece-of-crap Bush sponsored bill to relieve private telecoms of court liability for their cooperation in brazenly unconstitutional warrantless eavesdropping against citizens' routine communications. Score one for Dodd, who doubtless hurt his already non-existent chances in the Iowa caucuses to stand up for whatever remaining Constitutional protections we have available. (I remind everyone that after Padilla, once the President has "the right" to lock any of us up, forever, for no reason, WITHOUT JUDICIAL OVERSIGHT-- a position the Supreme Court refused to outright repudiate-- the rest of the Constitution seems, shall we say... less reassuring... but I digress.)

Glenn Greenwald treats us to this discussion of whose Senatorial holds Harry Reid will respect, and whose he won't. Hint: Harry never met a Republican hold he didn't like, but never met anything in defiance of the Bush Administration that he did like. If this is what having a Mormon in national office is like (for those who don't know, Harry Reid is a member of LDS)... then Mitt, go home.

Strong kudos to Sens. Kennedy and Feingold for standing with Dodd, to play along with his little run-out-the-clock game... funny how with Harry, its the party opposing filibusters usually has to do all the work... or at least, the party opposing anything resembling sound or decent policy.
It's somewhat depressing, knowing that the other Dem prez candidate senators (Obama and Hillary, of course, and Biden) were busy vote-grubbing, while Dodd almost singlehandedly stood for the Constitution. But he did.

Let me say this: Dodd, interestingly, is the only candidate to whom I have actually contributed financially this cycle. If he is still in it at all come the New York primary, he is now a strong favorite to win my vote over Obama. I urge the rest of you to consider him strongly (here is his contribution link). Hint: THIS is leadership. And THIS is the ballgame.

Comments (0)

December 17, 2007, Everybody Heart Rudy

Not. Such as, evidently, Rudy's predecessor as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, as set forth in this Grey Lady Op Ed. Former federal judge and prosecutor John S. Martin, Jr. takes umbrage at St. Rudy's claims of "having turned around" the Southern District, which Judge Martin rightly notes was, was before, and still is, regarded as just about the finest group of prosecutors in the United States; Judge Martin credits Rudy with not changing much, and also notes that the big-time mafia prosecutions were already in the works before Rudy showed up, and other securities prosecutions came from sources other than Rudy's will. (We should also note that, just as while mayor Rudy never found a constitutional abuse he didn't like-- and courts saw it that way-- prosecutor Rudy, even when he secured convictions, had an impressively high reversal rate from the local Court of Appeals).

I don't know... I can't think of a better choice to be the living embodiment of our new Republican Super-hero (after all, Rudy seems to have the ability to withstand scandals that would kill mere mortal candidates)... announcing...

The Tax Cut Fairy:

Comments (0)

December 16, 2007, It's never not the economy, stupid

Something we never seem to remember, while the good to the economy done by responsible and sensible federal policies may be quickly squandered (see "Clinton Legacy, the"), particularly the case when no lasting narrative is put behind those policies to keep them going, economic damage by insane policies can last generations. This is the conclusion of Joseph Stiglitz, one of my alma mater's Nobel Laureates in Economics, writing in this lengthy Vanity Fair piece.

Stiglitz, who long ago evaluated the real costs of the Iraq war and noted that counting things like losses caused by increasing the price of oil, long-term health care costs of crippled soldiers and the like, the Iraq bill would be an absolute minimum of $2-3 trillion, notes that the Iraq war is only a small part of "the Bush economic legacy" to us all.

The costs of the beloved Bush tax cuts resulted in the most rapid shift from surplus to massive deficit since the Second World War, and the piled on deficit caused by tax cuts that stimulated the investment portfolios and luxury goods markets for the super-duper rich, but for everyone else... not so much, if anything... will be borne by the rest of us for at least decades... indeed, just paying interest on the piled on debt since Bush took office, and nothing else will result in adding the current annual cost of the Iraq war to the federal budget... indefinitely. While our relatively low unemployment of around 4.6% can be pointed to as a "positive"... Stiglitz piece notes that in terms of wages for the average male worker in their 30's... in real terms, such a worker is significantly less well-off than his father was by this stage in their career. Now THAT'S an economic legacy!

Yes, the events of 9-11 and our sudden national paranoia had a bit to do with it, but the Iraq war had a huge amount, and of course... those wonderful non-stimulative tax cuts! The thing is, Republicans just will not be deterred: as Steve Benen notes in this great TPM piece, pretty much every Republican must spout the party line of "make Bush's tax cuts permanent"... damn the $2-3 trillion in even bigger deficits such a move would engender. Steve gives us a phrase that I think we need to play with... the Republicans believe in "The Tax Fairy" (h/t Bruce... what else is new?).

I personally would add a word to the phrase, and make it "The Tax Cut Fairy". Not that it would have made any difference in our media environment, but imagine if Al Gore had suggested in 2000 or Kerry in 2004 that "I see George W. Bush believes in 'The Tax Cut Fairy'... who'll come under your pillow on April 15th and pretend that because it looks like you might be saving money this year, somehow next year or the year after you or your kids won't have to pay for it... How cool! I want my own Tax Cut Fairy! Can I get one, please." Obviously, the theme would have to be developed, and repeated millions of times... in our blogospheric echo chamber, in public, and hell... by some Democratic elected officials?...

Still and all, the premise that cutting taxes could lead to increased revenues has been discredited for some time... and in any event, the last seven years have demonstrated that at least the Bush tax cuts serve only to drive up deficit, whether or not some tax cuts might be salutory in some contexts, somewhere.

Of course, note the possibilities of the term "The Tax Cut Fairy"... every time Grover Norquist is seen in public, he could be asked "How's the Tax Cut Fairy doing?" (This could be doubly troubling for Grover among his Neanderthal friends, especially given rumors of his own sexual orientation ). The beauty of the phrase "The Tax Cut Fairy" over "Santa Claus" should be obvious... this is America, where far more people believe in Santa (and his anagram, Satan) than in Darwin's theory of evolution... that sort of thing. "The Tax Cut Fairy" is most definitely not Santa... heavens... I don't want to be accused of being part of the War on ChristmasTM! So... Tax Cut Fairy. Tax Cut Fairy.

Next time, we'll talk about the ongoing Republican obsession with fairies in the context of "the Tinkerbell problem" with the Iraq war... to wit, the Iraq war didn't go well because too many Americans didn't believe that the war is going well.

This has been "It's never not the economy, stupid."

Comments (2)

December 15, 2007, Company News

A mysterious source (with a return address in a domain in Scandinavia) suggests that we take a look at recent news (here are, respectively, stories on the subject published at Daily Kos, "world content" and ""; at least one of those sources is not, IIRC, in English)... on the subject of a CIA Gulfstream II business jet crashing in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula with over 3 tons of cocaine aboard, some time last September.

Regular readers know that this particular aspect of how The Company does business fascinates me, which is why we have interviews from both Trevor Paglen (co-author of "Torture Taxi") and Stephen Grey (author of "Ghost Plane"), both of which track the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program with an emphasis on the seemingly ordinary appearing business jets used to carry out the transportation part of the dirty work. The problem for The Company is that it must contend with free societies where people are free to track civilian airliners, and it must behave as if it were not engaged in suspicious, illegal activities using public facilities and records, at least superficially.

Hence, the specific aircraft (N987SA) at issue has such public records available, including a registration of its corporate owner, DBA Donna Blue Aircraft (as noted here, a particularly half-hearted effort at track-covering), or the last record of a flight departure from the United States (just days before the reports of the crash in Mexico), or the fact that the accident itself is reported on a database of aviation accidents indexed to "the owner".

I'm not going to stand here and say that the CIA doesn't do illegal things... it does. Indeed, that's what it's there for: subltety. (This is in part what is so galling about the renditions and the ghost prisons and the torture and so forth... the very scale of it all. If we needed "the Sherman tank approach", we could deploy the military itself to do it.)

The difference, really, is that for the first time since the CIA's creation, we now have a government with the cojones not merely to try to hide what it does (and then have high officials deny that they knew anything about it when the Company gets caught doing them)... but the cojones to try to argue that the crimes committed by agents of the state aren't crimes at all (see, e.g., Senator Huckleberry's last-minute tackle of a bill that would have explicitly made torture by the CIA illegal... as if it weren't already!)

In short... this is different. Amazingly, of course, "the truth is out there", and, at least once you have the airplane's tail number, not even all that hard to find. Speaking of "the truth is out there"... perhaps you all noticed that when good old Rupert Murdoch made the signature show of the '90's "The X-Files" ("trust no one"), he did so for the express purpose of undermining people's faith in their government as long as we had a Democrat in the White House. Seriously: note that "X-Files" started in 1993, of course, and, though out of gas by '97 or thereabouts, hung around and went off the air around February 2002, a few months after 9-11, when it was no longer needed... "X" was replaced by Rupert with a show designed to inure us into trusting our government with torture..."24" (beginning... you got it... in November 2001, around 2 months after 9-11!)

Oh... did I say all that out loud? This has been... "Company News".

Comments (2)

December 14, 2007, Obstruction Department of Justice

In a move that should surprise exactly no one (coming with the ink barely dry on White House instructions not to cooperate in contempt of Congress proceedings against former White House officials), we now get news that our spanking (funny that) new Attorney General Michael Mukasey has, in one of his first official acts, directed the CIA not to cooperate with a House Committee's probe of the recently disclosed destruction of tapes of the systematic torture of two "high value" detainees. (H/T to Bruce the Veep for both items; Bruce himself offers the old quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes to the effect that, in the end, "the law" is what they let you get away with).

There are a seemingly infinite number of ways that the Bush Administration, with the full cooperation and connivance of gutless (and worthless) "opposition leaders" can do to undermine our Constitution and our Republic (or what's left of them) in the next 403 days, while most of us will be engaged in the fool's errand of watching the beauty contest to determine the individual ego that will get to abuse the executive powers that this Administration has so kindly built up for it. (BTW, you will see an incredibly reinvigorated press corps come to protest the suddenly abusive and overbearing executive, should the bearer of such powers be a Democrat, let alone Hillary; but I digress.)

As his popularity continues in the below 40% range (the percentage of Americans who would support this or any other Republican President even if said person knife-raped a nun on live television), the President continues to get what he wants, by a Democratic opposition with no desire to expend energy on... well, anything, really. At this point, I have to ask: after seven years of this s***, essentially governing as if he had that vast mandate he always pretended he did because a complicit press corps, "opposition" and ultimately, electorate let him... why the hell should the President do anything differently at this late stage of the game?

[The President said it himself: he cares not how "history" will judge him, as "we'll all be dead" by then. And like everything else that this man ever touched, the mess he created will still be around for others to pick up. But then, if the rest of us don't care enough to step up and make him clean up his own mess... why should he?]

Comments (0)

December 12, 2007, Barack, why can't you be more like that nice George W.?

This is the musical question posed by Andrew Sullivan with respect to the coming accusation by the clearly-feeling-the-heat Hillary coronation committee presidential campaign that... wait for it... Barack Obama had best be prepared for attacks on the candor he has shown with respect to his drug use! (Specifically, the rollout of this attack comes from Hillary's New Hampshire campaign.) The suggestion-- noted by Sully-- is that George W. (unlike Barack) had the "good taste" to bury his drug use under the category of of his youthful indiscretions (kind of like his drunk driving conviction, and his mutilation of small animals).

This smear is, of course, a trial balloon at this stage, but an interesting one, coming from the spouse of Bill "I did not inhale... or have sex with that woman" Clinton. It's certainly understandable why Hillary Clinton-- who is in a dead heat with my college classmate Barack (no, I didn't know him then, and indeed, no one I know knew him, which makes it somewhat difficult for me to comment on his drug use from 1981 to 1983, anyway)-- would feel the need to try and go dirty at this stage. We are around 3 weeks from the Iowa caucus with all-important New Hampshire right after. Both are states where Sen. Clinton has not only failed to put away Obama, but she is actually slightly behind him, to the extent that the current polling means anything (though, the two are within margins of error), but the momentum is the wrong way for her. (Blame it on Oprah!)

Even worse for the Clinton team, should Obama manage to pull off wins in both Iowa and New Hampshire, his early-and-often fundraising prowess means that he will not only have momentum going into larger states (and "Tsunami Tuesday"), he will have the money to follow up hard and fast. More important still, he will have shattered Hillary's one and only political asset (besides Bill, of course): her inevitability. It would be very, very difficult for her to project "smug and condescending" were she reduced to the status of "frontrunner who has gotten her ass kicked by a Black man in two of the Whitest states in this country".

Which means, from the standpoint of saving her campaign, Hillary had better do something. Yes, she might consider some crazy new bold policy initiatives near and dear to actual alleged Democrats (well, me, anyway), such as proposing shutting down GTMO (and the rest of our gulag network), or suggesting she will not only not condone it but prosecute those responsible for waterboarding, or spearheading a campaign promise to restore habeas corpus or to sign a bill restoring FISA accountability and undoing the other affronts to our Constitution put forth by the Bushmen... but since she doesn't believe in doing any of those things, then it's best to do what she does sincerely believe in: dirty politics, and the good old "politics of personal destruction." (Yes, I am well aware that Sen. Clinton has often been on the receiving end of it; but that just makes her willingness to engage in it about as galling as Senator McCain's cave-in on the legalization of torture. Further, I am not really taking sides, as I can live with either as the Dem nominee, though I am slightly more likely to vote for Obama over Clinton in my own state's primary in February for the worst of all reasons: I simply like him better on both style and substance, I cannot and will not forgive Sen. Clinton (or Sen. Edwards, or Sen.Kerry) for the Iraq war vote (or, in her case, the Iran warmongering vote), and ultimately I fear that Sen. Clinton is the only Democrat who can conceivably lose to the Republicans next year-- not that she would. But I digress.)

Anyway, go ahead, Senator Clinton, and attack Senator Obama on his drug use... that'll be bound to score points in the "Live Free or Die" state. (To quote Dick Cheney... "big time".)

Update: The early returns are that this trial balloon didn't fly... Bill Shaheen, who made the drug-related remark about Obama, has resigned from the Clinton campaign, and the candidate herself apologized to Senator Obama. Certainly, if the Clinton campaign wanted quick results... it got them. If the Clinton campaign learns from this experience that good old Rovian mudslinging (followed by less than credible deniability) is not the way to play with fellow Democrats, then she has a good chance to recover, and should hold on to her frontrunner position, in which case in just 404 days, we will have our first female president (a graduate of all-girl Wellesley College.) If her campaign doesn't learn this lesson, then we will probably have our first Black president, who will (like your talking dog) have graduated from Columbia College's last all-boy class.

Comments (0)

December 11, 2007, Return of the Dumbest F***ing Guy on the Planet

"Dumbest f***ing guy on the planet" is certainly a moniker that could get an awful lot of competition in the Bush Administration, but Gen. Tommy Franks (to be fair, himself a contender for the title) awarded it to none other than former Defense Department Undersecretary Douglas Feith; many in the military agreed with the assessment.

Feith, now wearing his reputation as an asshole proudly to Georgetown U.'s faculty, now brings us his own rollout show of revisionist history for his upcoming book "War and Decision", announcing that he advocated for a "quick transition" in Iraq, and it was only that awful and stupid Paul Bremer who, you know, made things take so long (and go so badly).

Because, of course (this is from a photocopy of the famous napkin on which Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith first planned the Iraq war) Feith's "concept" was relatively simple: (1) Shock and Awe, (2) Roll in to Bagdad (sic), (3) Capture Saddam and his sons Yooday and Kewzay (sic), (4) Knock Down statues, (5) Pick up flowers and cake (from the cakewalk) and give them to the kids, and (6) Have President show up for Photo-Op with New Iraqi President Chalabi.

It seems pretty clear that there was simply no room in this concept for a long occupation, or indeed, any occupation (or of course, an insurgency, or pretty much anything else even arguably reflecting reality). No matter... let's see what Feith had to say in Tom Ricks's article...


The decision to carry out "a lengthy occupation was, I believe, the single biggest mistake the United States made in Iraq," said Douglas J. Feith, who as undersecretary of defense for policy was a key figure in the drive to war.

Feith, in a speech last night at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, provided his most extensive public remarks on the war and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. When he briefed President Bush on U.S. plans for post-invasion Iraq, he recalled, "The original concept was not that the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] would be around for many, many months." But, he said, L. Paul Bremer, who ran the U.S. occupation authority in 2003 and 2004, decided that Feith's plan "was not implementable" and instead embarked on a course that antagonized Iraqis and spurred an insurgency.

After describing his differences with Bremer, Feith said, "I don't view this as an attack" on him, but rather an attempt to explain how reasonable officials advanced contrary views.


Sovereignty was formally transferred from the U.S. government to an interim Iraqi government in June 2004, ending the occupation after 14 months. But the war has continued on for more than three years, and about as many U.S. troops remain in Iraq now as there were during the invasion.

Feith, now a professor at Georgetown University, also pointed at Bremer for his handling of another key early move that has been controversial, the decision to ban members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from public office. The approach was essentially correct, Feith said, but "some of the problems resulted from implementation, rather than the policy itself."


Until now, Feith has not said much about the Iraq war, except to respond to what he sees as the inaccuracies of others. In a Wall Street Journal review in May of former CIA director George J. Tenet's memoir, Feith charged, "He is willing to make up stories that suit his purposes."

With his own memoir, "War and Decision," scheduled to be published in March, Feith appears to be more willing to discuss the war in general.

The speech reunited Iraq hawks, with former Pentagon official Richard Perle introducing Feith, as former deputy defense secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz sat in the front. After Feith's talk, Wolfowitz commented that he thought it was "pretty much on the mark."

You can't make this stuff up. I guess it's official: irony is pretty much dead.

Comments (0)

December 10, 2007, The OTHER Double-Dealing M. Dowd

Yes, when I hear of an "M. Dowd" working hard to undermine and mock liberals at every turn while at the heart of the purported vanguard of "the liberal media"... I immediately think of the vapid red-head who writes for the Grey Lady. But our dear friend Julia (in a Firedoglake appearance) gives us this tour-de-force discussion of Matthew Dowd, former flag-of-convenience-Democrat, and former key Bush II and Karl Rove aide and enabler, now hired by ABC to be... wait for it... a "Centrist" commentator.

Julia points out, correctly, that vast protestations of the value of "faith" and "authenticity" in voters choices looms large in Mr. Dowd's bulls*** ridden/Bush supporting vocabulary... though in terms of empirical backing to demonstrate that it is anything other than buzzword laden bulls***... not so much. [Regular readers are aware that we at TTD have determined that cross-dressing, twice-divorced, pro-abortion and gay rights/anti-gun-control Northeastern Catholic Rudy Giuliani's popularity among so-called "values voters" of the kind that Mr. Dowd thinks so highly of proves once and for all that the only actual "values" that such voters "value" are (1) racism and (2) misogyny; but I digress.]

Anyway, it's [still, for the moment] a free country for people other than right-wing blowhards and enablers, and it's certainly still a free country for them... so, quite frankly, Mr. Dowd is free to espouse his brand of bulls*** to whomever will listen. The interesting variation here is that he has been hired by ABC News to provide its viewers with a Centrist perspective. Which, given what else is on television, may perversely be an accurate statement of what he'll be doing!

Don't know. There appears to be no evidence that the two "M. Dowds" are related; they are certainly kindred spirits.

Comments (0)

December 8, 2007, Happy talk

It would be hard to sum up current right wing ideological support of American reversion to Middle Ages brutality and arrogance any better than Andrew Sullivan does here, discussing a recent gleeful performance by right-wing-apologist-and-ideologue-extraordinaire Dr. Charles Krauthammer. Krauthammer more or less abandons the so-called ticking time bomb fantasy as a justification for torture and gets right to it, noting that in 2002, the US of A had minimal intel as to what al Qaeda might be up to next, so torture got down to it quickly. (Sullivan notes that Krauthammer avoids the word torture, though it is clear that Krauthammer is giddy that we do it; this is a pretty good analog for our entire country and body politic at this point-- there seem no limits on how egregious actual executive conduct may be, as long as the proper code words are used, which can be duly endorsed by the spin machine, and if necessary, partisan judges.)

Jim Henley picks up the riff, and notes that not only does one of our two political parties regard torture as "acceptable"... it regards it as awesome.

And here we are: while Mike Huckabee's Bible thumping credentials make him an attractive candidate to many in his party, he is being chided by some of his rivals for not himself embracing arbitrary detentions, if not torture and barbarity, to the degree they do!

This is all remarkable to me, on so many levels (warning: meta-personal-comment to follow). Yes, I was personally angry on September 11th itself... but I was as much, or more, angry with our own government and its inability to protect us, and worse, its inability even to be around (our nominal head of state, rather than head to the nearest military base, i.e. the one he took off from, and try to mount some kind of "a defense", or even the appearance of one, went on an ass-covering trans-continental rudderless joy-ride, while the mantle of leadership instead fell to local martinet Rudy Giuliani, himself probably single-handedly responsible for hundreds of needless deaths on 9-11 because of years of his own mismanagement of emergency services, including not providing working radios for firefighters and for locating an emergency response center in the target. (BTW, my fair State's former governor, was in a position to take charge, as the WTC was, after all, on State land; instead he chose to hide in the shadows behind Giuliani. Had he not done so, he would doubtless be the frontrunner for his party's Presidential nomination, instead of the crazed, corrupt, and God damn it, evil Rudy. But I digress.)

My point is that, having witnessed the events of 9-11 myself from across the God damned street, walked home through the maelstrom, pretended the normalcy of even going to court, as if the trial I had on for that day in lower Manhattan would still go on as if nothing happened, and then finding poison-laced dust everywhere, all over the car and the house and everything else, WTC office documents wafting into the yard, a pall over everything, news provided by a perpetually on television as, other than periodic phone calls to people I hadn't talked to for a while to recount that I was, indeed, alive (as was my brother, who also worked a block from the WTC, and dived out of the way of the dust cloud from one of the collapsed towers)...

Anyway, the emotion that day was anger, and for a while, fear, and then, when I found out I lost my job, as my office was displaced, anger again, and then I got another job, and resignation, and then... well, ultimately, you deal.

But the United States of America didn't deal. It didn't sit down, assess wtf happened, and respond in a careful and intelligent way. It did in part, of course, attacking and displacing the Taliban harborers of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. But then, we refused to invest enough boots on the ground to finish the chase and take out OBL and al-Zawahiri and AQ command once and for all (and they are still around and at large, over 6 years later, even as hundreds languish pointlessly at Guantanamo Bay and perhaps thousands elsewhere in the new American presence in the world, our "secret prisons"). While capturing some big AQ fish (mostly with the help of our duplicitous friends in Pakistan), we then proceeded to blow even that by quickly abandoning slow, boring interrogation and going to torture. We squandered our moral authority with Guantanamo, ghost prisons, renditions and outsourced torture, and then ultimately with the huge waste of blood and treasure in Iraq, and ultimately, we got Abu Ghraib and... well, you know the rest. [And yet, despite it being clear to many Americans that their government's response to the events of September 11th left quite a bit to be desired, voted with their spleens, and reelected said government. Anyway, that's democracy for you, or the American version of it.]

The point is, though, that this is a Constitutional democracy: it is understood that there are limits. Or it was, anyway. Apparently, it is no longer. Other people have their fantasies of the events of 9-11 justifying just about anything, and although they are dwindling in number, enough of them, like Dr. Krauthammer, are, sadly, still influential, and buttress the most egregious abuses of what we all thought this nation stood for. And they'd God damned better stop-- or at least, cease being influential-- or this nation will just be Argentina with nuclear weapons and not-as-good-steak in no time at all.

This has been "Happy talk".

Comments (1)

December 7, 2007, First thing we do, let's kill all the evidence

I can't comment on revelations that the CIA destroyed videotapes of at least two "high value detainee" interrogations (despite same being requested by both the 9-11 Commission and by lawyers for such luminaries as Zaccarias Moussaoui) much better than the Heretik does here.

The reason seems obvious: the CIA wanted to protect its agents from retaliation by law enforcement international war crimes tribunals al Qaeda. Yes, that's the ticket. Al Qaeda.

More proof for those who insist that the Bush Administration II is absolutely stupid and incompetent: when it comes to covering its tracks on its own crimes, it's actually quite effective.

Comments (2)

December 6, 2007, The Long and Winding Road

Yesterday marked the third time that the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments relevant to guests of the American government held at its gulag concentration camp tropical beach resort at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (The first two times were the cases of Rasul (Shafiq Rasul himself is interviewed here) and Hamdan (Salim Hamdan's counsel Neal Katyal, who argued the case before the High Court, is interviewed here).

It seems that at GTMO... not much ever happens, besides time ticking off (411 days left in the Bush II Administration today, btw). Former detainee Moazzam Begg (interviewed here) suggested that habeas corpus, these legal challenges and the promise of the United States being a country that operated by the rule of law amounted to "a benificent bequest in a beggar's will"... i.e., a nice show, but no real substance. And surprise, surprise, the government is arguing that there is no law at Guantanamo, three years after the Supreme Court said "YES THERE IS" in Mr. Rasul's case.

Digby, in "We Don't Need No Human Rights Around Here," sums up the current argument about as well as it can be done (noting the assaults on former Clinton Admin. Solicitor General Seth Waxman, arguing for the detainees, by usual suspects Roberts and Alito). You've read numerous accounts of GTMO on this here blog (hopefully you'll read more... but not too many more, if you know what I mean)... and I think you'all get it: we are arbitrarily holding innocent people. (Yes, some are doubtless guilty, but we have abused them too to the point where we probably can't even try them anymore... in short, we have compromised our principles, and screwed everything up.)

I will repeat... this is the biggest story of our time (i.e., the moral collapse of this country into expediencies of "expendable" legal principles... the sort of thing we have tried our enemies for, during our history)... and yet, it is nothing compared to worthless celebrity gossip, if you ask most of our media. The Supreme Court gets it-- three cases in the last three years... and still, no end in site.

Except for the 411 days part. Maybe then the long national nightmare will end? (Not to mention the specific human nightmare we are imposing on a large number of men who have never even been charged with a crime, let alone proven dangerous?) One can hope... not necessarily how you bet, but one can hope...

Comments (0)

December 4, 2007, This PROVES it!

Given how unreliable American intelligence sources had been with respect to the threat presented by al Qaeda prior to September 11th (they were lighting up like X-mas Christmas trees, except that the Bush Administration wasn't interested) or regarding the threat posed by Iraqi WMDs (again, they concluded that contentions of Saddam's WMDs were both unsupported by actual evidence and the sources were extremely unreliable)... there seems no reason whatsoever to accept the current consensus of the intelligence community, i.e., the news that the latest National Intelligence Estimate concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. (As always, digby has a thoughtful and thorough analysis of these issues, the nub being "Neocons are now and have always been wrong, without exception, and they're wrong on this too.") I mean, just ask the Bush Administration: they will, naturally, tell us that Iran's halting its weapons program makes it a bigger threat than ever!

Needless to say, reality bites... this will almost certainly throw a great deal of cold water on proposed military strikes on purported Iranian heavy water... or whatever it is we claim that Iran is up to... the public is not buying the "things are going great in Iraq" line as it is, and certainly, will be unbelievably skeptical of doubling the failed Iraq bet against a far better organized Iran.

Which, we have just concluded, is not engaged in nuclear weapons development. I mean, if the North Koreans actually make a nuclear deal stick, that will be the whole Axis of EvilTM having either never had, or at least halted, its weapons programs, while Our Trusted AllyTM Pervez Musharraf's Pakistan, besides hosting al Qaeda leadership, continues his own nuclear program as well as proliferating to God knows where (and, boys and girls, the whole point is that even if we were to do the unthinkable and play right into al Qaeda's desires that we alienate not merely the Islamic world but the entire rest of the world with a gratuitous attack on Iran... Pakistan could just re-outfit it for a nuclear weapons program in a short time anyway!!!)

I understand there is grave concern in Israeli quarters about this, insofar as it certainly looks like we're not going to fulfill the fantasies of the Israeli right and attack Iran for it... but then, after the bill of goods Israeli intelligence sold us vis a vis Iraq (or correction, helped sell enough of the Jewish community to go along with the proposition that the attack on Iraq would somehow help Israel, rather than utterly destabilize the Middle East in a way that may ultimately lead to disaster for Israel)... let's just say that I think after that performance, its clear that the Neocon/Israel alliance... is simply not something we should pay any attention to, unless, of course, we intend to do things that undermine the interests of both the United States, and Israel itself for that matter.

And there you have it. Iran, which had gratuitously offered not only to halt its nuclear weapons program, but to effectively deactivate Hizbollah and other Islamist militant groups, and help us deal with both Iraq and al Qaeda, in exchange for diplomatic recognition and a non-aggression pact... instead got gratuitously lumped into an "Axis of EvilTM" because we needed something for a State of the Union Speech that sounded cool... appears to have halted its nuclear weapons program anyway.

As Winnie the Pooh might say... oh, bother.

Comments (0)

December 2, 2007, Election Year Budgetary Priorities

Once again, c/o Bruce the Veep, we get this story of the 2008-9 Bush Administration budget proposals that put forth gigantic 50% funding cuts to key components of homeland security programs. Quoth the story:

The plan calls for outright elimination of programs for port security, transit security, and local emergency management operations in the next budget year. This is President Bush’s last budget, and the new administration would have to live with the funding decisions between Jan. 20 and Sept. 30, 2009.

"The Homeland Security department and the White House Office of Management and Budget, which is in charge of the administration’s spending plans, would not provide details about the funding cuts because nothing has been finalized."

It's a damned good thing that Iraq is the "central front" in the "War on TerrorTM" and that things are going so swimmingly there (unless, somehow, you ask members of the press itself, of course, about whether they want to go there.) Because we'd hate to think about what would happen if things in Pakistan, or Afghanistan, or in the United States, actually mattered with respect to counter-terrorism.

I know bloody well that the standard canard is "All you liberals ever say about problems is 'throw money at them.'" Well, guilty as charged, I suppose. Still and all, the most fundamental purpose of any government, let alone the current American government (whose sole raison d'etre has been a corrupt and cooperative press allowing it to repeat its misrepresentations of its own competence to "protect" us), is, in fact, to... protect us. Specifically, that is to say, to protect us from enemies foreign and domestic with armed forces, protect us from the aggressions of each other with police and courts. At a minimum, these functions have to be paid for. At least, somewhat.

But, as Bruce the Veep vouchsafes to us, to quote Joe Biden of all people, trying to guess the next move of the Bush II Administration is like being an FBI profiler trying to guess the next move of a serial killer.

This has been... "Election Year Budgetary Priorities".

Comments (0)

December 1, 2007, They're baaacccckkk!!!

"They", of course, are per se impeachable offenses signing statements, particularly the first one that the President has used all year, this associated with a military appropriations bill as duly observed by Signing Statement Chronicler Extraordinaire Charlie Savage.

In some ways, the current signing statements are more oblique than some of his earlier statements, such as, in response to an affirmative torture ban passed by his own party: "That pussy-shit John McCain can kiss my ass, I'll water-board any damned raghead terrorist that I feel like". The current, kindler, gentler signing statement now reads "Consistent with my Constitutional duties and as stated in similar bills which I responded with similar signing statements". Still, the intent of the signing statement is the same. To paraphrase the "shorter" form developed by D-Squared: Shorter Bush Signing Statement: "Fuck YOU Constitution, Congress, and the American People, 'cause I command the men and women with guns."

It had seemed that with an inconceivably long a mere 416 days left in his presidency, the President might have decided to behave like all those other presidents (including his own father) and simply veto bills he didn't like, instead of signing them into law and then pretending that the law whose enactment he just effectuated somehow doesn't apply to him.

It had seemed that, but now it appears that nothing much has changed. Except, of course, for history itself (just ask Karl!) You can take Karl out of the White House... or can you?

Comments (0)