The Talking Dog

April 30, 2008, The Most Important Problem Facing America Today

Clearly, as one of the commenters to this Wonkette piece notes, that most important problem facing America today... is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and thank God that two patriots like Hillary Clinton and Bill O'Reilly can find common ground on it.

[Despite my pretensions to the contrary, I just don't have a black-belt in that particular school of snark. We concede that we are not worthy.]

April 29, 2008, Media priorities

Regular readers know that with the exception of many Sunday mornings when I turn over blog command to the young 'un, and post pictures of teen and tween celebrities, that this blog is completely out of touch with what actually constitutes matters of actual importance. Hence, I remain perplexed why it was such a major story (and why it was so critically necessary for) Senator Obama to express his dismay and denouncement of an egomaniacal local demagogue. Spiritual advisor to Obama perhaps, but friend, clearly not. Otherwise, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright would have done his congregant a big favor and, in blog parlance, STFU. Instead, the Rev. Wright went on the kind of media spectacle that seemed almost designed to give all street corner demagogues a bad name. Then again, that's just it isn't it. Think, for example, of Wright's fellow street corner demagogue Rev. Al Sharpton, and his denouncement of Sen. Obama, for having the audacity not to call for violence in the aftermath of the verdict in the tragic Sean Bell shooting case. [Now Andy Sullivan-- he tells us what's important.]

Those of us awake in New York are well aware that Sen. Clinton frequently courts Rev. Sharpton for political support, and perhaps even more is going on, but it seems clear that the Rev. Sharpton and the Rev. Wright and presumably the Rev. Jackson and the rest of the race-based ambulance chaser demagogue set certainly might fear that their usefulness would be drastically reduced (if not more likely eliminated) should Barack Obama be sworn in as President of the United States: an America where a man like Barack Obama can become President is just not the kind of place that many of them would like.

Hey, doesn't this seem like an important story, TD? It's not like the media is covering it quite this way, of course; much better to portray everything as part of an ongoing primary horse-race (notwithstanding that Sen. Clinton can no longer overtake Sen. Obama in pledged delegates, and must resort to some other mechanism that involves taking this away from rightful Democratic primary voters and caucus-attenders, but hey... details!) Oh-- and the media is hellbent on making sure that race-based stereotypes and visceral reactions stay with us, lest, we, you know, grow the f*** up as a country. And so, we get to see the Rev. Wright in living color[ed]. As well as, of course, hearing about the importance of flag lapel pins (even as the questioners themselves weren't wearing them!)

Because, let's face it. If we weren't paying attention to things like this, we might notice things about Sen. McCain, the man who has already told us he knows nothing about the economy (which, we would hope is an exaggeration...). We might notice things about his supposed strength in other matters... what Hillary Clinton has told us is his "crossing of the commander in chief threshold" (to the Oval Office bathroom, perhaps?): his supposed expertise and experience in foreign affairs. We might notice that Fareed Zakaria tells us that, by trying to re-create a Cold War with both Russia and China (and creating a "league of democracies"), the Senator-Who-Sold-Us-Out-On-Torture(TM) may well be bat-s*** crazy on foreign policy too.

And for that matter, why should any of us pay attention to the fact that the former Guantanamo Bay military prosecutor Col. Morris "Moe" Davis just testified for the defense, with respect to the insistence of his overlords that he rush cases to trial for their political value (rather than their prosecutorial merit). Oh, he was also "ordered" not to have any acquittals!

Hey, TD, next thing you'll be suggesting that the House Judiciary Committee might be wanting to subpoena John Ashcroft and John Yoo and David Addington over their refusal to testify on those charming torture memos and other things they wrote! To coin a phrase, "heh".

No, no, no... none of this is important... except for the Rev. Wright part (and the flag lapel pins, of course). Go back to whatever it was that's on t.v., and don't trouble yourselves with any of this. This has been... Media priorities.

Time Machine Update: The Unseen Editor suggests a look at this rather prescient NRO piece; if recent events represent Sen. Obama indeed heeding it, he will have clearly moved into the realm of Macchiavellian Grandmaster.

April 27, 2008, Doubting Thomas

What Thomas Nephew said.

April 24, 2008, TD Blog Interview with Wesley Powell

Wesley Powell is a partner in the New York City office of the law firm of Hunton & Williams, specializing in antitrust law and securities litigation. Mr. Powell represents a number of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as a number who have previously been released. On April 4, 2008, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Powell by telephone. What follow are my interview notes, corrected as appopriate by Mr. Powell.

The Talking Dog: I'll start with my usual first question, where were you on September 11, 2001?

Wesley Powell: I was in the very building I'm in now, New York's Met Life Building. At that time, I was in another firm (now Clifford Chance). On that morning, I was on my way into the office, but by the time I had arrived, they were stopping people from going up to the elevator-- this is not only a landmark building, but there are no other high buildings around it, so they stopped people going in.

I managed to get into offices that the law firm had in a nearby building, and I stood in amazement and watched, and then walked home. I live downtown, near 14th Street, and my phone service and water were cut off for a while, I went home, and then pretty much did what everybody else did that day.

The Talking Dog: Can you tell me the names, nationalities and current whereabouts of your Guantanamo clients?

Wesley Powell: I have four clients who are still being detained-- three Yemeni nationals and one Libyan. The Libyan is Ismael Bakush, now held in Camp 5. The one Yemeni I regularly meet is Ahmed Hussein, who is now in Camp 6. I have two clients-- this is not uncommon-- I don't know all that much about them because they have never agreed to meet me. They are the Yemenis Al-Shamrani and Al-Bahlul...

The Talking Dog: Am I correct that he [Al-Bahlul] is the man charged by the military commissions who has refused all assistance of counsel, including his military counsel (Major Tom Fleener, I believe)?

Wesley Powell: That's one and the same. Al-Bahlul has expressly made many efforts NOT to have military counsel. He made a pro se motion to fire his counsel, and he has always protested against the proceedings and refused to participate in them. I have remained his habeas counsel of record; I understand that he is back in front of the Commissions on some version of charges. I have made efforts to find out if new military counsel has been formally appointed, but I have not yet been advised of that.

None of my other clients have been charged, and none have been cleared for release either, though there has been very little correlation between the "cleared for release" list and those actually released.

My former clients are the Yemeni, Issa M Al-Jayfi, who was released in 2006 with a group of 6 men returned to Yemen. I also represented 3 French nationals, two of whom were released in 2004 before lawyers were even permited to visit Guantanamo. I did meet the third (Ridouane Khalid)... I was in the second or third group of lawyers permitted to visit GTMO. The other French cleints are Mourad Bechellali and Nizar Sassi, both of whom have written books about their detentions (with co-authors) and who were also represented by a well-known French lawyer in their criminal proceedings in France.

The Talking Dog: Can you tell me a bit about your clents that you find significant, such as your impressions of them or their particular backgrounds?

Wesley Powell: With respect to the Yemenis, I have now met with the families of the three Yemenis still at Guantanamo, in Yemen last year. Hussein is the client I have the most contact with-- I have met him around seven times. He was only 16 or 17 when captured. He had left his home in Yemen's Hadrahmout Province-- also the ancestral home of the bin Ladens. His father is a well-known businessman, and having met him, I can tell you is a very nice man. Hussein went to Pakistan to study at 15 or 16, and to do relief work. While there, he went to Afghanistan a couple of times. The second time he went there, after 9-11, he and those he was with took off back for Pakistan. They crossed the border, and ended up in a school where a whole lot of people were rounded up-- the Salafiyah Sschool, I believe. He is a very bright guy-- he has learned a lot of English, and although I use a translator for technical legal details of his case, I can now converse with him. He has not seen his parents since he was 14, 15 years old. He has lost a lot of weight-- largely beecause he doesn't like the food at GTMO (and it disagrees with him). Otherwise, he is in decent health, and maintains a good mental state. He is genuinely likeable.

Al-Jayfi -- who has been released-- is a big, heavy set, boisterous man, who I would describe even as a funny guy. He is now around 30. He was captured in Pakistan, with a different group from Hussein. Interestingly, he had left Yemen with a group of friends to get out of a conservative Islamic culture... he wanted to see the world. He was held on the thinnest of allegations, so it did not surprise me that he was among the first Yemenis to be released. I met him in Yemen; since his release, he has gotten married, and appears to be getting on with his life.

Shamrani has four children. I met them, as well as his father and brother... they came and met us for a press conference in Yemen. Al-Shamrani has been a long term hunger striker. I have kept on eye out on his condition, to the extent that is possible (as he does not wish to meet me).

Al-Bahlul also has children; I have met his father and cousin. I generally don't know much more about al-Bahlul, as, again, he does not wish to meet me (and has been most emphatic about trying to represent himiself).

The Libyan, Ismael is in his late 30's... around my age. He fled Libya, fearing persecution from Qaddafi. His brother was back in Libya, and he fears that Qaddafi has killed his brother. He certainly doesn't want to return to Libya, and I've been working on trying to get him asylum, as well as to ensure that our government does not return him to Libya.

With respect to my French clients, I have spoken to both Khalid and his wife. He is around 40 now. At the time of his capture, he had just married his wife. She went to visit her family in Algeria, and he went with friends to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He found it intolerable to be a devout Muslim in Paris (constantly seeing, for example, billboards of scantily clad people) and he wanted to go to a more religious place. He was in Afghanistann right after 9-11, and he fled to Pakistan with his friends and was captured. I have talked to him. I don't know if he has any children. He was convicted in France under their anti-terrorism laws using evidence provided by the United States military, but I don't know the status of that proceeding. I can tell you that having seen both the classified and unclassified record, I don't see on what basis he could have been arrested or charged. He may end up with "time served in Guantanamo" as his sentence. I will have to check with his French lawyer as to his status. France has been just about the most aggressive Western country with respect to its anti-terrorism activities, and has a very powerful examining magistrate devoted full time to terrorism prosecutions.

The Talking Dog: We're a little more than a year or so after the unfortunate remarks made by former Defense Dept. official Cully Stimson. Can you tell me if the Government's periodic ostracism of pro bono habeas counsel has effected your legal practice in any way, and how your Guantanamo representations have effected your overall legal practice?

Wesley Powell: Cully Stimson, if anything, proved ultimately beneficial to habeas counsel. My firm was among those listed in the Wall Street Journal editorial and then on the radio show on which Stimson spoke. The management of my own firm went out of their way to commend me for my representations, and were very offended that this guy would try to intimidate firms into dropping these clients. There are a number of prominent Republicans in my firm and the team I work in, and they have all been very supportive and offended by this as well. So, Stimson's remarks, if anything, caused a rallying around of the habeas counsel, at least as far as I am aware. No one has had a negative word to me; my corporate clients have been very supportive and think it is cool that I am doing this work. Other than taking time that might otherwise be spent for more business development and more billable hours, this has not effected the remainder of my practice. It's one of those things-- we all make personal sacrifices to be in this profession to begin with-- taking on this kind of representation just means more of them.

The Talking Dog: You have recently been part of a group of lawyers that signed a statement on behalf of Yemeni detainees suggesting that they will not be tortured should they be returned to Yemen; can you comment on that?

Wesley Powell: This comes out of a longstanding issue with the Yemeni government that needs to be resolved in order to get the diplomatic motion necessary to return our Yemeni clients home. Around a month or so ago, a number of us went to the Yemeni embassy and met with the Yemeni ambassador to the United States. Yemen's concern is that previously, when efforts were made to return detainees to Yemen, the American government would assert that "the lawyers have said their clients fear torture." These were assertions made a long time ago in some cases, and to a good degree, mischaracterize the actual assertions made... The bottom line is that we conveyed to the Yemenis that at this point, all of our Yemeni detainee clients want nothing more than to go home to Yemen, period.

The Talking Dog: I understand that you were also recently part of a group of Guantanamo habeas lawyers who signed a statement suggesting that of the three remaining candidates for President (my college classmate) Sen. Barack Obama appeared to represent the best hope for alleviating problems caused by American detention policy. Can you comment on that?

Wesley Powell: Of the Presidential candidates, I was already supporting Obama's candidacy anyway. The habeas attorneys have done a lot of lobbying of members of Congress, and Obama's office has been the most supportive, about understanding the conditions necessary to improve matters. While she has come around of late, Hillary Clinton was much more resistant, at least intially, though as I said, she has recently appeared to be more receptive to our position, she seemed not particularly eager to go out on a limb on this. I do note that a large percentage of the habeas lawyers are involved in these lobbying efforts.

The Talking Dog: Can you comment on media coverage of matters Guantanamo and "war on terror" detention policy, local, national, international as applicable?9

Wesley Powell: I think there are several reporters who have followed these matters and done a very good job. William Glaberson at the New York Times, or Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald, to name two. But by and large I am quite disappointed that there hasn't been more of a media focus than we have seen. Maybe Guantanamo would have been resolved sooner if more people found about it-- if there were broader press coverage or even interest. As important as other stories are-- and there are a lot to report-- such as what is going on in Afghanistan and Iraq (and even those stories seem to be getting less coverage of late)... important stories like Guantanamo take a back seat. There has been some good reporting to be sure, but I wish there were more. There is a certainly a lot going on in the world-- a whole lot of messes clamoring for press attention, and that presents a problem for getting more and better coverage.

The Talking Dog: Is there anything else I should have asked you but didn't, or anything else that my readers and the public need to know about the matters we've talked about?

Wesley Powell: There are so many angles, particularly for those of us who have been so involved in Guantanamo and war on terror related matters. I never thought of myself as a naiive person, and I would certainly take what public officials said with a grain of salt. But there was a time that when the President of the United States talked about issues like Guantanamo, I would have given a greater benefit of the doubt. On these issues, we have just seen so much official dishonesty-- and having had an inside look myself in the prison and knowing who the men we are holding there are, how they are treated, how and under what circumstances they were captured, compared to what the Administration has said in public, it has just been an enormous disappointment to me, and I hope we can cure this disconnect with reality soon.

The Talking Dog: : On behalf of all of our readers, I'd like to thank Mr. Powell for that informative interview.

Readers interested in legal issues and related matters associated with the "war on terror" may also find talking dog blog interviews with attorneys Martha Rayner, Angela Campbell, Stephen Truitt and Charles Carpenter, Gaillard Hunt, Robert Rachlin, Tina Foster, Brent Mickum, Marc Falkoff H. Candace Gorman, Eric Freedman, Michael Ratner, Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in "the war on terror"), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with physician and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles on medical complicity in torture, with law professor and former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer, with former Guantanamo detainees Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul , with former Guantanamo Bay Chaplain James Yee, with former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, with law professor and former Army J.A.G. officer Jeffrey Addicott, with law professor and Coast Guard officer Glenn Sulmasy, with author and geographer Trevor Paglen and with author and journalist Stephen Grey on the subject of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, with journalist and author David Rose on Guantanamo, with journalist Michael Otterman on the subject of American torture and related issues, with author and historian Andy Worthington detailing the capture and provenance of all of the Guantanamo detainees, and with Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch to be of interest.

April 22, 2008, McCain wins in PA primaries

That's right: the winner this evening by Hillary Clinton's likely single-digit margin of victory (now 8 points with 51% of precincts reporting at around 21 00 EDT) is none other than Republican nominee John McCain (who FWIW won the PA Republican primary itself). Why?

Because once again, thanks to race-baiting which played well among Whites (some of whom have behaved in a charming manner), and Clinton-favoring demographics (PA being an older and Whiter state than most of the country-- the two factors that have consistently favored Sen. Clinton in other states), and some the first big misplays by Team Obama (that "bitter thing," and ongoing fallout from seeing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, i.e., White people confronting an angry Black man on t.v.) and the media that Team Clinton keeps complaining about handing her a big one from the all-gotcha-fest debate... [I mean, where's your school spirit, Stephanopoulis?] Obama has been once again unable to drive a stake into the political heart of the Clintons, and the Dems' disarray train (a/k/a the Hillary Clinton campaign clusterf***) rolls on.

OTOH, Sen. Clinton's winning margin is not likely to make a significant dent in delegate counts... or close the overall popular vote lead held by if details like that matter. As Kevin has observed, this may be simply the effects of life-support efforts in the campaign ICU rather than any kind of actual recovery or real rally by Team Clinton.

Which is why Talking Dog Election Central has projected Arizona Sen. John McCain as the winner of tonight's Democratic primary. Just the possibility of Sen. Clinton being the Dem nominee-- a uniquely divisive figure who will once again take the Iraq war issue off the table should she somehow secure the nomination-- has got to be a huge shot in the arm for a McCain campaign that can otherwise get no media traction (or fundraising) while the Democratic Titans keep clashing among themselves.

And so the Hillary Clinton campaign lives on another day. As if it even could be killed. The Clintons have always been a hurricane rolling through people's lives-- and now it seems, all of our lives, as they continue their high-winds of destruction through the ranks of their own party. What else is new? I've said it before: never bet against a Clinton. And God help the rest of us.

Update: With about 70% of precincts counted (around 23 00 EDT) it looks like that margin of around 8% is where it is... oops, make that a 10% margin with 83%... make that 86% 93% reporting...; it may come in at 9 or 10%, but that will still leave Obama with a lead of well over 100 pledged delegates, going into North Carolina, which he will almost certainly win and win big, and Indiana, where he might do very well... but it's starting to look as if Indiana might be a must-win for Obama, even though the PA result (given Obama's likely NC win) mathematically eliminates Clinton from winning with pledged delegates. Stay tuned. Hillary is now saying that the purpose of her run is "to fight for you". Where have I heard that before? (Apparently, Bob Shrum can't be killed either.)

Morning After Update: The Unseen Editor sends us this dead-on analysis from Rich Lowry of NRO (yes NRO), referring to Hillary as "McCain's stalking horse," and citing to this Grey Lady editorial all but begging Sen. Clinton to call off the dogs, if not get out of the race, lest she do what she fully intends to do, i.e., destroy her opponent, destroy her own party, and undermine the integrity of the coming election.

April 21, 2008, Tortured reasoning

Robert sends us this link to a lengthy Vanity Fair piece by Philippe Sands, discussing the genesis, thesis and synthesis of various American torture policies in the aftermath of 9-11, including the role played by GTMO JAG officer Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, to wit, "brainstorming" to come up with clever torture ideas derived from the Fox sitcom 24. (It's on the tube, right? So it must be real. Beaver also wrote a troublesome memo later lambasted by Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora, as noted by Jane Mayer here.) Of course, in the current Administration, whether it be the-out-of-the-loop-commanding-general at Abu Ghraib, or a-hung-out-to-dry-JAG-officer at Guantanamo Bay Naval Air Station, Cuba, somehow a high-ranking woman in the military seems to invariably get blamed for the failings resulting from the outrageous policy of this Administration. Go figure.

Sands' piece is far-reaching, touching on the "trickle-down" approach to torturing a detainee named al-Qahtani (belying the premise that the military officers on the ground somehow suggested this), to Douglas Feith's parsing America's compliance with the Geneva Conventions out of existence, to the famous and less famous roles played by torturers-of-the-law to enable torture in the field, such as John Yoo, Robert Delahuhty, (good old Cheney's-man)David Addington, Rumsfeld himself, his general counsel William "Jim" Haynes, Fredo Gonzales, Jay "I have Lifetime Tenure Now, so Nya!" Bybee, and others, with various degress of moral (and in an even remotely just world, legal) culpability.

Sands' article culminates in a discussion of "the Justice Trial" at Nuremberg with the son of the lead defendant, a conversation that took place at Nuremberg (where Lt. Col. Beaver visited earlier in her career.)

All of this is a little too close, methinks, particulary when one thinks of, oh, the recent decision in the case of al-Ghizzawi, Candace's client at GTMO (the one in which I invariably take more than a rooting interest in.)

Well, this is where we find ourselves, as of 21 April, 2008. Someday, and I suppose I hope to live long enough to see that day, we will look back at these times, and be very ashamed of what has been done in the name of our security. VERY ashamed.

April 20, 2008, Could it be... Satan?

Richard Mellon Scaife

In polite liberal circles, just about the closest one can get to defining, well, the antichrist, is Pittsburgh newspaper publisher, financial-empire-scion and right-wing propagandist Richard Mellon Scaife, who has spent decades and untold millions financing various right wing propaganda, and in the process, undermining any semblance of responsible, sane government. Indeed, Scaife famously funded much of the movement that led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Naturally, less than 48 hours before his own state's potentially make or break Democratic primary... he and his paper (the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) are endorsing Hillary Clinton. I mean, we already have her posing with Rupert Murdoch... and she'd been courting Scaife for a while... so why not this?

Strange bedfellows doesn't begin to cover this.

April 20, 2008, Vox Parvi Populi

I, Raven Symone, have a vision that I will uncurl my hair.

Some of you psychically predicted that I'd get round to putting up a picture of Raven, especially now that she has some movie coming out. Well, good guess everybody! And I didn't even have to have Sean Hannity suggest it to me (whoever that is... Daddy!) Anyway, Daddy is still amused that his hard-hitting commentary and original interviews on the war on terror get like 1/10 as much traffic as my putting up pictures of teeny-bopper celebrities. That's the internet for you.

Daddy keeps trying to relive those college glory days through that lame debate he didn't watch this week; it turns out that both Barack and George Stephanopolis both went to the same college at the same time Daddy did, but neither claims to know Daddy... even as Daddy is fond of walking around the Columbia campus pointing out places that he and Barack didn't hang out. I guess he can now point out places that he, Barack and George Stephanopolis (whoever that is) didn't hang out, too. But then, since you're all psychic this week, I guess you all knew that too, along with who is going to win the Pennsylvania primary (whatever that is).

This has been... Vox Parvi Populi. [This week's count: whoevers, 2; whatevers, 1]

April 20, 2008, Showtime

The Grey Lady treats us to this lengthy report on the Pentagon's efforts to recruit "independent" analysts to network news (most frequently Fox, but all the broadcast networks are guilty) from the ranks of retired military officers, who turned out to be little more than shills working for contractors or lobbyists seeking to expand their own influence.
The coordination efforts described in the Grey Lady piece do make it sound like the retired generals, colonels, et al. were often little more than Administration marionettes.

But that seems a little unfair. They were but one piece of a vast public relations campaign, that, as the Grey Lady observes, was designed to replace the "media filter" (i.e. journalists are supposed to have bulls*** detectors on) with "media amplifiers". Those who keep misunderestimating the current Cheerleader-in-Chief forget that he comes from a culture of used car salesmen-- effective used car salesmen. The whole war on terror operation (including and especially Iraq) is just that: a massive p.r. campaign. Image over substance. Always.

And it wasn't just the broadcast media that swallowed this (as I often point out, the Grey Lady herself is not without sin, here), but, of course... Congress (and yes, yes, yes, I do mean you Hillary.) And despite the bulls***, a huge part of the American people (and without doubt, the overwhelming majority of people here in New York-- your constituents, Hillary), opposed what the Bush Administration was doing-- our bulls*** detectors were on.

Then again, unlike the "military analysts," we didn't have access to key officials and fat Pentagon contracts on the line, now did we?

April 18, 2008, Why does the National War College Hate our Troops?

There is no other conclusion one can draw from a study prepared by the National War College, what this McClatchy news service report calls the Pentagon's premier military institute. That report goes on to insist that our nation's glorious and totally successful engagement in Iraq (Central Front In The War On Terror [TM]) is somehow "a major debacle" with the "outcome in doubt."

Somehow, the report notes the over 4,000 deaths of American (and allied foreign-- but mostly American) troops, tens of thousands wounded, nearly 100,000 confirmed dead Iraqis, over $450 billion in cost to date and counting... and says all this like the continuation of the war indefinitely (as the President "suspends troops reductions") is a bad thing.

I mean, the Bush Administration got reelected didn't it? It's not as if Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer (and John Kerry and John Edwards) stood in front of Ground Zero with a few dozen of "the families" and said that the President could start a war against a country that didn't attack us on 9-11 over their dead bodies, and that they would filibuster or do what was necessary to stop it, now did they? Of course, why would they do such a thing, because everyone knew from day one that the war would be a smashing and total success, because Saddam had WMDs and rape rooms and tried to kill the President's Dad and sponsored al Qaeda and all that other stuff that was unquestionably true and obvious to everyone.

Which is why it is so shocking to see that what I had thought of as a respected patriotic and warmongering institution like the National War College has evidently gone over to the side of the terrorists (like Move-On.Org and the vast majority of the American people) in thinking that the Iraq war is anything other than a raging, throbbing success.

Fortunately, thanks to (once again) the able assistance of Senator Clinton, it seems that the only relevant victory-- that of the Republicans in November in a presidential year-- seems a strong likelihood-- hardly "in doubt" at all.

April 14, 2008, Sporting propositions

With baseball season upon us, I suggest the following:

Alan Greenspan is the Barry Bonds of the American economy.

Bill Clinton is the Alex Rodriguez of American politics.


April 13, 2008, Curse of the Gambino

Extra kudos to Mrs. TD for that post-title, relevant to the amusing revelations that a Sox-fan construction worker buried a David Ortiz Red Sox jersey under the new Yankee Stadium (as reported by Rupert's Post). The jersey was eventually unearthed, after not insubstantial effort. Even more amusing (aside from the back and forth with Yankees' acting owner Hank "Hankenstein" Steinbrenner to the effect that the fellow construction workers of Gino Castignoli should kick has ass), are the revelations that Mr. Castignoli had once previously pleaded guilty to involvement in a gambling operation with ties to the Gambino crime family.

Lost in the midst of the colorful baseball lore involved is that the new Yankee Stadium-- which, I can tell you from having passed by it in the No. 4 train, looks an awful lot like the old Yankee Stadium-- will cost taxpayers (such as myself) in excess of $663 million, thanks to sweetheart deals put in place by our last two (Republican) mayors, all so the Steinbrenners can make lots more money from luxury box revenue. All this comes at a time when the local tax coffers will be suffering as it is from the hit on Wall Street and the economy.

But then, if we didn't have our bread and circuses (and the Yanks and BoSox)... we might actually have to pay attention to what our "leaders" are actually doing for-- and to-- us.

April 13, 2008, Vox Parvi Populi

Greetings from President Martinez and the White House's first Black Chef.

I managed to talk Daddy down from posting a picture of Bill O'Reilly (whoever that is) and calling this "Fox Parvi Populi," taking over my rightful spot as Queen of Sunday Morning, and instead, still manage to keep this site as politically relevant as Daddy wishes it were. See above re the cast of "Cory in the House," a true vision of what a multi-cultural White House might look like, with the only thing truly White being, well, the House.

Cory features, of course, Kyle Massey as Cory, son of the chef, the Jason Dolley character "Newt" standing in for all stupid White men named "Newt", and the Maiara Walsh character Meena Paroum, from Bahavia, but that accent sounds an awful lot like Lutonian if you ask me. Yes, we can, America!

This has been... Fox VOX Parvi Populi.

April 12, 2008, The Grandest Inquisitors

Key members of the Bush  Administration ponder their rightful place in history.

And so, the question of when the paper-trail of modern American war crimes would finally go to the top has been answered: the President disclosed that he knew about-- and approved-- the highest-level meetings of officials in the White House itself on the subject of the specific degree and details of "enahanced interrogations" on suspects in the War on Terror(TM). Yoo You know: torture. (Jokes aside, Uber-torture-facilitator John Yoo was himself a frequent briefer of this group, which included Cheney (and Addington), Rumsfeld (and DOD general counsel Haynes), Condi, Tenet, Ashcroft, and Powell.)

It was horrifying enough to find out that the only even apparent objector was Ashcroft (apparently, belief in the integrity of Colin Powell is always ill-advised)... but now, the last piece of what should be at a minimum a bill of impeachment and by rights should be the war crimes tribunal pictured above is in place: the fish is rotten right from its very head on down.

The fact is, the laws of war have been hard fought... as it were. Some have suggested that they are one of the most important components of the advancement of civilization: that wars could be far more horrible than they already were if the combatants didn't (at least in principle) adhere to certain rules... that some conduct, even in the midst of an enterprise in which by intention a great number of people will be killed and/or maimed, is still so egregious that we could classify by the especially horrible moniker: "war crime". The intentional torture of persons captured in those conflicts is and has always been, as far as the laws of the United States are concerned, just that, war crime.

Don't get me started on "September 11th changed everything." Having been in an office building across the street that day and walked out, unscathed, while grieving some, and breathing crap for God knows how long from a mile or two downwind and losing my job...don't get me started. Because it changed jack-s***. Let me analogize to another kind of activity we frown on in this society: that of the vigilante. Another of the most important components of the advancement of civilization is that we do not take the law into our own hands. Yes, to be sure, in immediate self-defense, or defense of another, we may resort to extreme measures. But once that immediate danger has passed, we are not permitted to mete out justice on our own, whether it be hunting down and assassinating they that robbed, raped, or worse. Those societies in which those sorts of things still happen have a name: backward. Quite literally uncivilized. And by and large, the development and advancement of a society, on our own terms, depends quite literally on the degree to which the members of that society are willing to forego their personal vengenance and surrender it to the monopoly of the law. And even the highest officials of our government must never forget that they too are constrained by the law.

Which takes us back to where we started. This sequence from Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons" sums it up:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

And that's just it: the irony is that burning through the forest of laws to try to get "the bad apples," be they bin Laden, Saddam, Zarqawi, or tomorrow's bogey-man has made us no safer strategically: al Qaeda, for example, is now better ensconced in Pakistan than it was before, and now firmly implanted in Iraq, where it never was before. In the meantime, our leadership has debased our very souls in the name of "protecting us." But in the end... who will protect us from this kind of protector? Yes, I'd give the Devil the benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. (Cross-posted at American Street.)

April 11, 2008, Exit strategy

I have long surmised that the President's 'exit strategy" for Iraq was called "January 20, 2009". Further evidence of the correctness of my surmise comes from this WaPo piece telling us that the President "backs Petraeus and Crocker"-- as if they were themselves doing anything save reciting the party line-- to "suspend troop reductions"... i.e., the President will sustain the unsustainable Surge(TM) in the interest of keeping Iraq from going sufficiently to hell in a handbasket during this election year so that even our feckless media might actually report events there.

As to our soldiers... well, they volunteered, didn't they? And President Senator McCain tells us they'll be there for another 100 years or so as it is... best get used to it.

April 8, 2008, TD Blog Interview with Joanne Mariner

Joanne Mariner is the Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program Director at Human Rights Watch. She has worked on a wide variety of issues for the organization, documenting war crimes in Colombia, Kosovo and Darfur, political violence in Haiti, and the interface between terrorism and the laws of war, among others. Ms. Mariner is a regular contributor to "FindLaw's Writ" and has written numerous articles on these subjects. On April 7, 2008, I had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Mariner by telephone. What follows are my interview notes, corrected as appropriate by Ms. Mariner.

The Talking Dog: The traditional first question, all the more compelling since you, like me, work in a New York skyscraper, where were you on September 11th?

Joanne Mariner: I do, and did, work in the Empire State Building, but I wasn't yet at work that morning. I had a journalist friend visiting from out of town; someone had told her that something was happening at the World Trade Center: we went outside and we could see it from there.

The number of people streaming uptown was a scene that reminded us of Kosovo, where we had both been during the 1999 refugee crisis. We saw the towers on fire, and eventually saw them collapse. My friend’s magazine called and told her that her vacation was over and that she was "on duty". We went downtown, and interviewed a number of people who had just fled from the towers and got quite a close-up picture of the events of that day. It was chaotic, scary, and sad.

The Talking Dog: My understanding is that as a Human Rights Watch attorney, you do not have individual clients in GTMO, Bagram, Pol-e-charkhi or elsewhere, so much as an overall observer role, including writing extensively. Nonetheless, one of the more interesting questions I get to ask of such attorneys is to tell me their impressions of their clients as individuals. Though not "a client", I understand you had an opportunity to meet with the principal of a rendition off the streets of Milan by the CIA, the "Abu Omar case" (now proceeding in Italy), Abu Omar himself (full name Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr) at his home in Alexandria, Egypt. Can you tell me your personal impressions of Abu Omar? Have you met the Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro, and if so, can you tell me your impressions of him? Where do you see the Abu Omar case going?

Joanne Mariner: I have met Abu Omar, who was rendered to Egypt (from the streets of Italy) in 2003. I've also met a number of people held by the CIA at its secret prisons in Afghanistan. What I note about all of them is how surprisingly resilient they seem -- though they lost years of their lives, they just want to put their lives back together and get on with it.

Abu Omar was living with his wife and son in Alexandria, Egypt. He was following the developments of the case in Milan arising from his rendition against a number of CIA operatives who transferred him to Egypt, mostly out of an interest in seeing some accountability, particularly up the chain of command. But he too is primarily focused on trying to put his life back together.

I also met Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro. He has done an amazingly meticulous job piecing together phone records and hotel bills and other bits of evidence to establish the involvement of CIA operatives in the abduction. The fact that there even is a case pending is largely due to his personal efforts and determination. The Italian government certainly does not want to see this case go forward-- it has become a troublesome diplomatic issue between Italy and the United States, but Spataro has persisted.

The Talking Dog: You have recently written on (and I heard you present on) the issue of "After Guantanamo... what?" Part of this will be the repatriation of some detainees (there are a large numbers of Yemenis, for example, that may reduce the census by a few dozen), some may ultimately be tried, some will probably die of medical neglect or suicide... but there has been an unfortunate trend of imprisoning some in American controlled (sort of) prisons in Afghanistan, such as Bagram or Pol-e-charkhi. Could you comment on the likeliest "after Guantanamo... what?" scenarios, which candidates (B,C or McC) are likeliest to do something different, and of so what?, and lastly, what sort of public pressure should those of us interested in be placing on members of Congress and the presidential candidates for the best outcome (short of all three already being committed to "close Guantanamo")?

Joanne Mariner: Importantly, and encouragingly, all three of the remaining presidential candidates have expressed a commitment to close Guantanamo. But none of the candidates have sketched out a detailed plan as to how to close Guantanamo: what to do with its inmates or those held at America's other detention facilities. At Human Rights Watch, we have suggested that the appropriate means of closing Guantanamo would be to prosecute those alleged to have committed criminal acts, and release the rest, period. Some detainees can simply be sent home, while others cannot -- such as the Uighurs from China, or certain Libyans and Algerians, who might face torture, persecution or worse. So for them, some kind of resettlement plan is necessary. On this question, we've already been meeting with government officials from European countries and elsewhere. To date, the U.S. has sent 8 detainees to Albania. But a more comprehensive solution must be found.

Our real fear is that in closing Guantanamo the government might be tempted to pass a preventative detention law "as a solution". This would establish a Guantanamo-like system on United States soil -- potentially permanently. While most preventive detention proposals that I've heard would allow greater procedural guarantees than those afforded at Guantanamo, they would still institutionalize the long-term detention of people without trial.

The Talking Dog: Following up on concerns ongoing pre-trial, and even pre-charge, "preventive detention", which is, of course, arguably the basis for our holding just about everyone at Guantanamo, Bagram, and stateside in the brig (Padilla and al-Mari), you noted that "liberal" Justice Breyer had suggested that Congress could provide for this sort of thing legislatively, notwithstanding, say, the Bill of Rights (or treaty obligations). Where do you see this going?

Joanne Mariner: During oral argument in Boumediane, Justice Breyer brought up -- more than once, actually -- that Congress could pass a preventive detention law, but has not done so yet. I hope that he didn't mean it as a suggestion.

The Talking Dog: Yet another subject you have written about concerns the subject of laws passing (from Aden to Zimbabwe!) on the subject of criminalizing speech if it is arguably about terrorism (rather than inciting terrorism, which is already a crime). Though the USA isn't there yet (or are we?) you have noted that the USA is in very bad company in a number of areas (such as... preventive detention). Do you anticipate the USA joining its fellow nations in this area (our Constitution be damned, if it hasn't already been dispatched as "quaint")... or is this at least one line we Americans won't cross?

Joanne Mariner: In the U.K. and other European countries, we have certainly seen aggressive encroachments on speech in recent years. The fear of terrorism puts pressure on all areas of law. Still, I'm less concerned about this possibility with respect to the United States -- the First Amendment is strong and well-established here, and the problem in the United States has not been home-grown terrorism or local incitement to terrorism.

The Talking Dog: Have you personally been to Guantanamo (or other American detention facilities) whether to observe proceedings, speak to detainees or jailers, or for other reasons, and if so what are your impressions? Has anyone at HRW been, and what have they told you?

Joanne Mariner: We at Human Rights Watch have requested permission to visit Guantanamo, Bagram and Iraq-based detention facilities, and to speak to detainees in private. Lawyers for individual detainees have been allowed – thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Rasul -- but we have not. The government has, to date, denied our requests.

We have attended the military commission proceedings as monitors, though again, not to interview detainees. Jen Daskal, our Senior Counterterrorism Counsel, has been to Guantanamo, as have several members of our legal team. We have written a number of op-eds, blog posts and so forth critical of the cut-backs in basic criminal procedural guarantees afforded to the detainees charged. We are very involved in monitoring the trial of Omar Khadr, who, as you know, was a minor at the time of the crimes for which he is charged. Given our decades-long work on the issue of child soldiers, we find the Khadr case peculiarly troubling.

The Talking Dog: Can you comment on media coverage of issues "war on terror detention policy" in (1) NYC, (2) the USA writ large, (3) the rest of the world?

Joanne Mariner: I've been disappointed not so much by the media but by the monitoring of the representative branch of government, namely Congress. The media has actually stepped up and revealed abuses, created an outcry, and drawn public concern, whereas there has been a real lack of meaningful Congressional response. People like Dana Priest of the Washington Post, Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, Josh White... have done some great reporting. It would be nice to see some follow-up in Congress on the interest they have generated with the public.

The Talking Dog: Overall, how resilient do you see constitutional protections against the incursive national security state in (1) the USA and (2) the EU, ... you can answer "not at all", "somewhat", "irremediable" or any other appropriate response.

Joanne Mariner: This remains to be seen. Terrorism will be with us for a long time. The fear of terrorism puts pressure on human rights and constitutional guarantees everywhere. Torture, arbitrary detention and outright "disappearance" have suddenly become acceptable subjects of debate. It will take real effort to fight back against these abuses, and to demonstrate how such abuses are ultimately counterproductive. Strong arguments and a lot of attention will be required by human rights groups, the ACLU, the press, and the public.

The Talking Dog: On a similar note, how serious would you regard as the diversion of the limited resources of HRW and similar NGOs (Amnesty International, et al.) to dealing with the United States' foray into "the dark side" vs. human rights abuses in the rest of the world, compared to say, the likely increased funding it generates from people (like me, who recently started contributing to HRW) appalled by our own nation's conduct?

Joanne Mariner: With respect to my own organization, Human Rights Watch, we created a specific program in the area of terrorism and counterterrorism, with a strong focus on U.S. abuses, as an add-on to our existing organization. So at least for us, there has been no direct "trade-off". Also, in considering this question, it is important to think about globalization -- how abuses have involved complicity among governments, that not only share intelligence, but even trade in prisoners. Suddenly, actions in Afghanistan, China, and Russia, are closely related to actions in the United States. For an organization like Human Rights Watch, this means that there’s a need for increased collaboration across regional divisions -- Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and so forth. Part of my mandate is to try to facilitate communication among these regional actors, given that the problems of terrorism and counterterrorism are cross-cutting.

The Talking Dog: Can you briefly give a run-down of the current state of the "military commissions", or the latest incarnation of the commissions (thought of by many, such as me, as kangaroo courts) set up at Guantanamo to try alleged terrorists under various flawed criteria, and compare that, to say, the flawed hearings detainees in American custody in Afghanistan (officially Afghan custody, of course) receive, compared to say what American law provides by way of due process... and what do you view as the future of these commissions... will they go on, or will our next President scrap them-- or something else?

Joanne Mariner: The first full trial-- that of Salim Hamdan-- is scheduled to start in May. The proceedings have been slow and ad hoc thus far, and it is unlikely that any of the commission trials will go that far this year, certainly not the trial of the six allegedly implicated in the 9-11 attacks.

The Administration wanted to give impetus to the commissions, but I think it unlikely that they’ll really get moving this year. The next President will have to make important decisions-- scrap the commissions entirely, move the prosecutions into federal court, or continue these proceedings. I predict they will be scrapped. They are unfair, unwieldy, have generated nothing but negative feedback from other countries, and have utterly failed to accomplish their goals thus far.

The Talking Dog: Do you see any serious chance that, as has been threatened, Colonel Morris "Moe" Davis, the former commissions prosecutor, will testify for the defense?

Joanne Mariner: Davis was scheduled to testify on April 28th - but his testimony has been delayed. His testimony would be very damaging to the prosecution, and quite relevant. I hope that it happens.

The Talking Dog: As a "forced-final", let me ask you about the HRW report pertaining to CIA renditions to Jordan, and finally... is there anything else I should have asked you but didn't, or anything else that my readers and the public need to know on these subjects?

Joanne Mariner: In the rendition report, we document how at least 14 CIA prisoners were rendered to Jordan between 2002 and 2004. These men were mostly rendered from Pakistan and from the Pankisi Gorge region of Georgia to Jordan for detention, interrogation, and torture. Jordanian detainees held with them have described their abuse and mistreatment. One of the Jordanians smuggled a note out, which describes how the subject was picked up in Pakistan and abused in Jordanian custody. Jordan is not the only country to receive rendered detainees, but it does seem to have received the largest number. Jordanian intelligence has been an intimate, long time, and trusted collaborator of the CIA.

As to an overall final comment, let me emphasize that we are in the middle of an election campaign. The next President will make crucial decisions, and will no doubt make them very early on in his or her term in office. These issues have to be put on the table now -- we need to make these things part of the presidential debate, and get the candidates on record formulating their proposed solutions, hopefully solutions that are respectful of human rights and effective in fighting terrorism. The next few months will be crucial in setting the tone for the next 4 or 8 years.

The Talking Dog: On behalf of all my readers, I thank Ms. Mariner for that fascinating interview.

Readers interested in legal issues and related matters associated with the "war on terror" may also find talking dog blog interviews with attorneys Martha Rayner, Angela Campbell, Stephen Truitt and Charles Carpenter, Gaillard Hunt, Robert Rachlin, Tina Foster, Brent Mickum, Marc Falkoff H. Candace Gorman, Eric Freedman, Michael Ratner, Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in "the war on terror"), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with physician and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles on medical complicity in torture, with law professor and former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer, with former Guantanamo detainees Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul , with former Guantanamo Bay Chaplain James Yee, with former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, with law professor and former Army J.A.G. officer Jeffrey Addicott, with law professor and Coast Guard officer Glenn Sulmasy, with author and geographer Trevor Paglen and with author and journalist Stephen Grey on the subject of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, with journalist and author David Rose on Guantanamo, with journalist Michael Otterman on the subject of American torture and related issues, and with author and historian Andy Worthington detailing the capture and provenance of all of the Guantanamo detainees, to be of interest.

April 6, 2008, Vox parvi populi

Howdy folks... Y'all like my Bush's niece outfit?

This week's teeny-bopper icon in "vox parvi populi" (voice of the tiny people, though Daddy says "little people") is Miranda Cosgrove, now star of "iCarly" and previously a living demonstration of how girls are just smarter than boys in "Drake and Josh," where two boys-- even one who was supposed to be smart in school-- were just no match for a girl-- even several years younger. Daddy says Miranda's character, Megan, was like a young Hillary Clinton: totally smart, totally focused, totally ruthless. (Click on Miranda for an explanation of her fashion statement.)

This has been... Vox parvi populi.

April 5, 2008, That vision thing

Jesus' General J.C. Christian writes to the Dean at U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall Law School in praise of its faculty member John Yoo, proudly espousing the vision of the America we are becoming... that shining interrogation center on a hill. (I note that Prof. Yoo himself was actually pretty courteous in declining my request for an interview with this blog, at one time; it's mostly a free country, after all, even if he doesn't seem to think so.)

The General spots a fascinating trend between youthful cruelty to animals and adult cruelty to, well, everyone... that other servant of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola, who quipped "give me the child til' seven and I'll give you the man," appears to have been on to something.

Praise The Lord and pass the thumbscrews and wooden splints.

April 3, 2008, Political gag reflex

California Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) (who, you'll recall, was the one-time-car-thief-turned-car-alarm-king and financial force in the recall of Gray Davis that gave us Governor Schwarzenegger) appears to have put his foot in his mouth by calling the events of 9-11 "just a plane crash" resulting in "just another fire". The usual suspects-- numerous Republicans, "the families," New York's tabloids, etc.--have duly jumped on this statement. The statement was apparently intended by Issa as a justification for opposing funding of an aid-to-New-York-bill, thereby screwing various rescue workers and other New Yorkers sickened by toxins released from the 9-11 events-- who were previously screwed by the federal government (and St. Rudy, of course) into believing that conditions at the WTC site, "Ground Zero" were less hazardous (and likely to cause permanent injury or premature death) than, in fact, they were-- out of any further federal assistance for their medical expenses.

What's interesting about the statement, as I see it, is the "meta-" nature of it. Because, in terms of the surface value of the statement, something to the effect of "9-11... can't we just get over it, already?"... it happens to be something I agree with. The joy of being a ludicrously light-trafficked blogger as oppposed to a Republican member of Congress is that I don't have to worry too much about the repercussions of making statements like that. The fact remains, however, that unlike Darrell Issa... or most of you... I have moral authority to speak about the events of 9-11, and you probably don't. You see, unlike Hillary Clinton in Tuzla, I was actually quite in or near "a war zone" assuming one considered being in an office a block uptown of the WTC site that morning (close enough to see glass, steel, paper and people falling from one's office window) as a war zone, though I never believed myself in any particular personal danger; I did have an irrational fear of driving over bridges for some time thereafter-- though that fear was, to be sure, stoked by New York's ever vigilant local media, and then our Lord Mayor (Il Duce). Yes, yes, I lost people I know (as did numerous other people I know), I lost my job (the building was in "the frozen zone"), and I and my family lived in the now-known-to-be-toxic pall that surrounded downtown, and blew down our way over Brooklyn, for months and months. Oh... I still work a block from "Ground Zero." So there. Some of you have similar stories; most of you don't. What of it?

The fact is, 9-11 was a one-off. A horrible tragedy. A national calamity, really. But. That's. It. It was NOT a religious experience, of mythic proportion, a sufficient justification to flush rationality-- not to mention our Constitution-- down the toilet. It was not a justification to pointlessly invade non-threatening countries (thereby effectively devastating our own military's ability to defend us from anything else.) So, as irreverent as Issa's comments were on their face... he has an interesting point, and I don't disagree with the fact that we should really "de-sanctify" the events of September 11th once and for all, and with six and a half years hindsight, put them in perspective. Of course, that's not what he was trying to say.

Which takes us to Issa's second point, what he was trying to say: in Republican ideology, the actual individuals called upon to carry out policy can go screw themselves, whether they be members of our military, or Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers. The government exists only to serve the already rich and powerful, preferably those already operating in the corporate form, and the rest of us... well, we can go screw ourselves, be we soldiers or marines or firefighters, New Yorkers or New Orleaneans or whomever. That's all he was trying to say, which is why it's a tad disingenuous for some of his fellow Republicans to jump on him for so clearly expressing all that they stand for.

On the one hand, it is, admittedly, bad form for a Republican to try to assert that September 11th isn't totemic and magical... after all, but for it, we wouldn't be in Iraq, Junior wouldn't have a second term, and for all we know, the "Gingrich Revolution" would have ended in 2002 instead of 2006. On the other hand, Issa almost presents us with a political zen koan: "How can the Republicans be so good about protecting us by being better on national security while they are so miserable at actually protecting the individuals involved in protecting us including the victims of actual national disasters after they actually occur?" Ponder that, particularly while Sen. Clinton tells us that some Republican such as Sen. McCain will make a better commander in chief than some Democrat like... you know.

Or something. This has been... "political gag reflex."

April 1, 2008, Profiles in political courage

I have been quite critical of the lack of political courage shown by the Democrats since re-taking control of Congress, but this morning's surprise announcement at a joint news conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers that articles of impeachment against the President for high crimes and misdemeanors will be presented to the House Judiciary Committee certainly puts an end to such criticism on my part. Pelosi and Conyers announced that their articles of impeachment "were much better than that lunatic Cynthia McKinney's" and "made a whole lot more sense than that idiot Kucinich's."

Apparently, what turned the tide from Speaker Pelosi having previously taken impeachment "off the table" was a recent revelation that President Bush had apparently engaged in oral sex with a White House intern in or near the Oval Office. Said Pelosi, "As we now know comparing the records of the Clinton presidency and the Bush presidency, one's conduct in the performance of their public office is utterly irrelevant, because only private conduct matters; hence, President Clinton's effective management of the national budget, his keeping us out of major foreign entanglements for most of his eight years in office, and the growth of the economy and America's standing in the world is of no moment compared to besmirching the holy sepulchre of the Oval Office with his engaging in private activity with a consenting adult... And while we would have gladly given Georgie-Dub (that's what I call him) a pass on the spying on all of us, the unprovoked and stupid wars, the torture, the signing statements designed to knowingly break the law, the Scooter Libby and Plame thing, the insane mismanagement of everything, the turning of the Justice Department into an arm of the RNC to go after prominent Democrats and give Republicans license to break the law... neither I nor the American people can possibly ever forgive him for... eeeeewwwwww..." Congressman Conyers added, "what she said."

White House spokesperson Dana Perino dismissed the impending articles of impeachment as "another political stunt in a long line of political stunts and obstructionism too and a complete lack of patriotism and stuff" and said that newly announced House Minority Leader Ralph Nader and Republican Senate Minority Leader Joe Liberman "would both lead a spirited fight to keep impeachment from ever reaching an up or down vote".