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October 14, 2010

"grossly conservative"

As noted in The Nation, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have revised their cost estimate for our Afghanistan and Iraq wars, first detailed in their 2008 book The $3 Trillion War:

"We were grossly conservative," [Stiglitz] said, noting that the number of veterans seeking care from the VA system since October 2001--about 600,000--far exceeds his earlier projection. [...] "I think we would easily be in the $4 trillion range."

July 1, 2010

Bush: fifth-worst president ever

The study "American Presidents: Greatest and Worst" (report and overall rank) from Siena College (h/t: Taegan Goddard) places Bush the Lesser as our fifth-worst president ever, noting that "just one year after leaving office, the former president has found himself in the bottom five at 39th rated especially poorly in handling the economy, communication, ability to compromise, foreign policy accomplishments and intelligence." The historians noted that "FDR ranks first in overall accomplishments," making him a much better choice for Mount Rushmore than the media-favored mediocrity of Reagan (who, as #18, is ranked below both recent Democratic presidents: Clinton at #13 and Obama at #15).

Thomas Edsall's review of Karl Rove's Courage and Consequence (from the latest issue of Democracy) has my Quote of the Day with this description of Bush's "staggering record of arrogance, recklessness, and negligence-a record awesome in its consequences:"

Time may have diminished [Rove's] recall of some of the details, but the magnitude of the damage inflicted by the Administration is indelible. [...] ...the real Bush/Rove legacy-the deliberate and relentless polarization of the electorate-lends itself to an ideologically rigid style of governing, a style that engenders the kind of missteps in the face of crisis characteristic of the disastrous years chronicled in these pages.

June 12, 2010

more on the Gitmo "suicides"

Andy Worthington's "Murders at Guantánamo: The Cover-Up Continues" (h/t: Andrew Sullivan) provides a good overview of the four-year-old Gitmo "suicides" scandal, and is helping to keep these Bush-era war crimes in the public eye. However much the public might prefer to avert their gaze, this is something--as I discussed earlier this year--that Obama must address in order to avoid becoming complicit in the scandal.

June 11, 2010

"a bullhorn moment"

Some GOP politician offered Obama some unsolicited advice about how he should treat the BP disaster:

"What he needed was sort of a bullhorn moment where he went to the Gulf and said we're going to get this right. I'm going to get on it."

Jed Lewison has some great snark over at DailyKos, writing that "President Obama just needs to handle the BP spill like George W. Bush handled 9/11. Can you imagine how great it would be?"

President Obama would put on some waders and step into oil-ravaged Louisiana wetland. And then he'd grab a bullhorn and tell the assembled fishermen that he could hear them, and the whole world could hear them, and that we're going to get the people who spilled all this oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

And then we'd go and attack Venezuela or something. Just like Bush. It'd be so fucking great.

June 9, 2010

W...worse than we thought

Yeah, I'm writing about the Busheviks again. It's dismaying to keep adding entries to the worst president ever category, but scandals from the notoriously secretive Bush administration are still being unearthed. The latest offense to be uncovered is from Sunday's Physicians for Human Rights report entitled "Experiments in Torture" (PDF), noting the Bushies' not-quite-Mengele-but-too-close-for-comfort medical experimentation on detainees.

PHR writes that "The Experiments in Torture report is the result of six months of investigation and the review of thousands of pages of government documents. It has been peer-reviewed by outside experts in the medical, biomedical and research ethics fields, legal experts, health professionals and experts in the treatment of torture survivors." Here are some excerpts from the report:

This current report provides evidence that in addition to medical complicity in torture, health professionals participated in research and experimentation on detainees in US custody. (p. 3)

Even the claim of systematic medical monitoring in the name of making "enhanced" intelligence techniques (EITs) "safe, legal, and effective" is contradicted by official monitoring policy, which failed to adequately take into account the mental harm caused by the tactics, among other factors. In fact, the "enhanced" interrogation techniques are premised on the infliction of mental harm, so the concept of studying them to make them more effective is ethically impermissible, and studying them to make them "safer" is logically untenable -- as the techniques are unsafe by design. (p. 6)

In a circular application of science to law, and in violation of the ethical principles of both professions, experimentation relating to the EITs apparently was used by Bush administration lawyers in an effort to protect US personnel engaged in the EIP from potential legal liability for their acts. OLC lawyers argued that efforts to refine and improve the application of techniques would provide a potential "good faith" defense for interrogators against charges of torture. [...] But in attempting to legitimize the crime of torture, the lawyers left those who authorized and performed the research open to the charge of illegal human experimentation. Even if medical monitoring was dutifully applied for the intended purpose of mitigating the infliction of severe physical and psychological harm, the medical monitoring itself, because it generated research that was applied to future application of the techniques and as part of efforts to mitigate legal liability, could be considered a major breach of professional medical ethics, and could constitute a crime. (pp. 11-12)

This program engaged in violations of the detainees' health and human rights that are explicitly prohibited by international human rights agreements to which the United States is party --including the United Nations Conventions Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (p. 15)

Is PHR's work the definitive and conclusive exposé on this subject? No, and we can't expect it to be. This NYT editorial states:

The report from the physicians' group [PHR] does not prove its case beyond doubt -- how could it when so much is still hidden? -- but it rightly calls on the White House and Congress to investigate the potentially illegal human experimentation and whether those who authorized or conducted it should be punished. Those are just two of the many unresolved issues from the Bush administration that President Obama and Congressional leaders have swept under the carpet.

Renouncing the Busheviks' illegal and immoral behavior is the absolute minimum acceptable response from the Obama administration. If Obama wants to truly earn that Nobel Peace Prize, a thorough repudiation is also required. PHR, in fact "demands that President Obama direct the Attorney General to investigate these allegations, and if a crime is found to have been committed, prosecute those responsible."

Now that Bush has admitted approval of his administration's despicable waterboarding--after Cheney said much the same thing--there should be an independent investigation into their involvement in the war crimes at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, the various black sites, and who knows where else.

According to Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, part of the president's duties is to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

Obama, you're not doing that part of your job very well.


links:
The reality-based blogosphere is fairly well appalled, and here is a sampling of the voices calling for justice:

Jeff Kaye explains at FDL (here and here) that it's a "vital necessity that investigations take place:"

...hopefully PHR's report will provide the added impetus to push this issue to the forefront of a tired, confused, and frightened country, a country misled in so many ways over the past decade, and now forced to confront the full panoply of evil that has resulted from having a portion of the government held apart from public scrutiny. That must end now.

Adam Serwer (American Prospect) notes that "by refusing to investigate torture, the current administration is fully implicated in establishing a de-facto legal immunity for government officials when they break the law in the name of security."

PHR report co-author Stephen Soldz notes at AlterNet that PHR "confirms previous suspicions and provides the first strong evidence that the CIA was indeed engaged in illegal and unethical research on detainees in its custody:"

The report, the result of six months of detailed work [...] points to several instances where medical personnel -- physicians and psychologists -- monitored the detailed administration of torture techniques and the effects upon those being abused. The resultant knowledge was then used both as a legal rationale for the use of the techniques and to refine these abusive techniques, allegedly in order to make them safer.

Dan Froomkin observes the outrage over Bush's admission, and quotes retired Brigadier General David Irvine:

"When [Bush] decided to [torture detainees] the first time, he launched the nation down a disastrous road, and we will continue to pay dearly for the damage his decision has caused. We are seen by the rest of the world as having abandoned our commitment to international law. We have forfeited enormous amounts of moral leadership as the world's sole remaining superpower. And it puts American troops in greater danger -- and unnecessary danger."

Andrew Sullivan has "one lingering question about all this" [actually several]:

Since it appears that these refinements of torture were not ad hoc but part of a systemic effort, where was the experimentation taking place? How many doctors and psychologists were involved? Was there a separate facility, as at Bagram, for experimenting with torture? Did these experiments ever go wrong?

Could prisoners, for example, accidentally suffocate during experimentation? And what would the US government do if such a thing occurred? One thing is clear: we will never find out from the Obama administration. They have been as diligent in protecting the government's record of torture as Bush and Cheney were. That kind of accountability and transparency is not change Obama ever believed in.

Glenn Greenwald observes that "Obama is not only protecting repugnant crimes and the criminals who committed them, but also ensuring that they will occur again:"

An added benefit: by so vigilantly protecting Bush crimes from investigation and refusing to apply the law, Obama significantly increases the chances that should he break the law [...] he, too, will be bestowed with imperial immunity for his actions. It's a never-ending, mutually beneficial agreement among Presidents and their parties to agree to place Presidents above the law.

Jason Leopold's "Human Experimentation at the Heart of Bush Administration's Torture Program" (TruthOut) quotes Obama as taking a bold stand in favor of accountability:

"We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed. We can't go forward without looking backwards and understanding that that was an enormous problem."

Oh, never mind...he was talking about Indonesian human-rights violations. The "Bush blind spot" is alive and well, and his presidency will apparently be held to a lower standard by Democrats as well as Republicans.

April 29, 2010

Is that a poem in your pocket...

...or are you just glad to see me?

I've been seeking to remedy my relative lack of poetry for quite some time now, and thought that I had best do so before National Poetry Month (website, Wikipedia) came to a close. Today is Poem in Your Pocket day:

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There are forty downloadable poems here, and a nice (although not quite pocket-sized) hardcover anthology called Poem in Your Pocket:

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I decided to share a favorite poem with you all, but rather than an obvious choice like Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," Coleridge's "Kubla Kahn," Henley's "Invictus," Tennyson's "Ulysses," or Ginsburg's "Howl" (which I wrote about here), I'm going to go with the work of a more outré wordsmith: the former Decider, George W Bush:

MAKE THE PIE HIGHER
by George W. Bush

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

Charles Simic's optimism in "Confessions of a Poet Laureate" (NYRB) is refreshing, writing that "In a country in which schools seem to teach less literature every year, where fewer people read books and ignorance reigns supreme regarding most issues, poetry is read and written more than ever:"

Unlike my predecessors who had a lot of clever ideas, like having a poetry anthology next to the Gideon Bible in every motel room in America (Joseph Brodsky), or urging daily newspapers to print poems (Robert Pinsky), I felt things were just fine. As far as I could see, there was more poetry being read and written than at any time in our history. [...] If I were asked to sum up my experience as the poet laureate, I would say, there's nothing more interesting or more hopeful about America than its poetry.

April 26, 2010

Bush's book

Pretzeldunce Chimpy McFlightsuit has a memoir coming out--on a week after Election Day, no less:

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The title isn't objectionable, but I would have chosen a different photo:

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Update: I changed the title to "INDECISION POINT" and submitted it to HuffPo:
indecisionpoint.jpg

January 24, 2010

Greenwald on Gulag Gitmo

In a follow-up to last week's story about the suspicious "suicides" at Gitmo, Glenn Greenwald quoted General Taguba's 2008 remarks that "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account." Greenwald continues with the observation that "They plainly violated domestic law, international law, and multiple treaties to which the U.S. has long been a party:"

Despite that, not only has President Obama insisted that these crimes not be prosecuted, and not only has his Justice Department made clear that -- at most -- they will pursue a handful of low-level scapegoats, but far worse, the Obama administration has used every weapon it possesses to keep these crimes concealed, prevent any accountability for them, and even venerated them as important "state secrets," thus actively preserving the architecture of lawlessness and torture that gave rise to these crimes in the first place.

Andrew Sullivan remarked that "Most Americans simply don't or won't believe it, or they simply push it out of their consciousness and resort to irrelevant discussions of ticking time-bombs, which have nothing to do with what Bush and Cheney authorized:"

The Democrats are totally pathetic as they always, always are. Obama is a coward and Holder a tool. They too believe Americans cannot handle the truth. But the longer Obama and Holder kick this can down the road, or continue to cover it up, the sooner the responsibility for it will cling to them too.

President Obama: if you do not open up an investigation into the Gitmo "suicides", you are yourself guilty of reneging on the Geneva Conventions. Your wily pragmatism on this is not wily at all. It is, in fact, criminal.

Of course, there will be no independent investigator. Fishing expeditions about extramarital affairs are much more important to the "honor and integrity" of the Oval Office than getting to the bottom of torture, murder, and war crimes.

January 19, 2010

the truth about "asymmetrical warfare"

In what I consider to be the first must-read article of the year, Harper's Scott Horton exposes the circumstances behind the suspicious deaths of three Gitmo detainees in 2006:

Late in the evening on June 9 that year, three prisoners at Guantánamo died suddenly and violently. Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, from Yemen, was thirty-seven. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, from Saudi Arabia, was thirty. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, also from Saudi Arabia, was twenty-two, and had been imprisoned at Guantánamo since he was captured at the age of seventeen. None of the men had been charged with a crime, though all three had been engaged in hunger strikes to protest the conditions of their imprisonment. [...]

As news of the deaths emerged the following day, the camp quickly went into lockdown. The authorities ordered nearly all the reporters at Camp America to leave and those en route to turn back. The commander at Guantánamo, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, then declared the deaths "suicides." In an unusual move, he also used the announcement to attack the dead men. "I believe this was not an act of desperation," he said, "but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us." Reporters accepted the official account, and even lawyers for the prisoners appeared to believe that they had killed themselves.

Was the Pentagon telling the truth? Not so much:

The official story of the prisoners' deaths was full of unacknowledged contradictions, and the centerpiece of the report--a reconstruction of the events--was simply unbelievable. [...] Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman and men under his supervision have disclosed evidence in interviews with Harper's Magazine that strongly suggests that the three prisoners who died on June 9 had been transported to another location prior to their deaths. The guards' accounts also reveal the existence of a previously unreported black site at Guantánamo where the deaths, or at least the events that led directly to the deaths, most likely occurred.

Summarizing the details of the three deaths which were presented in great detail by Horton, conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan opines that:

There are now credible accounts that, far from being suicides, these deaths were either the result of serious negligence in treatment of prisoners under "enhanced interrogation" or that, quite simply, they were tortured so badly in what appears to be a secret Gitmo black site that they died. Their deaths were then covered up and faked as suicides.

Aghast at the "pre-meditated lies" put into place to protect the White House culprits, Sullivan observes that "[t]hey are attempts to lie about some of the worst crimes committed by a president and vice-president of the United States in history:"

Anyone with their eyes open and their mind not closed knows this somewhere deep inside. And the only reason we do not know more about this is because of the criminal cover-up under the Bush administration and the enraging refusal of the Obama administration to do the right thing and open all of it to sunlight.

I'm going to quote Sullivan's conclusion at length, because he makes his point exceedingly well:

This deserves to be the biggest story on the torture issue since Abu Ghraib - because it threatens to tear down the wall of lies and denial that have protected Americans from facing what the last administration actually did. [...]

This case deserves a thorough and complete and exhaustive inquiry and investigation. I no longer believe that any entity in the US government can be trusted with such a task. The investigation must be able to go right to the very top of the torture program and do so with no political influence whatsoever. The investigation must be conducted by an independent prosecutor - Patrick Fitzgerald comes to mind - or by the Red Cross or an international body. It must go up the chain of command to the very top to find the real people who are responsible for this war crime and three homicides.

Among those who need to be subpoenaed are the former president and vice-president of the United States.

To protect Bush and Cheney from punishment, GOP partisans must claim that--when it comes to high crimes and misdemeanors--a blowjob is more serious than torture and murder, and lying about a blowjob is worse than lying about war crimes.

Can they do so with a straight face? Or a clean conscience?

December 15, 2009

restoring history

The story of those millions of thought-missing-but-now-recovered Bush-era emails (see here and here for the backstory) is told here at Mother Jones. Nick Baumann writes, "Some of the recovered messages could potentially shed light on controversies such as the lead-up to the Iraq war and the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's covert CIA identity:"

In perhaps the biggest win for the plaintiffs, the restoration effort will not be limited solely to the records that were the subject of the lawsuit. The Obama administration has offered to recover presidential records--including those from the office of former Vice President Dick Cheney--that the court had ruled the plaintiffs had no legal standing to sue over.

[...]

The White House has agreed to continue to hand over documents detailing archiving problems during the Bush administration. The settlement also includes an agreement to release a joint document outlining the email archiving steps the Obama administration has taken to ensure that it won't repeat the Bush administration's mistakes.

The Bush administration's archiving mistakes might appear minor, but not if they shed shed some long-overdue light on more of their high crimes and misdemeanors. The press release from co-plaintiff CREW states that "Documents produced so far show the Bush White House was lying when officials claimed no emails were ever missing. The record now proves incontrovertibly that Bush administration officials deliberately ignored the problem and, in fact, knowingly allowed it to worsen:"

Melanie Sloan, CREW's Executive Director, said, "We may never know exactly what happened to all the missing emails, and which Bush administration officials were involved in the coverup, but we do know the American public never got the full story." [...] Sloan continued, "The Obama administration, which inherited the lawsuits and the dysfunctional White House email system, has done a terrific job straightening out the mess. Thanks to the Obama White House, a critical part of our nation's missing history will be restored. This is yet another example of the administration living up to its promise of accountability and transparency."

Much more, however, remains to be done.

November 25, 2009

Don't Know Much About History (Fox News edition)

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"We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term."
(former Bush press flack Dana Perino on Hannity, Fox News, 24 November 2009)

(h/t: Media Matters, Think Progress, Washington Monthly)

November 2, 2009

53 days and counting...

FDL's Teddy Partridge deserves a huge thumbs-up for this great smackdown suggesting that "When you next hear Liz Cheney, or her Dick, spew nonsense about "keeping America safe" this is what you can yell at your teevee:"

Fifty-Two Days.

That's how many more days Barack Obama's "false narratives" have kept America safe than the Bush team. Sure, Bush & Cheney would like Americans to start their safety record on 9/12/01, but it doesn't really work that way. An Administration's entire opus counts.

[...]

So when Dick Cheney says this President is "dithering" or when MItt Romney says he's "weakening America" or when the GOP wails that he's "betraying our allies" let's remind them. Barack Obama has kept America safe fifty-two days longer than George W Bush did, as of today, 11/01/09.

Because when it comes to the death of 2,993 people on 9/11/01, there are no mulligans. No do-overs, really, on keeping America safe. They can't call backsies. Bush and Cheney don't get to re-set the clock and say, "We kept America safe [afterwards]."

"From then on" is not a safety metric.

"Well... not counting 9/11″ doesn't cut it.

They didn't keep America safe. Why Americans never held them accountable I shall never understand. How they managed to win re-election on a platform of "keeping America safe" boggles the mind.

But one thing the Bush/Cheney cabal can never now deny: this guy Americans elected to succeed their incompetent criminal enterprise, this President we have now? This new fellow? He has kept us safer than they did.

By fifty-two days.

And counting.

October 16, 2009

Wow. Just...wow.

Much ink has been spilled over Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, but the most inane remark belongs to Sean Hannity:

I would've given it to George Bush.

That sort of breathtaking ridiculousness brought to mind this bit of incongruous iconography:

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(Larry Downing, Reuters)

Aside from that, I'm speechless.

September 14, 2009

this dead horse needs another beating

Barry Ritholtz's Big Picture features a guest column by libertarian Doug Casey wondering whether George W. Bush--or Bush the Lesser, if you prefer--is "The Worst President in History." Casey observes that Bush was a "disastrous" president and a "strong contender" for the title, but he's hesitant to crown Bush the worst president ever. After assembling an eighteen-point list of Bush's most memorable failures, Casey writes, "I suspect he'll just fade away as a non-entity, recognized as an embarrassment:"

Those who once supported him will, at least if they have any circumspection and intellectual honesty, feel shame at how dim they were to have been duped by a nobody.

The worst shame of Bush -- worse than the spending, the new agencies, the torture, or the wars -- is that he used so much pro-liberty and pro-free-market rhetoric in the very process of destroying those institutions.

You mean that chanting "USA! USA!" didn't transform PretzelDunce Chimpy McFlightsuit into the most supremely patriotic Dear Leader ever to grace God's Own Party? That illegal spying on Americans--not to mention torturing and murdering detainees--didn't really make us secure? That blowing the Clinton surplus on tax cuts for the rich and ill-advised wars didn't strengthen our economy? That Orwellian phrases such as "fair and balanced," "mission accomplished," and "compassionate conservatism" obscure reality instead of describing it?

I'm shocked, shocked to find out that deceit was going on in the Bush White House!

September 13, 2009

Bush Six

Andy Worthington writes at AlterNet about the continuing efforts of Baltasar Garzón in "Spanish Judge Resumes Torture Case Against Six Senior Bush Lawyers." (Back in April, I mentioned his laudable persistence against the Bush Six; may his pursuit serve the goal of justice.)

August 30, 2009

"anti-Bush liberals:" right all along

About a week and a half ago, details of former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's upcoming book revealed that he felt pressured into manipulating the infamous color-coded terror alert levels to support Bush's re-election efforts in 2004. Marc Ambinder wrote something at The Atlantic for which he was justifiably flamed:

Journalists, including myself, were very skeptical when anti-Bush liberals insisted that what Ridge now says is true, was true. We were wrong. Our skepticism about the activists' conclusions was warranted because these folks based their assumption on gut hatred for President Bush, and not on any evaluation of the raw intelligence

He was justifiably criticized throughout the blogosphere for attacking "anti-Bush liberals'...gut hatred for Bush." Paul Krugman, for example, noted that author Ron Suskind:

" revealed many of the national-security scandals very early in the game -- and was discounted not because his reporting was weak, but because it was considered unreasonable to suggest that what was actually happening was indeed happening."

...by 2004 the Bush administration already had an extensive record in many areas where fact-checking was easy, from budget policy to environmental policy. And it was clear from any serious analysis of that record that the Bush people consistently relied on lies and misinformation to sell their policies, consistently abused power for political gain.

Media skepticism was, when it occurred at all, misplaced--it was aimed in the wrong direction. Bush's conclusions--not activists'--should have received greater skepticism, as they certainly merited it. Krugman notes that "it's really sad that those who missed the obvious, who failed to see what was right in front of their noses, still consider themselves superior to those who got it right." Ambinder wrote in a follow-up--something of a mea culpa--that "I still think that some journalists were right to be skeptical of the doubters at the time. I think that some journalists were correct to question how they arrived at the beliefs they arrived at:"

"Gut hatred" is way too strong a term -- it's the wrong term -- to describe why liberals doubted the fundamental capacity of the White House to be honest about anything. It was ideological and based on their intepretation of a pattern of facts that, in retrospect, seems much more reasonable than it did.

Later, Ambinder corrected the original story somewhat, but added the claim that "[m]any of the loudest voices were reflexively anti-Bush." Counting myself as one of those voices, I agree with Krugman's response that "reflexively" is another overstatement:

Bear in mind that by the time the terror alert controversy arose in 2004, we had already seen two tax cuts sold on massively, easily documented false pretenses; a war launched with constant innuendo about a Saddam-Osama link that was clearly false, and with claims about WMDs that were clearly shaky from the beginning and had proved to be entirely without foundation. We'd also seen vast, well-documented dishonesty and politicization on environmental policy. Oh, and Abu Ghraib was already public knowledge.

Given all that, it made complete sense to distrust anything the Bush administration said. That wasn't reflexive, it was rational.

As noted in great detail by MediaMatters, the media "dismissed Bush terror alert skeptics as paranoid conspiracy theorists" Media outlets were filled with assertions of "cynicism and paranoia," alleging belief in "conspiracy theories" that were supposedly "the height of paranoia," while Tucker Carlson claimed that "what [liberals] really need is psychological help." Those of us who pointed out the Bush administration's numerous lies were automatically dismissed at the time--and even accused of pathologies such as "Bush Derangement Syndrome" by the conservative pundits who rule the mainstream media op-ed pages.

If only we as a nation had been willing to face reality in 2004--or even better, in 2000--who knows how much better shape we'd be in now?

August 29, 2009

Monday's CIA/OIG report

The ACLU writes that "While the version made public today still contains heavy redactions, it does include newly unredacted sections and details of serious detainee abuse in CIA custody that were previously unknown." Time's Michael Scherer has "Five Important Revelations" about the documents, noting that "2004 report by the CIA Inspector General (CIA IG) that is highly critical of the CIA's enhanced interrogation program." Section 221 of the report notes that:

"The EITs [Enhanced Interrogation Techniques] used by the Agency under the CTC [Counterterrorist Center] Program are inconsistent with the public policy positions that the United States has taken regarding human rights." (p. 91)

In you're not interested in reading the still-highly-redacted full report, Glenn Greenwald has a summary of "What every American should be made to learn about the IG Torture Report" that includes the CIA's greatest hits: mock executions, threats made with firearms and power tools, threats of strangulation, threats to rape female family members and "kill your children." (Keep in mind that some detainees were actually tortured to death, so these threats were not always idle ones.) Greenwald's words to those who "blithely dismiss" these crimes are worth quoting at length:

(1) The fact that we are not really bothered any more by taking helpless detainees in our custody and (a) threatening to blow their brains out, torture them with drills, rape their mothers, and murder their children; (b) choking them until they pass out; (c) pouring water down their throats to drown them; (d) hanging them by their arms until their shoulders are dislocated; (e) blowing smoke in their face until they vomit; (f) putting them in diapers, dousing them with cold water, and leaving them on a concrete floor to induce hypothermia; and (g) beating them with the butt of a rifle -- all things that we have always condemend as "torture" and which our laws explicitly criminalize as felonies ("torture means. . . the threat of imminent death; or the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering . . .") -- reveals better than all the words in the world could how degraded, barbaric and depraved a society becomes when it lifts the taboo on torturing captives.

(2) As I wrote rather clearly, numerous detainees died in U.S. custody, often as a direct result of our "interrogation methods." Those who doubt that can read the details here and here. Those claiming there was no physical harm are simply lying -- death qualifies as "physical harm" -- and those who oppose prosecutions are advocating that the people responsible literally be allowed to get away with murder.

The ABC News article "Deaths, Missing Detainees Still Blacked Out in New CIA Report" observes that "Of the 109 pages in the 2004 report, 36 were completely blacked out in the version made public Monday, and another 30 were substantially redacted for "national security" reasons." Scott Horton writes in "Seven Points on the CIA Report" http://harpers.org/archive/2009/08/hbc-90005599 that the redactions clearly indicate that he trail hasn't been cleared all the way to the top of the trail: if not the White House, then at least Darth Cheney's undisclosed location. The NYT article "Report Shows Tight CIA Control on Interrogations" observes that:

Managers, doctors and lawyers not only set the program's parameters but dictated every facet of a detainee's daily routine, monitoring interrogations on an hour-by-hour basis. From their Washington offices, they obsessed over the smallest details... [...] The detainee "finds himself in the complete control of Americans; the procedures he is subjected to are precise, quiet and almost clinical," noted one document.

The Rude Pundit notes that we still know that torture didn't work. How can we tell?

If there was a single, demonstrable instance of a correlation between threatening to power drill the nutsack of Abu al-Fuckingbadguywithamoustache and the prevention of a terrorist attack, that shit would be a new book in the right-wing Bible.

Amen to that--now bring on the special prosecutor already!

July 15, 2009

Cheney's assassination ring

As it turns out, the secret program that Dick Cheney (illegally) kept hidden from Congress turns out to have been an assassination ring. The Mark Mazzetti/Scott Shane NYT article "CIA Had Plan to Assassinate Qaeda Leaders" notes that although the CIA "never proposed a specific operation to the White House for approval,"

Panetta scuttled the program...shortly after the C.I.A.'s counterterrorism center recently informed him of its existence. The next day, June 24, he told Congressional Intelligence Committees that the plan had been hidden from lawmakers, initially at the instruction of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Seymour Hersh broke the news (see this RawStory article by Muriel Kane) back in March, talking about "an executive assassination ring...in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. ... Congress has no oversight of it." Hersh didn't have enough details yet to make a full case, and I refrained from speculating at the time for fear of buying into a half-baked conspiracy theory. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann gave the Hersh revelation some airtime, as you can see in this clip:

[click here if you don't see Darth Cheney...]

(I had forgotten about the Hersh revelation until Ron Chusid mentioned it at Liberal Values, so at big old h/t to him.) Chusid also noted the reciprocity problem, which is probably one of the reasons the program never got off the ground:

It would be interesting to see the extent of their hit list, as well as the locations they were operating. I can't imagine conservative (or other Americans) tolerating it if a European country was sending operatives into the United States to assassinate suspected enemies.

July 13, 2009

will the Bush scandals ever cease?

When the "Unclassified Report on the President's Surveillance Program"was released on Friday, I knew that many bloggers--myself included--were about to spend a good deal of time researching the latest news in the ongoing drama that was the Bush-era domestic spying imbroglio. Lichtblau and Risen wrote in "US Wiretapping of Limited Value, Officials Report" that Bush's spying program was "of limited value," and that its "effectiveness in fighting terrorism was unclear:"

The report found that the secrecy surrounding the program may have limited its effectiveness. At the C.I.A., it said, so few working-level officers were allowed to know about the program that the agency often did not make full use of the leads the wiretapping generated, and intelligence leads that came from the wiretapping operation were often "vague or without context," the report said.

The findings raise questions about assertions from Mr. Bush and his most senior advisers that the warrantless wiretapping program was essential in stopping terrorist attacks.

Jack Balkin summarized the Bushies' doctored-intelligence mentality in "The IG Report and the Horse That is Already Out of the Barn Door:"

...the Bush Administration used an illegal program that wasn't effective, and when the public found out, it repeatedly used this ineffective program to scare Congress into passing laws that legitimated many of its illegal practices and gave the intelligence agencies greater leeway with less oversight.

Marcy "emptywheel" Wheeler notes "FISA's 15-Day Exemption" at FDL, writing that the Bushies can't even keep their timeline of excuses straight:

Yoo's analysis is not just dead wrong because FISA clearly contemplates its application even during wartime. But it's even worse because during this particular wartime situation, the Administration had already used that 15-day exemption period as it debated what and how to implement its warrantless wiretap program.

The Administration showed, by its actions, that it knew the AUMF didn't trump FISA. But then it proceeded to base its entire wiretap program on that very assumption.

Wheeler also notes the curious use of the passive voice in the report's description of the sign-this-now visit to Ashcroft's hospital room:

According to notes from Ashcroft's FBI security detail, at 6:20 PM that evening Card called the hospital and spoke with an agent in Ashcroft's security detail, advising him that President Bush would be calling shortly to speak with Ashcroft. Ashcroft's wife told the agent that Ashcroft would not accept the call. Ten minutes later, the agent called Ashcroft's Chief of Staff David Ayres at DOJ to request that Ayres speak with Card about the President's intention to call Ashcroft. The agent conveyed to Ayres Mrs. Ashcroft's desire that no calls be made to Ashcroft for another day or two. However, at 6:5 PM, Card and the President called the hospital and, according to the agent's notes, "insisted on speaking [with Attorney General Ashcroft]." According to the agent's notes, Mrs. Ashcroft took the call from Card and the President and was informed that Gonzales and Card were coming to the hospital to see Ashcroft regarding a matter involving national security. [emphasis via emptywheel]

Evidently, they don't want to come right out and say that Bush ordered the visit--which, as the report mentions, took place three weeks before Ashcroft's doctor cleared him to return to the job. That point should also be investigated. Salon's Glenn Greenwald opined that "The new Report on illegal spying is not a real investigation." Greenwald decried the "rampant and blatant...lawlessness that pervaded the Bush administration," and continues that last year's FSA Amendments Act retroactively legalizing that lawlessness "remains the single most compelling evidence of how ludicrously broken and corrupt our political class is on a very bipartisan basis:"

George Bush gets caught red-handed breaking long-standing laws in how he spies on Americans. The "opposition party" which controls the Congress not only blocks any investigations and attempts to impose accountability. Far worse, they proceed to legalize the very criminal programs that were exposed and to vest even greater surveillance powers in the very administration that got caught deliberately breaking the law. [emphasis in original]

Obama deserves criticism for his part in this--conservatives will claim he's wrong because he's a Democrat, but liberals must be the principled ones who recognize crimes and abuses of authority no matter who commits them.

In addition to the report, the NYT's Scott Shane reported in "Cheney Is Linked to Concealment of CIA Project" that CIA Director Leon Panetta dropped a minor bombshell on the Senate and House intelligence committees: "The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney." In "Cheney Ordered Concealment," Washington Monthly's Steve Benen adds this note:

Postscript: As for the recent "debate" about Speaker Pelosi's not-so-scandalous suggestion that the CIA is not always forthcoming with lawmakers, Republicans can send their apologies to Office of the Speaker, H-232, U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC 20515.

In more positive news, AG Eric Holder hinted that investigations in Bush's torture regime may be forthcoming. Newsweek's Daniel Klaidman reported in "Independent's Day" that "Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do:"

While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. "I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," he says. "But that can't be a part of my decision."

Glenn Greenwald suggested in "The Holder Trial Balloon: Abu Ghraib redux" that the Holder leak is "a 'trial balloon' to gauge public reaction," and that any investigation "targeting low-level interrogators while shielding high-level policy-makers from prosecution" would be worse than no investigation at all:

That's true not only because it would replicate the disgraceful whitewashing of the Abu Ghraib prosecutions. It would do that, but even worse, it would bolster the principal instrument of executive lawlessness -- the Beltway orthodoxy that any time a President can find a low-level DOJ functionary to authorize what he wants to do, then it is, by definition, "legal" and he's immune from prosecution when he does it, no matter how blatantly criminal it is.

In "Reluctantly Looking Backwards," Steve Benen notes the inconsistencies in Bush-protectors circling the wagons around his disastrous legacy:

America's image in the world was undermined by Bush/Cheney scandals. Holding officials responsible for abuses and possible crimes doesn't make the United States look worse; it makes us look better. Mature, credible, transparent democracies don't ignore official wrongdoing for fear of public embarrassment. [...] That some officials even find this basic concept controversial is depressing.

June 21, 2009

I wonder...

...if the average person had previously been exposed to any of these facts about waterboarding, let alone on the comics page:

doonesbury

June 18, 2009

Greenwald on the NSA

It's a lesson I should have learned by now: don't write a post on national security stories until making use of Glenn Greenwald's excellent research. Case in point: the latest NSA revelations, which Greenwald analyzes with his usual incisiveness:

Every time new revelations of illegal government spying arise, the same exact pattern repeats itself:

(1) euphemisms are invented to obscure its illegality ("overcollection"; "circumvented legal guidelines"; "overstepped its authority"; "improperly obtained");

(2) assurances are issued that it was all strictly unintentional and caused by innocent procedural errors that are now being fixed;

(3) the very same members of Congress who abdicate their oversight responsibilities and endlessly endorse expanded surveillance powers in the face of warnings of inevitable abuses (Jay Rockefeller, Dianne Feinstein, "Kit" Bond, Jane Harman) righteously announce how "troubled" they are and vow to hold hearings and take steps to end the abuses, none of which ever materialize;

(4) nobody is ever held accountable in any way and no new oversight mechanisms are implemented;

(5) Congress endorses new, expanded domestic surveillance powers; and then:

(6) new revelations of illegal government spying emerge and the process repeats itself, beginning with step (1).

Greenwald asks, "If that isn't the picture of a rampant, lawless Surveillance State, what is?" and the answer isn't a pretty one for Democratic partisans who wish that only Republicans were guilty of such perfidy.

June 17, 2009

NSA: still spying on us

Risen and Lichtblau have another exposé of NSA spying here http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/us/17nsa.html at the NYT, where they note "concerns in Congress about the agency's ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis:"

Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans' e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation. [emphasis added]

[...]

The N.S.A. is believed to have gone beyond legal boundaries designed to protect Americans in about 8 to 10 separate court orders issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to three intelligence officials who spoke anonymously because disclosing such information is illegal. Because each court order could single out hundreds or even thousands of phone numbers or e-mail addresses, the number of individual communications that were improperly collected could number in the millions, officials said.

Marc Ambinder has more at The Atlantic about the NSA's "Pinwale" database, Kevin Bankston has a good summary at EFF, and ThinkProgress notes that one analyst was investigated for spying on Bill Clinton's personal email.

June 11, 2009

Republican red ink

Although conservatives claim to champion fiscal responsibility, the reality is somewhat different. David Leonhardt's NYT article "America's Sea of Red Ink Was Years in the Making" shows how their ire at our current economic situation is somewhat misplaced:

Obama's agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying. [...] About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama's agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.

Despite GOP complaints about the deficit, Leonhardt notes that "Republicans favor extending all the Bush tax cuts, which will send the deficit higher." This graph is particularly telling:

20090611-deficit.gif

H/t: Jack Balkin at Balkinization, who observes the Bush administration's "noxious combination of incompetence, arrogance, hubris, and ideological zeal:"

The Bush tax cuts were primarily targeted to benefit the wealthiest Americans, and exacerbated a growing inequality of wealth in the United States. The Iraq War was a war of choice, justified by false claims of weapons of mass destruction and insinuations of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. It proved to be a foreign policy disaster and an enormous waste of money which we must still shoulder. Deregulatory financial policies were unwise and unsound and helped push us toward the current Great Recession.

All in all, it is one of the most remarkable displays of ineptitude, greed, and corruption in American history. And now that they have run the country into the ground, President Bush's party, now thankfully out of power, is blaming the party that succeeded them, the Democrats, for the baleful effects of deficit spending. Colossal ineptitude is being followed by equally colossal chutzpah.

Sully concurs:

It is not Obama's debt - or, rather, he owns about 10 percent of it. It's Bush's. And like everything Bush did, he left the wreckage for others to handle after he left the stage. And the bribing, war-making, spending and borrowing didn't even win him any durable popularity. They sold this country, its reputation and its treasure for a one-off re-election.

He follows up here as well, noting the inevitable tax increases:

The magnitude of the damage Bush did is still amazing. But when those tax increases come, they need to have his name attached to them. He made them inevitable; and deserves to go down in history for them.

Dick Cheney should also go down in history for his participation in Bush's budget-busting agenda. I wonder why, not that he's emerged from his undisclosed location to attack Obama, no one in the mainstream corporate media has asked him about his earlier statement that "deficits don't matter." (Ron Suskind, The Price of Loyalty, p. 291)

I guess deficits only matter when they're being blamed on Democrats.

May 26, 2009

disbar them

DisbarTortureLawyers.com (h/t: TalkLeft) is recommending disbarment as a suitable punishment for the Bush torture lawyers, stating that "Attorneys who advised, counseled, consulted and supported those memoranda [...] must be held accountable:"

We have asked the respective state bars to revoke the licenses of the foregoing attorneys for moral turpitude. They failed to show "respect for and obedience to the law, and respect for the rights of others," and intentionally or recklessly failed to act competently, all in violation of legal Rules of Professional Conduct. Several attorneys failed to adequately supervise the work of subordinate attorneys and forwarded shoddy legal memoranda regarding the definition of torture to the White House and Department of Defense. These lawyers further acted incompetently by advising superiors to approve interrogation techniques that were in violation of U.S. and international law. They failed to support or uphold the U.S. Constitution, and the laws of the United States, and to maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers, all in violation state bar rules.

Their list overlaps substantially with the 13 people who made torture possible, which is, of course, why they're so notorious:

Jay Bybee
Douglas Feith
David Addington
Stephen Bradbury
Michael Chertoff
John Ashcroft
Timothy Flanigan
Alice Fisher
Michael Haynes
John Yoo
Alberto Gonzales
Michael Mukasey

Decisively ending Bush's torture regime by disbarring these lawyers would remove significant recruiting tools for terrorists, which have "cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives." That should matter to everyone who really supports our troops, and values their sacrifices--right? (Wasn't there just a holiday about that?)

May 22, 2009

Hannity = coward + moral failure

Talk-radio host Matthew Erich "Mancow" Muller (website, Wikipedia) was waterboarded on air today as a publicity stunt (see pieces at AlterNet and ThinkProgress), and lasted all of six seconds before throwing in the towel and admitting that waterboarding is "absolutely torture." Tengrain at Mock, Paper, Scissors and Swopa at FDL noted the connection to blowhard bullyboy Sean Hannity--who volunteered to be waterboarded for charity and then, well, didn't have the stones to follow through. As Swopa wrote, "there's a point to calling the bluff of the posturing phonies who advocate torture publicly:"

As anyone familiar with framing understands, the purpose of their argument is to shore up the right-wing pose of being morally self-assured tough guys who are willing to do what it takes to defend America.

The truth, which isn't brought up nearly often enough in the cable back-and-forth, is exactly the opposite: At a time when America was tested, these cowards folded, throwing in the hand on the precise values they should have been protecting.

So I'm not above rude tactics in pointing out their weakness, their irresponsibility, and their hypocrisy. If Sean Hannity and others won't back up their talk about waterboarding, I'm fine with humiliating them using the same derisive language they've been aiming at the left for years.

They're cowards, and moral failures. And they need to be told that to their faces.

Sean Hannity, you're a coward and a moral failure. Every day that goes by without you either a). living up to your offer, or b). apologizing to both the victims of torture and those who oppose it, makes your failures more egregious.


update (5/23 @ 7:54pm):
Keith Olbermann has rescinded his offer to Sean Hannity, instead donating $10,000 to Veterans of Valor after Mancow's waterboarding (h/t: ThinkProgress):

OLBERMANN: Mancow Muller had the guts to put his mouth where his mouth was, and the guts to admit he was dead wrong. As you saw, he not only said it is torture, but that he had nearly drowned as a boy, and it is drowning, and that he would have admitted to anything to make it stop.

So the offer to the coward Hannity -- a thousand dollars a second he lasted on the waterboard -- is withdrawn.

May 21, 2009

Marcy Wheeler: blogger extraordinaire

For anyone who believes that Pelosi must be lying when she contradicts Porter Goss, blogger extraordinaire Marcy (emptywheel) Wheeler has compiled a handy list of the CIA's briefing list mistakes. Wheeler observes that "CIA has made errors on at least six different briefings...[t]he CIA's own version of when it briefed and whom is riddled with errors." Somehow, though, the corporate media outlets help GOP partisans smear any Democrat (Pelosi, in this instance) with different information.

The ever-astounding Wheeler writes at Salon that we should instead be looking at "The 13 people who made torture possible." She identifies "13 key people in the Bush administration," some of whom "manipulated the federal bureaucracy and the legal process to 'preauthorize' torture in the days after 9/11. Others helped implement torture, and still others helped write the memos that provided the Bush administration with a legal fig leaf after torture had already begun:"

1. Dick Cheney, vice president (2001-2009)

2. David Addington, counsel to the vice president (2001-2005), chief of staff to the vice president (2005-2009)

3. Alberto Gonzales, White House counsel (2001-2005), and attorney general (2005-2008)

4. James Mitchell, consultant

5. George Tenet, director of Central Intelligence (1997-2004)

6. Condoleezza Rice, national security advisor (2001-2005), secretary of state (2005-2008)

7. John Yoo, deputy assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel (2001-2003)

8. Jay Bybee, assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel (2001-2003)

9. William "Jim" Haynes, Defense Department general counsel (2001-2008)

10. Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense (2001-2006)

11. John Rizzo, CIA deputy general counsel (2002-2004), acting general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency (2001-2002, 2004-present)

12. Steven Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general, OLC (2004), acting assistant attorney general, OLC (2005-2009)

13. George W. Bush, president (2001-2009)

Where's the special investigator, already?

May 17, 2009

Taliban waterboards US soldiers

Brian Tamanaha at Balkinization is reporting that, "According to reports out of Kabul, the Taliban announced that they have waterboarded three U.S. soldiers taken prisoner:"

The Taliban commander asserted that waterboarding is not torture and does not violate the Geneva Convention or U.S. law. He assured everyone that a medical officer monitored all waterboarding sessions to insure that no permanent damage was done to the soldiers. [...]

In support of his assertion that waterboarding is not torture, the Taliban commander cited legal analysis produced by the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice. He pointed out that the authors of this legal analysis are a respected federal judge on the second highest court in America and a professor at a top American law school.

What possible objection could the Bushie wingnuts have if this were a real news story instead of a thought experiment? Their disdain for the law reminds me of this exchange between William Roper and Sir Thomas More from Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons:

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

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

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

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's 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.

May 16, 2009

attacking Pelosi

For daring to voice her objections to Bush's torture, Nancy Pelosi has come under increasingly vitriolic attacks from the GOP's media mouthpieces. Karl Rove used a WSJ column to call her "an accomplice to 'torture'," MediaMatters points out that this accusation, not surprisingly, is false:

Rove's claim is not consistent with either the definition of "accomplice" or with the reality of Pelosi's ability to influence the Bush administration's conduct of interrogations. Black's Law Dictionary defines an accomplice as "[o]ne who knowingly, voluntarily and with common intent unites with the principal offender in the commission of a crime." Black's states further: "One is liable as an accomplice to the crime of another if he gave assistance or encouragement or failed to perform a legal duty to prevent it with the intent thereby to promote or facilitate commission of the crime."

But Pelosi could not have "failed to perform a legal duty to prevent" the conduct if she was in fact powerless to stop it.

Newt Gingrich unloaded on her as well:

"I think this is the most despicable, dishonest and vicious political effort I've seen in my lifetime. [...] She is a trivial politician, viciously using partisanship for the narrowist [sic] of purposes, and she dishonors the Congress by her behavior."

Newt's hypocrisy knows no bounds--and neither does his projection--but Anonymous Liberal's "Pelosi-gate" summary puts the blame where it belongs: "To the extent Nancy Pelosi knew about the Bush administration's torture program and didn't raise objections, she deserves to be criticized."

But there's a HUGE difference between ordering the commission of war crimes and simply being on notice that they may be occurring. On the list of culpable actors, of which there are many, the people who lacked the courage to protest are far down the list, particularly those like Nancy Pelosi who had no real say in what was going on (remember she was the minority leader; the Bush administration did not care what she thought about anything).

Finally, and this is worth emphasizing, Pelosi herself is calling for the creation of a Truth Commission, which presumably would explore what everyone knew and when. The level of hypocrisy and incoherence it takes for Republicans to point to Pelosi as being some sort of key figure in this scandal is astounding. And the fact that the press corps would latch on to this rather ridiculous diversion is telling.

The blame, in fact, goes all the way to the top of the previous administration. The beginning of this YouTube clip features Dick Cheney explaining to Bob Schieffer last weekend that Bush signed off on the torture program:

TPM has the transcript:

SCHIEFFER: Did President Bush know everything you knew?

CHENEY: I certainly, yes, have every reason to believe he knew -- he knew a great deal about the program. He basically authorized it. I mean, this was a presidential-level decision. And the decision went to the president. He signed off on it.

Even if Pelosi knew about waterboarding, the (so-called) liberal media's spin on this as a Democratic scandal is ludicrous. Joe Conason's "We Tortured to Justify War" reminds us that the reason for Bush's torture was the fabrication of 'intelligence' to justify the Iraq invasion:

Cheney now claims that he preserved the country from terrorism and saved thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives. We need a serious investigation, with witnesses including the former vice-president under oath, to determine what he and his associates actually did with the brutal powers they arrogated to themselves -- because instead their actions cost thousands upon thousands of American and Iraqi lives, all in the service of a political lie.

May 15, 2009

torture works

Andrew Sullivan's Quote of the Day from earlier this week began:

Torture "works" in that torture victims speak. The information gained is notoriously unreliable, however, as noted since the time of Aristotle.

Aristotle's Rhetoric does indeed mention the unreliability of torture:

...people under its compulsion tell lies quite as often as they tell the truth, sometimes persistently refusing to tell the truth, sometimes recklessly making a false charge in order to be let off sooner. [...] ...no trust can be placed in evidence under torture.

(Book I, Chapter 15)

So much for conservatives honoring the wisdom of the past, eh?

May 14, 2009

al-Libi

In following up on the death of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, I found that Andy (Guantanamo Files) Worthington reported the death on 10 May. At the time, he wrote that "So far...the only English language report is on the Algerian website Ennahar Online:"

...which reported that the Libyan newspaper Oea stated that al-Libi (aka Ali Abdul Hamid al-Fakheri) "was found dead of suicide in his cell," and noted that the newspaper had reported the story "without specifying the date or method of suicide."

The case has been slowly gathering steam, and Worthington now has an AlterNet feature on it:

...al-Libi was rendered by the CIA to Egypt, where, under torture, he claimed that Saddam Hussein had offered to train two al-Qaeda operatives in the use of chemical and biological weapons.

This claim was used by Colin Powell, in his speech to the UN in February 2003, when the Secretary of State was attempting to drum up support for the invasion of Iraq, even though, as the New York Times revealed in 2005, the Defense Department's own Defense Intelligence Agency had concluded, in February 2002, that al-Libi was "intentionally misleading" his interrogators.

In "The Death of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi," Ken Silverstein observes: "I wouldn't bet big money that he was a suicide, as Libya doesn't treat political detainees very well." Scott Horton's "A Convenient Death," also at Harper's, notes that "Al-Libi could have been a star witness in a case against those who built the bogus case for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the Bush Administration has long been eager to have him disappear:"

When, in September 2006, President Bush ordered the transfer of the "worst of the worst" terrorist detainees from CIA black sites to Guantánamo, al-Libi was nowhere to be found. Why? Al-Libi had great potential to embarrass the CIA and the Bush White House. The Bush Administration wanted him out of sight. They accomplished that, in the first instance, by turning him over to Libyan authorities, who subjected him to a pseudo-trial and locked him away for what turned out to be a life sentence.

May 11, 2009

interrogation imbroglio

The he-said/she-said situation between Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi that I mentioned here became even more contentious with the release of some CIA briefing notes. WaPo's article "CIA Says Pelosi Was Briefed" lays it out like this:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed in September 2002 about the use of harsh interrogation tactics against al-Qaeda prisoners, seemingly contradicting her repeated statements over the past 18 months that she was never told that these techniques were actually being used.

Pelosi's spokesperson Brendan Daly said:

"As this document shows, the Speaker was briefed only once, in September 2002. The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used."

Upon hearing that the Bushies considered their torture techniques to be legal, Pelosi should have assumed that such techniques were intended to be used. Any other position is self-serving naïvete. From the Left is calling for Pelosi's resignation, while others--such as emptywheel--are skeptical of the CIA's claims, given the agency's pervious veracity problems. In particular, emptywheel notes that the CIA's list of briefings "doesn't mention waterboarding specifically in its description of that briefing (it does in quite a few others)."

ThinkProgress notes the CIA's disclaimer ("you and the committee will have to determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened") and observes that "the CIA briefed Pelosi without staff, told her their practices were legal, and forbade her from discussing the meeting with colleagues." There is no doubt that had Pelosi would have suffered for daring to challenge the Bushevik legal machine at the height of their "Saddam Hussein = bin Laden with WMDs" full-court press, and John Byrne at Raw Story notes the potential legal ramifications:

It's important to note that all of the briefings were held in secret, and that lawmakers could have faced criminal prosecution if they spoke out. However, at least two Democrats did lodge complaints: Sen. Rockefeller, expressed his disapproval of items he learned during the briefings in a personal, hand-written letter to Vice President Dick Cheney; while, as the Washington Post revealed in December of 2007 that in 2003 Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) "filed a classified letter to the CIA...as an official protest about the interrogation program."

Mcjoan at DailyKos sees the larger picture:

Obviously Republicans fear what investigations could lead to, as does the CIA. Their leaders committed war crimes and they know it, and if they're going down, they'll take Democrats with them. It's entirely possible that the few Democrats briefed early on were told that waterboarding had been used, but these documents don't prove that.

This episode is further evidence that we need criminal investigations from a special
prosecutor, who would be as removed as possible (though obviously not entirely) from the politics of the story.

Scott Horton at Harper's notes that "the ground rules of these intelligence briefings require the silence of those who are briefed" and asks, "is it appropriate to gag Congressional leaders this way?"

Critics of such an effort [a probe into the Bush Program] have long seen the fact that Democratic Congressional leaders were briefed about the program as an Achilles heel. Use it to embarrass the Democratic leadership, they think, and any probe will be shut down. So it's suspicious when the two prime figures in the briefing group, Jane Harman and Nancy Pelosi, suddenly become the targets of mysterious leaks sourced from the CIA or figures close to it. Extreme skepticism is warranted.

Horton's conclusion is that "The system failed over the last eight years:"

We need to ascertain exactly how it failed in order to prevent future incidents. And we need to give Pelosi credit for pushing for a probe, even when its results may well prove embarrassing to her. In this war of words, my instincts are clear. I'll go with the people who are pushing for disclosure and candor over supposedly well-intentioned guardians of the deep-dark secrets who hide in the shadows.

Agreed: let's have an investigation, without regard to party affiliation.

extraordinary rendition

FDL's bmaz writes about the death of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi in a Libyan prison (you remember, the guy who was tortured into giving us bogus intelligence that "justified" Bush's invasion of Iraq).

Heckuva job, Bushies.

May 6, 2009

Bush homicides

The Daily Beast's John Sifton writes about "The Bush Administration Homicides" (h/t: John Byrne at AlterNet):

In February 2006, a review by Human Rights First determined that almost 100 detainees died in U.S. custody in Afghanistan and Iraq facilities as of 2005, and that almost half of the cases were clearly homicides. Several cases discussed in the report were clear cases of torture homicides.

(The HRF report on detainee deaths that Sifton discussed looked familiar, and I could have sworn that I'd blogged about it--but I couldn't find a post.) In contrast to torture, Sifton notes that the homicide of detainees is "an uncomplicated crime:"

A criminal homicide occurs when a person or set of persons simply causes the death of another without legal justification. There is little nuance, little room for escape. Once a person is dead, the killer and those assisted him, those who solicited his crime or aided or abetted it, are accomplices.

The bottom line is that many detainee homicides in Iraq and Afghanistan were the direct result of approval and orders from the highest levels of government, and that high officials in the government are accomplices. Any meaningful investigation of those homicides would reveal the initial authorizations and their link to the homicides.

Homicide presents legal issues impossible to ignore. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice cannot conclude their deliberations about Bush-era torture policies without closely investigating the homicide cases tied to them. One cannot speak glibly of "policy differences" and "looking forward" and "distraction" when corpses are involved.

Conservatives are reluctant to admit that torture is a crime, but at least they realize that torturing someone to death is a crime--right? Or will they have an excuse for that as well?

torture questions that need to be answered

Last week, Dennis Prager suggested that there are "Nine Questions the Left Needs to Answer About Torture," but it is the apologists for Bush's torture who need to answer a few questions--and I have a few for Prager, based on the questions from his article:

1). I haven't seen a study on this, but it's my perception that most liberals opposed Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq because the country was scared into supporting it on the basis of cooked evidence. (Cf. WMD lies) If the case for removing Saddam Hussein were so strong, why wasn't it done during the first Gulf War when we had the full backing of the international community?

2). I draw the torture line with the Geneva Convention, the UN Convention Against Torture, and the US Army Intelligence and Interrogation Handbook. Why would you move any closer to outright barbarism than is absolutely necessary?

3). The hypothetical Hollywood example of "a high-level terrorist with knowledge that would likely save innocents' lives" is hardly a moral justification for torture. Why are common decency and adherence to the law the issues, rather than lawless torture?(Cf. Ronald Reagan)

4). Referring to Bush's torture enablers as lawyers "prosecuted for giving legal advice [that is] unpopular but sincerely argued" sidesteps the fact that their opinions were deliberately dishonest--even for Bushevik lawyers--and designed merely to provide legal cover. Is there any reason why impeachment and disbarment should not be on the table as their cases move forward?

5). Blaming the press for releasing the OLC memos ("classified reports [that] would inflame passions in many parts of the Muslim world") points the finger of blame in the wrong direction. Why would journalists be culpable rather than the torturers?

6). From Prager's claims that "fear [of prosecution for torture] has paralyzed agents on the ground," it is clear that he underestimates the power of morality. Gandhi, King, and Mandela didn't worry about prevailing in the face of violent injustice--why should we?

7). Prager asks if we want to "prosecute members of Congress such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who were made aware of the waterboarding of high-level suspects and voiced no objections." First, following the legal advice of Bushies is a questionable decision. Second, this is a he-said-she-said situation; according to Politico, Pelosi's recollection differs from that of Porter Goss:

They said they had a legal opinion. They said they weren't going to use [waterboarding] and when they did they would come back to Congress to report to us on that.

Legislators' culpability is rather limited here, don't you think?

8). The photos of the torture of (accused) terrorists is evidence of criminality and relevant to ongoing legal proceedings. Would predicating their release on other actions make you feel better about the torture?

9). Prager asks "Do you think that evil people care how morally pure America is?" The obvious answer is "No," and the reason is far deeper than his mere tactical concern with terrorists. They don't care, but we must; morality is the primary qualitative difference between them and us, and throwing that away in the rush for revenge serves their interests far more than ours. Aren't a "shining city on a hill" and a torturer's dungeon fundamentally incompatible?

April 29, 2009

Broder on scapegoating

David Broder's WaPo piece calls on Obama to "Stop Scapegoating" Bush's torturers, but Broder does little other than offer scare quotes around the word torture and impute things like "populist anger" and "an unworthy desire for vengeance" onto those of us who recognize that the law was broken--and who expect those transgressions to be investigated and prosecuted. His use of the word "scapegoat" in the title and in this passage

But having vowed to end the practices, Obama should use all the influence of his office to stop the retroactive search for scapegoats.

suggest that Broder is unfamiliar with the origin of the word "scapegoat" (from Leviticus 16):

The scapegoat was a goat that was driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem. [...] Since this goat, carrying the sins of the people placed on it, is sent away to perish, the word "scapegoat" has come to mean a person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the sins, crimes, or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes. (Wikipedia)

Absent the crucial factors of innocence and distraction, the investigation and prosecution of war crimes is in no way "scapegoating" torturers and their enablers. At Harper's, Scott Horton has a few words about Broder's apologetics, writing that "There's hardly a truthful statement to be found anywhere in Broder's column:"

Since I am an advocate of accountability, and Broder presumes to question my mental health, I'll offer a personal response. I have no interest in vengeance or retribution, but I have a strong interest in upholding the rule of law and in stopping torture. Unlike Broder, I do not consider the law to be a political plaything but rather a repository of our highest values. The United States has a series of criminal statutes which apply to this situation and which were violated. Further, the United States signed a very important international convention under which it promised to open a criminal investigation into any credible allegations of torture. At this point there is a uniform consensus that the United States is in breach of its treaty obligation. (A matter of indifference to Broder, apparently). Moreover, its conduct is sending a clear message around the world: the prohibition on torture is a trivial matter which can be defeated by a tyrant in any corner of the world. All he needs to do is hire a lawyer and have him issue an opinion that when he tortures, it's completely lawful.

During the Clinton impeachment era, Broder was indignant about mendacity ("We don't like being lied to," Washington Post, 2 November 1998), but he's all too willing to excuse far worse when the liars are fellow conservatives. Glenn Greenwald delivers the coup de grace to Broder's screed, observing acidly that:

People who bear culpability in the commission of destructive and criminal acts always oppose investigations and accountability -- i.e., what they'll call "looking backwards" or "retribution." They're the last people whose opinions we ought to be seeking on that question.

Frank Rich's NYT column on the banality of Bush's White House evil notes that "there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus 'intelligence' from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding:"

...we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to "protect" us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from "another 9/11," torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House's illegality.

At Washington Monthly, Hilzoy notes the armchair-psych slurs and asks "who died and made David Broder Sigmund Freud?"

If we care about the rule of law, and about the idea that ours is a country of laws, not of men, then we should investigate those who break the laws, especially when they hold high office. The Presidency is a public trust, not a license for criminality.

Not any more, it isn't...

April 26, 2009

Specter on presidential power grabs

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA; website, Wikipedia) writes about "The Need to Roll Back Presidential Power Grabs" at NYRB. Specter proposes mandatory Supreme Court review of Bush's warrantless wiretapping cases, supports citizens' lawsuits against telecoms that participated in those spying cases, and he plans to reintroduce legislation to limit the legal impact of presidential signing statements. He concludes:

I doubt that the Democratic majority, which was so eager to decry expansions of executive authority under President Bush, will still be as interested in the problem with a Democratic president in office. I will continue the fight whatever happens.

I hope he's wrong--but if he's not, I hope his fight is more successful than it was under Bush.

Reagan on torture

Andrew Sullivan reminds us that Reagan signed the UN Convention Against Torture. Sullivan highlights articles 1 and 2

...torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted [...] No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

but this part of article 3 is just as damning:

No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

Extraordinary rendition, anyone? Sullivan asks a few questions that I reckon the Bushies will do just about anything to evade answering honestly:

Just ask yourself: reading this language and knowing that president Bush ordered the waterboarding of a man for 83 times to get evidence linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda, is it really a matter of debate whether the last president of the United States is a war criminal? How is one able to come to any other opinion? [...] Why are we still debating this?

April 24, 2009

America ideals vs. the apologists

Paul Krugman writes about "Reclaiming America's Soul" from Bush's torture regime:

America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for. "This government does not torture people," declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it.

And the only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible.

[...]

...the fact is that officials in the Bush administration instituted torture as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt to extract "confessions" that would justify that war. And during the march to war, most of the political and media establishment looked the other way.

It's hard, then, not to be cynical when some of the people who should have spoken out against what was happening, but didn't, now declare that we should forget the whole era -- for the sake of the country, of course.

Sorry, but what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions -- not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws.

We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn't about looking backward, it's about looking forward -- because it's about reclaiming America's soul.

In this follow-up, Krugman calls the media failure a defining moment:

The Bush administration was obviously -- yes, obviously -- telling tall tales in order to promote the war it wanted: the constant insinuations of an Iraq-9/11 link, the hyping of discredited claims about a nuclear program, etc.. And the question was, should you stand up against that? Not many did -- and those who did were treated as if they were crazy.

For me and many others that was a radicalizing experience; I'll never trust "sensible" opinion again. But for those who stayed "sensible" through the test, it's a moment they'd like to see forgotten. That, I believe, is the real reason so many want to let torture and everything else go down the memory hole.

Digby writes at Hullabaloo about being unable to understand the apologists:

I know this is obvious and I'm sure that it's been asked many times. But can someone explain to me how these wingnut freaks can live with the dissonance in their heads when they say in one breath that the Bush administration was absolutely right to employ torture, secret prisons and indefinite detention and in the next breath scream like banshees that Obama is the second coming of Hitler and Stalin, the two most infamous purveyors of torture, secret prisons and indefinite detention of the 20th century? The only way they can explain this is if they believe that Hitler's worst crime was raising taxes and Stalin was a good guy except for the onerous regulations on business. (And now that I think about it, that's exactly what they do believe.)

Another thing that's making me scream incoherently at the television to the point where my cat is hiding in the closet: how can the party that brought the government to a screeching halt just ten years ago over alleged misconduct in the presidential pants now threaten to bring the government to a screeching halt again if anyone investigates potential war crimes? It's quite clear that the only "rule of law" these people care about is one that says you can't lie about your sex life. Maybe if the Department of Justice could find a smoking blow job in the OLC we might get to the bottom of all this.

April 23, 2009

right-wing relativism

Kevin Drum observes how the Right's sudden penchant for moral relativism is all about protecting the Busheviks:

When the subject has anything to do with sex, the right in America is the party of moral absolutes. We know what's right, we know what's wrong, and even if there's a price to pay we can't shirk our responsibility to set a proper example and do the right thing.

But when the subject is torture, suddenly it's all about carefully weighing the costs and benefits. Having an honest debate about how far we should go to protect ourselves. Understanding the context of what happened. It's just not possible to flatly say that waterboarding and sleep deprivation and stress positions are barbarisms unfit for use by a civilized country. It's much more complex than that.

Funny how that works, isn't it?

Drum's piece reminded me of Andrew Sullivan's take on the GOP minions' sudden concern with domestic spying:

If Republicans do it, it's patriotism. If Democrats do it, it's dictatorship.

What else but hyper-partisan blindness can explain their blowjobs-and-black-helicopters hysteria under Clinton, their eight years of silence under Dubya's depredations, and their sudden lapse into Obama-phobia and cries of liberal fascism?

April 21, 2009

OLC torture memos

The ACLU has posted PDFs of the Bush OLC torture memos released last week, and notes that under Bush the Office of Legal Counsel "became a facilitator for illegal government conduct, issuing dozens of memos meant to permit gross violations of domestic and international law." As the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer writes, these memos:

...authorized interrogators to use the most barbaric interrogation methods, including methods that the U.S. once prosecuted as war crimes. The memos are based on legal reasoning that is spurious on its face, and in the end these aren't legal memos at all - they are simply political documents that were meant to provide window dressing for war crimes.

As described by the NYT, "the four memos give an extraordinarily detailed account of the C.I.A.'s methods and the Justice Department's long struggle, in the face of graphic descriptions of brutal tactics, to square them with international and domestic law." Liliana Segura discusses the memos at AlterNet, calling them "the smoking gun for the sadistic crimes of the Bush administration." At FDL, Christy Hardin Smith makes the comparison to Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, and Hilzoy draws an even worse parallel at Washington Monthly--to Orwell's 1984. Andrew Sullivan notes the contradiction at the heart of Bush's torture. "[T]he Bush administration," writes Sullivan:

...wanted to do two things at once: to declare to the world that freedom is on the march, and human rights are coming to the world with American help, while simultaneously declaring to captives that the US has no interest in the law, human rights, accountability, transparency or humanity. They wanted to give hope to all the oppressed of the planet, while surgically banishing all hope from the prisoners they captured and tortured.

Sullivan stops just short of calling Orwell the patron saint of Bushism:

As Orwell predicted, the English language had to disappear first. The president referred to waterboarding prisoners as "asking them questions." Bringing prisoners' temperatures down to hypothermia levels was simply an "alternative set of procedures." The entire process is "enhanced interrogation."

Referring to waterboarding as "swallowing a little too much water" is the same type of euphemism, designed to evade the reality of torture. Interestingly, some details survived the redaction process to reveal the name of a ghost detainee. ThinkProgress cited a ProPublica article identifying a detainee named Hassan Ghul:

According to the memo, Ghul was one of 28 CIA detainees at the time who had been subjected to the agency's "enhanced interrogation techniques." Specifically, the memo says he was subjected to "facial hold," "facial slap," "stress positions," "sleep deprivation," a technique called "walling," in which a detainee's shoulders are repeatedly smashed against a wall, and the "attention grasp," in which the detainee is placed in a choke-hold and slapped.

So it appears we now have evidence Ghul was in a CIA prison. Where he is today is still a mystery.

While some things have been revealed, others have been obscured. Jeffrey Kaye at AlterNet calls the memos "full of lies," observing that:

...even an initial cursory look at the August 1, 2002 Bybee memo on the "Interrogation of Al Qaeda Operative" shows that the memos were written in bad faith, were meant to deceive, and utilized a memorandum by Jerald Ogrisseg that explicitly warned against using at least some of the techniques (waterboarding) that were approved by OLC.

I'm confident that other researchers will find much more wrong with the recently released OLC memos. Their extremely poor quality and their misrepresentations of medical and psychological information make them very hard to imagine using as the basis of "good faith" representations for those CIA interrogators for whom Attorney General Holder granted immunity, i.e., those "who acted reasonably and relied in good faith on authoritative legal advice from the Justice Department that their conduct was lawful, and conformed their conduct to that advice..."

I suppose a lot rides now on how you define "authoritative legal advice."

Even more rides on how determined we are, as a nation, that justice must be pursued and criminals punished. Our moral standing depends on it, as does the honor and integrity of the White House. Obama's statement on the memos is here, and he calls this moment "a time for reflection, not retribution:"

I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. [...] The United States is a nation of laws. My Administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again.

Obama is likely afraid of being accused of "playing politics" if he supports an investigation, and is equivocating on that basis. Ironically, by allowing political concerns to influence his actions, his is effectively playing politics by attempting to remain above the fray. The only way, paradoxically, to avoid partisanship is to support the necessary legal action. Glenn Greenwald writes about our obligation to prosecute the torturers, citing statutory evidence (the Convention Against Torture, the Geneva Convention, the Nuremberg Charter, all given force of law by the Constitution) before throwing the gauntlet before those who would defend the Bush torture regime:

If, as Barack Obama proclaimed yesterday, "the United States is a nation of laws" and his "Administration will always act in accordance with those laws," isn't it the obligation of those opposing prosecution to justify that position in light of these legal mandates and long-standing principles of Western justice? How can they be reconciled?

Andrew Sullivan observes how the Bushies used extra-territorial means to a most despicable end--pretending that their torture was beyond the law:

It's right there in Steven Bradbury's memo of May 30, 2005:
By its terms, Article 16 [of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment] is limited to conduct within "territory under [United States] jurisdiction. We conclude that territory under United States jurisdiction includes, at most, areas over which the United States exercises at least de facto authority as the government. Based on CIA assurances, we understand that the interrogations do not take place in any such areas.

So no torture happened and the US broke no treaties.

That is such a cynical and self-serving legal interpretation that I am at a loss for words; IANAL, but does that strike anyone else as being unusually mendacious--even for the Busheviks? Scott Horton writes at Harper's that "the instrumental role played by these memos...satisfies the prerequisites for a criminal charge against the memo writer under section 2340A [see USC §2340-2340A here], conspiracy to torture:"

The preparation and issuance of these memoranda were criminal acts, and the relevant level of mens rea likely emerges from the dialogue surrounding their issuance. [...] The torture memoranda were written to enable torture and with the full expectation that it would happen. They are, therefore, documents that evidence criminal conduct. But the full dimensions of the criminal dealings remain substantially obscured. It's time to start unwinding the torture tango, through a process that involves both a special commission of inquiry and a special prosecutor.

On the international front, Spain has gone through another reversal. After initial hints about indicting the Bush Six, Spain's AG rejected requests to prosecute the torturers,

Mr Conde-Pumpido said that if there was a legitimate reason to file a complaint against the six accused, "it should be done before local courts with jurisdiction, in other words in the United States".

but the Center for Constitutional Rights notes that judge Baltazar Garzon is still pursuing a criminal investigation:

CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren said, "It is gravely disappointing that we must rely on European countries like Spain to hold U.S. officials accountable for war crimes. This is a golden moment for the current administration to appoint a special U.S. prosecutor and break with the illegalities of the past."

CCR Vice President Peter Weiss, an expert in international human rights law, said, "It was the lawyers who flashed the green light for torture with their mendacious made-to-order opinions. They therefore bear the primal guilt for the torture which occurred."

The torture may have stopped, but it's not truly over until justice has been done. These crimes need to be investigated--and prosecuted appropriately. Greta Christina writes that justice is a necessity:

The fact that these crimes were politically motivated and done on behalf of the government doesn't make it less important that we prosecute. It makes it more important. Much, much, much more important.

There's another word for what Obama is so dismissively calling "retribution" or "laying blame." That word is "justice." [...] Obama is wrong. We need to bring torturers and war criminals to justice. And we need to start doing it now.


Red Cross torture follow-up

NYRB's Mark Danner has written a follow-up to his previous article (see my comments here) on the Red Cross report on torture. (The ICRC report is online here.) Danner writes about the Bush/Cheney "politics of fear," and their longevity in our national discourse despite torture's illegality:

Both "torture" and "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" are declared illegal under the Third Geneva Convention, to which the Supreme Court ruled in June 2006 that--President Bush's February 2002 memorandum notwithstanding--the United States in its treatment of all prisoners must adhere. They are also illegal under the Convention Against Torture of 1984, to which the United States is a signatory, and illegal under the War Crimes Act of 1996 (though the Military Commissions Act of 2006 makes an attempt to shield those who applied the "alternative set of procedures" from legal consequences under this law). What is more, as the report concludes,
The totality of the circumstances in which the fourteen were held effectively amounted to an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and enforced disappearance, in contravention of international law.

It is a testament as much to the peculiarities of the American press--to its "stenographic function" and its institutional unwillingness to report as fact anything disputed, however implausibly, by a high official--that the former vice-president's insistence that these interrogations were undertaken "legally" and "in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles" continues to be reported without contradiction, and that President Bush's oft-repeated assertion that "the United States does not torture" is still respectfully quoted and, in many quarters, taken seriously.

Also discussing the Red Cross report, Jane (The Dark Side) Mayer was interviewed at AlterNet. She observed that "it's clear that the CIA -- and I think you'd have to guess the Department of Defense -- lied to the Red Cross:"

They told the Red Cross when it visited Guantanamo [in 2002] that it had seen all of the detainees. But what the report says is that some of the detainees -- some of the high-value detainees -- realized when they were finally sent to Guantanamo in 2006 that they'd been there before. They were there. And yet the Red Cross was not allowed to see them. The Red Cross was told they'd seen everybody.

So the CIA and DOD lied to the Red Cross. There were some hidden prisoners in Guantanamo. That's an overt act; lying to the Red Cross, hiding prisoners from them.

The addition of another crime to the Busheviks' tally should surprise no one after they've gotten away with so many high crimes for so long--and that's part of the problem. The Faux News dead-enders can only keep justice at bay when the citizenry doesn't speak up. I urge everyone to sign this ACLU open letter to AG Eric Holder, demanding that he appoint a special prosecutor and investigation into Bush's torture regime, so this whole sordid mess doesn't get swept under the rug permanently.

April 20, 2009

waterboarding KSM

One of the most nauseating details of last week's OLC memos (on which I'll have more later) is emptywheel's observation at FDL that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) was waterboarded 183 times in one month. (The NYT notes that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times.) And the Bushies are still claiming that this is an effective intelligence-gathering technique? It sounds more like a particularly barbaric variety of sadism to me.

Speaking of barbarism, does everyone remember Daniel Pearl? Charles Lemos talks about his friend Danny at MyDD:

I have always wanted to meet Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for I have a number of questions to ask him. You see, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed killed one of my closest friends, Daniel Pearl. [...]

In thinking about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the fact that he was waterboarded 183 times in the month of March of 2003, I cannot but express how this denigrates everything that Danny stood for. In waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, we have descended to the level of that butcher. We have proved that we are no better than them and I refuse to believe that. The West has a moral obligation to live up to the ideals that Danny Pearl embodied.

Andrew Sullivan urges vigilance in uncovering the details of Bush's torture regime, and notes the need for accountability:

One of the disadvantages of relying on a torture-regime for the facts about the torture they have been practising is that they have an interest in lying. And the job of a journalist in these matters - especially after the torrent of deception that came out of the Bush White House - is to exercise skepticism about the government's claims. [...] The US is a banana republic if this stuff is allowed to go unpunished. A banana republic with a torture apparatus.

April 18, 2009

"overcollection"

The Lichtblau/Risen NYT article on NSA spying contains the worst euphemism I've seen in quite some time, referring to the agency's warrantless wiretapping as the benign-sounding "overcollection" of data:

The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews.

Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in "overcollection" of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic...

[...]

The overcollection problems appear to have been uncovered as part of a twice-annual certification that the Justice Department and the director of national intelligence are required to give to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on the protocols that the N.S.A. is using in wiretapping. That review, officials said, began in the waning days of the Bush administration and was continued by the Obama administration. It led intelligence officials to realize that the N.S.A. was improperly capturing information involving significant amounts of American traffic.

Lichtblau and Risen also report that "in one previously undisclosed episode, the N.S.A. tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant:"

The agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact -- as part of a Congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 -- with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman's conversations, the official said.

The official said the plan was ultimately blocked because of concerns from some intelligence officials about using the N.S.A., without court oversight, to spy on a member of Congress.

Any guesses as to which Congresscritter was being spied upon?

April 14, 2009

"Bush 6" to be indicted?

Scott Horton writes about the "Bush 6" (Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Doug Feith, and William Haynes) torture case:

Spanish prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five top associates over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo...

[...]

The Bush Six labored at length to create a legal black hole in which they could implement their policies safe from the scrutiny of American courts and the American media. Perhaps they achieved much of their objective, but the law of unintended consequences has kicked in. If U.S. courts and prosecutors will not address the matter because of a lack of jurisdiction, foreign courts appear only too happy to step in.

This sort of investigation may be the best we can hope for in the absence of a Truth Commission.

April 6, 2009

filibustering for torture?

Scott Horton writes at The Daily Beast that "Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era:"

A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to "go nuclear" over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration's abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration's darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward.

[...]

"There was no 'direct' threat," said the source, "but the message was communicated clearly--if the OLC and OPR memoranda are released to the public, there will be war."

Anonymous Liberal writes that "the motivation for this threatened filibuster is almost surreal in its degeneracy:"

It has nothing whatsoever to do with the nominees themselves and everything to do with preventing the further public embarrassment of Bush administration officials who authorized illegal torture techniques against detainees. This is apparently what animates the modern GOP.

I also find it interesting that the one thing that would get the GOP to use the filibuster is their desire to protect Bush-era war criminals--I think that says rather a lot about what their party has become. AL is absolutely correct that Obama should release the memos and call their bluff; the crimes they're protecting have no place in a civilized nation. Glenn Greenwald explains the situation and sounds the skeptical note that "It's unclear whether the claims of Horton's source are true:"

It sounds more like a responsibility-shifting excuse than anything else -- a way of blaming Republicans rather than Obama officials for the failure to disclose these memos -- but it doesn't matter in the slightest if the claims are true. There is absolutely no justification whatsoever to continue to conceal these memos, and the fact that the GOP will stomp its feet and obstruct nominees doesn't come close to constituting an excuse for ongoing concealment.

[...]

The only conceivable reason for wanting to keep these memos secret is to avoid the deep and justifiable embarrassment the U.S. will feel upon placing before the world documents that explicitly authorized war crimes at the highest levels of our government, and thereby avoid what will inevitably be the increasing political pressure -- domestic and international -- to investigate and prosecute the war criminals. Those who authorized these tactics knew full well that what they were doing was wrong.

Disregarding the expenditure of political capital, openness is the right path to take--does Obama have the courage to walk it?

March 22, 2009

it's always OK if you're a Republican

As the Iraq War II slouches past its sixth anniversary, Driftglass reminds us of a Bush assertion before the invasion that now likely causes great concern for the ex-president and his lawyers:

War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders."

(Cf. Pinochet, Augusto)

March 18, 2009

paging Dr Freud

Bush gave his first post-presidential speech yesterday (h/t: Spencer Ackerman at FDL), and talked about writing his memoirs:

He said it will be fun to write and that "it's going to be [about] the 12 toughest decisions" he had to make.

"I'm going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written, at least there's an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened," Bush said. [emphasis added]

(That quote was scrubbed from the AP report, but can still be found at NPR.)

March 17, 2009

Red Cross report on CIA torture

A secret report by the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) on CIA torture has been leaked; NYRB's Mark (Torture and Truth) Danner has plenty of details, including this Red Cross assessment:

The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Danner observes:

Such unflinching clarity, from the body legally charged with overseeing compliance with the Geneva Conventions--in which the terms "torture" and "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" are accorded a strictly defined legal meaning--couldn't be more significant, or indeed more welcome after years in which the President of the United States relied on the power of his office either to redefine or to obfuscate what are relatively simple words.

In one of the least graphic passages in his exposé, Danner notes:

A clear method emerges from these accounts, based on forced nudity, isolation, bombardment with noise and light, deprivation of sleep and food, and repeated beatings and "smashings"--though from this basic model one can see the method evolve, from forced sitting to forced standing, for example, and acquire new elements, like immersion in cold water.

One detainee wrote that "I was never threatened with death, in fact I was told that they would not allow me to die, but that I would be brought to the 'verge of death and back again:'" When he was tortured by being waterboarded, "a doctor was always present:"

...standing out of sight behind the head of [the] bed, but I saw him when he came to fix a clip to my finger which was connected to a machine. I think it was to measure my pulse and oxygen content in my blood. So they could take me to [the] breaking point.

Andrew Sullivan also noted the use of doctors (those Hippocratic hypocrites!) who assisted the torturing, adding that:

They need to be stripped of their medical licenses and put on trial. But only alongside the war criminals who gave the orders: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Rice and many others.

Because they were tortured, Danner asserts that "one may doubt that any of the fourteen 'high-value detainees' whose accounts are given in this report will ever be tried and sentenced in an internationally recognized and sanctioned legal proceeding:"

In the case of men who have committed great crimes, this seems to mark perhaps the most important and consequential sense in which "torture doesn't work." The use of torture deprives the society whose laws have been so egregiously violated of the possibility of rendering justice. Torture destroys justice.

Heckuva job, Bushies...your brutality has obviated our ability to honorably punish the men you called "the worst of the worst" among the al Qaeda terrorists. As Danner summarizes, "In the wake of the ICRC report one can make several definitive statements:"

1. Beginning in the spring of 2002 the United States government began to torture prisoners. This torture, approved by the President of the United States and monitored in its daily unfolding by senior officials, including the nation's highest law enforcement officer, clearly violated major treaty obligations of the United States, including the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, as well as US law.

2. The most senior officers of the US government, President George W. Bush first among them, repeatedly and explicitly lied about this, both in reports to international institutions and directly to the public. The President lied about it in news conferences, interviews, and, most explicitly, in speeches expressly intended to set out the administration's policy on interrogation before the people who had elected him.

3. The US Congress, already in possession of a great deal of information about the torture conducted by the administration--which had been covered widely in the press, and had been briefed, at least in part, from the outset to a select few of its members--passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and in so doing attempted to protect those responsible from criminal penalty under the War Crimes Act.

4. Democrats, who could have filibustered the bill, declined to do so--a decision that had much to do with the proximity of the midterm elections, in the run-up to which, they feared, the President and his Republican allies might gain advantage by accusing them of "coddling terrorists." [...]

5. The political damage to the United States' reputation, and to the "soft power" of its constitutional and democratic ideals, has been, though difficult to quantify, vast and enduring. In a war that is essentially an insurgency fought on a worldwide scale--which is to say, a political war, in which the attitudes and allegiances of young Muslims are the critical target of opportunity--the United States' decision to use torture has resulted in an enormous self-administered defeat, undermining liberal sympathizers of the United States and convincing others that the country is exactly as its enemies paint it: a ruthless imperial power determined to suppress and abuse Muslims. By choosing to torture, we freely chose to become the caricature they made of us. [emphases added]

That's some mission Bush accomplished: decreasing our moral standing while blurring the line between us and al Qaeda.

March 11, 2009

Bush OLC memos

Ever since a batch of Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel memos were released last week--see Neil Lewis at NYT, Kurt Opsahl at EFF, and John Dean's "Beyond the Pale" at FindLaw--their scandalous nature should have been competing with the economy for front-page coverage. For some reason, however, the "liberal" media continues to avoid examining either the memos or their implications. Jack Balkin proclaims "The End of the Yoo Doctrine" and summzrizes:

First, the January 2009 OLC memo disowns the claim [...] that the President has the sole power to decide on conditions of detention and interrogation of captured individuals...

Second, the January 2009 OLC memo disowns the statement [...] that FISA should be interpreted as not restraining the President's ability to engage in warrantless domestic surveillance...

These two disowned claims lie at the heart of the Cheney/Addington/Yoo theory of presidential power-- namely, that when the president acts as commander in chief Congress may not restrict in any way his military decisionmaking, including decisions about detention, interrogation, and surveillance.

At AlterNet, Marjorie Cohn writes that the memos "reveal a concerted strategy to cloak the President with power to override the Constitution:"

There are more memos yet to be released. They will invariably implicate Bush officials and lawyers in the commission of torture, illegal surveillance, extraordinary rendition, and other violations of the law.

Meanwhile, John Yoo remains on the faculty of Berkeley Law School and Jay Bybee is a federal judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. These men, who advised Bush on how to create a police state, should be investigated, prosecuted, and disbarred. Yoo should be fired and Bybee impeached.

Scott Horton's "Last Chance to Get the Bushies" sees Yoo as the coalmine canary that may presage legal accountability for Bush's torture regime:

A new Justice Department report could contain a bombshell that would spell fresh legal trouble for top Bush officials. The report may link controversial memos on civil liberties and torture--written by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo--directly to the White House, putting Yoo and other Bushies in the crosshairs of criminal prosecution. [...]

Sources at the department who have examined this report state that it echoes some of the harshest criticisms that have appeared in the academic literature, but the report's real bombshell, they say, will be its detailed disclosure of Yoo's dealings with the White House in connection with the preparation of the memos. It is widely suspected that the Yoo memos were requested as after-the-fact legal cover for draconian policies that were already in place ("CYA memos"). If the Justice Department internal probe concludes this is the case, that could have clear consequences for the current debate surrounding the Bush administration's accountability for torture.

Scott Horton writes at Harper's that "John Yoo's Constitution is unlike any other I have ever seen. It seems to consist of one clause: appointing the President as commander-in-chief. The rest of the Constitution was apparently printed in disappearing ink" and quotes MSNBC's Michael Isikoff:

We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it.

Glenn Greenwald, in a typically excellent analysis, observes with dismay that "the documents released yesterday by the Obama DOJ comprise nothing less than a regime of secret laws under which we were governed." Hyperbole? Hardly. Greenwald underscores that "these weren't just abstract theories:"

They served as the basis for many U.S. government actions. Military actions were, in fact, directed at American citizens on U.S. soil (that's what the NSA program was, as but one example). Both legal residents and American citizens captured on U.S. soil were put in cages for years with no trial or charges of any kind. And, of course, the U.S. instituted a systematic torture regime that led to the brutalization and even deaths of many detainees in our custody. [...]

As but one example, we know that the Bush administration was engaged in certain surveillance activities aimed at U.S. citizens that were so patently illegal and wrong that even the right-wing fanatics in Bush's own Justice Department (such as John Aschroft) threatened to resign immediately if they didn't cease, yet we still, to this day, don't know what those domestic surveillance activities were.

Greenwald also observes that:

...the only reason we know about most of it -- such as the CIA's destruction of 92 interrogations videos, at the direction of the White House, despite the direct relevance of that evidence to numerous pending investigations (that's called "obstruction of justice," a felony) -- is because groups like the ACLU (with whom I consult), EFF, the Center for Constitutional Rights and others have been so tenacious about trying to compel its disclosure and combat it. If our political class had its way, even the bits and pieces we've now seen would continue to be hidden in the dark.

Andrew Sullivan, a conservative who didn't give up his principles in the face of Bushism, summarizes:

Just to recap: the last president believed that he had the inherent power to suspend both the First and the Fourth amendments, he had the power to seize anyone in the US or world, disappear and torture them, and ordered his legal goons to come up with patently absurd legal rationales for all of it. And much of official Washington carried on as normal - and those of us who actually stood up and opposed this were regarded as "hysterics". [...]

What we just lived through was an attack on the Constitution of the United States, conducted by the president and vice-president and an array of apparatchiks.The theory undergirding it renders the entire constitution subject to one man's prerogative. The conservative blogosphere - who resolutely ignored this in deference to their Caesar - now bleats about Obama's alleged threat to the constitution!

They'll keep bleating, no doubt--but less and less intelligibly.

links:
OLC memos at the DOJ
comprehensive list of memos from ProPublica

March 5, 2009

we don't [destroy evidence of] torture

This scandal has gotten far too little attention this week, but Scott Horton at Harper's is on the ball:

In a letter to the federal judge overseeing Freedom of Information Act litigation in New York, Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin drops a bombshell. The CIA purposefully destroyed nearly 100 tapes of interrogation sessions involving prisoners in its custody.

He goes on to observe that "Torture is a criminal act, and the tapes most likely captured evidence of crimes:"

There is one inescapable conclusion to draw from the destruction of evidence here: those who destroyed it fully appreciated it could be offered up as evidence of crimes in which they were implicated in a future prosecution.

At FDL, emptywheel asks "Who Watched the Torture Tapes?" and speculates that "we may get the names of other people (I'm curious whether Cheney, David Addington, or John Yoo might be among them) who had viewed the torture tapes."

The ACLU's press release is here.

February 19, 2009

why we don't celebrate 'Conservative Columnists Day'

Ann Coulter's pathetic screed "Why We Don't Celebrate 'Historians Day'" about Bush's low ranking among historians embodies virtually everything that's wrong with mainstream conservative punditry: cheap shots at liberals, excessive use of scare quotes, rampant anti-intellectualism, and factual errors.

Liberals may call him a "war criminal," but historians have inadvertently paid Bush a great tribute this week by ranking him as a "below average" president. [...] Whenever history professors rank you as one of the "worst" presidents, it's a good bet you were one of America's greatest
.

Coulter calls FDR "preposterously overrated," but this contradicts her defense of Eisenhower as one of the greats:

Under President Dwight Eisenhower, the gross national product grew by over 25 percent and inflation averaged 1.4 percent.

Let's take a look at FDR's economic record, shall we? Information from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (XLS) actually shows a 47% GDP increase under Eisenhower--better than Bush, but not as good as Clinton. Under FDR, our GDP increased 274%, so he deserves that #3 ranking, right?

Information about the CPI from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (TXT) shows an average inflation rate of 1.4% for Eisenhower, much better than FDR's 2.6% rate. (OK, fine...we liberals can admit that he wasn't the best at everything.)

Coulter's lack of logical consistency is one reason why we don't celebrate 'Conservative Columnists Day.'

February 18, 2009

presidential travel

Today I was greeted with this complaint:

"Obama's been flying around on Air Force One every day since he took office!"

Really?

That sounded like bullshit to me, perhaps straight from Rush Limbaugh, so I did a little checking. It appears that Obama has indeed been out of Washington a few times since the inauguration, although far from "every day:"

February 5: Williamsburg, VA

February 7: Camp David

February 9: Elkhart, IN

February 10: Fort Myers, FL

February 12-13: Springfield, IL; Peoria, IL; Chicago, IL

February 17: Denver, CO

Obama was in Phoenix today, for--what?--seven trips...most of which were related to the stimulus package. I haven't seen any data that would enable an apples-to-apples comparison between administrations, but here is a list of Bush's trips (vacation and otherwise) to and from his faux ranch in Texas. In light of the sudden (professed) concern for saving taxpayers' money, here's a House report on Bush & Cheney's 2002 campaign-related trips:

This report assesses the costs to the taxpayer when the President and Vice President travel for campaign appearances. It examines the costs that were borne by the taxpayer in 2002, the most recent election cycle in which there was no presidential election. The report analyzes the costs associated with presidential and vice presidential flights to campaign-related events on military aircraft. It does not take into account Secret Service costs, the costs of food and lodging for additional staff, the costs of backup or additional passenger planes that accompany the President, motorcade costs, or the costs of helicopter transport.

Major findings include:

From January 1, 2002, through Election Day on November 5, 2002, the President and Vice President made a total of at least 83 campaign-related trips, involving at least 168 campaign-related stops, at an estimated cost of $6.5 million in flight expenses.

The report uses an operating cost figure of $56,518/hour for Air Force One, but observes later that this is not a comprehensive figure:

For example, a substantial additional cost of the trips involves costs associated with the Secret Service and other personnel that accompany the President and Vice President as "official" travelers.

Another additional cost is backup planes that accompany the President on domestic travel, and additional passenger aircraft that may accompany the President if the number of accompanying staff is significant. The President and Vice President also incur costs traveling between airports and campaign events in helicopters and motorcades. Further, the helicopters that transport the President and Vice President to and from the airport at the beginning and end of trips cost thousands of additional dollars per trip.

The report mentions a Washington Post article (unavailable at WaPo's website, but there's a copy here) that estimates the full cost of Bush's "59 out-of-town political events he had done this year as of last week." The article notes that his 2002 trips to fundraising events "cost something on the order of $ 15.7 million for Bush to raise $ 66.5 million" for the GOP.

I'm not suggesting that presidents don't need to travel for official business, but a large part of their travel is discretionary; perhaps conservative caterwauling about flight expenses could be avoided by more judicious use of jet fuel. (It is gratifying, however, to see their sudden concern for fiscal and environmental responsibility.)

As far as the Limbaugh connection, I investigated my hunch and found out that El Rushbo went on a mini tirade on Monday:

It's an amazingly active news day, despite the fact the president's on the third day of a vacation. This guy's taken more vacations than I have. [...] Obama is headed back to Washington today from Chicago, then he's flying to Denver tomorrow. I'd just think he'd stay in Chicago and go to Denver from there and save a lot of fuel and save a lot of carbon footprints. He's flying back to Washington. He's going to fly to Denver, sign the stimulus bill in Denver. He's going to head to Phoenix and save people's homes. It's a beautiful thing, folks. It's just absolutely wonderful.

Obama flies home to Chicago for the weekend, and Rush dares to make a comment about vacations? The same guy who had a little sex tourism scandal (vacationing in the Caribbean with some Viagra not prescribed to him) has forgotten not only his indiscretions, but also his buddy Dubya's infamously vacation-laden presidency. CBS noted that Bush visited his "ranch" 77 times (490 days total) and Camp David 149 times (487 days).

Not that Obama's perfect, but how about some perspective?

February 16, 2009

(not quite) the worst?

Since today is Presidents' Day, there's no better time to look at the results of yesterday's CSPAN survey of historians (h/t: ThinkProgress) on presidential leadership.

The top three aren't too much of a surprise:

1. Lincoln
2. Washington
3. FDR

Dubya, however, didn't fare quite as poorly as expected. He was edged out at the bottom by Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Pierce, Harrison, Harding, and Fillmore--finishing in a still-dismal 36th place.

Have a happy (ex-)President's Day, Dubya!

February 10, 2009

right-wing chickenshit terrorist gets life sentence

The right-wing terrorist who killed 2 people during a rampage at a liberal church in Tennessee has received a life sentence for his crimes. His manifesto (4 pages, PDF) reads like an under-educated version of the Unabomber's manifesto--not surprisingly, as they both hail from the same fever swamps of paranoia and hatred.

Lately I've been feeling helpless in our War on Terrorizm. [sic] But I realized I could engage the terrorists allies [sic] here in America. The best allies they've got. The Democrates! [sic] The democrates [sic] have done everything they can do to tie our hands in this War on Terror. They're all a bunch of traitors. They want America to loose [sic] this war for reasons I can not understand. It makes me soooo [sic] mad!

Irony alert! A few sentences later, he writes:

The worst problem America faces today is Liberalism. They have dumbed down education...

It gets better:

Liberals are evil, they embrace the tenets of Karl Marx, they're Marxists, socialist, communists.

Maybe when you're done working out in the prison yard to beef up your punk self, you can visit the prison library to do a little reading. Maybe someday you'll realize that you're full of shit. You might even grow a conscience somewhere along the way.

About the Unitarian-Universalist Church, he writes:

Don't let the word church mislead you. This isn't a church, it's a cult. They don't even believe in God. They worship the God of Secularizmz. [sic] These sick people aren't Liberals, they're Ultra-Liberals.

Thank you.

This is a collection of sicko's, [sic] weirdo's, [sic] + homo's. [sic]

But at least we understand punctuation.

Those people are absolute Hypocrits. [sic]

And spelling.

They call themselves "Progressive." How is a white woman having a niger [sic] baby progress? How is a man sticking his dick up another man's ass progress? It's an abomination.

Your racism and homophobia are duly noted.

I'm protesting the DNC running such a radical leftist candidate. OSama Hussein OBama, YO Mama. [sic] No experience, no brains, a joke.

No brains? That sounds like the last president.

Dangerous to America. Hell, he looks like Curious George!

Yep, that's the last one all right:

20090210-bushorchimp.jpg

I couldn't get to the generals + high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people.

Would those be the same "chickenshit liberals" who, upon seeing an armed madman storming their church, risked their own lives to end his rampage? Who's the chickenshit in this scenario: the armed conservative doing the ambushing, or the unarmed liberals who stopped him?

I'd like to encourage other like minded people to do what I've done. If life ain't worth living anymore don't just kill yourself, do something for your Country before you go. Go Kill Liberals.

Apparently, murder is an acceptable method of resolving political differences in wingnut world. I wonder: will his cellmates adhere to the same philosophy? Will they appreciate his comments about miscegenation and ass-fucking?

I owe a tip-of-the-hat to Sara at Orcinus, who wrote this about Adkisson's "chickenshit" remark:

The right wing has, as usual, grossly underestimated our courage and our commitment. The members of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist quickly and effectively disarmed and captured this man within seconds after he opened fire. Adkisson expected fear; what we got was determined resistance. It's why he's still alive today, and why more UUs aren't dead by his hand. The TVUUA congregation should be our enduring example of liberal grace under fire.

February 9, 2009

"retire Bush" winner

The winner of The Nation's "Retire Bush" contest was announced in today's issue:

George W. Bush should host a revised version of the TV reality show The Biggest Loser, on which corporate executives compete weekly for the most colossal management debacle. The winner gets a $200 million severance package and a presidential pardon.

20090209-retirebush.jpg

I guess it's time to reveal my submission. After toying around with this

Dubya plans on being a product tester for a prominent pretzel manufacturer.

and this,

Never has the gulf between "should do" and "will do" seemed so unbridgeable. Bush should do time after leaving office; instead, he'll probably go back to clearing brush at his faux ranch.

I submitted this one:

After leaving office, Bush will join Laura in promoting literacy with this slogan: "Reading comprehension means understanding a PDB as well as The Pet Goat."

Congratulations to the winner and the runners-up!

February 8, 2009

the only tool they have is a hammer

As an aid to everyone who's taken an Econ 101 textbook off the shelf in an attempt to better understand the various competing economic stimulus proposals, here's a chart from a July 2008 report by Mark Zandi:


20090208-bangforthebuck.gif

Of course, Republicans failed to push through their tax-cuts-only amendment, even though permanent tax cuts are among the least effective stimulus measures...talk about being blinded by ideology. (Fortunately, they're no longer in control.)

Republicans only seem to care about sensible fiscal policy when they're opposing Democratic spending--even though spending is more effective than the GOP's one-solution-for-every-problem tax cuts. (See their vocal support for Bush's budget-busting tax cuts--which were almost twice as expensive as Obama's stimulus package--here and here. And don't even get me started on the $3 trillion cost of Bush's Iraq misadventure; that's a millstone that will be hanging around all our necks of the rest of our lives.)

links:
money supply
spending multiplier
unemployment

February 7, 2009

a death knell?

Sam Tanenhaus' cover story at TNR, "Conservatism Is Dead," is a sobering look at contemporary conservatism. Tanenhaus writes:

After George W. Bush's two terms, conservatives must reckon with the consequences of a presidency that failed, in large part, because of its fervent commitment to movement ideology: the aggressively unilateralist foreign policy; the blind faith in a deregulated, Wall Street-centric market; the harshly punitive "culture war" waged against liberal "elites."

[...]

What conservatives have yet to do is confront the large but inescapable truth that movement conservatism is exhausted and quite possibly dead. And yet they should, because the death of movement politics can only be a boon to the right, since it has been clear for some time the movement is profoundly and defiantly un-conservative--in its ideas, arguments, strategies, and above all its vision.

Tanenhaus reaches back to Burke and Disraeli, but focuses mainly on the Buckleyite conservatism of the past 50 years. He sees the current intra-party conflict as being fought between "those who have upheld the Burkean ideal" and "movement conservatives" who are:

...committed to a revanchist counterrevolution, the restoration of America's pre-welfare state ancien regime. And, time and again, the counterrevolutionaries have won. The result is that modern American conservatism has dedicated itself not to fortifying and replenishing civil society but rather to weakening it through a politics of civil warfare. [...] Many have observed that movement politics most clearly defines itself not by what it yearns to conserve but by what it longs to destroy--"statist" social programs; "socialized medicine"; "big labor"; "activist" Supreme Court justices, the "media elite"; "tenured radicals" on university faculties; "experts" in and out of government.

But, if it's clear what the right is against, what exactly has it been for? This question has haunted the movement from its inception in the 1950s, when its principal objective was to undo the New Deal and reinstate the laissez-faire Republicanism of the 1920s.

He quotes Garry Wills' observation that "The right wing in America is stuck with the paradox of holding a philosophy of 'conserving' an actual order it does not want to conserve." (Hence the term 'reactionary,' which is perhaps the most accurate appellation for them.) By the Clinton era, the movement had fallen apart:

The right, which for so long had deplored the politics of "class warfare," had become the most adept practitioners of that same politics. They had not only abandoned Burke. They had become inverse Marxists, placing loyalty to the movement--the Reagan Revolution--above their civic responsibilities.

It is here that I turned to Andrew Sullivan's "Conservatism Lives!" response. Sullivan, a thoughtful conservative who has long disidentified conservatism from its Bushevik manifestation, looks at the Bush wreckage and sees a "contrast between partisan Republicanism in the past forty years and the classical conservative temperament, originating in Burke, and celebrated by Kirk and Hart." This GOP partisanism, exemplified by "the executive power theories of the Bush administration and the attempt to use the constitution for social policy," are called "repellently unconservative" by Sullivan.

He writes, "the core conservative insight is the distinction between ideology and politics, between theoretical and practical wisdom," and notes that "this ideological calcification...has killed conservatism as a coherent governing philosophy." However, Sullivan believes that conservatism survives in unlikely quarters:

I did see Obama as a more conservative - because more pragmatic - option in the last election. And his temperament, his patience and his civility all appeal to the conservative not blinded by partisanship or ideology.

Sullivan concludes with this:

I do not agree with the headline on Sam's piece "Conservatism Is Dead." I do agree that the current conservative movement deserves to die; and that the Republican party deserved the massive defeats it just received. But I do not believe the conservative temperament in politics can ever truly die. it is part of human nature, nurtured to a degree of sophistication in Britain and America that is too useful to lose. I see more of it in the Obama administration right now than I do either party in Congress. This is a conservatism of no party or clique. But it is conservatism.

February 2, 2009

science advisors

This cartoon from The Oregonian's Jack Ohman (h/t: Sheril Kirshenbaum at The Intersection) made me smile:

20090202-ohman.jpg

February 1, 2009

Iraq, again

I was recently involved in a discussion on Iraq (semi-involuntarily; it was a better option than listening to more Rush Limbaugh) and was faced with the claim that "everyone knew there were WMDs there," followed by "I wonder where they all went." I responded that, in fact, the alleged Iraqi WMDs were known to be illusory before we invaded.

Some books published before the war were quite clear about the absence of WMDs--most notably Scott Ritter and William Rivers Pitt's War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and Michael Ratner's Against War with Iraq: An Anti-War Primer--but much of the information was unavailable from the mainstream media until years afterward (books describing the Bush administration's misuse of intelligence are legion, but I would recommend Craig Whitney's The WMD Mirage, along with Scott Ritter's Frontier Justice and Iraq Confidential.

One of the examples I used--which was greeted with disbelief--was Colin Powel's famous exclamation "I'm not reading this bullshit" before his infamous UN speech:

On the evening of February 1, two dozen American officials gathered in a spacious conference room at the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Va. The time had come to make the public case for war against Iraq. For six hours that Saturday, the men and women of the Bush administration argued about what Secretary of State Colin Powell should--and should not--say at the United Nations Security Council four days later. Not all the secret intelligence about Saddam Hussein's misdeeds, they found, stood up to close scrutiny. At one point during the rehearsal, Powell tossed several pages in the air. "I'm not reading this," he declared. "This is bulls- - -."

(Source: US News & World Report, 1 June 2003)

As an example of the Busheviks' message discipline, the "mobile production facilities" lie attributed to Curveball and was re-inserted into Powell's speech after being removed. In 2005, far too late to do any good, Powell publicly admitted his errors on 20/20:

He told Walters that he feels "terrible" about the claims he made in that now-infamous address -- assertions that later proved to be false.

When asked if he feels it has tarnished his reputation, he said, "Of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now."

As far as Iraq's actual pre-war capabilities are concerned, the "Key Findings" of the Duelfer Report clearly state that "Iraq's WMD capability...was essentially destroyed in 1991."

"Maybe they're in Syria," indeed.

It's frustratingly difficult to discuss issues such as the Iraq invasion with someone who isn't aware of Charles Duelfer and the eponymous Duelfer Report, doesn't know who Hans Blix or Scott Ritter are, or what UNMOVIC (UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) is.

Too much Fox, perhaps?

January 27, 2009

punishing war crimes

This AlterNet article looks at some tentative efforts by Democrats toward establishing accountability for the Bush torture regime, including prosecution. Anonymous Liberal asks, "Is it realistic to expect the Obama DOJ to prosecute these folks?" and observes that:

As much as I'd like to see that, it would instantly generate a partisan firestorm. Fair or not, Republicans would portray the prosecutions as a vindictive partisan witch hunt against True Patriots... [...] The most likely end result would be acquittals that would be spun by Republicans (and a pliant media) as vindication of everything the Bush administration did.

[...]

War crimes prosecutions would serve no useful purpose if they result in acquittals which are then spun by the Republicans and the media as vindication for the conduct itself. The goal here should not be maximal punishment, but maximal deterrence.

Last week's WaPo/ABC poll looked at Americans' views on torture, and was most notable for the way this question

Q. Obama has said that under his administration the United States will not use torture as part of the U.S. campaign against terrorism, no matter what the circumstance. Do you support this position not to use torture, or do you think there are cases in which the United States should consider torture against terrorism suspects?

was broken down by party affiliation. The pro-torture contingent looks like this:

Democrats 28%
Independents 43%
Republicans 55%

Although 40% of Americans are willing to overlook these crimes and "move on" to other issues, Cenk Uygur agrees with the rest of us--that a scandal of this magnitude should not be ignored. He takes on the "see no evil" defense, writing that "we're told that in the political context it makes sense:"

I think the exact opposite is true. I think it is even more important that we hold our elected leaders to an even higher standard than the average citizen. They are entrusted with enforcing the laws. If they are the ones who break them, society is in much larger trouble.

This comment by Andrew Sullivan is worth quoting at length:

The men who ordered a man tied to a chair, doused in water, and chilled to hypothermia so intense he had to be rushed to emergency medical care, the men who presided over at least two dozen and at most a hundred prisoners tortured to death, the men who ordered an American servicewoman to smear fake menstrual blood over a Muslim's face in order to win a war against Jihadism, the men who ordered innocents stripped naked, sexually abused, terrified by dogs, or cast into darkness with no possibility of a future, and did all this in the name of the Constitution of the United States, the men who gave the signal in wartime that there were no limits to what could be done to prisoners of war and reaped a whirlwind of abuse and torture that will haunt American servicemembers for decades: these men will earn the judgment of history. It will be brutal.

We will need some formal and comprehensive record of all that happened, and the Congress will surely begin to move on that (and they should not exempt their own members from scrutiny either). And as specific allegations of torture emerge, the Justice Department will have no option but to prosecute. To ignore such charges is itself a dereliction of constitutional duty. [emphases added]

If we turn a blind eye to these abuses, the task may fall to others. John Dean speculates about foreign prosecution of Bush torture, writing that "any effort to protect Bush officials from legal responsibility for war crimes, in the long run, will not work," because "other countries are very likely to take action if the United States fails to do so." Dean interview author Philippe (Torture Team) Sands, who observes

More than 140 countries may potentially exercise jurisdiction over former members of the Bush Administration for violations of the 1984 Torture Convention and the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including the standards reflected in their Common Article 3. Whether they do so, and how they might do so, turns on a range of factors, including their domestic procedural rules.

January 26, 2009

interrogation and incompetence

This WaPo article about the Gitmo case files illustrates a SNAFU of the highest order:

President Obama's plans to expeditiously determine the fates of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and quickly close the military prison there were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials -- barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees -- discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.

[...]

There have been indications from within and outside the government for some time...that evidence and other materials on the Guantanamo prisoners were in disarray, even though most of the detainees have been held for years.

[...]

In a court filing this month, Darrel Vandeveld, a former military prosecutor at Guantanamo who asked to be relieved of his duties, said evidence was "strewn throughout the prosecution offices in desk drawers, bookcases packed with vaguely-labeled plastic containers, or even simply piled on the tops of desks."

He said he once accidentally found "crucial physical evidence" that "had been tossed in a locker located at Guantanamo and promptly forgotten."

Steve Benen at Washington Monthly asks us to "put this in an even larger context" and to "consider just how big a mess Bush has left for Obama here:

The previous administration a) tortured detainees, making it harder to prosecute dangerous terrorists; b) released bad guys while detaining good guys; and c) neglected to keep comprehensive files on possible terrorists who've been in U.S. custody for several years.

Mcjoan at DailyKos focuses on the observation that "the Bush administration's focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosecutions a far lower priority" and concludes:

Detention and interrogation (read, "torture") were a higher priority than figuring out which cases actually merited prosecution. In other words, locking them up and torturing them was more important than determining if they were actually guilty and prosecuting them for their crimes.

Heckuva job, Bushie.

more spying revelations

Former NSA analyst Russell Tice was the focus of two Wired News pieces (here and here) by Kim Zetter. Tice revealed last week that "the National Security Agency spied on individual U.S. journalists, entire U.S. news agencies as well as 'tens of thousands' of other Americans:"

Tice wouldn't disclose the names of the specific reporters or media outlets he targeted when he worked as an analyst for the NSA but said in the part of the program he covered, "everyone was collected."

"They sucked in everybody and at some point they may have cherry-picked from what they had, but I wasn't aware of who got cherry-picked out of the big pot," he said.

The purpose, he was told, was to eliminate journalists from possible suspicion so that the NSA could focus on those who merited further surveillance. But Tice said on Wednesday that the data on journalists was collected round-the-clock, year-round, suggesting there was never an intent to eliminate anyone from the surveillance.

The more we find out about the Bush warrantless wiretaps, the bigger the scandal becomes. It's long past time for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

24 and torture

Brigadier General David Irvine wrote at HuffPo last week:

I taught interrogation and the law of war for 18 years to U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine interrogators. The truth is that torture is just as likely to lead to false information or no information, not solid intelligence. History is replete with victims who have refused to talk or lied or died under torture. American torture has killed or addled suspects who might have provided vital intelligence if interrogated humanely.

He's no fan of the Fox series 24, the new season of which reaffirms its position as the most torture-iffic program on television. Irvine writes, "As the 7th season begins, I am joining Human Rights First in asking the producers to stop showing torture so irresponsibly." You can add your voice to his here.

January 24, 2009

geteilte Freude ist doppelte Freude

Variants on this have been circulating for years, but here is a my updated version:

An old man walked up to the front gate of the White House on Wednesday morning, long after the inaugural crowds had left town. He asked the Marine guard on duty, "I'd like to see President Bush, please."

The Marine replied, "I'm sorry sir, but George Bush no longer resides in the White House. Barack Obama is our President now." The old man nodded and went away.

Thursday, the old man returned and again asked to see President Bush. The Marine reminded him, a little more curtly this time, that Bush is no longer President.

Yesterday morning the old man asked the same Marine once again if he could see President Bush. "Listen, old man," said the guard, "I've told you for three days running that Bush isn't President anymore! What is your problem?"

The old man replied, "Oh, there's no problem -- I just like hearing you say it."

The Marine smiled and said, "I'll see you tomorrow, sir!"

January 20, 2009

the end of an error

Our long national nightmare is finally over as the end of Bush's presidency comes with a lowest-ever approval rating of 22%, quite appropriate for the worst president ever. After Bush's 2000 (s)election by the Supreme Court, he took office under a cloud of lies about the outgoing Clinton administration (check out Salon's piece on "The White House vandalism that wasn't") and is retreating to Texas while a similarly artificial media myth about the cost of Obama's inauguration (see Eric Boehlert's MediaMatters piece) makes headlines.

Sadly, No! has a nice rundown of Bush's infamous flightsuit fantasy and the PR-ready "Mission Accomplished" banner, while ThinkProgress lists "The 43 Appointees Who Made Bush the Worst President Ever." The SF Chronicle hits the low-lights in "A disastrous eight years," as does the Economist piece "The frat boy ships out." For more overviews, check out "Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House" (Vanity Fair) and "EPIC FAIL" (Progressive Blog Digest).

Scott Horton's Harper's piece "An Epitaph for the Bush Years" wonders "What is the message to be carved over this massive cesspool of a failed presidency?"

I turn to Augustine, the early church father whose writings represent the first effort by a Christian theologian to come to grips with the duties of civil governance. "If it does not do justice," he writes in the City of God, "what is the government but a great criminal enterprise?" That fits the Bush Administration perfectly, for it shows its key failing and it serves as admonishment to the government that follows him. [emphasis added]

This morning, I turned the last page on my "George W. Bush Out of Office Countdown" calendar to read this gem:

"I hope you leave here and walk out and say, 'What did he say?'"

The countdown clock has now ticked down to zero...and there was much rejoicing:

20090120-bushslastday.jpg

January 19, 2009

prosecuting war crimes

Paul Krugman and Glenn Greenwald agree on the necessity of investigating and prosecuting the torturing Bushies. (After all, torture is still a war crime.) Krugman takes issue with Obma's recent assertion "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards" and concludes:

...while it's probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he's going to swear to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." That's not a conditional oath to be honored only when it's convenient.

And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that's not a decision he has the right to make.

Greenwald provides plenty of prosecutory ammunition en route to his conclusion:

The Bush administration authorized, ordered and practiced torture. The U.S., under Ronald Reagan, legally obligated itself to investigate and prosecute any acts of torture committed by Americans (which includes authorization of torture by high level officials and also includes, under Article 3 of the Convention, acts of "rendering" detainees to countries likely to torture, as the Bush administration unquestionably did).

[...]

International treaties which the U.S. signs and ratifies aren't cute little left-wing platitudes for tying the hands of America. They're binding law according to the explicit mandates of Article VI of our Constitution. Thus, there simply is no way to (a) argue against investigations and prosecutions for Bush officials and simultaneously (b) claim with a straight face to believe in the rule of law, that no one is above the law, and that the U.S. should adhere to the same rules and values it attempts to impose on the rest of the world.


January 18, 2009

"National Sanctity of Human Life Day"

Dubya has declared today "National Sanctity of Human Life Day," and I have some juxtapositions to offer between Bush's words and the consequences of his policies:

20090118-feces.jpg
"our commitment to respecting and protecting the life and dignity of every human being"

20090118-floor.jpg
"heeding this message of conscience by speaking up for the weak and voiceless among us."

20090118-blood.jpg
"we must never abandon our fundamental morals"

20090118-dead.jpg
"we aspire to build a society in which every [person] is welcome in life and protected in law"

Two days and 12 hours left...


update (10:32am):
Over at Atheist Revolution, vjack takes a rationalist look at Bush's hypocrisy regarding his 'pro-life" policies, and expresses hope that his administration's high crimes will be met with justice.

January 14, 2009

torturous

[Note: This post may appear somewhat disjointed, as I am responding to a series of comments made about this previous post without reproducing the comments themselves (at the request of the commenter). As this blog is a research and writing project, I refuse to spend time on an exchange of this nature without making that work accessible.]

Fox News is certainly no "Anti Christ," but has earned the "faux" nickname due to their persistent conservative bias. Fox is far more biased than any other network...so much so that it's difficult to keep up with the sheer volume of their spin-jobs and misrepresentations, which (by coincidence?) always favor GOP talking points. (See the FAIR study "The Most Biased Name in News" or my two pieces discussing other studies of Fox's media misinformation campaigns here and here.)

Even in the face of Bushism, I have never called conservatives "inherently evil" and would not do so. My use of Bushevik to describe the Bush dead-enders is meant to denote their authoritarian leanings, reliance on propaganda, and disdain for dissent.

I will note yet again that Obama does not advocate socialism. The conservative Human Events asked some actual socialists about Obama, and here are some of their responses:

Greg Pason, National Secretary of the Socialist Party USA: "Barack Obama's programs are not socialist."

F.N. Brill, National Secretary of the World Socialist Party (US): "Obama is as much a socialist as the Pope is an atheist."

David Schaich, Socialist Party Campaign Clearinghouse Coordinator: "The idea that Barack Obama is socialist, or quasi-socialist, or semi-socialist, or socialist-light, or anything of the sort, is far-right nonsense."

On the issue of torture, I have three objections--pragmatic, legal, and moral. The first merely points out that--aside from making some people feel good about taking "action"--torture is not effective for its alleged purpose of obtaining information. Some of the torture methods used are so horrific that the victims will say anything to make it stop (e.g., waterboarding, which isn't "swallowing a little too much water," but rather drowning someone as completely as possible without actually killing him). The US Army Intelligence and Interrogation Handbook recognizes the non-Hollywood reality of torture:

Use of torture and other illegal methods is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the interrogator wants to hear. Revelation of use of torture by US personnel will being discredit upon the US and its armed forces while undermining domestic and international support for the war effort. It also may place US and allied personnel in enemy hands at a greater risk of abuse by their captors. (p. 9-10)

An article in today's Washington Post observes that, because of torture, at least one Gitmo detainee will not face trial:

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

"We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

Legally, Bush's torture is also on shaky ground. In commenting on 18 USC 2340 (the US definition of torture), the DOJ mentioned its national and international legal context:

Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms. This universal repudiation of torture is reflected in our criminal law, for example, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340-2340A; international agreements, exemplified by the United Nations Convention Against Torture (the "CAT") ; customary international law ; centuries of Anglo-American law ; and the longstanding policy of the United States...

(Amnesty International, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch have additional information.)

My moral objection to torture is a simple rule of thumb: I wouldn't want someone who is accused of terrorism (and, once again, we are talking about alleged crimes, not proven ones) to be treated any worse than I would want my mother (substitute the loved one of your choice) treated were she to be similarly accused. (This applies equally well to such concepts as being innocent until proven guilty, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, habeas corpus, and the right to a jury trial--which are the foundations of our justice system.)

In the aftermath of World War II, we tried a Japanese officer for the offense of waterboarding--and he received a 15-year sentence. How far we have fallen that we no longer recognize torture for what it is--a barbaric practice that should never permitted, let alone commanded. Torture isn't something "we gotta do in order to protect our freedom"--it's something we must never do, in order to protect our humanity.

As far as your attempt to equate torture with abortion, you might have a point if the government were forcing abortions upon unwilling women; absent that, the parallel is nonexistent. Also, your scare quotes around the word rights in the phrase reproductive rights suggest to me that you may believe it to be simply a euphemism for abortion. Some people may use it as such, but I do not; the area of reproductive rights covers a broad constellation of privacy rights that manifest themselves in the area of reproduction, going back to the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision, (FindLaw and Wikipedia) which eliminated state prohibition of contraceptives. Wikipedia has a decent summary of reproductive rights here,

Reproductive rights may include some or all of the following rights: the right to legal or safe abortion, the right to control one's reproductive functions, the right to access quality reproductive healthcare, and the right to education and access in order to make reproductive choices free from coercion, discrimination, and violence. Reproductive rights may also be understood to include education about contraception and sexually transmitted infections, and freedom from coerced sterilization and contraception, protection from gender-based practices such as female genital cutting (FGC) and male genital mutilation (MGM).

and the UN Population Fund defines reproductive rights this way:

• Reproductive health as a component of overall health, throughout the life cycle, for both men and women
• Reproductive decision-making, including voluntary choice in marriage, family formation and determination of the number, timing and spacing of one's children and the right to have access to the information and means needed to exercise voluntary choice
• Equality and equity for men and women, to enable individuals to make free and informed choices in all spheres of life, free from discrimination based on gender
• Sexual and reproductive security, including freedom from sexual violence and coercion, and the right to privacy.

You are free, of course, to decry any of these individual rights--but we part company over the propriety of government's intrusion into private matters and use of force to compel women to limit their choices to those that others find acceptable.

Where do I find the time to write my "rantings"? I don't waste time watching Fox, for starters.

Less snarkily, I believe in the importance of education, both formal and self-directed; the Socratic recognition of how much I don't know continually motivates me to learn more. Being a passive consumer of and believer in the status quo mythology is an intellectually stunting prospect, analogous to those who prefer to remain in Plato's Cave.

If you feel my writings on Bush are "tiresome," imagine my relief at not being faced with the continuation of his miserable failures for another term. There are many more subjects about which I would rather write, as will gradually become evident as the wreckage of his legacy is cleared away.

January 13, 2009

Bush legacy project

The "Bush legacy project" revealed by The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes

...there's an ongoing Bush legacy project that's been meeting in the White House, really, with senior advisers, Karl Rove, Karen Hughes has been involved, current senior Bush administration advisers and they are looking at how to sort of roll out the President's legacy.

is now in full swing. The White House's whitewash efforts include a page on "The Bush Record" that links to "Highlights of Accomplishments and Results" (16MB PDF) and "100 Things Americans May Not Know About the Bush Administration Record" (300KB PDF, an expanded version of the final section of the previous document). Alexander Dresner writes at HuffPo about these documents:

To understand the full measure of this document as a reminder of President Bush's failures, I encourage you to visit the White House website and take a look. Above all, this document shows that though President Bush may be eager to get an early start in shaping his legacy, his attempts to do so have, so far, been marred by the same level of incompetence that has come to define his Administration these past eight years.

Over at Daily Kos, occams hatchet observes snarkily that attempts to rehabilitate Bush's record are as inane as claims that the 0-16 Detroit Lions actually had a perfect season en route to the Super Bowl.

January 11, 2009

torturer-in-chief

During an interview on Faux News--where else?--today, Bush admitted to ordering the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Crooks and Liars provides a video clip wherein Bush states:

My view is the ["enhanced interrogation"] techniques were necessary and are necessary...I firmly reject the word "torture."

That's the difference between the Busheviks and the rest of us: they reject the word torture, while we reject torture itself. ThinkProgress notes that Bush signed off on the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:

I'm in the Oval Office and I am told that we have captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the professionals believe he has information necessary to secure the country. So I ask what tools are available for us to find information from him and they gave me a list of tools...

Bush renewed his claim that KSM "gave us information," but the facts are--once again--opposed to Bush's opinions. David Rose reported in Vanity Fair last month:

As for K.S.M. himself, who (as Jane Mayer writes) was waterboarded, reportedly hung for hours on end from his wrists, beaten, and subjected to other agonies for weeks, Bush said he provided "many details of other plots to kill innocent Americans." K.S.M. was certainly knowledgeable. It would be surprising if he gave up nothing of value. But according to a former senior C.I.A. official, who read all the interrogation reports on K.S.M., "90 percent of it was total fucking bullshit." A former Pentagon analyst adds: "K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were." [emphasis added]

Speaking of torture, Fox's right-wing series 24 returns to the air tonight. Perhaps there's a chance of Bush making a guest appearance or two?


update (10:51pm):
Speaking--yet again--of torture, today is the seventh anniversary of Bush's extralegal imprisonments at Guantanamo. I urge everyone to visit the ACLU's "Close Gitmo" website and sign the open letter to president-elect Obama:

I was deeply moved by your recent affirmation that you will close the Guantánamo detention facilities and shut down the military commissions, which have been a stain on America here, at home and abroad.

Nothing would make me prouder than to see you act on your first day in office to restore America's moral leadership in the world.

With one stroke of your pen, you can close Guantánamo Bay prison, shut down military commissions, and ban torture.

The Bush administration created a prison camp at Guantánamo - a place where they claimed the law didn't apply. They detained hundreds of men without charge or trial, authorized torture, and prosecuted some prisoners in military commissions that violate our Constitution and international law.

We can't let the system of injustice George W. Bush put in place stand - not for a single day.

I want you to know that I will support your leadership on this vitally important issue in every possible way. And I will stand by you every step of the way to resist those calling for you to "go slow" or "wait for the right time" to act in defense of American freedom.

January 10, 2009

W stands for wreckage

Part of Matt Taibbi's parting shot at the Bush administration has been posted over at Rolling Stone, the cover story "Bush Apologizes: The Farewell Interview We Wish He'd Give."

20090108-bushapologizes.jpg

I would have bought RS just for Taibbi's piece even if it hadn't been followed by Paul Krugman's article giving advice to the incoming Obama administration. Here's a taste of the whiny, self-pitying Dubya that Taibbi delivers:

I was here when my dad was president. Those old guys like Dick managed to do all the work back then without fucking absolutely everything up. I figured Dick would do the paperwork, and I would kiss the occasional baby and throw out the first ball at Camden Yards once a year. Instead, I'm, like, up to my eyes in bodies here. Dick was this quiet accountant type in my dad's administration, but for me he's been a cross between Ted Bundy and Rommel. Thanks to him, I can't even take a walk on the Liberty University quad without people throwing shit at me. (p. 41)

Salon's "W. and the Damage Done" mentions some of the wreckage that Dubya and his cronies are leaving behind: the economy, infrastructure, Iraq, human rights, Hurricane Katrina, health care, and climate--but let's go back to Taibbi's closing:

I do have one more thing to say.

What's that?

I'm sorry?

You're sorry? For what?

[Sighs.] I, uh...you know, I remember back in 1989, I was thinking about buying a couple of Sizzler franchises in Lubbock.

You should have done it.

And I told my dad what I was thinking, and you know what he said?

No. What?

He said, "Good idea, son. It's hard to fuck up steak."

We get it. Your father was a dick. So what? Buy a puppy or something. That's what everyone else does.

Yeah. [A single tear rolls down his cheek.] I guess I fucked up, huh?

Big-time. Can we have the world back now?

Sure, I guess. I really am sorry.

Gotta run. Later.

[Whimpering.] I'm sorry. I'm sorry. (p. 43)

Bush could spend the rest of his life apologizing, and it still wouldn't be enough.

Only 10 days and 2 hours left.

January 6, 2009

Bush's legacy

American Prospect examines Bush's legacy at the federal level, and effectively concludes that there's not enough lipstick to cover his plutocratic piggishness. It's all here--fake statistics, junk science, cronyism, privatization, commingling church and state, corporatism--the whole sad legacy of Bushism.

At The Guardian, Cliff Schecter writes about "George Bush's Legacy of Failure" and points out its silver lining:

There is really only one arguable legacy of Bush's White House tenure that is a step forward for the US and all mankind. It's called President Obama.

January 4, 2009

Iraqi illegality?

Bruce Ackerman co-wrote this piece at AlterNet, pointing out that Iraq War II has been illegal since the beginning of the year:

The Bush administration's infatuation with presidential power has finally pushed the country over a constitutional precipice. As of New Year's Day, ongoing combat in Iraq is illegal under US law. In authorizing an invasion in 2002, Congress did not give President Bush a blank check. It explicitly limited the use of force to two purposes: to "defend the national security of the US from the threat posed by Iraq" and "enforce all relevant UN Security Council resolutions."

Five years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the government of Iraq no longer poses a threat. Our continuing intervention has been based on the second clause of Congress' grant of war-making power. Coalition troops have been acting under a series of Security Council resolutions authorizing the continuing occupation of Iraq. But this year, Bush allowed the UN mandate to expire on December 31 without requesting a renewal. At precisely one second after midnight, Congress' authorization of the war expired along with this mandate.

Although the immediate withdrawal of our troops may seem to be the clean-slate option for an incoming administration alleged by some to be radical, Ackerman suggests that "President Obama should submit the Bush-Maliki agreement to Congress on January 20 and urge its speedy approval:"

This request is likely to win broad bipartisan support. Rapid congressional ratification will not only fill the legal vacuum threatening the constitutional integrity of our military operations in Iraq. Together with the closing of Guantanamo, it will show that Obama is serious about reining in the worst presidentialist abuses of the Bush years.

January 2, 2009

more on Bush's book-reading contest

Matt Mayer writes about the Rove-Bush reading contest at ClownHall, and I feel compelled to try my hand at some snarky fisking.

I voted for President Bush twice.

Why would you admit to such poor judgment in public? Is it one of your twelve steps?

Like most conservatives, I wouldn't vote for an idiot.

I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt on this, but you admitted to doing so just one sentence ago.

I put my family's future where my vote was and moved from Colorado to Washington, D.C. in March 2004 to work for President Bush as a political appointee in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Oh...I think we have a better explanation now.

I am an unrepentant bookphile. I collect books. Read them insatiably. Consider the really good ones friends. I think one of the most important things one can do is read good books. History is packed with lots of lessons we too often forget, so reading serves to remind us of those lessons.

Now I'm baffled. Unless all you've been reading are Regnery screeds and the scribblings of Faux News pundits, how has all that insatiable reading not disabused you of conservatism?

I am stunned that President Bush has the time to read so many books.

I find Rove's claim stunning as well--although Dubya supporters' eagerness to swallow Rove's assertions surprises me even more.

Ronald Reagan was not a night owl and his presidency is rated among the greatest; whereas, Bill Clinton was known to engage in endless policy debates into the wee hours of the night and his presidency is rated as mediocre.

Call your editor; it appears that someone pranked you by switching "among the greatest" and "mediocre."

It would have been nice had he learned a few lessons from history about massive federal spending programs...

...or massive federal borrowing programs. Like your idol Reagan, Bush was a master at budget-busing deficits that produced little more than bigger yachts for billionaires and body bags for the families of our servicemembers.

...they rarely work and come loaded with unintended consequences that tend to do more harm than good.

See above.

As Roman philosopher Seneca said, "It is quality, rather than quantity that matters."

That's why 'm so glad that American voters have had enough of mendacious mediocrities live Mayer's former boss.

January 1, 2009

Gene Stone: The 12-Step Bush Recovery Program

amazon.com

Stone, Gene. The 12-Step Bush Recovery Program: A Lifesaving Guide to Shaking Off the Horrors of the Last Eight Years, with Practical Advice on Relapse, Remission, and Recounts (New York: Villard, 2008)

Gene Stone, author of The Bush Survival Bible and Duck! The Dick Cheney Survival Bible, has returned with an end-of-the-era book on recovering from the Bush administration. Modeled after AA's twelve-step program--but without any reliance on a "higher power"--Bush Recovery is a series of brief essays by various authors. The three best, in my opinion, are Matthew Yglesias' "The Media" (pp. 37-9), James Gleick's "Science" (pp. 104-6), and Mel White's "Gays and Lesbians" (pp. 113-5).

It's a slim book, but could be a good place to start for those whose New Year's resolutions involve recovering from Bushism. (Bush supporters call our lack of gullibility about his administration "Bush Derangement Syndrome," but we know better.) Although we may not have to watch the mainstream corporate media with quite as much vigilance in the future as we did during the Bush administration, we must prevent his White House tenure from being whitewashed.

An excerpt from the book is available here from the publisher.

December 31, 2008

retire Bush

I mentioned it a month ago, and today is the last day to enter The Nation's Retire Bush" contest. What will Bush do after leaving office? Send your suggestions here.

(Will Bush and Cheney spend their golden years making license plates? I can dream, can't I?)

December 30, 2008

Bush the book lover?

I commented on Bush's book-reading contest with Karl Rove two years ago when it first came to light (here and here), and it's now back in the news again. Rove's WSJ piece "Bush Is a Book Lover" provides the total number of books read by Rove and Bush in each of the past three years, as well as some examples.

Jacobo Timerman's Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number was rather a curious choice for Bush. Was Dubya perhaps looking for tips to enhance his own techniques of arresting people without charge, keeping them in solitary confinement for years in clandestine prisons, and subjecting them to beatings and torture?

In his overconfidence, Rove lets slip this gem: "Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them, and is intellectually engaged by them." I was tempted to snark that "Bush loves books like OJ loved Nicole," but then I remembered this well-known example of Rove's claim:

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Richard Cohen's WaPo rejoinder observes that "the books themselves reveal -- actually, confirm -- something about Bush that maybe Rove did not intend:

They are not the reading of a widely read man, but instead the books of a man who seeks -- and sees -- vindication in every page. Bush has always been the captive of fixed ideas. His books just support that.

After listing a few examples--and making several suggestions--Cohen concludes:

My hat is off to Bush for the sheer volume and, often, high quality of his reading. But his books reflect a man who is seeking to learn what he already knows. The caricature of Bush as unread died today -- or was it yesterday? But the reality of the intellectually insulated man endures.

December 26, 2008

manufacturing Bush's legacy

GOP lobbyist and White House counsel Ed Gillespie strives to burnish Bush's legacy, but he fails miserably. He claims to provide "Myths & Facts about the Real Bush Record," he gets his myths and facts reversed:

Myth 1: The last eight years were awful for most Americans economically and President Bush's deregulatory policies caused the current financial crisis.
Myth 2: President Bush's tax cuts only benefitted the wealthy and were paid for by sacrificing investments in health care and education.
Myth 3: The President's "go it alone" foreign policy ruined America's standing in the world.
Myth 4: The war in Iraq caused us to "take our eye off the ball" in Afghanistan and with al Qaeda.
Myth 5: This Administration has been bad for the environment and ignored the problem of global warming.

Gillespie tries to debunk the facts about Bush's horrific record with the sort of myths that go over well in Kennebunkport and Crawford but fall flat everywhere else, including much of the blogosphere. In response to this claim by Gillespie,

And one last fact: Our homeland has not suffered another terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. That, too, is part of the real Bush record.

Matthew Yglesias responds forcefully:

The vast majority of Americans to have ever been killed by foreign terrorists were killed under George W. Bush's watch. [...] If you only look at Bush's final seven years, you'll see that he was as good as every other president at preventing terrorist attacks. And if you include his entire presidency, you'll see that he was by far the worst.

At Washington Monthly, Steve Benen takes issue with the same claim from a slightly different angle:

First, this is plainly false. In the fall of 2001, someone (presumably scientist Bruce Ivins) launched an anthrax attack on the country using the U.S. postal system. Five people were killed, 17 were injured, and millions had the bejesus scared out of them. Why so many like to pretend this didn't happen is a mystery to me.

Second, Gillespie focuses on "our homeland," but it's worth noting that U.S. troops have been subjected to terrorist attacks overseas, as have our allies.

And third, this notion that evaluating Bush's legacy on counter-terrorism should start on Sept. 12, 2001, is just odd. Gillespie and others seem to be arguing, "Just so long as one overlooks the terrorism that killed 3,000 people in 2001, Bush's record on domestic security is excellent."

Stephen Kaus writes a more comprehensive takedown at HuffPo:

When I think of myths about the Bush administration, I think of things like the assertions that the President actually reads serious books or that he has the intellectual ability to weigh policy choices on their merits. However, this is not what Gillespie means. Instead he attempts to rebut five selectively phrased negative "myths" that Bush was bad for the economy and that Bush's foreign policy has failed.

Kaus concludes that "we cannot get rid of these people quickly enough," and that's certainly not a myth:

Seventy-five percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Friday said they're glad Bush is going; 23 percent indicated they'll miss him. (CNN)

Bush's remaining 24 days and 12 hours aren't moving quickly enough to prevent him from doing as much damage as possible on his way out.

Here's to the impending restoration of honor and integrity to the White House.

December 25, 2008

caganer in the creche

It's no secret where I stand on the liberal-to-conservative political spectrum. As a liberal, I've spent far too much of my adult life digging out from under the avalanche of media misinformation. I'm tired of being told things that are patently untrue from media outlets that--while spreading conservative propaganda--are derided by conservatives as being liberal. The failures of Bushism--9/11, the budget, the deficit, Iraq, recessions, the housing bubble, the collapsing economy--are all around us, and these problems can't be realistically blamed on Jimmy Carter, or Bill Clinton, or the spineless Democrats in Congress, or some other bogeyman.

Ron Chusid writes about "The Republican Party and Ideas" at Liberal Values, placing much of the blame on the religious right. As much as I appreciate his analysis, I believe that the GOP's situation is more dire than that. The problem isn't just that conservative ideas haven't worked, but because--as Paul Rosenberg at OpenLeft reminds us--that "Conservative Ideas CAN'T Work:"

(1) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are faith-based, rather than reason and evidence/experience-based. (2) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are accepted-and liberal/progressive ideas are rejected-based on authoritarian obedience. (3) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are based on an objectively false model of the world, reflected in a false moral model for human action. (4) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are based on a limited level of causal connectedness, which is functionally inadequate to understand the world.

Recognizing the origin and extent of the failure facing us will help us to move forward; pretending that the blame is evenly distributed will retard our efforts. (I know that this isn't the typical post that most other bloggers tend to write on December 25th, but I'm not quite like most other bloggers...I'm more like the caganer in the creche.)

December 24, 2008

the housing crisis revisited

The New York Times article "White House Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire" has drawn a great deal of attention for fingering conservative economic philosophy as the culprit:

Mr. Bush did foresee the danger posed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage finance giants. The president spent years pushing a recalcitrant Congress to toughen regulation of the companies, but was unwilling to compromise when his former Treasury secretary wanted to cut a deal. And the regulator Mr. Bush chose to oversee them -- an old prep school buddy -- pronounced the companies sound even as they headed toward insolvency. [...] "No one wanted to stop that bubble," Mr. Lindsay said. "It would have conflicted with the president's own policies."

As far as Bush's "Ownership Society" was concerned, plutocracy trumped free-market fundamentalism:

Mr. Bush had to, in his words, "use the mighty muscle of the federal government" to meet his goal. He proposed affordable housing tax incentives. He insisted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac meet ambitious new goals for low-income lending. [...] The president also leaned on mortgage brokers and lenders to devise their own innovations. "Corporate America," he said, "has a responsibility to work to make America a compassionate place." And corporate America, eyeing a lucrative market, delivered in ways Mr. Bush might not have expected, with a proliferation of too-good-to-be-true teaser rates and interest-only loans that were sold to investors in a loosely regulated environment. [...] But Mr. Bush populated the financial system's alphabet soup of oversight agencies with people who, like him, wanted fewer rules, not more.

Do Fannie and Freddie get off the hook? Not quite:

A soft-spoken Texan, Mr. Falcon ran the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, a tiny government agency that oversaw Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two pillars of the American housing industry. In February 2003, he was finishing a blockbuster report that warned the pillars could crumble. [...] But the back story is more complicated. To begin with, on the day Mr. Falcon issued his report, the White House tried to fire him. At the time, Fannie and Freddie were allies in the president's quest to drive up homeownership rates; Franklin D. Raines, then Fannie's chief executive, has fond memories of visiting Mr. Bush in the Oval Office and flying aboard Air Force One to a housing event. "They loved us," he said.

Days later, as Mr. Falcon was in New York preparing to deliver a speech about his findings, his cellphone rang. It was the White House personnel office, he said, telling him he was about to be unemployed. His warnings were buried in the next day's news coverage, trumped by the White House announcement that Mr. Bush would replace Mr. Falcon, a Democrat appointed by Bill Clinton, with Mark C. Brickell, a leader in the derivatives industry that Mr. Falcon's report had flagged.

What happened after 2003, as the seeds of the foreclosure were sown? One of Bush's loyalists was put in charge:

Over the previous two years, the White House had effectively set the agency adrift. Mr. Falcon left in 2005 and was replaced by a temporary director, who was in turn replaced by James B. Lockhart, a friend of Mr. Bush from their days at Andover, and a former deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration who had once run a software company.

On Mr. Lockhart's watch, both Freddie and Fannie had plunged into the riskiest part of the market, gobbling up more than $400 billion in subprime and other alternative mortgages.

The White House's responses (here and here) allegedly "set the record straight" about the housing crisis, but are both non-responsive and laughable. (Of course, a claim of honesty from this administration invariably means that they're lying.) My favorite passages claim that the NYT article "amounted to finding selected quotes to support a story the reporters fully intended to write from the onset, while disregarding anything that didn't fit their point of view" (which sounds like Bush's method of gathering WMD intelligence) and asserting that the housing bubble was "a problem that almost no one saw as it was happening" (which reminds me of Bush's "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levies to" lie).

In "Capitalist Fools" at Vanity Fair, economist Joseph Stiglitz explains the five key mistakes that led to and/or exacerbated the mess, going back two decades:

1. Reagan's replacement of Fed chair Paul Volcker with freemarketeer Alan Greenspan
2. deregulation (Clinton's 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall and Bush's 2004 SEC rule increasing investment banks' debt-to-capital ratio)
3. Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, especially the capital gains cut
4. Sarbanes-Oxley's incentives to artificially inflate stock prices (Bush)
5. Bush's bailout package

Stiglitz observes:

You'll hear some on the right point to certain actions by the government itself--such as the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to make mortgage money available in low-income neighborhoods. (Defaults on C.R.A. lending were actually much lower than on other lending.) There has been much finger-pointing at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two huge mortgage lenders, which were originally government-owned. But in fact they came late to the subprime game, and their problem was similar to that of the private sector: their C.E.O.'s had the same perverse incentive to indulge in gambling.

The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal.

That, of course, is a notion that even Alan Greenspan no longer holds, although the blind faith of the Bushies may prevent them from ever realizing the truth.

December 23, 2008

airing grievances

I was going to air some grievances in the spirit of Festivus, but Ron Chusid at Liberal Values got there first with this excellent post. It's recycled stuff from earlier in the Bush era, but it still packs a punch:

You even considered bombing al-Jazeera. Listen, if you really wanted to get rid of a bunch of religious fanatics and political extremists who were using biased news reports to prop up a corrupt government and reduce freedom you should have gone after Fox News. If Pravda had been as effective in deceiving the public as Fox News and the rest of the right wing noise machine is, the Soviet Union would probably still exist.

This "Age of Bush" post by driftglass is an even more impassioned piece, although it is not explicitly filled with the Festivus spirit. This paragraph, directed at pundit Andrew Sullivan, is particularly brutal:

I have said it before; George W. Bush was not Conservatism's aberration, but its apotheosis. His reign of faith-based disasters, failure, treason and lies all grew from the soil Sullivan and other like him aerated, plowed and fertilized year after year after year. Came shambling straight from the slaughterhouse floor of political reality on which men like Atwater and Rove, Falwell and Robertson, Weyrich and DeLay, Reagan and Limbaugh, Gingrich and Nixon and a thousand others practiced the bloody business of wielding power, while delicate souls like Sullivan - who never had the guts to face the fact that their Wingnut Welfare Chateaubriand came from the butcher's block - invented fantasies about the Libertarian Meat Fairy, who delivered his fat slice of the good life bloodlessly, on Spode china, with clean linens and a fine red wine.

And now for the feats of strength...

December 22, 2008

omerta

Someone needs to look into this plane crash and determine if it should be added to the "Bush Body Count:"

45-year-old Republican operative Michael Connell was killed when his single-passenger plane crashed Friday into a home in a suburb of Akron, Ohio. The consultant was called to testify in federal court regarding a lawsuit alleging that he took part in tampering with Ohio's voting results in the 2004 election.

Without getting into specific details, 19 Action News reporter Blake Renault reported Sunday evening that 45-year-old Republican operative and experienced pilot had been warned not to fly his plane in the days before the crash.

"Connell...was apparently told by a close friend not to fly his plane because his plane might be sabotaged," Renault said. "And twice in the last two months Connell, who is an experienced pilot, cancelled two flights because of suspicious problems with his plane."

At Harper's, Scott Horton notes two other bits of intriguing information:

After Connell was reportedly threatened by Karl Rove, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the litigation appealed to Attorney General Mukasey for protection late last summer. [...] Larisa Alexandrovna also links Connell to another important technology controversy: the "disappearance" of millions of emails connected with Karl Rove from the White House servers. The emails had been repeatedly subpoenaed and the White House had claimed they were "lost," a response which few are buying.

the "Bush boom" in manufacturing

This one is for everyone who claims that Dear Leader Bush is an economic incompetent who has never done anything good for the manufacturing sector of the economy:

Shoe Hurled at Bush Flies Off Turkish Maker's Shelves By Mark Bentley

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- The shoe hurled at President George W. Bush has sent sales soaring at the Turkish maker as orders pour in from Iraq, the U.S. and Iran.

The brown, thick-soled "Model 271" may soon be renamed "The Bush Shoe" or "Bye-Bye Bush," Ramazan Baydan, who owns the Istanbul-based producer Baydan Ayakkabicilik San. & Tic., said in a telephone interview today.

"We've been selling these shoes for years but, thanks to Bush, orders are flying in like crazy," he said. "We've even hired an agency to look at television advertising." [...] Baydan has received orders for 300,000 pairs of the shoes since the attack, more than four times the number his company sold each year since the model was introduced in 1999. The company plans to employ 100 more staff to meet demand, he said.

If you leave out the fact that Bush's positive effect has been limited to a single manufacturer--who is overseas, no less--it almost sounds like good news, doesn't it? (Hannity and Limbaugh, start spinning...I'm sure there's some way to turn a leather loafer brogue into a silk purse!)

(h/t: Jim Downey at UTI)


update (12:42pm):
Updated to reflect CNN's report that the shoe in question is a brogue, not a loafer.

December 20, 2008

Bush library

Kudos to Ed Brayton for posting this email about Bush's presidential library:

The "W" Presidential Library will include:
The Hurricane Katrina Room, which is still under construction and will remain so for at least a decade.
The Alberto Gonzales Room, where you won't be able to remember anything.
The Texas Air National Guard Room, where you won't even have to show up.
The Walter Reed Hospital Room, where they won't let you in.
The Guantanamo Bay Room, where they won't let you out.
The Weapons of Mass Destruction Room, which no one has been able to find.
The National Debt room which is huge and has no ceiling.
The 'Tax Cut' Room with entry only to the wealthy.
The 'Economy Room' which is in the toilet.
The Iraq War Room. After you complete your first tour, they'll make you go back for a second, third, fourth, and sometimes a fifth time.
The Dick Cheney Room, in a famous undisclosed location, complete with shotgun gallery.
The Environmental Conservation Room, still empty.
The Supreme Court's Gift Shop, where you will be able to buy an election.
The Airport Men's Room, where you'll be able meet some of your favorite Republican Senators.
The 'Decider Room' complete with dart board, Magic 8-ball, Ouija board, dice, coins, and straws.
The museum will also have an electron microscope to help you locate the President's accomplishments.

I heard rumors about a program of "admission relief" that pays people to visit the library. (Bush will borrow the ticket price from his wealthy supporters, and then send the bills--plus interest--to our kids and grandkids.)

December 18, 2008

an American hero

Newsweek published a huge scoop on Sunday (h/t: Jon Perr at Crooks and Liars) by interviewing NSA whistleblower Thomas Tamm, who was a primary source for Bush's illegal spying scandal from three years ago:

In the spring of 2004, Tamm had just finished a yearlong stint at a Justice Department unit handling wiretaps of suspected terrorists and spies--a unit so sensitive that employees are required to put their hands through a biometric scanner to check their fingerprints upon entering. While there, Tamm stumbled upon the existence of a highly classified National Security Agency program that seemed to be eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. The unit had special rules that appeared to be hiding the NSA activities from a panel of federal judges who are required to approve such surveillance. When Tamm started asking questions, his supervisors told him to drop the subject. He says one volunteered that "the program" (as it was commonly called within the office) was "probably illegal."

After the Risen/Lichtblau story appeared in December 2005, Tamm was in hot water:

The FBI has pursued him relentlessly for the past two and a half years. Agents have raided his house, hauled away personal possessions and grilled his wife, a teenage daughter and a grown son. More recently, they've been questioning Tamm's friends and associates about nearly every aspect of his life. Tamm has resisted pressure to plead to a felony for divulging classified information. But he is living under a pall, never sure if or when federal agents might arrest him.

Jim Naureckas at FAIR reminds us that the NYT sat on this scoop for well over a year, choosing not to let us know about Bush's illegal spying until the 2004 election was safely over. He also excoriates Times executive editor Bill Keller for "believ[ing] it is the Times' 'place' to accept officials' own evaluation of the legality of their behavior." He also notes the following month's release of James Risen's State of War, and caustically adds:

"So if one of the New York Times' reporters had not happened to be working on a book, the administration might well still be conducting its warrantless wiretaps in undisturbed secrecy."

Patrick Keefe implores us to follow up on this scandal, noting the paradoxical argument put forth by the Busheviks:

Bush administration lawyers have claimed from the outset that the surveillance program was entirely legal, yet they remain desperate to prevent any court from testing that claim. Instead, they are in the odd position of advocating immunity for something that they insist is not a crime.

Kim Zetter's summary at Wired News echoes a point from the Newsweek article:

...the case presents a dilemma for Obama and his new attorney general, Eric Holder, since both condemned the warrantless wiretapping program when it came to light and now will have to decide whether Tamm is a hero or a traitor.

One final note: there is a legal defense fund set up for Mr Tamm (h/t: bmaz at FDL):

Tom Tamm has done the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment, the rule of law and all of us a favor by exposing the rank lawlessness of the elected leaders of this country. If you see fit, send him a few bucks to lighten the load he has taken on.

I don't know about you, but if the wingnuts can pony up hundreds of thousands for the traitor Scooter Libby, I am sure as heck going to ante up a little to thank Tom Tamm for doing the right thing.

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wrote in the wake of the scandal three years ago that "rather than the leaking being a 'shameful act,' it was the work of a patriot inside the government who was trying to stop a presidential power grab."

I could scarcely agree more.

December 15, 2008

impeachment

Over at Atheist Revolution, vjack's post "The Greatest Crime in American History" reminds us of the urgency in not letting the outgoing Bush administration whitewash their legacy:

Collectively, the acts of George W. Bush during the last 8 years constitute the greatest crime in American history. [...]

Many of us called repeatedly for impeachment because we recognize the consequences of leaving Bush's crimes unpunished. With the administration coming to an end, the focus must now shift away from impeachment and to making sure that top administration officials will be tried for war crimes. We must make sure that an accurate records of this administration's deeds remain. No revisionist history can be allowed.

I've supported impeachment for several years, but I agree that its time has passed. Something like South Africa's "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" would not be out of place, however...using whatever evidence the outgoing Bushies haven't already deleted, shredded, classified out of availability, "lost," or otherwise hidden from history.

We need to get past Bushism, but in doing so we can't give in to either the Democrats who want to forgive the administration's crimes or the Republicans who want to toss them down the memory hole. We are doomed to repeat the nightmare of this authoritarian administration if we fail to remember its lessons, and we can't remember them if we don't first learn them. Gottlieb reaches the same conclusion in "Naked Emperors and Shoeless Heroes" at My Left Wing:

We cannot afford to repeat the past of George W. Bush. Therefore we mustn't ignore it.

We don't want vengeance. We don't want political vendetta. We don't want frog-marches, show trials or public executions.

We want the truth shown the light of day. A little sunshine.

Is that asking too much?

December 14, 2008

where is Richard Reid when you need him?

An Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at Bush during a press conference in Baghdad today while shouting:

"This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

20081214-shoe.jpg
(The New York Times also has a video clip.)

Given all the last-minute damage Bush is doing on his way out of office, he deserves much more flying footwear. It's too bad that American journalists don't have the guts to wing their wing-tips at him.


update (12/17 @ 11:01am):
ThinkProgress has a similar report, entitled "Bush's Backward Sprint to the Finish."

December 6, 2008

ornament follow-up

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has some supplementary information about Deborah Lawrence's ill-fated White House ornament.

December 2, 2008

want!

I want this ornament for my tree:

20081202-ornament.jpg

What's special about it? According to the Washington Post, Seattle artist Deborah Lawrence (this one?) was invited to create the ornament for the White House tree, and chose to deliver a message with her design:

The nine-inch ball is covered with swirly red and white stripes -- and, in tiny glued-on text, salutes the Democratic congressman's [Jim McDermott's] support for a resolution to impeach President Bush.

(According to the Seattle Times, Bush spokesperson Sally McDonough "originally said there were no plans to pull Lawrence's artwork. But McDonough said Tuesday that the ornament is inappropriate."

November 27, 2008

The Nation's "retire Bush" contest

The Nation is running a "Retire Bush" contest, soliciting their readers' answers to the following question:

WHAT WILL W. DO AFTER LEAVING OFFICE?
Send us your answer, disingenuous or otherwise, in 25 words (more or less). The winner will be chosen by a panel of fair-minded judges (Victor Navasky, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Richard Lingeman). First Prize is an original drawing, based on your entry, by famed New Yorker artist Edward Sorel.

Send your suggestions to retirebush@thenation.com before the 31 December deadline.

November 25, 2008

caption this photo

Economist, author, and vociferous critic of the current administration Paul Krugman stands next to Bush during a White House photo-op for Nobel laureates, two more of whom are standing to the right:

20081125-captionthisphoto.jpg

It looks as if Krugman just realized that the contrast in intellectual capacity between him and his neighbor cannot be quantified except by the math used to calculate Bush's deficits.

Obama's elitist language

Andy Borowitz takes issue with Obama's "controversial use of complete sentences:"

Mr. Obama's decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.

According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it "alienating" to have a president who speaks English as if it were his first language. "Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement," says Mr. Logsdon. "If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist."

[...]

The president-elect's stubborn insistence on using complete sentences has already attracted a rebuke from one of his harshest critics, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

"Talking with complete sentences there and also too talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can't really do there, I think needing to do that isn't tapping into what Americans are needing also," she said.

November 23, 2008

this will really confuse Sarah Palin

Here's a reminder that as badly as Bush's domestic policies have "screwed the pooch," his foreign policy blunders have been even worse:

20081123-bushdoctrine.jpg

November 6, 2008

batshit crazy

The reliably right-wing WSJ complained about criticism of Bush, decrying "the classless disrespect many Americans have shown the president" and the "relentless attacks" he has so steadfastly endured:

The treatment President Bush has received from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have. The president is not to blame for all these problems. He never lost faith in America or her people, and has tried his hardest to continue leading our nation during a very difficult time.

Our failure to stand by the one person who continued to stand by us has not gone unnoticed by our enemies. It has shown to the world how disloyal we can be when our president needed loyalty -- a shameful display of arrogance and weakness that will haunt this nation long after Mr. Bush has left the White House.

Paul Krugman sarcastically examines their alternate universe, writing that:

Yes, George W. Bush's status as the most disliked man ever to occupy the White House shows that America was not worthy of him. And attacks on Bush gave aid and comfort to his enemies -- unlike the firehose of abuse that will be directed against President Obama, which will of course be an expression of true patriotism.

In addition to the inevitable Illinois Project, I'm awaiting the first sighting of a bumper-sticker reading

WAYNE LAPIERRE
IS MY PRESIDENT

which will be the sign of true GOPatriots, because nothing's more All-American than Faux-News-watching, KKK-Kool-Aid-drinking, dittohead wingnuts when they're obsessing over their guns.

Speaking of an alternate universe, James (Focus on the Phallus) Dobson's "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America" is one of the most batshit-crazy rants I've seen in a long time, although he describes it as:

"a picture of the changes that are likely or at least very possible if Senator Obama is elected and the far-Left segments of the Democratic Party gain control of the White House, the Congress, and perhaps then the Supreme Court."

What does Dobson envision? Here's a sampling:

  • Elementary schools now include compulsory training in varieties of gender identity in Grade 1
  • there are hardly any evangelical teachers in public schools any more.
  • The Bible can no longer be freely preached over radio or television stations
  • churches have no freedom to refuse...wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples
  • It is illegal for private citizens to own guns for self-defense
  • people older than 80 have essentially no access to hospitals or surgical procedures
  • Dozens of Bush officials, from the Cabinet level on down, are in jail, and most of them are also bankrupt from legal costs.

I have to admit that the last one doesn't sound too bad, but the rest of it strains creduility when it's not out-and-out fantasy. I haven't read such paranoid delusions since Tim (Left Behind) LaHaye's Mind Siege.

Over at HuffPo, Jim Wallis has a much more conciliatory response to Dobson's screed, although he still offers some pointed criticisms:

It is shocking how thoroughly biblical teachings against slander--misrepresentations that damage another's reputation--are ignored (Ephesians 4:29-31, Colossians 3:8, Titus 3:2).

[...]

This epistle of fear is perhaps the dying gasp of a discredited heterodoxy of conservative religion and conservative politics.

We can only hope.

October 19, 2008

the apotheosis of conservatism

Driftglass provides my Quote of the Day (h/t: Larry Hamelin at Barefoot Bum) about conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan:

Because he is still very much a True Believer, Sully is not capable of looking Conservatism square in eye and seeing that Dubya and McSame are not its aberrations, but its apotheosis. He has shaken off some of the lesser, uglier doctrinal teachings of his faith, but still clings fiercely to the abstract, rapturous purity of its core dogma and will probably never be able to wrap his head around the fact that Ayn Rand's little wingnut terrarium is not a heroic creed, but a moral spider hole for misanthropes, rich degenerates and rich degenerate-wannabes.

October 18, 2008

Gitmo expansion?

The Guardian reports on new estimates of Cuba's oil reserves:

...there may be more than 20bn barrels of recoverable oil in offshore fields in Cuba's share of the Gulf of Mexico, more than twice the previous estimate.

If confirmed, it puts Cuba's reserves on par with those of the US and into the world's top 20. Drilling is expected to start next year by Cuba's state oil company Cubapetroleo, or Cupet.

H/t: Atrios at Eschaton, who makes this pertinent (and impertinent) remark:

We'd better invade them before they attack Israel.


[typo fixed]

October 2, 2008

change Texans can believe in

Andrew Sullivan posted this photo, from Austin TX:

20081002-learning.jpg

Welcome to the reality-based community!

September 25, 2008

why I support Barack Obama

I received several questions about my support for Obama:

There is one fact that is irrefutable
Obama is a first term US Senator
He has served almost 3 years and out of that three years he has been campaigning about 18months
Therefore, he has been actually "Senatoring" for 18months
Prior to that he never ran anything

As a law professor he never published any papers - unheard of in academia

So what is it about him that makes you think he is a good candidate for President of the Unites States?

I ran my own multi million dollar business for [x] years
I made payroll for [x] years
I employed hundreds of people who supported their family with the jobs I gave them
I'm [x+y] years old and have experience in "life matters" that come with age
Am I not more qualified to run this country than Obama?

What makes him so special to you?
Is it because he's a great orator?
Or is it because he's the Democratic nominee?
I think it's the latter

I think the Democrats would support Mickey Mouse if he was the parties' nominee

There are several misconceptions here, which I will address in order. First, not being published isn't "unheard of" for part-time faculty (remember that he was a lawyer, and later a state Senator, during that time period). Obama did manage to write (not ghost-write) a pair of books after turning down a tenure-track offer and leaving academia for politics.

Also, your claim that Obama "never ran anything" is false. He directed the Developing Communities Project, was president of the Harvard Law Review, directed Project Vote, and served on the board of directors of at least eight other organizations. Although unknown nationally four years ago, Obama created a campaign that beat the heavily favored Hillary Clinton political machine. (So much for his never running anything.)

Why do I think Obama is a good candidate? Most important to me are Obama's positions on the issues; while not perfect, they are uniformly better than McCain's. I read Obama's "Blueprint for Change" (600KB PDF) six months ago, and have no qualms about supporting his brand of progressivism against the regressive Republican ticket. Here are a few examples:

• Obama has promised to end the Iraq war, close Gitmo, restore habeas corpus, and "finish the fight against Al Qaeda."

• Obama's proposed tax cuts would benefit most Americans, as contrasted with McCain's continuation of Bush's top-heavy trickle-down failure. Obama also supports universal healthcare coverage and opposes Social Security privatization.

• On LGBT issues, there's no comparison. Obama recognizes that equality is a "moral imperative," supports ENDA, and opposes both DADT and DOMA. Until last year, McCain didn't understand the acronym LGBT.

• His experience as a professor of constitutional law gives Obama an advantage in understanding the document that he will swear to "preserve, protect, and defend." Also, his legal background will aid him in making sensible judicial appointments, repudiating Bush's torture regime, ending warrantless wiretapping, and returning the rule of law to Washington.

Age and "life matters" experience do not equal wisdom, and youthful inexperience does not equal lack of leadership potential. (Here's another irrefutable fact: like Obama, Abraham Lincoln had only a single term in Congress to his credit before becoming president.)

Business experience doesn't necessarily translate into good governance, because the nation isn't a for-profit enterprise; its goals are fundamentally different from siphoning off the value of workers' efforts to reward investors and give jobs to executives. Besides, the results of our current CEO presidency are so poor that McCain is trying desperately to run away from Bush's record rather than trumpeting his all-too-close association with it. (And no, you're not "more qualified to run this country" than Obama is. You were joking, right?)

Besides, what valuable experience does McCain have that would make him a good president? Getting shot down 40 years ago, divorcing his crippled wife to marry an heiress, getting involved in the Keating Five scandal, surrounding himself with lobbyists, and supporting the deregulation that led to the current financial fiasco? McCain may have plenty of experience, but it's all of the wrong kind; Josh Marshall at TPM handles this canard well:

"Let's face it. On major economy-imperiling financial scandals brought about by lax regulation and help from lobbyist-encrusted politicians, McCain really is the candidate of experience."

Don't assume that Obama is "so special" to me merely because I debunk GOP lies about him. If the media hadn't been so complicit in Bush's machismo mirage, all the misinformation they spread about Gore and Kerry during the 2000 and 2004 campaigns wouldn't have had the disastrous effect of putting Bush in the White House; I'm just doing my (small) part to help prevent another catastrophe.

I wouldn't call Obama a "great" orator, but he's at least a competent one. The fact that he can read a speech from a TelePrompTer doesn't make him a good candidate, although it does elevate him slightly over the illiterate president to which we've become accustomed. I'm looking forward to the debates--assuming McCain doesn't chicken out--as a chance to compare his oratory head-to-head against McCain's.

You may believe that I'm supporting Obama because he's the Democratic nominee, but you're wrong; I do not support Democratic candidates blindly, and I am not a Democrat. (Blind faith isn't exactly a primary quality of the Left, by the way...you might want to check the other side of the aisle for some prime examples of that particular lemming-like habit.)

I think the Republicans would support an out-of-touch double-talking faux-populist plutocrat if he were the party's nominee. (Oops...I guess that's not really a hypothetical situation, given how many times it's happened lately.)

September 22, 2008

the $1.8 trillion bailout

The infamous Wall Street bailouts now total $1.8 trillion, making them a deeper money pit than Bush's Iraq debacle. Check out this nice graph of US bailouts (h/t: Lindsay Beyerstein at Majikthise) from 1970 to the present:

20080922-bailouts.jpg

The enormous magenta circle represents the 1989 S&L bailout, and the four to its right are all Bush-era bailouts:

• Airline Industry, 2001 ($18.6 billion)
• Bear Stearns, 2008 ($30 billion)
• Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac, 2008 ($200 billion)
• AIG, 2008 ($85 billion)

There appears to be additional turbulence ahead, so please keep your seatbelts fastened and your trays in their fully upright position.

August 25, 2008

slouching toward Crawford

rolling stone

Sean Wilentz explains in the current issue of Rolling Stone "How Bush Destroyed the Republican Party" (an excerpt is posted on the RS website), and his analysis is a solid follow-up to his earlier RS piece where he suggested Bush was "The Worst President in History." Supplemented by the excellent illustration of Bush's approval ratings ("A Brief History of Bush's Flameout," pp. 48-9), Wilentz provides a good overview of how the Bushevik lawlessness is, indeed, destroying the GOP:

"The Republican Party, having presided over the longest conservative political ascendancy in U.S. history, now finds itself out of touch with American people, held hostage by radicals who have forsaken basic values like respect for the Constitution and the rule of law. The ideological factions and interest groups that now make up the party--the foreign-policy neoconservatives, the religious right and the pro-business, anti-tax radicals--are increasingly angry and inflexible in their demands." (p. 53)

With only 147 more days in office, Bush's trail of destruction will come to an end as his toxic legacy slouches toward Crawford to be buried. May his miserable failure stand as a cautionary warning to right-wing radicals for decades to come.

August 20, 2008

McCain wasn't tortured in Vietnam

Andrew Sullivan writes that the Bushevik logic (supported by McCain) leads to this conclusion: JOHN MCCAIN WAS NOT TORTURED IN VIETNAM.

The torture that was deployed against McCain [...] involved sleep deprivation, the withholding of medical treatment, stress positions, long-time standing, and beating. Sound familiar? According to the Bush administration's definition of torture, McCain was therefore not tortured. [...]

No war crimes were committed against McCain. And the techniques used are, according to the president, tools to extract accurate information. And so the false confessions that McCain was forced to make were, according to the logic of the Bush administration, as accurate as the "intelligence" we have procured from "interrogating" terror suspects. Feel safer? [...]

Now the kicker: in the Military Commissions Act, McCain acquiesced to the use of these techniques against terror suspects by the CIA. And so the tortured became the enabler of torture. Someone somewhere cried out in pain for the same reasons McCain once did. And McCain let it continue.

I wish McCain would quit whining about his POW experience already; if we can do those things to Gitmo detainees, why don't the Vietcong get the same pass?

July 29, 2008

quotes of the day

The current issue of Dissent has more than the usual share of high-quality articles. Lew Daly's "What Would Jefferson Do?" (pp. 59-66) nicely explains the folly of conservatives' claim that the limited government favored by Jefferson and the other Founders would be a laissez-faire plutocratic paradise like that promulgated by the Cato Institute and their cronies. While proving his case, Daly noted the following:

Indeed, as a proponent of public works and social investment, Jefferson openly celebrated the collective benefits of taxing the rich. In an 1811 letter to Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, he wrote," Our revenues once liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, &c., and the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rice alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings." Today such a view is called "class warfare." Jefferson called it democracy. (p. 65)

Another gem is this passage from Kevin (Liberalism for a New Century) Mattson, from his multiple-book review "Has Conservatism Cracked Up?" (pp. 108-111):

"What makes conservatism so unpalatable today is its [sic, the] inability of its adherents to accept responsibility for the results of their own ideas and the consequences of their political theories. The conservative mind dreads having the historical tables turned on it. Since 1968, conservatives have blamed liberals for a failed track record--arguing, for example, that the Great Society didn't tackle the problem of poverty and sometimes exacerbated it. Now with the track record of George W. Bush plain to see, conservative intellectuals fear liberals can return the favor." (p. 111)

July 25, 2008

high crimes

This interactive Venn diagram from Slate shows the power of information design to illuminate the Bush scandals:

20080725-highcrimes.jpg

Very well done...bravo!

July 14, 2008

not worth it

A while ago, Tony Blankley asked "Was Iraq Worth It?" over at ClownHall; his answer was as disingenuous as one would expect. Here are a few the holes that Swiss-cheese his column into incoherence and irrelevance:

Blankley admitted "it is doubtlessly true that our invasion of Iraq (and Afghanistan) helped al-Qaida's recruitment," after claiming "it is reasonable to assume that we have killed [...] between 800 and 1,900 non-Iraqi terrorists who otherwise would have been plying their trade elsewhere." Juxtaposing those statements makes it clear that these current terrorists wouldn't be "plying their trade" anywhere if we hadn't invaded Iraq, for the obvious reason that they wouldn't have been recruited into terrorism.

Blankley's claim that "Fighting and winning always impress. Even merely fighting and persisting impress" is true only where justice has been observed; unprovoked aggression, for example, not only fails to impress but is justifiably criticized. Coupled with his segue into a conversation with a former Soviet general, Blankley's point is muddled even further. The general's reaction to our invasion of Vietnam (58,000 dead) is described as "They thus calculated that they'd better be careful with the United States. What might we do, they thought, if our interests really were threatened?" Are we to extrapolate from this example and be impressed by the Soviet Union's ten-year persistence (15,000 dead) in Afghanistan? They didn't prevail--as we didn't in Vietnam--but is their persistence categorically impressive to Blankley? By his own statement, it should be.

If Bush were impressed enough by the Soviets in Afghanistan--after being sure to avoid his own service in Vietnam--he might give up on hunting terrorists in Afghanistan and instead help create more of them during a lengthy and disastrous occupation of an unrelated country. [Oops...perhaps that shouldn't be phrased as a hypothetical example.]

Blankley was nonsensical yet again when concluding about disagreements over Bush's Iraq policy that "This is a debate worth having before November" only two paragraphs after writing that "The full effects of the vigorous martial response of President Bush [...] will not be known for decades." The inherent contradiction here is as obvious as Blankley's subtext: we need another "vigorously martial" president (McBush, perhaps?) to avoid a repeat of the calamitous peace and prosperity that one hopes will distinguish the incoming administration from the current one.

If he were liberal, a hack like Blankley would not be a prominent columnist.

July 10, 2008

damn it!

aclu

Well, it's official. The Senate caved in yesterday afternoon and passed the FISA amendment bill with the telecom immunity fully intact, and Bush signed it earlier today. (I discussed the issue of retroactive immunity for their warrantless wiretapping several times, most recently here.)

I was glad last October when Obama's spokesperson Bill Burton declared:

"To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."

Obama himself wrote in January:

"I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill. No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people -- not the president of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program [... T]hat is why I am proud to stand with Sen. Dodd and a grassroots movement of Americans who are standing up for our civil liberties and the rule of law."

I got a bad feeling when Obama caved in last week, assuming that his figurehead status within the party would signal to the other Democratic senators that voting for the "compromise" immunity bill would be an acceptable decision.

They followed his lead and voted for it, and that's not acceptable. As Glenn Greenwald observed:

Those who support this bill, by definition, support both warrantless eavesdropping on Americans and the right of the President and private corporations to break our laws with impunity.

[...]

The political class has made as clear as can be that it is intent on supporting a limitless erosion of core constitutional liberties and the creation of a two-tiered justice system that exempts the political elite from the rule of law. Neither the "opposition party" nor the establishment media are the slightest bit interested in, or capable of, stopping any of that. Battling against that is the responsibility of citizens who find these political trends dangerous and intolerable.

Congress has let the American people down, and they didn't have to. Bush only threatened to veto any FISA bill without immunity because immunity is (to him, his cronies, and their co-conspirators) the bill's most important provision. Why each Democratic senator couldn't locate a pair of [gender-neutral] gonads to filibuster this travesty of justice is beyond me.

Why any of them deserves re-election is also beyond me, although few people outside the blogosphere seem bothered by this scandal's disappointingly quiet denouement. Here's
Greenwald again:

"Anticlimactic" is a mild description for a scandal that began with disclosure that the President of the United States and the telecom industry were committing felonies for years in how they spied on American citizens, only to end with a Congress controlled by the "opposition party" legalizing the surveillance, protecting the lawbreakers, terminating the only meaningful process for discovering what really happened, and embracing the premise that the President has the power to order private actors to break the law as long as, in his sole discretion, he decrees that doing so is legal.

As always, the ACLU is on top of the FISA scandal; they will challenge the law in order to protect the Fourth Amendment against the Bush administration, and the EFF will do likewise. Both organizations deserve our support for their tireless work in defense of freedom.

aclu

July 8, 2008

Bush's "monkish ignorance and superstition"

This is a classic example of the Right's historical revisionism: Bush quoted Jefferson last week, but left out Jefferson's rather poignant criticism. Ed Brayton quotes from Bush's speech and offers an analysis:

On the 50th anniversary of America's independence, Thomas Jefferson passed away. But before leaving this world, he explained that the principles of the Declaration of Independence were universal. In one of the final letters of his life, he wrote, "May it be to the world, what I believe it will be -- to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all -- the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government."

Now let's look at the full quote, including the part that was cut out. This is from a letter he wrote to Roger Weightman reflecting on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (which, it turns out, was the day both he and John Adams died):

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.

Jefferson made many such statements, of course. Clearly they are best edited out by those who advocate nothing if not monkish ignorance and superstition.

[typo fixed]

July 1, 2008

AT&T whistleblower: "the infrastructure for a police state"

Mark Klein, who exposed AT&T's illegal cooperation with Bush's warrantless domestic spying, calls the impending telecom immunity bill (HR 6304, also known as "The FISA Amendments Act of 2008") "a Congressional coup against the Constitution:"

The surveillance system now approved by Congress provides the physical apparatus for the government to collect and store a huge database on virtually the entire population, available for data mining whenever the government wants to target its political opponents at any given moment--all in the hands of an unrestrained executive power. It is the infrastructure for a police state.

Section 802 of the bill, "Procedures for Implementing Statutory Defenses," is the odious portion that would grant retroactive immunity. Short of reading the entire 114-page bill, Patrick Keefe's "Five Myths about the New Wiretapping Law" piece at Slate is a great debunking of the pro-administration spin about the bill:

...the bill effectively pardons the telecom giants that assisted the Bush administration in the warrantless wiretapping program. They will now be shielded from dozens of civil lawsuits brought against them after their involvement was exposed. [...] For the suits against them to be "promptly dismissed," they must demonstrate to the judge not that what they did was legal but only that the White House told them to do it.

If you don't agree that the telecoms should receive retroactive immunity for their warrantless wiretaps, then tell your Senators to oppose HR 6304 in the spirit of the regularly-celebrated-but-infrequently-read Declaration of Independence. Their contact information is here, and the EFF suggests some language to use:

I'm a constituent and I urge you to oppose telecom immunity.

Vote "no" on the FISA Amendments Act, which contains blanket immunity for telecoms that cooperated in warrantless government spying. It is very important to me that Americans have their day in court against lawbreaking telecoms.

Supporters of telecom immunity will tell you the bill is a compromise but it's not. The changes have been purely cosmetic, and your constituents can see right through it. False compromises that grant the telephone companies immunity for participating in warrantless wiretapping are unacceptable.

Do it today! This vote means more to the future of freedom in America than all the festivities and fireworks which will occupy our weekend. Do we care about the substance of freedom, or only about its trappings?


Note: While researching this issue, I found the excellent OpenCongress website, which includes both the status and the text of the bill. (It's also a one-stop shop for all your Congressional information: the status of pending legislation, vote breakdowns by party, Congresscritters' voting history, campaign donations by industry, etc. I highly recommend it as a resource for keeping an eye on Congress, as it's far more user-friendly than any of the official government websites.)

June 29, 2008

write in Bush 2008

What's a diehard Bushevik dead-ender to do, with the clock ticking toward noon on 20 January 2009 and the prospect of a not-so-White House as Dear Leader Dubya retires to his "ranch" in Waco? Well, such a person could choose to lament the choice of John McCain as the GOP nominee...or, better yet, write in George W. Bush for president on 4 November (h/t: Jillian at Sadly, No!):


stay the course 2008


The Q&A page answers the obvious question first:

What about "term limits?"

The important thing to understand about so-called "term limits" is that they are man's law, not God's Law. The God who parted the Red Sea is surely not worried about so-called "term limits". When you vote your faith you let Almighty God take care of the details.

Presidential term limits are not in the Bible. And they were not in our Constitution until added by an activist congress in 1951.

I wish them the best of luck in their endeavor! </snicker>

May 29, 2008

more on Obama's great uncle and the Auschwitz/Buchenwald story

Steve Benen decries "molehill politics" at Crooks and Liars, and dissects the Right's argument that Buchenwald was "merely a save labor camp" (and therefore not really a concentration camp) at Carpetbagger Report.

D. Aristophanes at Sadly, No! has a great retort from a representative of the 89th Infantry Division to a wingnut blogger looking for more smear material:

Please crawl back under the rock you came out from.

Good day

Raymond Kitchell, veteran 89th Inf Div

May 27, 2008

glass houses

Obama is being soundly mocked for claiming on Monday that his great uncle helped to liberate Auschwitz; here's how the RNC attacked him:

Barack Obama's dubious claim is inconsistent with world history and demands an explanation. It was Soviet troops that liberated Auschwitz, so unless his uncle was serving in the Red Army, there's no way Obama's statement yesterday can be true. Obama's frequent exaggerations and outright distortions raise questions about his judgment and his readiness to lead as commander in chief.

(Actually, Obama's great uncle was in the 89th Infantry Division that freed the Buchenwald camps, not Auschwitz...oops!)

I find it comical that conservatives are upset over a gaffe this insignificant. Their buddy W has made dozens (if not hundreds: see Bushisms, The Truth about George, and DubyaSpeak for examples) of far worse verbal errors, and their idol Ronnie Reagan repeatedly claimed (to none other than Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir) to have liberated Auschwitz. (Reagan was, of course, lying; he never left the US during World War II.)

Big lies (from Republicans) are fine; slips of the tongue from Democrats are inexcusable.

May 14, 2008

4500 propaganda events

MediaMatters has analyzed the Pentagon propaganda scandal; they found that:

...since January 1, 2002, the analysts named in the Times article -- many identified as having ties to the defense industry -- collectively appeared or were quoted as experts more than 4,500 times on ABC, ABC News Now, CBS, CBS Radio Network, NBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, and NPR.

Atrios has the best comment:

Still the question remains: if the media doesn't tell you that they were a conduit for government propaganda, did it really even happen?

Down the memory hole.

May 12, 2008

Pentagon propaganda: all the news that's fit to bury

David Barstow's three-week-old piece in the NYT about the Pentagon propagandizing the news media by sending 75 analysts to spout the party line should have generated a firestorm of indignation. Instead, the media have buried this expose of the Pentagon's pro-Bush propaganda so completely that--for those whose media diet consists on only MSM sources--it may as well not even exist. Here's a primer on the scandal:

What happened?

...a Pentagon information apparatus that has used [military] analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

What did the Pentagon do besides issue talking points to the analysts?

As it happened, the analysts' news media appearances were being closely monitored. The Pentagon paid a private contractor, Omnitec Solutions, hundreds of thousands of dollars to scour databases for any trace of the analysts, be it a segment on "The O'Reilly Factor" or an interview with The Daily Inter Lake in Montana, circulation 20,000.

Omnitec evaluated their appearances using the same tools as corporate branding experts. One report, assessing the impact of several trips to Iraq in 2005, offered example after example of analysts echoing Pentagon themes on all the networks.

What about the 8,000 pages of information released by the Pentagon?

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as "message force multipliers" or "surrogates" who could be counted on to deliver administration "themes and messages" to millions of Americans "in the form of their own opinions."

This story has largely been ignored by the mainstream "liberal" media, except for PBS (h/t: Ari Melber at HuffPo), largely because of their complicity in disseminating the Bush administration's propaganda. Howard Kurtz's segment on CNN's "Reliable Sources" is another exception to the media's radio-silence rule (h/t: John Amato at Crooks & Liars).

How extensive has the news blackout been?

More than two weeks after the New York Times reported on the Penatgon's military analyst program to sell controversial policies such as the invasion of Iraq, the broadcast television news outlets implicated in the program are hoping to tough out the scandal by refusing to report it. Recently Media Matters of America (MMA) reported that, according to a search of the Nexis database, "the three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have still not mentioned the report at all."

The Pew Excellence in Journalism project has a chart showing that " there was virtually no mainstream media follow up to The Times' expose" with the only national TV coverage being the introduction segment and live debate featuring CMD's John Stauber on the PBS NewsHour.

(John Stauber at AlterNet)

In the midst of a personal take on the scandal at HuffPo, Jeff Cohen points out that the cover-up is worse than the crime:

The biggest villain here is not Rumsfeld or the Pentagon. It's the TV networks. In the land of the First Amendment, it was their choice to shut down debate and journalism.

No government agency forced MSNBC to repeatedly feature the hawkish generals unopposed. Or fire Phil Donahue. Or smear weapons expert Scott Ritter. Or blacklist former attorney general Ramsey Clark. It was top NBC/MSNBC execs, not the Feds, who imposed a quota system on the Donahue staff requiring two pro-war guests if we booked one anti-war advocate -- affirmative action for hawks.

Taking an even broader view, the unsigned editorial "Our Lapdog Media" at The Nation notes that "the tendency of the corporate press is to serve as stenographer for the powerful rather than the muscular check and balance intended by the country's founders:"

Rapid consolidation has brought us dumbed-down media, with broadcast and cable networks that rarely challenge the status quo, even as they maintain their monopolistic stranglehold on the airwaves. What do the people get in return? A diet of "news" and commentary with retired generals telling us quagmire wars are going well, former CEOs telling us a sputtering economy is "basically sound" and former political aides telling us presidential campaigns are about lapel pins and made-up scandals.

Glenn Greenwald has written a series of excellent pieces on the scandal, the first of which observes that:

...what is most extraordinary about all of this is that huge numbers of Americas who were subjected to this propaganda by their own Government still don't know that they were, because the television networks which broadcast it to them refuse to tell them about it, opting instead to suppress the story and stonewall any efforts to find out what happened. As corrupt as the Pentagon was here, our nation's major media outlets were at least just as bad. Their collective Pravda-like suppression now of the entire story -- behavior so blatantly corrupt that even the likes of Howie Kurtz and The Politico are strongly condemning them -- has become the most significant and revealing aspect of the entire scandal.

Greenwald was even tougher on the media in this subsequent post:

Clearly, the principal reason the story has received virtually no coverage on the television networks is because the story reflects so poorly on them. [...] The public has long been inculcated with the notion that we have a "liberal media" that opposes and undermines whatever Republicans do, etc. etc. Yet here is mountains of evidence as conclusive as can be as to how the Government/media cartel actually functions -- media outlets and their corporate parents rely on the Government for all sorts of favors and access and, in return, do nothing to displease them.

Quote of the Day: Barstow wrote that Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, claimed it was "a bit incredible" that retired military personnel would be "wound up" and turned loose as "puppets of the Defense Department."

Really? Then how do you explain the big silver keys sticking out of their backs?


links:

Mark Fiore's "General Happy Swellspin" at Truthdig is a sarcastic animated look at the issue

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) requested the GAO's "legal views" on the scandal (h/t: Crooks & Liars)

Eric Alterman and George Zornick at Center for American Progress

Diane Farsetta at AlterNet

John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton at AlterNet

John Stauber wonders "Will the Media Pay Attention?" at AlterNet

Also at HuffPo, Arianna Huffington asks "Why Won't the Media Pursue the Pentagon Propaganda Scandal?"

May 2, 2008

McCain dodges the c*** question

I mentioned a few weeks ago that McCain was overheard (by three reporters) dropping the c-bomb on his wife; he's finally been asked about it, but not by the media...they're still having a love affair with their alleged "maverick." Here is a transcript of a Wednesday town hall Q&A, along with the video.

Q. Is it true that you called your wife a (expletive)?

McCain: Now, now. You don't want to... Um, you know that's the great thing about town hall meetings, sir, but we really don't, there's people here who don't respect that kind of language. So I'll move on to the next questioner in the back.

McCain is concerned about "that kind of language" when it might affect his public image, but he had no problems with it when he was insulting his wife. I guess that's how he earned the nickname "McNasty." In an echo of Bush, when he was questioned in 1999 about his cocaine use, McCain did not deny the charge.

Iowa Politics notes that McCain's questioner, a Baptist minister, "was escorted from Sen. John McCain's town hall meeting by Des Moines police and members of the Secret Service...[h]e was not charged in the incident."

Free speech is not free, especially for citizens who dare to ask the questions that the media so studiously avoid.

May 1, 2008

Methodists reject Bush Library

Thanks in part to the Protect SMU Petition, the United Methodist Church has resolved to "prevent leasing, selling, or otherwise participating in or supporting the presidential library for George W. Bush at Southern Methodist University:"

We should support separation of church and state and if the Bush library goes on the SMU campus or property it will appear to the country and the world as an endorsement of that president by the United Methodist Church.

Maybe Bush's good buddy Prince Abdullah can scare up a replacement site in Saudi Arabia...you know, just as a little favor from one theocratic-minded authoritarian oilman to another.


(White House photo by David Bohrer)

"I don't like all the big words in them books, anyhow...so I'm thinkin' about a theme park instead of a library. Mr. Toad's Extraordinary Rendition Ride can go over here, with the Country Brush-Clearing Jamboree over there. Down this way, we can put the Pecos Bush Café and the Iraqland Shootin' Arcade..."

I can't take it any more...

The complete lack of comprehension--and introspection--in the Bush White House apparently knows no bounds. Dubya proclaimed today to be "Law Day" (h/t: David Kurtz at TalkingPointsMemo), and he declared that:

The theme of this year's Law Day, "The Rule of Law: Foundation for Communities of Opportunity and Equity," recognizes the fundamental role that the rule of law plays in preserving liberty in our Nation and in all free societies. We pay tribute to the men and women in America's legal community. Through hard work and dedication to the rule of law, members of the judiciary and the legal profession help secure the rights of individuals, bring justice to our communities, and reinforce the proud traditions that make America a beacon of light for the world.

Bush goes on to note that:

Nearly 800 years ago, the Magna Carta placed the authority of government under the rule of law; centuries later, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution marked tremendous advances in the march of liberty. These documents established enduring principles that guide modern democracies.

The irony, it burns...

April 22, 2008

worst. disapproval rating. ever.

This should come as a surprise to no one, but Bush's disapproval ratings are now the worst ever recorded in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll:

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing; 69% disapprove. The approval rating matches the low point of his presidency, and the disapproval sets a new high... [...] The previous record of 67% was reached by Harry Truman in January 1952, when the United States was enmeshed in the Korean War.

Only 272 days and 23 hours left...

April 18, 2008

I always knew Bush was an asshole...

...and Jonathan Yeo has the picture to prove it (h/t: PZ Myers at Pharyngula):

Jonathan Yeo's collage

April 16, 2008

"I'll give you any job you want!"

No one should be surprised at the revelation that disgraced former AG Alberto Gonzales is having trouble finding a job:

Mr. Gonzales, the former attorney general, who was forced to resign last year, has been unable to interest law firms in adding his name to their roster, Washington lawyers and his associates said in recent interviews.

He has, through friends, put out inquiries, they said, and has not found any takers. [...] He has had no full-time job since his resignation, and his principal income has come from giving a handful of talks at colleges and before private business groups.

Why would any respectable law firm want to hire a proven liar who is prone to memory lapses? Their interviewers probably preemptively discard his resume out of concern that Gonzales might waterboard his way into a job offer even if there are no openings.

April 15, 2008

Pope Ratz snubs Bush

Bush is holding a White House dinner in honor of the Pope tomorrow night, but Pope Palpatine Ratzinger won't be there. Perhaps Ratz is holding a secret meeting with Darth Cheney? (Psst: Make sure he's unarmed!)

Pope Palpatine

Seriously, though: How despicable is Bush that even the (former) Nazi Pope won't join him for dinner? (Yes, I know that Ratzinger was "only briefly a member of the Hitler Youth and not an enthusiastic one," but still...)

For bonus points, read Michelangelo Signorile's 1988 encounter with then-Cardinal Ratzinger. (It's hard to believe that his classic Queer in America, from which this anecdote was taken, is now fifteen years old.)

April 5, 2008

John Yoo's tortured logic

John Yoo's infamous "torture memo" was declassified earlier this week (81 pages, 6MB PDF), and the blogosphere is still awash in commentary. (I apologize for taking so long to write this , but I wanted to read the full memo before commenting.) Marty Lederman at Balkinization hit early with this preliminary analysis directly linking Yoo's opinion to torture:

It's no longer very hard to figure out just why, all of a sudden, as soon as Miller arrived in Iraq, everyone there just suddenly and magically came to think the Geneva Conventions, UCMJ, federal assault and torture statutes, etc., simply no longer applied -- that Iraq was a law-free zone and that the gloves had come off. [...] This memo is the source of the Nile for the abuse that occurred in Iraq in 2003.

Kevin Drum echoes that thought at Washington Monthly, rhetorically wondering: "what justification was there for classifying it in the first place?"

It wouldn't have been moot in 2003, and there was nothing in it that compromised national security either then or now. The only thing it compromised was the president's desire not to have to defend his own policies -- policies that led directly to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, among others.

Yoo's footnote number 10 on page 8, referring to a still-classified memo from Yoo to Gonzalez, claimed a Fourth Amendment exception for domestic military actions:

For at least 16 months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Bush administration believed that the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil didn't apply to its efforts to protect against terrorism. [...] ''Our office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations,'' the footnote states, referring to a document titled ''Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States.''

The administration later disavowed that view, but the ACLU is suing for the release of the cited AUMF memo. The end of this administration's hyper-secretive lawlessness can't come soon enough. There are mentions of the infamous "unitary executive" theory, and the claim that "a criminal statute should not be construed to apply to the properly authorized acts of the military during armed conflict:"

...if those laws were construed to apply to the properly-authorized conduct of military personnel, the most essential tasks to the conduct of war would become subject to prosecution. A soldier who shot an enemy combatant n the battlefield could become liable under the criminal laws for assault or murder; a pilot who bombed a military target in a city could be prosecuted for murder or destruction of property; a sailor who detained a suspected terrorist on the high seas might be subject to prosecution for kidnapping. (p. 14)

In the five years since this memo was written, those overblown conservative fears are no closer to becoming reality. What has become real, however, is the end result of their disregard for the "quaint" Geneva Conventions and other laws of warfare and their overriding concern for "properly-authorized conduct:" ghost detainees; sexual abuse, torture, and murder in custody; extraordinary rendition; extralegal prisons; and military kangaroo courts. Despite this, the administration's discredited arguments continue to be taken seriously among their allies in the mainstream media. Glenn Greenwald makes an important point in his commentary on this memo:

The fact that John Yoo is a Professor of Law at Berkeley and is treated as a respectable, serious expert by our media institutions, reflects the complete destruction over the last eight years of whatever moral authority the United States possessed. Comporting with long-held stereotypes of two-bit tyrannies, we're now a country that literally exempts our highest political officials from the rule of law, and have decided that there should be no consequences when they commit serious felonies.

Yoo equivocates somewhat in this exclusive interview with Esquire's John Richardson, but fails to wash the bloodstains from his hands. In this Vanity Fair article by Philippe Sands--whose book Torture Team comes out in May--relates a conversation he had with Douglas "fucking stupidest guy on the face of the Earth" Feith:

I asked Feith, just to be clear: Didn't the administration's approach mean that Geneva's constraints on interrogation couldn't be invoked by anyone at Guantánamo? "Oh yes, sure," he shot back. Was that the intended result?, I asked. "Absolutely," he replied. I asked again: Under the Geneva Conventions, no one at Guantánamo was entitled to any protection? "That's the point," Feith reiterated. As he saw it, either you were a detainee to whom Geneva didn't apply or you were a detainee to whom Geneva applied but whose rights you couldn't invoke.

The fruit of Yoo's tortured logic is in the minds and bodies destroyed (and lives ended) by our mistreatment and abuse of detainees, as well as the damage done to the rule of law and the international reputation of the United States. I fear that removing Bush's blot on our national escutcheon will be the work of not years, but of decades.

Ironic Quote of the Day:

"The Bush understanding simply took an amorphous concept--excruciating and agonizing mental pain--and gave it a more concrete form." (John Yoo, p. 52)

Only 289 days and 13 hours left...

April 4, 2008

W: still the worst

Yes, it's time for some more well-deserved Bush-bashing, courtesy of History News Network. Here is what they found:

In an informal survey of 109 professional historians conducted over a three-week period through the History News Network, 98.2 percent assessed the presidency of Mr. Bush to be a failure while 1.8 percent classified it as a success.

Asked to rank the presidency of George W. Bush in comparison to those of the other 41 American presidents, more than 61 percent of the historians concluded that the current presidency is the worst in the nation's history. [emphasis added]

Only 291 days and 2 hours left...

March 22, 2008

White House email evidence destroyed

The millions of White House emails that were presumed missing last April have apparently been destroyed, along with the hard drives which contained them:

Older White House computer hard drives have been destroyed, the White House disclosed to a federal court Friday in a controversy over millions of possibly missing e-mails from 2003 to 2005.

[...]

Under pressure to provide details about its computer system, the White House told the congressional committee that it never completed work that began in 2003 on a planned records management and e-mail archiving system. The White House canceled the project in late 2006 and says it is still working on a new version.

Why isn't anyone behind bars for this?

March 19, 2008

Iraq War II: five years

Today is the fifth anniversary of Bush's invasion of Iraq, which should prompt some reflection upon where we are and how we got here. Accordingly, here are some of my (many, far too many...) posts on the mess in Mesopotamia:

2004
PIPA Study: "Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War"
"we caught the wrong guy"
"Bush Lied?" Yes, he did.
Gulf War II: one year later
"Fahrenheit 9/11" is a flawed film that MUST be seen

2005
Bush's speech on Iraq

2006
how many reasons did Bush give for invading Iraq?
timeline of the Iraq War (from Mother Jones)
Iraq Study Group Report

2007
fiscal conservatism in Iraq (billions of dollars missing)
CIA: "Bush didn't give a fuck about the intelligence"

2008
Bush's big lies (Center for Public Integrity's "War Card" report)
Pentagon: "no direct connection between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda"

I hope that the coming of a new administration in 2009 will bring this quagmire to a quick conclusion, because neither we nor the people of Iraq can afford carnage of this magnitude for much longer. As many as a million people are dead as a result of this war, which will cost well over a trillion dollars; both numbers reflect the true legacy of the Busheviks' bellicose neoconservstism.

I submitted this post to the March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm, and recommend that site to my readers:

Five years of an illegal and catastrophic war is five years too many. On the March 19 anniversary of the conquest of Iraq by the Bush Administration, there needs to be a loud volume of voices countering the pro-war propaganda from far too many politicians and corporate media outlets.

ARTICLES:
Patrick Cockburn "How to Destroy a Country in Five Years" (AlterNet)
Robert Pollin & Heidi Garrett-Peltier "The Wages of Peace" (The Nation)

LINKS:
Five Years Too Many: Bring the Troops Home
Iraq Body Count (civilian deaths in Iraq since the invasion)
Iraq Coalition Casualty Count
Cost of War (National Priorities Project)
Timeline of the Iraq War (Think Progress)
United for Peace & Justice

March 16, 2008

Pentagon: "no direct connection between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda"

In a modern parallel to the Pentagon Papers, ABC has released a redacted version (12MB PDF) of the Pentagon's "Iraqi Perspectives Report." The report was discussed by ABC several days ago, and discussed at TPM here and here, among many other places. After reviewing more than 600,000 documents and "several thousand hours of audio and video footage," (p. v, Foreword) the Pentagon's IDA (Institute for Defense Analysis) concluded:

"This study found no 'smoking gun' (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda." (p. ES-1, Executive Summary)

In light of this unsurprising revelation, I am issuing a retroactive Lie of the Day award to George W. Bush:

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda." (Washington Post, 18 June 2004)

March 11, 2008

no more torture

Everyone should read Washington Monthly's huge article on torture, "No More: No Torture. No Exceptions," which is available in both HTML and PDF. It contains dozens of short essays from across the political spectrum (Bob Barr and Dick Lugar to Jimmy Carter and Nancy Pelosi) about the moral necessity of abolishing torture. Many of the contributors mentioned Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, whose case clearly demonstrates torture's ineffectiveness in obtaining useful intelligence, despite conservatives' fantasizing that "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles" via torture.

"The new president should formally declare in 2009 that the United States will not abuse or coerce detainees, maintain secret prisons where 'ghost' prisoners are secreted, or perform 'extraordinary renditions' of supposed terrorists to countries where they will likely be tortured. Only then can the United States more plausibly claim that she is the leader of the free world." (Peter Bergen)

"Let me be clear on one crucial point: it is the terrorists whom we won over with humane methods in the 1990s who continue to provide the most reliable intelligence we have in the fight against al-Qaeda. And it is the testimony of terrorists we tortured after 9/11 who have provided the most unreliable information, such as stories about a close connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. I never regret that the FBI didn't abuse its detainees. Had we done so, we would have had much less reliable intelligence, and we would have been morally debased. By instituting a policy of torture in the years following 9/11, we have recruited thousands to al-Qaeda's side. It has been a tragic waste."
(Jack Cloonan)

Chris Dodd referred to "Normandy, Nuremberg, [and] the Marshall Plan" as "the heights of America's moral authority in the last century." Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo--the legacy for which this administration will be most remembered--together represent the depths of American descent into Bush's moral depravity.

Thankfully, there are only 314 days left until the end of this pestilential presidency.

March 8, 2008

your phone calls, Verizon's network, the FBI's ears

Remember Mark Klein's revelation of the NSA's secret Room 641A in AT&T's San Francisco offices? Kevin Poulsen broke the news at Wired earlier this week about Verizon having a similar situation with "a mysterious 'Quantico Circuit' -- a 45 megabit/second DS-3 line linking its most sensitive network to an unnamed third party" that "expos[es] customers' voice calls, data packets and physical movements to uncontrolled surveillance" from the FBI. According to a (suspended) lawsuit filed in 2006:

Because the data center was a clearing house for all Verizon Wireless calls, the transmission line provided the Quantico recipient direct access to all content and all information concerning the origin and termination of telephone calls placed on the Verizon Wireless network as well as the actual content of calls.

The transmission line was unprotected by any firewall and would have enabled the recipient on the Quantico end to have unfettered access to Verizon Wireless customer records, data and information. Any customer databases, records and information could be downloaded from this center.

This is why it's so important to not grant telecoms retroactive immunity for their complicity with the Bush administration's warrantless wiretaps. We must find out the full extent of their actions in order to hold them accountable, but few seem interested in unearthing the facts. Scott Horton touches on this problem in his Harper's piece "Another Milestone on the Road to Serfdom," and provides my Quote of the Day:

We live in the age of the Great Betrayal, in an age in which too few are willing to state the obvious. There is still time to check the progress of tyrannical power, but the hour grows late, and the sounds of alarm no longer seem to register with a somnolent populace.

March 4, 2008

attention: White House press corps

Kurt Opsahl lists "Top Ten Questions for Journalists to Ask the White House" at EFF. It's a great list, and the answers (or, more likely, lies and evasions) would be truly revealing. Unfortunately, our press corps is too cowed by the incessant "national security" dodge that they don't have the stones (or the ovaries) to ask any of Opsahl's questions.

We need a real press corps.

We also need some Congressional oversight.

February 29, 2008

FDR is the greatest modern president, Bush is the worst

A new Zogby poll has some interesting results on the greatness of modern presidents:

Franklin D. Roosevelt has retained his top ranking among the greatest presidents of the modern era, a new nationwide Zogby International telephone poll shows. Roosevelt has dominated Zogby's Presidential Greatness survey since 1997 - only losing out to John F. Kennedy in 2006 and 2002.

[...]

Bush has also surpassed Richard Nixon as the modern president with the highest negative rating - 52% of those surveyed place the current president at the bottom end of the scale as either "below average" or a "failure", compared to 50% who said the same about Nixon. Bush also beats out Nixon on the failure scale - one in three Americans (33%) say Bush is a failure as a president, up from 30% who said the same last year. [emphases added]

February 27, 2008

John Dean: Broken Government

order from amazon.com

Dean, John. Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches (New York: Viking, 2007)

Broken Government is the final volume in what Dean refers to as an "unplanned trilogy" (p. xi) about GOP misrule of the federal government. (I reviewed the preceding volumes Worse Than Watergate and Conservatives without Conscience here and here, respectively.)

Dean focuses primarily on the process of governance, utilizing some of the same critical material used in my worst. president. ever. posts (ranging from Alan Wolfe's "Why Conservatives Can't Govern" from Washington Monthly to Sean Wilentz's Rolling Stone article "The Worst President in History?"). These two passages serve to summarize Dean's position:

If this book is hard on Republicans, it is because they have demonstrated during the past several decades a remarkable incapacity to govern at the national level and should accordingly be held responsible for the damage they have done to democracy. In fact, as currently constituted, I do not believe the Republican Party can be trusted with control of the national government, not because of its policies (many of which I confess to favoring) but rather because of its philosophical disposition toward the process of government, which they so easily abuse in their pursuit and exercise of power. Their thinking has proven ruinous. (pp. xvi-xvii, Preface)

Congress under Republican rule has proven to be incapable of deliberation, timely annual appropriations, and necessary oversight of a Republican president, all fundamental constitutional responsibilities of the legislative branch. Modern Republican presidents, in turn, believe that they must dominate the entire federal establishment, and in so doing override the fundamental safeguard of our system's checks and balances. Corrupting the independence and impartiality of the federal judiciary has been a priority of Republican presidents, who have devoted four decades to selecting primarily judges and justices with a radical conservative political philosophy. (p. 175)

The government is, of course, only broken from the perspective of a citizenry that expects adherence to the Constitutional preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

From the plutocratic perspective, which demands that its dollar contributions be rewarded and multiplied by legislative and judicial action (and inaction), the government is working exactly as planned. In this article from Harper's, based on her book Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein states that:

Under George W. Bush, the state still has all the trappings of a government--the impressive buildings, presidential press briefings, policy battles--but it no more does the actual work of governing than the employees at Nike's Beaverton, Oregon, campus stitch running shoes.

Klein's "actual work of governing," like Dean's, is based on our Constitution; Bush's "actual work" is little more than redistributing tax revenue upwards to his donors. Bushism is another example of socializing the costs and privatizing the profits, and the results are as ugly as they have ever been.

Dean has written another sobering account of GOP misrule: one hopes that conservatives cannot do enough additional damage in the next ten months to justify Dean making his trilogy into a quadrilogy.

February 17, 2008

9/11 Commission Report data tainted by torture

Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! points out that "about a quarter of the Commission's footnotes rely in some way on the interrogation reports" of Guantanamo detainees. Since there was "enhanced interrogation" or other forms of torture applied, the testimony may thus be the "fruits of the poisonous tree" according to NBC investigative reporter Robert Windrem. Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission, tries to remove the taint of torture from the commission's Report by claiming that "No one knows...that the information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in these particular interrogation reports came from torture," but then admits that:

The obligation is, tell the public what you know, tell them how you know it, citing all your sources. If there are some things you don't know about the sources, tell them that, too. We did.

Zelikow's excuse relies on this passage from page 146 (the boxed text near the beginning of Chapter 5) of the Report:

Detainee Interrogation Reports

Chapters 5 and 7 rely heavily on information obtained from captured al Qaeda members. A number of these "detainees" have firsthand knowledge of the 9/11 plot.

Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses-sworn enemies of the United States-is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications received from the locations where the actual interrogations take place. We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting. We were told that our requests might disrupt the sensitive interrogation process.

We have nonetheless decided to include information from captured 9/11 conspirators and al Qaeda members in our report. We have evaluated their statements carefully and have attempted to corroborate them with documents and statements of others. In this report, we indicate where such statements provide the foundation for our narrative. We have been authorized to identify by name only ten detainees whose custody has been confirmed officially by the U.S. government.

If we had treated the prisoners humanely, there would be far fewer questions about the results of their interrogations, but now they are credibly alleged to be tainted. As Windrem observes, "at least four of them said indeed that they had provided information only as a result of being tortured:"

And they used the word "torture." They did not use "enhanced interrogation techniques." They said "torture." And two of them, as I recall, said that they recanted what they had said during those interrogations, because it was not the truth.

FISA humor

Mark Fiore's animated cartoon "The Spies Who Love You" (h/t: Daniel Solove at Concurring Opinions) actually makes FISA and Bush's illegal spying funny.

Go and watch it, and then link to it.

It's that good.

February 16, 2008

"myths" and "facts" in the FISA debate

The White House has flexed its bully pulpit muscles, issuing "Five Myths" about the House's rejection of retroactive immunity for FISA lawbreakers, followed by Bush's assertions (mislabeled "FACT" in standard Orwellian manner). DailyKos has a piece on it by mcjoan, and Steve Benen also tears it apart over at Carpetbagger Report; check them out to get a sense of how divorced the White House's position is from reality. It truly deserves mockery rather than serious analysis, and Brian Beulter does the best job from that perspective:

Myth: 2 + 2 = 4.

FACT: Democrats are terrorists.

In a similarly humorous vein, lambert at Corrente http://www.correntewire.com/whats_the_difference_between_9_11_and_a_cow has my Quote of the Day:

What's the difference between 9/11 and a cow?

The Republicans don't know how to milk a cow.

It's funny because it's true; in another sense it's not funny at all.

February 15, 2008

FISA follow-up

I've written sporadically about FISA and telecom immunity (every few months, it seems: here, here, and here for example), so I'm just going to dive right in. AlterNet has video and a transcript of Keith Olbermann (once again) eviscerating Dubya:

Thus, Mr. Bush, what you and the telecom giants have done isn't unlawful: it's just the kind of perfectly legal, passionately patriotic thing for which you happen to need immunity! [...] That the President was willing to veto this eavesdropping means there is no threat to the legitimate counter-terror efforts underway. As Senator Kennedy reminded us in December:
"The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he's willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies." [emphasis added]

Kevin Drum observes at Washington Monthly:

"In the end, the telecoms are big boys with big legal staffs, and they knew exactly what they were doing -- and providing them with retroactive immunity at this point sets a terrible precedent and creates all sorts of perverse incentives to break the law in the future. At this point, if they think they can make a case that they acted in good faith and shouldn't be held accountable, they need to make it to a judge and jury. If they have a good case, they'll win. If they don't, they'll lose."

If they broke the law, as is increasingly apparent, they deserve to lose...and deserve to be punished for it. We shouldn't be excusing illegal acts merely because they were committed at the request of the president. As for Bush's refusal to sign a renewal without telecom immunity, Drum writes the following:

Look, if it's that important, there's a simple answer: pass the bill without telecom immunity. Then come back and introduce immunity in a separate bill. If you've got the votes for it, fine. If not, too bad. I'm against immunity myself -- though hardly hellbent on the subject -- but whichever way the vote went, in the meantime we'd have the FISA extension and surveillance could continue normally.

But that's not on the table. The supposed grownups in the GOP are, apparently, perfectly happy to play around with "life and death" if it's in the service of a bit of demagogic brinksmanship over telecom immunity. Why?

Why? Because immunity obviates the need for accountability, to which Bush's GOP is deathly allergic. It's like holy water to vampires, or silver bullets to werewolves. DNI Mike McConnell claimed in a WaPo op-ed that "providing retroactive liability protection is critical to carrying out our mission," but this is only true if his mission is remaining unaccountable for law-breaking. As Glenn Greenwald noted in his invaluable "FISA 101," "we're not all going to die under FISA:"

"We're not "going dark." FISA is a modern law that was re-written at George Bush's direction and which he himself said allowed for full surveillance on all of the evil Terrorists and all of their complex, super-modern means of communications. None of this has anything to do with the Government's ability to listen in When Osama Calls. It is only about whether the nation's largest telecoms will have pending lawsuits, brought by their customers for breaking the law, dismissed by Congress. Is that really so hard to understand and explain?"

It's easy to understand and explain, but comprehension is not their goal...obfuscation is. Bush and his cronies can't openly demand a sanction for illegality, so their rhetoric relies on the usual fear-mongering. Kudos to the House for (finally!) standing up against it, and shame on the GOP for their little temper-tantrum photo op.

February 12, 2008

furious about FISA

Democrats in the Senate caved in to the GOP again today, this time by immunizing telecoms involved in Bush's illegal spying on Americans. Senator Chris Dodd (D, of course) succinctly declared, "This warrantless wiretapping program was the single largest invasion of privacy in the history of the country and we just sanctioned it by granting retroactive immunity." The petition at FDL is a good summary of this appalling situation:

The FISA bill passed by the Senate is a disgrace. By legalizing warrantless spying on Americans and granting retroactive amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, the Senate seeks to ensure that the Bush administration's illegal spying programs are never investigated or subjected to the rule of law. The Senate bill is a profound betrayal of the votes of millions of Americans who voted in 2006 to put Democrats in control of Congress in order to increase, not eliminate, checks and oversight on this administration, and to restore the rule of law to our country.

If you believe in the rule of law--in reality, not merely as a decade-old GOP talking point--sign the FDL petition and contact your Congresscritter to make plain your displeasure with the impending sanction of lawbreaking in the Senate bill. Christy Hardin Smith's talking points from her "Frustrations on FISA" are a good place to start:

1. Vote NO on any spying bill with telecom immunity. Lawsuits must be allowed to proceed or we'll never know the truth about what laws were broken and how many Americans rights were violated.

2. Vote NO on any spying that allows the government to spy on Americans without getting a warrant. America doesn't need a bill that needlessly expands the President's ability to spy on innocent Americans without a warrant.

3. Don't let the Senate or President Bush steamroll the House of Representatives. Any bill to regulate spying on Americans must respect the Constitution and must not let phone companies off the hook for warrantless spying.

To better familiarize yourself with the details, the bill on which the House will vote (The RESTORE Act) is available in PDF here with comments from the ACLU here (which I mentioned last year).

February 7, 2008

"a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma"

The Guardian reported, via AP, on the existence of a secret prison within Gitmo:

Somewhere amid the cactus-studded hills on this sprawling Navy base, separate from the cells where hundreds of men suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban have been locked up for years, is a place even more closely guarded - a jailhouse so protected that its very location is top secret.

For the first time, the top commander of detention operations at Guantanamo has confirmed the existence of the mysterious Camp 7.

A secret prison inside a restricted base within a nationless land. Curiouser and curiouser...

Is that where they hide the waterboards?

February 5, 2008

"fruitful" torture

According to this Reuters article, CIA Director Michael Hayden revealed to Congress some details about waterboarding at Gitmo:

"Waterboarding has been used on only three detainees," Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was the first time a U.S. official publicly specified the number of people subjected to waterboarding and named them. Critics call waterboarding a form of illegal torture. Congress is considering banning the technique.

Those subjected to waterboarding were suspected September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and senior al Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Hayden said.

He said waterboarding has not been used in five years but was used then because of concerns of imminent catastrophic attacks on the United States and because authorities had limited knowledge of al Qaeda.

As was revealed in December, these torture sessions were so "particularly fruitful" that the videotapes of them had to be destroyed for fear of reprisal.

There are still 349 days and 21 hours to go.

January 30, 2008

Bush's final SOTU

I didn't have the stomach for Bush's final SOTU, but The Rude Pundit did:

Now here's a little something from last night's State of the Union address, the final one by President George W. Bush: "Seven years have passed since I first stood before you at this rostrum. In that time, our country has been tested in ways none of us could have imagined. We faced hard decisions about peace and war, rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens. These issues call for vigorous debate, and I think it's fair to say we've answered the call."

Well, what the fuck else was he gonna say? That eight years ago, America was prosperous and at peace and, goddamn, how he fucked that up real good?

[...]

Then you look back on the last Clinton speech. And you remember that a goal of the entire Bush presidency was to undo what Clinton had done. You contemplate how degraded the nation has become in the wane of the Bush years, and you think, "Well, shit, there's one mission Bush actually did accomplish."

This reminds me very much of that great--and startlingly prescient--parody: "Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over" from The Onion:

"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."

[...]

"The insanity is over," Bush said. "After a long, dark night of peace and stability, the sun is finally rising again over America. We look forward to a bright new dawn not seen since the glory days of my dad."

Only 355 days to go...

January 26, 2008

a smooth-talking horse thief fleeing a lynch mob

Scott Horton writes at Harper's (as does Timothy Noah at Slate) about the history of a painting Bush brought with him from Texas and hung in the Oval Office:

Bush's memo to his staff said this:

When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves.

(Charles Wesley wrote the hymn "A Charge to Keep I Have," which Bush used as the title for the "autobiography" that Mickey Herskowitz and Karen Hughes wrote for him.)

Horton and Noah both quote from Jacob Weisberg's new book The Bush Tragedy (which was preceded by this Salon article by Sidney Blumenthal):

[Bush] came to believe that the picture depicted the circuit-riders who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century. In other words, the cowboy who looked like Bush was a missionary of his own denomination.

Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled "The Slipper Tongue," published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors.

Horton concludes:

Bush's inspiring, prosyletizing Methodist is in fact a silver-tongued horse thief fleeing from a lynch mob. It seems a fitting marker for the Bush presidency.

Also appropriate to mention is the fact that there are 360 days and 2 hours remaining in the Bush occupation, at which time he will very much resemble a smooth-talking horse thief fleeing a lynch mob.


update (10:42am):
Credit should go to Jonathan Hutson, who discussed the painting ("Horseshit! Bush and the Christian Cowboy" at Talk 2 Action) in May 2006--a year before Blumenthal wrote his piece at Salon.

January 23, 2008

Bush's big lies

(I apologize if you've already seen this study; it's been all over the blogosphere this morning, and I've seen it at least a dozen times.) The Center for Public Integrity has released a study titled "War Card: Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War" It's a depressing--and, for those of us who were paying attention at the time, very familiar--tale, but it's a good summary of the Busheviks' mendacity:

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.

[...]

President Bush, for example, made 232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and another 28 false statements about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda. Secretary of State Powell had the second-highest total in the two-year period, with 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda. Rumsfeld and Fleischer each made 109 false statements, followed by Wolfowitz (with 85), Rice (with 56), Cheney (with 48), and McClellan (with 14). [emphases added]


update (3:09pm):
Dinesh D'Souza rushed to the administration's defense, claiming that "Actually Bush didn't lie," but whitewashing the White House is no longer convincing. Richard Clarke has been puncturing these defensive evasions for years; here's how Bush pressured him to tie Iraq to 9/11:

The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

"I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.'

"He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."

Clarke continued, "It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.'

In the absence of any facts, Decider Dubya simply decided that his whim was enough for war. He could just make an occasional triumphant claim that "we found the WMDs" and the compliant corporate media would accept his claim and move on to the next celebrity sex scandal.

362 days, 20 hours, and 50 minutes left.

January 13, 2008

Gitmo redux

Here are two more Gitmo-related links:
Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! did a look back at Guantanamo last Friday, and I should also mention the longstanding Witness Against Torture campaign.

[Note: Although closing Gitmo is still an important goal, I had to change the background color back to white; it was starting to feel like Halloween around here.]

January 12, 2008

Gitmo follow-up

The ACLU's "Close Guantanamo" campaign (discussed here) has been making waves: ThinkProgress discussed yesterday's protests, and includes photos from demonstrations around the world.

In other news: according to this Reuters article, a US appeals court declined to hold Rumsfeld and his henchmen responsible for Gitmo:

A U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday that four former Guantanamo prisoners, all British citizens, have no right to sue top Pentagon officials and military officers for torture, abuse and violations of their religious rights. [...] The men claimed they were subjected to various forms of torture, harassed as they practiced their religion and forced to shave their religious beards. In one instance, a guard threw a Koran in a toilet bucket, according to the lawsuit.

Interestingly, Reuters even notes the anniversary ("The decision by a three-judge panel to dismiss the lawsuit came exactly six years after the first detainees arrived at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.") and mentions the demonstrations.

None of that would have happened without the ACLU's campaign.

January 10, 2008

yes, it's orange...just like Gitmo garb

Tomorrow--the sixth anniversary of the first detainees' extralegal imprisonment at Gitmo--is the occasion for the ACLU's "Close Guantanamo" campaign...and it's why my blog background is orange today. I have signed the pledge:

I pledge to join with over 550,000 ACLU members and supporters to declare that the unlawful and un-American prison at Guantánamo Bay must be closed.

I affirm my commitment to the American values of justice and liberty for all. I believe in the core values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution - that no person should be subjected to the use of torture, or cruel treatment, or indefinite and arbitrary detention. I call for the U.S. government to CLOSE GUANTÁNAMO.

What can one person do? Read the factsheet and the flyer, sign the pledge, download the toolkit, hang a poster in your office, write a letter to the editor or a blog post about Gitmo, add a button to your sidebar, wear orange, and explain to everyone who asks that for "the rule of law" must apply to everyone or it is meaningless. (The main page of downloadable materials is here.)

Also discussing the travesty of Guantanamo are the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International.

We can't wait until after the inauguration to change things for the better...get started now!


update (1/11 @ 2:09pm):
Here is more commentary on Gitmo's anniversary: Andy Worthington at AlterNet, Anthony Romero at Salon, Rosa Maria Pegueros at Common Dreams, Moazzam Begg (a former Gitmo detainee) at Guardian, and some wingnut complaints from The Weekly Standard.

January 9, 2008

McGovern: Bush is (still) worse than Nixon

George McGovern's op-ed in the Washington Post on Sunday morning is titled "Why I Believe Bush Must Go: Nixon Was Bad. These Guys Are Worse." It sounds both a call to arms

Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.

and a cautionary note:

Impeachment is unlikely, of course. But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot.

McGovern has been calling for Cheney to resign since at least March 2007, as in this discussion with John Nichols from The Nation where he called Bush/Cheney "the most lawless administration we've ever had:"

"There is no question in my mind that Cheney has committed impeachable offenses. So has George Bush. [...] Bush is much more impeachable than Richard Nixon was. That's been clear for some time. There does not seem to be much sentiment for impeachment in Congress now, but around the country people are fed up with this administration."

Jonathan Adler points out at The Volokh Conspiracy that McGovern did support impeaching Nixon, seemingly contrary to this statement:

"After the 1972 presidential election, I stood clear of calls to impeach President Richard M. Nixon for his misconduct during the campaign."

Adler is technically correct, but McGovern's support for Nixon's impeachment didn't come until October 1973--nearly a year after the election. Accusing McGovern of being "misleading, if not worse" seems rather excessive.

January 2, 2008

Bush's surveillance state

This Privacy International report has been mentioned all over the web since its release last week, and Scott Horton has the best summary at Harper's:

What do Vladimir Putin, George W. Bush and Hu Jintao have in common? They are the heads of the three most significant nations whose people live under "endemic surveillance"--that is to say, whose governments have a penchant for aggressively spying on their own people.

According to the report:

In terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the US is the worst ranking country in the democratic world. In terms of overall privacy protection the United States has performed very poorly, being out-ranked by both India and the Philippines and falling into the "black" category, denoting endemic surveillance.

What other nations scored between 1.1 and 1.5 on the five-point scale, and are considered to be "Endemic surveillance societies?" Here's the list: China, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the UK and the US.

Dan Froomkin's WaPo piece on "Bush's Final Year" leads off with a description of the upcoming FISA fight between Bush and Congress as "a historic battle over the future of the country as a surveillance state," as if the last seven years haven't been disastrous enough.

December 31, 2007

integrity, principle, decency, and honor

Today's NYT op-ed "Looking at America" opens with the plain truth that "There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country." After discussing a few of the "shocking abuses of President Bush's two terms in office," the piece concludes that "the next president will have a full agenda simply discovering all the wrongs that have been done and then righting them:

We can only hope that this time, unlike 2004, American voters will have the wisdom to grant the awesome powers of the presidency to someone who has the integrity, principle and decency to use them honorably. Then when we look in the mirror as a nation, we will see, once again, the reflection of the United States of America.

Not only can we do better than Dubya, we must do better. As we look to the upcoming primary season, we must ask ourselves: which of the candidates is most capable of restoring the visage of America so defaced by the outgoing administration?

[typo fixed]

December 13, 2007

torture under the GOP's big tent (part two)

In other GOP torture news, waterboarding would be banned--along with all other interrogation techniques not permitted by the Army Field Manual--under a bill passed by the House today (h/t: ThinkProgress). The vote was 222 to 199; 5 Republicans voted against torture, while 189 of them (along with 10 Democrats) voted for its continuation.

Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) claimed that this bill means "no more torture, no more waterboarding, no more clever wordplay, no more evasive answers, no more dishonesty," but he is overlooking several things: a) a likely veto, b) an even more likely signing statement, and c) an almost certain deliberate flouting of the law by an increasingly lawless administration.

This entire shameful subject is a further reminder that Kucinich was right at the CNN debate last month: "Impeach them now!"

torture under the GOP's big tent (part one)

Tony Blankley, one of the GOP's shills at The Moonie Times, ranted on NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon that the CIA displayed "common sense" in destroying videotapes of tortured detainees. Over at DailyKos, Devilstower mocked Blankley's pathetic argument that the potential release of the torture tapes would be "a catastrophic propaganda defeat for us."

Blankley asked "what has happened to common sense," but displays shockingly little of it himself. If we need to "begin to convince the Muslim world we are not their enemy," perhaps not torturing Muslims in our custody would be a good start; a videotape of a tortureless interrogation would inflame no one's passions.

Right-wing pundits may have forgotten habeas corpus, "the rule of law," and "innocent until proven guilty," but the rest of us--and the rest of the world--have not.

November 30, 2007

economic consequences of Bushism

Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz predicts a generations-long struggle to extricate our nation from the financial catastrophe of Bush the Lesser. He begins with this devastating opening salvo:

When we look back someday at the catastrophe that was the Bush administration, we will think of many things: the tragedy of the Iraq war, the shame of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, the erosion of civil liberties. The damage done to the American economy does not make front-page headlines every day, but the repercussions will be felt beyond the lifetime of anyone reading this page.

Stiglitz then observes that "Up to now, the conventional wisdom has been that Herbert Hoover, whose policies aggravated the Great Depression, is the odds-on claimant for the mantle "worst president" when it comes to stewardship of the American economy."

He notes that Bush's "rising tide lifted all yachts," and offers a primer on the catastrophes of fiscal conservatism: lopsided tax cuts, mounting deficits, the sub-prime mortgage fiasco and the credit crunch, rising bankruptcies, and the $2 trillion war in Iraq. He also provides the common-sense solutions: "not spending money that we don't have, increasing taxes on the rich, reducing corporate welfare, strengthening the safety net for the less well off, and making greater investment in education, technology, and infrastructure."

Stiglitz ends with this observation:

In short, there's a momentum here that will require a generation to reverse. Decades hence we should take stock, and revisit the conventional wisdom. Will Herbert Hoover still deserve his dubious mantle? I'm guessing that George W. Bush will have earned one more grim superlative.

This piece should be read by every yahoo who has ever claimed that the Bush II economy is "the strongest economy we have ever had."

November 21, 2007

"we are hopeful that he will restore the constitution and get the country back to that path to democracy"

This WaPo article (h/t: ThinkProgress) discusses Bush's assertions that Pakistan's dictator Pervez Musharraf has "advanced democracy in Pakistan" and "hasn't crossed the line." It also contains two Quotes of the Day. The first is from Senator Joe Biden (D-DE):

"What exactly would it take for the president to conclude Musharraf has crossed the line? Suspend the constitution? Impose emergency law? Beat and jail his political opponents and human rights activists? He's already done all that. If the president sees Musharraf as a democrat, he must be wearing the same glasses he had on when he looked in Vladimir Putin's soul."

The second is from White House Press Secretary Dana Perino:

"[He] has made a mistake and took a detour -- we are hopeful that he will restore the constitution and get the country back to that path to democracy."

We're hopeful, too, but you really shouldn't talk about your boss like that; his administration isn't particularly fond of honesty and doesn't tolerate dissent.

November 18, 2007

quote of the day

I didn't watch the Democrats' Las Vegas debate, but this exchange makes me wish I had (h/t: Violet Blue):

BLITZER: Congressman Kucinich, I believe you're the only person on this stage who had a chance to vote on the Patriot Act right after 9/11 who voted against it right away.

KUCINICH: That's because I read it.

If we had had 534 more Congresscritters with a conscience, the last several years could have been far less devastating.

November 17, 2007

"an idiot or just shameless?"

Andrew Sullivan is nearly as flabbergasted as Glenn Greenwald is over the president's recent speech to the Federalist Society, where Bush uttered these words:

When the Founders drafted the Constitution, they had a clear understanding of tyranny. They also had a clear idea about how to prevent it from ever taking root in America. Their solution was to separate the government's powers into three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Each of these branches plays a vital role in our free society. Each serves as a check on the others. And to preserve our liberty, each must meet its responsibilities -- and resist the temptation to encroach on the powers the Constitution accords to others.

Bush's denunciation of "judicial lawlessness" later in the speech is particularly galling, given the executive lawlessness over which he has presided for nearly seven years. How he squares his actions with his flat statement that "Our written Constitution means what it says," I may never be able to comprehend. Even more blatantly nonsensical is his later remark that:

The President's oath of office commits him to do his best to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." I take these words seriously. I believe these words mean what they say.

Sullivan asks, "is the president an idiot or just shameless?" but I don't think either assessment is correct. Bush strikes me as a silver-spoon sociopath who preys on the wishful thinking of a (steadily shrinking) proportion of the population. Thankfully, his days in office are numbered: 429 and counting.

November 8, 2007

too much irony

These two news items exceed my RDA for irony:

1). White House Press Secretary Dana Perino was asked "Is it ever reasonable to restrict constitutional freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism?" to which she replied, "In our opinion, no." ThinkProgress notes a few instances that should have been obvious even to an administration flack like Perino:

First Amendment: In September, a federal judge ruled that the FBI's use of secret "national security letters" to obtain citizens' personal data from private companies for counterterrorism investigations "violate[d] the First Amendment and constitutional provisions on the separation of powers."

First Amendment, Fourth Amendment: In Aug. 2006, a federal district court in Detroit ruled that the Bush administration'ss [sic] NSA warrantless wiretapping program was unconstitutional, violating the "separation of powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution, the FISA and Title III."

Article I: Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales attempted to justify the administration's detainee policy by claiming, "There is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution." (Article I, Section 9, Clause 2 of the Contitution [sic] reads: "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.")

Article II: In June, House investigators revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney had exempted his office from an executive order order designed to safeguard classified national security information by claiming that he was not an "entity within the executive branch."

2). Bush, commenting on Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf's reliance on his military history, said:

"[y]ou need to take off your uniform...You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time."

It appears that Chimpy McFlightSuit is as unaware of the extent that those words apply to him and many of his actions during the six years since 9/11. As reprehensible as Musharraf is, his military uniform is at least earned; one can't quite say that about Generalissimo El Busho with his TANG AWOL questions still unresolved.

November 4, 2007

the spectre of another pro-torture AG

There is a fierce denunciation of Mukasey’s nomination and compliant Democrats over at Sadly, No:

If you can’t say whether simulating death through forced drowning is really “torture,” then you have zero common moral sensibility, and are clearly unfit to hold the office of the highest law enforcement officer in the country. It would have been nice for America’s “opposition” party to set a clear standard stating that anyone who gives weaselly, evasive answers about whether waterboarding constitutes torture will be automatically tossed into the Borkian reject pile. But once again, our brave fightin’ Dems are caving.

I didn’t ever really expect great things from the Democrats, but in my worst nightmares I didn’t expect them to suck this badly. The only thing that’s stopping me from not voting in ‘08 is horrifying visions of Preznit Rudy.

C’mon, Dems: If you don’t oppose torture, no one will. Even if the Bush administration has only tortured three people with waterboarding, it’s still unacceptable.

Don’t accept it.

Don’t accept Mukasey.

October 29, 2007

shades of Pinochet…

Former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld is running from the long arm of the law, having fled France when charges were filed against him in the Abu Ghraib/Gitmo torture scandals (h/t: Rude Pundit).

You can run...

October 9, 2007

Democratic complicity in Bush's lawlessness

Reacting to this piece in the NYT on Democratic capitulation to Bush’s illegal wiretapping, Cenk Uygur announces that he has given up on current Congressional Democrats:

The Democrats are going to help Bush break the FISA law. They are going to change the law so that he doesn't have to get a warrant. They are going to ignore the fourth amendment and current federal laws. Why would you help the least popular president in history? Why would you allow him to keep breaking the law?

[…]

How is it possible to have any respect for these Democrats? Every day, I struggle not to call them cowards and weaklings. And every day they make it harder. They are truly pathetic. I'm so tired of encouraging them to grow a backbone. It's a hopeless struggle. I give up.

This ThinkProgress summary of the new RESTORE Act (more details are here) suggests that Uygur’s decision may be premature. Although the bill’s final form is still uncertain, Glenn Greenwald sees a familiar problem:

There is absolutely no justification whatsoever -- neither substantive nor political -- for expanding the scope of warrantless eavesdropping powers and especially for granting amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms. It is unconscionable even to consider any changes to FISA without full disclosure by the administration of how they used their illegal and secret warrantless eavesdropping powers in the past. In that regard, it is worth emphasizing that the administration from 2001 through 2004 (at least) was engaged in spying on Americans so patently illegal that the entire top level of the DOJ and the FBI Director threatened to quit if it continued -- yet we still do not know what they were doing then. How can that be? There is no justification for permitting that conduct to remain concealed from the American public, let alone from the Congress.

Warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty implicate virtually every critical political value assaulted for the last six years by this administration -- our basic constitutional protections, checks and balances and the rule of law. [emphasis in original]


update (2:52pm):
The ACLU comments on the current draft of the legislation here.

October 4, 2007

secret approval of torture

James Risen co-authored this NYT article on Bush's torture regime:

When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures. [emphases added]

Responses to the Times’ revelation have been as severe as the interrogation itself. There are only 474 days to go until the end of our long national nightmare, until we can begin repairing our national reputation at home and abroad.

September 11, 2007

where's Osama?

Bob Geiger, currently on hiatus, asks the question “Where’s Osama?” every week. Bush continues to fail to provide an answer to that question (possibly because Bush is "not that concerned" about the "virtually impotent" terrorist) although bin Laden remains atop the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists" list. It is now six years since American Flight 11 struck the North tower of the World Trade Center, beginning the events that fixed 9/11 as a day of tragedy in our history, and the current “Where’s Osama?” clock reads as follows:

20070911-wheresosama.jpg

Here's the amount of time that has passed since President Bush said he would get Osama bin Laden dead or alive:

2185 days, 8 hours, 46 minutes, and 31 seconds

As our military is mired in the Iraqi desert--after being called away from the hunt for bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora--the question “Where’s Osama?” is more relevant than ever. His recent message reminds us that he is still alive and free, and provides more evidence of Bush’s miserable failure to get him “dead or alive.”

Bin Laden’s address is even more incoherent than usual, but only one aspect of this has been widely noted: his observations that “the Democrats haven’t made a move worth mentioning” and have “fail[ed] to stop the war.” There is also a mention of Noam Chomsky, the suggestion of conspiracy in JFK’s assassination, as well as some invective against globalization, “major corporations,” and “the deception, shackles and attrition of the capitalist system.” However, bin Laden is a devoutly religious man who praises submission to god's will, decries the separation of church and state, and supports a flat tax; these alliances with distinctly Republican positions have gone unmentioned by the “liberal” media.

Andrew Sullivan taunted bin Laden’s beard-dyeing vanity in this post about “Just for Mullahs” coloring for facial hair; this reader’s response makes an excellent point about bin Laden and his effect on our politics:

He is a despicable low-life criminal who should have been arrested and put on trial ages ago. Instead, the Bush administration and the entire Fox News Fear Factory turned him into a large-than-life villain, and let him escape with impunity.

Now the Giulianis and Hewitts run around doing his work for him by terrorizing Americans, spreading fear instead of confidence, pretending that Bin Laden's pipe dreams of world domination should frighten Americans into giving up our civil liberties.

Now, more than ever, we need an FDR moment: we must turn our backs on fear, and live free and unafraid. When the West faced a truly existential threat from Hitler, we didn't spend our time terrorizing ourselves into a frenzy. We knew that confidence, humility and good cheer are far more valuable.

When we most needed a true leader, our president displayed inaction and incompetence:

20070911-thepetgoat.jpg

In the aftermath of 9/11, the administration's response worsened; there was a dearth of leadership while we received admonitions to “watch what we say” and exhortations to avoid lamenting our lost liberty. The administration smothered the media with incessant scares about Iraq’s (nonexistent) “mobile production facilities” and their (nonexistent) nuclear program exploding a “mushroom cloud” over America, fanned the flames of fear with DHS color-coded threat levels, and suggested that we “[s]eal the room with duct tape and plastic sheeting” against chemical and biological weapons.

This panic and paranoia fueled GOP electoral victories in 2002 and 2004, but the scales have since fallen from the eyes of all but the reddest of Busheviks; the symbiotic relationship between Bush and bin Laden has been clearly revealed. Six years of failure down; only 497 days to go.

September 6, 2007

CIA: "Bush didn't give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up."

Sidney Blumenthal reports that Bush was explicitly told that Iraq had no WMDs six months before the March 2003 invasion:

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam's inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail.

According to Robert Draper’s new book Dead Certain, however, Bush maintained otherwise “all the way up until Card’s departure in April 2006, almost exactly three years after the Coalition had begun its fruitless search for WMD’s.” The two former senior CIA officials interviewed by Blumenthal had this to say about Bush’s obstinate nature:

"The president had no interest in the intelligence," said the CIA officer. The other officer said, "Bush didn't give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up."


update (2:16pm):
Digby, no friend of Dubya, has an even harsher assessment in light of Dead Certain that is worth sharing:

I do realize that I loathe Bush on a visceral level and always have, so I can't say that my impressions of him as person are particularly objective. He is a personality type I can't stand --- his privileged, macho arrogance and nasty, sophomoric social game of primitive dominance are about the least appealing characteristics I can think of in a man. Even if he weren't a complete idiot, which he is, he'd still be an asshole.

August 27, 2007

another rat deserts the ship…

In the wake of Karl Rove’s resignation announcement, another rat is about to desert the sinking ship of the Bush administration: According to many sources, Alberto Gonzales will announce his resignation today. I never expected that we could have an Attorney General worse than John Ashcroft, but Gonzales proved me wrong. Senator Schumer observed:

“It has been a long and difficult struggle, but at last the attorney general has done the right thing and stepped down. For the previous six months, the Justice Department has been virtually nonfunctional, and desperately needs new leadership."

It is rumored that Michael Chertoff may be his replacement.


update (1:04pm):
Chris Bowers posts a list of recently departed rats here at OpenLeft:

Here is a partial list of prominent Bush administration resignations since the 2006 midterm elections, all of which occurred in conjunction with some sort of major scandal in their relevant field:

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, November 8, 2006
John Bolton, Ambassador to the United Nations, December 4, 2006
Harriet Miers, White House Consul and former Supreme Court nominee, January 4, 2007
Francis Harvey, Army Secretary, March 2, 2007
Monica Goodling, Justice Department White House liaison, April 6
Peter McNutly, Deputy Attorney General, May 14, 2007
Sara Taylor, White House Political Director and microtargeting guru, May 27, 2007
White House Counselor Dan Bartlett, June 1, 2007
Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs of Staffs Chairman, June 8, 2007
Rob Portman, White House Budget Director, June 19, 2007
William Mercer, Acting Associate Attorney General, June 23, 2007
Jim Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, July 17, 2007
Karl Rove, Senior Political Advisor and Deputy White House chief of staff, August 13, 2007
Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General, August 27, 2007

August 16, 2007

"elite, effete snobs" vs. "middle America"

Outgoing Machiavelli-wannabe Karl Rove gave an interview to Rush Limbaugh, (audio courtesy of ThinkProgress) where he rushed to Dubya’s defense:

“Many times the people that I see criticizing him are, you know, sort of elite, effete snobs who, you know, can’t hold a candle to this guy. What they don’t like about him is that he is common sense, that he is Middle America…”

This is the best takedown I’ve seen, courtesy of Bob Cesca at HuffPo:

Put aside the Yale, the Skull & Bones, the cheerleading, the oil wealth, the estates, the boats and this uncomfortably weird obsession with effeteness; there are very few Americans who are quite as privileged, entitled, sheltered, and coddled than this current president.

So Karl? Shut the fuck up.

Bravo!

PS: Memo to Rove: If Bush is truly “one of the best-read people I’ve ever met,” then you need to get out more.

August 13, 2007

black sites

Over at the New Yorker, Jane Mayer has an excellent piece on Bush’s “black site” torture regime. One outside expert “familiar with the [CIA torture] protocol” made this ominous comment:

“It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever. At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”

August 11, 2007

saint Dubya

Humor has been scarce here of late; here is an attempt to rectify that situation (h/t: Rick Perlstein at Campaign for America’s Future):

St. George

President George W. Bush was scheduled to visit the Episcopal Church outside Washington as part of his campaign to restore his poll standings.

Bush's campaign manager made a visit to the Bishop, and said to him: "We've been getting a lot of bad publicity because of the President's position on stem cell research, the Iraq war, Katrina, and the like. We'll gladly make a contribution to the church of $100,000 if, during your sermon, you'd say the President is a saint."

The Bishop thought it over for a few moments and finally said, "The Church is in desperate need of funds and I will agree to do it."

Bush showed up for the sermon, and the Bishop spoke:

"I'd like to speak to you all this morning about our President."

"George W. Bush is a liar, a cheat, and a low-intelligence weasel. He took the tragedy of September 11 and used it to frighten and manipulate the American people.

"He lied about WMDs, and invaded Iraq for oil and money, causing the deaths of tens of thousands and making the United States the most hated country on earth.

"He appointed cronies to positions of power and influence, leading to widespread death and destruction during Hurricane Katrina.

"He awarded contracts and tax cuts to his rich friends so that we now have more poverty and a greater gap between rich and poor than we've had in this country since the Depression.

"He instituted illegal wiretaps, when getting a warrant from a secret court would have been a mere administrative detail. Then he ignored his henchmen's' lies to Congress and claimed he's above the law.

"There's no doubt he heads the most corrupt, bribe-influenced political party since the Teapot Dome scandal.

"The national surplus has turned into a staggering national debt, gas prices are up 55%, and vital research into global warming and stem cell therapy is crippled because he's afraid of some loudmouth right wing kooks.

"Yes, he is a poor example of a true Christian... But compared to Dick Cheney, George Bush is a saint."

August 6, 2007

FISA capitulation

Jack Balkin sums up the problems with Democrats’ capitulation last week to Bush’s continued demands for a police state via revision of FISA:

The passage of the new FISA bill by the Senate and now the House demonstrates that the Democrats stand neither for defending civil liberties nor for checking executive power.

They stand for nothing at all. […]

I hope the Democrats are justly proud of themselves for their cowardly contributions to this slow-motion destruction of our constitutional system.

Scarecrow at FDL calls us “a nation represented by sheep,” and this isn’t far off the mark. Cenk Uygur writes at HuffPo that “It is not possible to be too hard on these vacillating, spineless, rudderless, clueless clowns:”

The president has been running an illegal warrantless wiretapping program since 2001. He has been continually and brazenly breaking the FISA law. He finally submitted the program to the FISA court recently. And a FISA judge said earlier this year that the program was not legal. Now how do the Democrats hold the president accountable for breaking this federal law?

Did they impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors? Did they censure him? Did they cut off funding? No, not only did they not do any of these patently obvious things, but instead, they turned around and changed the law to give him the authority to ignore the courts. How do you not call them weaklings? How am I supposed to take it easy on them? How can this possibly be justified?

[…]

There is absolutely no justification for these Democratic votes that helped Bush make his illegal program legal. On top of abdicating their constitutional responsibility to check an out of control president, they have also done something politically retarded. In one fell swoop, they have capitulated to a grossly unpopular president, justified his talking point that national security is on the line and given Republicans leverage over themselves.

Kevin Drum’s two-parter at Washington Monthly on “Figuring out FISA” (part one and part two) gives a nice primer on the issues involved, and James Risen’s NYT piece is also useful.

Perhaps recognizing the magnitude of the error in caving in to Bush, Speaker Pelosi observed that “Many provisions of this legislation are unacceptable, and, although the bill has a six month sunset clause, I do not believe the American people will want to wait that long before corrective action is taken” and requests that Congress amend FISA “as soon as possible after Congress reconvenes.”

After considering several options, my Quote of the Day (h/t: ThinkProgress) is from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY):

This bill is not needed to protect America from terrorists. The only purpose of this bill is to protect this administration from its own political problems and cynicism, and its own illegal actions it has taken outside the law without any authorization.

July 26, 2007

another Snow job

Tony Snow’s presser yesterday (on potential contempt of Congress charges for two administration officials, Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers) was nothing unusual, save for this shovelful of bullshit:

Everybody has been made available. You have not been denied a shred of information.

How, exactly, does that square with the White House’s commandment to Miers to ignore a Congressional subpoena, or with Bolten’s refusal to turn over requested documents? Thankfully, a member of our starting-to-do-their-job-again press corps called him on it:

Tony, you said you've made everybody available and everything available, when it comes to the intelligence. But you haven't made everybody available. You've made them available if they go without the oath, if they go without the transcript, and if they go in private. But you haven't even made the documents available; you've only made the documents available that aren't the documents that they want. You won't make the documents available that they do want. [emphasis added]

He offered the standard evasive doubletalk, but the point had been made.

Many people in this lawless administration should be out on the street, and this should happen before 01-20-2009.

July 24, 2007

unitary lawlessness

The story of the latest Bushevik power grab was broken last week by the Washington Post:

"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," said a senior official, who said his remarks reflect a consensus within the administration. "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."

In “Bush’s Magical Shield from Criminal Prosecution,” Glenn Greenwald does an excellent job—as usual—summarizing the issue and its implications:

This latest assertion of power -- to literally block U.S. Attorneys from prosecuting executive branch employees -- is but another reflection of the lawlessness prevailing in our country, not a new revelation. We know the administration breaks laws with impunity and believes it can. That is no longer in question. The only real question is what, if anything, we are willing to do about that.

Scarecrow at FDL calls the latest Bushite lawlessness “The Story of the Century,” and it’s hard to disagree with that assessment, although the “liberal” media is paying shockingly little attention to it:

We need to be very clear about what this latest WH defiance means: the White House believes the Justice Department does not have an obligation to uphold the law on behalf of the Congress of the United States; instead, DoJ exists solely as a legal arm to shield the President and his staff from all efforts to hold them accountable under the law. […] …the Bush White House is now in complete and open defiance of all lawful Congressional efforts to hold the executive accountable for misconduct and possible crimes committed by members of the White House staff. Just as Bush claimed he had an inherent right to disregard Congressional statutes (e.g., FISA, the Geneva Conventions, signing statements) and the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, or to cover up WH complicity in crimes (via commuting Scooter Libby’s prison term), the President is now claiming he can ignore any Congressional oversight of White House misconduct. [emphasis added]

The NYT editorial on Sunday, “Power Without Limits,” noted that:

There is no legal basis for this obstructionism. The Supreme Court has made clear that executive privilege is not simply what the president claims it to be. It must be evaluated case by case by a court, balancing the need for the information against the president’s interest in keeping his decision-making process private.

Mark Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, observes that Bush’s latest lawlessness is “almost Nixonian in its scope and breadth of interpreting its power. Congress has no recourse at all, in the president's view. . . . It's allowing the executive to define the scope and limits of its own powers."

I agree, except for the “almost.”

July 18, 2007

filibustering Bush's war in Iraq

I don’t care how much of this it takes,
20070718-cots.jpg
(New York Times)

but this has to stop:
20070718-coffins.jpg
(Memory Hole)

I hope the Grand Obstruction Party fails to block the proposed troop withdrawal from Iraq. Senatorial cots are an inconvenience, but those soldiers’ coffins are an obscenity.


update (12:21pm):
The Republican filibuster has succeeded in blocking progress on the bill. Harry Reid has my Quote of the Day:

“On Monday I submitted a simple request for consent to proceed to an up or down vote on the Levin/Reed Amendment to the Defense Authorization bill. As I have stated, this amendment provides a clear, binding and responsible path to change the U.S. mission and reduce our combat presence in Iraq."

"Regrettably, Republicans chose to block this amendment. They chose to deny the American people an up or down vote on a bipartisan amendment. They chose to continue protecting their President instead of our troops – no matter the cost to our country."

July 13, 2007

an oath to protect the Constitution

Andrew Sullivan mentions one of my pet peeves, Dubya’s persistent misunderstanding of his oath of office:

It needs to be stated again and again that the fundamental job of the president is not to protect the people of America, but to protect their constitution. This president has gotten things exactly the wrong way round. In a terror war, we have to acclimatize ourselves to the fact that many Americans may have to die as a consequence of a collective decision not to become a police state or a presidential protectorate. A free country that remains free in the face of terror will necessarily have many casualties. A police state would have fewer casualties. Given a choice between a loss of life and retaining constitutional liberties, what would you pick? And what would the first Americans have picked?

We've slid a long way, haven't we? [emphasis added]


01.20.09
: The bottom of the slide.

July 2, 2007

Sullivan on Scooter's commutation

Andrew Sullivan’s four posts on Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence illustrate the difference between Sullivan’s principled conservatism and Bush’s crony conservatism. Here are my four quotes of the day:

Perjury in defense of wartime deception is now okay, as far as the president is concerned. I'm surprised by Bush's chutzpah. I retained some minimal respect. No longer. We now know full well what his beliefs are: the law is for other people, not himself, his friends or his apparatchiks. (from “Bush Commutes Libby's Sentence”)

This has to be hung around every Republican's neck. They are now the party of corruption, irresponsibility in national security, and perjury. The Republican party impeached the last president for perjury over sexual harassment. But they commute the sentence of a man who perjured himself in part because he leaked a national security secret. That tells you everything. They care more about their privileged friends than the rule of law. We now know that for sure.
(from “Obama vs Bush”)

If this shores up his conservative base, then his conservative base has no principles. They impeached Clinton for the same crime. But they let their own go free. If you needed a reason to rid Washington of the president's corrupt party, you just got one. Get angrier.
(from “Quote for the Day”)

The defense of the commutation is complicated and unpersuasive. The case against it is simple: You don't get a cleaner example of different justice for the rich and powerful. It seems to me that real conservatives - not the lawless hoodlums now parading under that banner - should be as outraged as anyone. This man risked national security for political payback, and perjured himself to cover it up. This commutation will rightly become a symbol of a great deal of rot in Washington that needs to be swept clean. Get out that broom.
(from “The Bushies’ Spin”)

all about Dick

The Washington Post published a four-part article on Dick Cheney last week, the first part of which began with details of Cheney’s often-contentious relationship with accountability, and how that has driven his secretive working habits. It was followed by parts two, three, and four. Reporters Barton Gellman and Jo Becker describe the series as “explor[ing] his methods and impact:”

…drawing on interviews with more than 200 men and women who worked for, with or in opposition to Cheney's office. Many of those interviewed recounted events that have not been made public until now, sharing notes,e-mails, personal calendars and other records of their interaction with Cheney and his senior staff. The vice president declined to be interviewed.

The narratives contained therein do not lend themselves to brief excerpts, but I can’t recommend the 17,000-word series highly enough. Having said that, here are a few passages that struck me as especially illuminating:

Stealth is among Cheney's most effective tools. […] In the usual business of interagency consultation, proposals and information flow into the vice president's office from around the government, but high-ranking White House officials said in interviews that almost nothing flows out. Close aides to Cheney describe a similar one-way valve inside the office, with information flowing up to the vice president but little or no reaction flowing down. [emphasis added]

[…]

Cheney has changed history more than once, earning his reputation as the nation's most powerful vice president. His impact has been on public display in the arenas of foreign policy and homeland security, and in a long-running battle to broaden presidential authority. But he has also been the unseen hand behind some of the president's major domestic initiatives. […] The president is "the decider," as Bush puts it, but the vice president often serves up his menu of choices.

Cheney’s fingerprints are all over AUMF, the torture memos, MCA, the FISA wiretaps, and every other illegal and immoral decision of this administration. The vice presidency of Dick Cheney has become so odious, so objectionable, and so egregiously awful that noted conservative Bruce Fein—after the revelations from the WaPo series—is now calling for Cheney's impeachment:

The House judiciary committee should commence an impeachment inquiry. As Alexander Hamilton advised in the Federalist Papers, an impeachable offense is a political crime against the nation. Cheney's multiple crimes against the Constitution clearly qualify.

June 30, 2007

supreme injustices

Bill Scher at Campaign for America’s Future discusses the specter of Conservative Activism that is haunting our judiciary, as evidenced by several atrocious rulings earlier this week. As he puts it:

Way too many folks rolled over when John Roberts and Sam Alito were nominated for the Supreme Court. And now we're seeing the consequences.

[…]

The conservative activists on the Supreme Court decreed in a series of 5-4 decisions:

* Individuals, who believe their tax dollars are being unconstitutionally misused by the White House to promote religious beliefs, aren't allowed to enter a courthouse to make their case.

* The Environmental Protection Agency can avoid its responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act, even though it's a law reflecting the public will as passed by the democratically-elected Congress.

* Corporations can once again use their checkbooks to flood the public airwaves with political ads during election season, again overruling Congress.

FFRF comments on the Hein case here:

"This means we have a constitutional separation between church and state, but no way to enforce it if the executive branch chooses to violate it with 'discretionary' actions," added Dan Barker, a plaintiff and Foundation co-president. The Foundation is the largest association of atheists and agnostics in the U.S., whose 10,000 members work to keep church and state separate.

[…]

The Supreme Court in effect ruled that the Bush Administration may use taxpayer money to support religion without complaint by taxpayers. The decision makes the violation impervious to court review, since no one besides taxpayers could have standing to challenge the appropriations.

"The only remedy left, since individual Americans are being barred from challenging this violation, is for Congress to defund the Office of Faith-based Initiatives at the White House and Cabinets," said Barker. "Let Congress provide the oversight that the Court is refusing to give!"

Mkfox from Progressive Historians has comments from Justice Stevens on the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case:

"In my judgment, the First Amendment protects student speech if the message itself neither violates a permissible rule nor expressly advocates conduct that is illegal and harmful to students. This nonsense banner does neither, and the Court does serious violence to the First Amendment in upholding - indeed, lauding - a school's decision to punish Frederick for expressing a view with which it disagreed." [emphasis added]

This skewed-right judiciary is another of the Bushian catastrophes that will take years—if not decades—to rectify. Anyone who still claims that there is no substantive difference between Republicans and Democrats needs to pay closer attention to SCOTUS decisions.

June 25, 2007

what a Dick

Last Thursday, Josh Meyer of the LA Times broke the story about Dick Cheney claiming an exemption from oversight because “his office is not fully part of the executive branch:”

For the last four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has made the controversial claim that his office is not fully part of the Bush administration in order to exempt it from a presidential order regulating federal agencies' handling of classified national security information, officials said Thursday.

Cheney has held that his office is not fully part of the executive branch of government despite the continued objections of the National Archives, which says his office's failure to demonstrate that it has proper security safeguards in place could jeopardize the government's top secrets.

According to documents released Thursday by a House committee, Cheney's staff has blocked efforts by the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office to enforce a key component of the presidential order: a mandatory on-site inspection of the vice president's office. [emphasis added]

On Friday, Meyer reported that, due to Cheney’s demand for exemption from the law:

the National Archives has been unable to review how much information the president's and vice president's offices are classifying and declassifying. And the security oversight office cannot inspect the president and vice president's executive offices to determine whether safeguards are in place to protect the classified information they handle and to properly declassify information when required.

Peter Baker’s article at WaPo on Saturday includes this delightful tidbit:

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said he plans to propose next week, as part of a spending bill for executive operations, a measure to place a hold on funds for Cheney's office and official home until he clarifies to which branch of the government he belongs. Emanuel acknowledged that the proposal is just a stunt, but he said that if Cheney is not part of the executive branch, he should not receive its funds.

This could be a very interesting week.

As the bumpersticker says: IMPEACH CHENEY FIRST!

June 20, 2007

more GOP scandals

The sheer volume of information about the numerous ongoing Bush/GOP scandals doesn’t permit me to go into great detail on any of them; cataloging conservative corruption could easily be a full-time job.

First, there is the House Oversight Committee’s report (164KB PDF) on the RNC email scandal and possible violations of the Presidential Records Act (h/t: Carpetbagger Report). Tony Snow(job) tried the “Clinton did it too” defense, but—surprise!—he was lying. Think Progress has the details:

In 1993, President Clinton’s then-Assistant to the President John Podesta issued a staff memo clearly stating that all administration e-mails dealing with official business had to be “incorporated into an official recordkeeping system,” stressing that no “e-mail document that is a Presidential record should be deleted.”

The Clinton administration’s policy also made clear that personal and political e-mail accounts — which are generally exempt from the Presidential Records Act — could not be used for official business. Indeed, the Bush administration has seemingly implemented a policy opposite of the Clinton administration’s.

Second, the “signing statements” scandal is not going away. Charlie Savage’s expose in the Boston Globe discusses the new GAO study (549KB PDF):

Federal officials have disobeyed at least six new laws that President Bush challenged in his signing statements, a government study disclosed yesterday. The report provides the first evidence that the government may have acted on claims by Bush that he can set aside laws under his executive powers.

[…]

Bush's signing statements have drawn fire because he has used them to challenge more than 1,100 sections of bills -- more than all previous presidents combined. The sample the GAO studied represents a small portion of the laws Bush has targeted, but its report concluded that sometimes the government has gone on to disobey those laws.

White House spokesperson Tony Fratto, in arrogance all-too-typical of this administration, comments, "The signing statements certainly do and should have an impact. They are real." Are Bush’s interpretations—of bills he decided to sign instead of veto—more real than the words written by Congress?

Finally, Seymour Hersh has some incendiary information from Major General Taguba about the imbroglio over “integorration” at Abu Ghraib. Hersh describes an early meeting with Rumsfeld and others, where they strived to minimize the import of the nascent scandal:

…the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. “Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?” At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”

Later in the article, Taguba describes being “appalled” at Rumsfeld’s claim to Congress that he hadn’t seen the Abu Ghraib photographs until the night before his testimony:

He believed that Rumsfeld’s testimony was simply not true. “The photographs were available to him—if he wanted to see them,” Taguba said. Rumsfeld’s lack of knowledge was hard to credit. […] “The whole idea that Rumsfeld projects—‘We’re here to protect the nation from terrorism’—is an oxymoron,” Taguba said. “He and his aides have abused their offices and have no idea of the values and high standards that are expected of them. And they’ve dragged a lot of officers with them.”

One week and three more deepening scandals: That’s quite enough lawbreaking for a while, even for the most corrupt administration ever.

conservatism

Robert Borosage writes in American Prospect about the problems with “Conservatism Itself,” noting that “Conservatives now react to the debacle that is the Bush administration with two general strategies -- denial and disavowal:”

Each of the signature Bush follies -- Iraq, Katrina, Enron, privatization of Social Security, the Terri Schiavo case, trickle-down economics that didn't trickle -- can be traced directly to conservative ideas and the conservative think tanks and ideologues that championed them. In every case, conservatism failed, not simply because of corruption or incompetence, but because of original conception. Sensate conservatives have, in the words Irving Kristol once applied to liberals, "been mugged by reality." Actual existing conservatism fails because it gets the world wrong. And invoking Reagan offers not salvation but confirmation of that failure, for Reagan championed many of the same ideas and inflicted similar debacles on the nation.

[…]

The problem isn't incompetence or deviation from the conservative course. The problem is actual existing conservatism itself. It celebrates military prowess when the threats to our security -- stateless terrorists, catastrophic climate change, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the growing gulf between rich and poor -- have no military solution. It offers no answer to a corporate sector shredding the private social contract that guaranteed many workers healthcare, pensions, job security, and family wages. It opposes the very reforms vital for our economic future -- the transition to clean energy and conservation, support of a world-class education system, and provision of affordable health care and retirement security.

After a quarter century of conservative dominance -- from Reagan to Gingrich to Bush and DeLay -- the verdict is in. Conservatives cannot be trusted to guide the government they scorn. Not because they are incompetent or corrupt (although incompetence and corruption abound), but because they get the world wrong. Their policies foster an America that is weaker and more isolated abroad, divided and more unequal at home. That was as true for Ronald Reagan, who helped give birth to this conservative era, as for George Bush, whose failed presidency should bury it. [emphases added]

Susan Douglas enumerates “The Enduring Lies of Reagan” at In These Times, similarly observing that “the current crop of candidates scramble, quite understandably, to distance themselves from the walking disaster that is George W. Bush.” Douglas lists several of the GOP myths about Saint Ronnie, with this summation:

Fabrication, lying, cruel and counterproductive policies at home and abroad, bloating of the deficit, widening the gap between rich and poor: These are the Reagan legacy. As Republican candidates seek to wear his mantle, their Democratic opponents need to remind Americans exactly what they are putting on.

June 16, 2007

assigning blame

Hank Fox at UTI wrote to Bruce Fein of the conservative pro-freedom website American Freedom Agenda (previously mentioned here). It’s one of the snarkier responses I’ve seen to conservatives who suddenly discover a conscience now that the clock is finally running out on Bushism:

I read your site, and it all sounds good, except for this one teeny thing: Conservatives were the ones who GOT us here.

Collectively, you clowns helped elect Bush and Cheney, you empowered (and continue to empower) venomous freaks like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter, you demonized every person who even thought about speaking out against the war or the president, you sneered at straw-man "liberals," and you sat back and let America and its freedoms go to hell.

[…]

Where was your voice when Bush and Congress were runaway horses with nothing but naked power in mind? Why weren’t you working to stop them 6 years ago? What are you doing NOW to stop them? Nothing, most likely.

June 14, 2007

John Dean: Conservatives Without Conscience

Dean, John. Conservatives Without Conscience (New York: Viking, 2006)

Dean began working on this book with the late Barry Goldwater, but was forced by circumstances to carry on alone. Even on his own--as with his previous book--Dean makes his points well. He uses Burke, de Maistre, Milgram's obedience experiment, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment the Jost study on "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," and Bob Altemeyer's RWA (Right-Wing Authoritarianism) analyses to support his conclusion that the GOP has lurched rightward into dangerously authoritarian territory. In a reversal of Reagan's famous quip about the Democratic Party, Dean didn't leave the GOP; the party left him:

Senator Goldwater's conservatism was sensible and straightforward, and therefore appealing. Given the influence he had on my thinking, as well as my admiration for him, it is not surprising that I still consider myself to be a "Goldwater conservative" on many issues. Be that as it may, while my own core beliefs have not changed significantly in the past forty years, the Grand Old Party to which I once belonged has moved so far to the right, that on the contemporary political spectrum I now often fall to the left of the Republican center. (pp. xxxii-xxxiii, Preface)

He tries to extricate conservatism from its instantiation within the GOP, writing that

Conservatism is not inherently moralistic, negative, arrogant, condescending, and self-righteous. Nor is it authoritarian. Yet all of these are adjectives that best describe the political outlook of contemporary conservatism. I make these observations not as an outsider, but as a conservative who is deeply troubled by what has become of a treasured philosophy. Conservatism has been co-opted by authoritarians, a most dangerous type of political animal. (p. xxxvii, Preface)

and dating the conflation of authoritarianism and Republicanism from about 1990:

While authoritarian conservatism was growing in force in Washington for a decade before Bush and Cheney arrived at the White House, their administration has taken it to its highest and most dangerous level in American history. (p. 117)

If one starts the clock on authoritarian conservatism with the Nixon era, as is more accurate, the single decade posited by Dean stretches four decades from then to the present. Thus, conservatism's era of dominance in Washington is about to draw to a close (and not a moment too soon). Despite being on the political pendulum's return swing, there is still great potential for damage; this description of the RWAs that make up Bush's remaining base of supporters:

"Probably about 20 to 25 percent of the adult American population is so right-wing authoritarian, so scared, so self-righteous, so ill-informed, and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds," Altemeyer told me. He added, "They would march America into a dictatorship and probably feel that things had improved as a result. [...] And they are so submissive to their leaders that they will believe and do virtually anything they are told. They are not going to let up and they are not going to go away." (p. 184)

Since we're stuck with them, perhaps our best course of action is to provide the conscience that they so conspicuously lack.

June 5, 2007

Greenwald on Bush

Glenn Greenwald writes about how the GOP faithful are distancing themselves from Dear Leader Bush for his failures. Try as they do to paint the Bush travesty on an insufficient fealty to conservative principles, it is those principles that have led to the worst presidency in our history:

The great fraud being perpetrated in our political discourse is the concerted attempt by movement conservatives, now that the Bush presidency lay irreversibly in ruins, to repudiate George Bush by claiming that he is not, and never has been, a "real conservative." This con game is being perpetrated by the very same conservatives who -- when his presidency looked to be an epic success -- glorified George W. Bush, ensured both of his election victories, depicted him as the heroic Second Coming of Ronald Reagan, and celebrated him as the embodiment of True Conservatism.

[…]

There is really only one thing that has changed about George W. Bush from the 2002-2004 era when conservatives hailed him as the Great Conservative Leader, and now. Whereas Bush was a wildly popular leader then, which made conservatives eager to claim him as their Standard-Bearer, he is now one of the most despised presidents in U.S. history, and conservatives are thus desperate to disassociate themselves from the President for whom they are solely responsible. It is painfully obvious there is nothing noble, substantive or principled driving this right-wing outburst; it is a pure act of self-preservation.

As with everything Greenwald writes, it’s worth reading the whole thing. Also look for his upcoming book, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, to be released on June 26.

tiny man in the big chair

Cenk Uygur wonders how Bush can sleep at night, given the chaos he has created in Iraq. Uygur lists Bush’s “hideous combination of conceits:”

He has the ego that drives him to want to be the top man. He has the arrogance to think that he his qualified. But he has the laziness that makes him not want to actually do the job. He has the insecurity that makes him want to cover up his faults. He has the smallness of character that will not concede his weaknesses and seek out help. He has the hubris to think that he could cover up all this, run the world into the ground and think that people won't notice. How has the world fallen into the grasp of this tiny, tiny man?

George W. Bush is the perfect storm of character flaws. Not only does he bring all of these horrible traits together at once, but he does at the worst possible time in the worst possible position. The president of the United States of America has to be the most competent person on earth. And somehow the exact opposite has snuck in to that role.

For the love of all that is holy and important, let us please pick the most competent person next time for this position. I don't want to have a beer with our next president. I want him or her to be intellectually superior to me. They should be the best among us, not appeal to the worst in us. They have to be smart, hard working, full of character and perhaps, above all, be someone that cares about the job.

With even many Republicans recognizing the last two elections’ errors, one hopes we will not make a mistake of that magnitude again.

May 22, 2007

whiskey. tango. foxtrot.

If black ops are considered acts of war, Bush may get his trifecta in the Middle East: Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Iran. ABC News broke this story a few hours ago (h/t: Hot Air):

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.


May 16, 2007

illegal spying imbroglio

Former deputy AG James Comey has quite a tale in today's NYT:

President Bush intervened in March 2004 to avert a crisis over the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program after Attorney General John Ashcroft, Director Robert S. Mueller III of the F.B.I. and other senior Justice Department aides all threatened to resign, a former deputy attorney general testified Tuesday.

Mr. Bush quelled the revolt over the program's legality by allowing it to continue without Justice Department approval, also directing department officials to take the necessary steps to bring it into compliance with the law, according to Congressional testimony by the former deputy attorney general, James B. Comey.

[...]

Mr. Comey, the former No. 2 official in the Justice Department, said the crisis began when he refused to sign a presidential order reauthorizing the program, which allowed monitoring of international telephone calls and e-mail of people inside the United States who were suspected of having terrorist ties. He said he made his decision after the department's Office of Legal Counsel, based on an extensive review, concluded that the program did not comply with the law. At the time, Mr. Comey was acting attorney general because Mr. Ashcroft had been hospitalized for emergency gall bladder surgery.

[...]

Mr. Comey said that on the evening of March 10, 2004, Mr. Gonzales and Andrew H. Card Jr., then Mr. Bush's chief of staff, tried to bypass him by secretly visiting Mr. Ashcroft. Mr. Ashcroft was extremely ill and disoriented, Mr. Comey said, and his wife had forbidden any visitors.

Read the whole thing.


update (10:36am):
When you've finished reading the article, read Glenn Greenwald's commentary. After reviewing the details of Comey's testimony, Greenwald makes the following observation:

The overarching point here, as always, is that it is simply crystal clear that the President consciously and deliberately violated the law and committed multiple felonies by eavesdropping on Americans in violation of the law. [...] But the more important issue here, by far, is that we should not have to speculate in this way about how the illegal eavesdropping powers were used. We enacted a law 30 years ago making it a felony for the government to eavesdrop on us without warrants, precisely because that power had been so severely and continuously abused. The President deliberately violated that law by eavesdropping in secret. [emphasis in original]

Greenwald also has a few questions:

Does this sound in any way like the behavior of a government operating under the rule of law, which believes that it had legal authority to spy on Americans without the warrants required for three decades by law? How can we possibly permit our government to engage in this behavior, to spy on us in deliberate violation of the laws which we enacted democratically precisely in order to limit how they can spy on us, and to literally commit felonies at will, knowing that they are breaking the law?

How is this not a major scandal on the level of the greatest presidential corruption and lawbreaking scandals in our country's history? Why is this only a one-day story that will focus on the hospital drama but not on what it reveals about the bulging and unparalleled corruption of this administration and the complete erosion of the rule of law in our country? And, as I've asked times before, if we passively allow the President to simply break the law with impunity in how the government spies on our conversations, what don't we allow?

If we had a functioning political press, these are the questions that would be dominating our political discourse and which would have been resolved long ago.

May 3, 2007

"the commander guy"

Dubya has decreed that henceforth he shall be known as “the commander guy.” Ron Chusid at Liberal Values notes that:

If Bush read the Constitution, he would know the actual title is Commander in Chief. If he also read the Constitution, he would also realize that there are limits on his authority.

What a maroon.

May 2, 2007

Bush's message to our troops

Fulfilling his threat to veto military funding passed by Congress, Bush has issued a clear message to our troops:

20070502-bushfinger.jpg

May 1, 2007

happy "mission accomplished" anniversary

ThinkProgress does an excellent job summarizing the four years since Dubya’s infamous “mission accomplished” speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. The White House website has cropped the video from that day to make the banner disappear, as I mentioned earlier.

April 12, 2007

subpoenas

On the heels of Monday's subpoena of AG Albert Gonzales comes news that the Bush administration has preemptively deleted emails in anticipation of impending Congressional investigations. As Dan Froomkin writes in today's Washington Post:

Countless e-mails to and from many key White House staffers have been deleted -- lost to history and placed out of reach of congressional subpoenas -- due to a brazen violation of internal White House policy that was allowed to continue for more than six years, the White House acknowledged yesterday.

The leading culprit appears to be President Bush's enormously influential political adviser Karl Rove, who reportedly used his Republican National Committee-provided Blackberry and e-mail accounts for most of his electronic communication.

Until 2004, all e-mail on RNC accounts was routinely deleted after 30 days. Since 2004, White House staffers using those accounts have been able to save their e-mail indefinitely -- but have also been able to delete whatever they felt like deleting. By comparison, the White House e-mail system preserves absolutely everything forever, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.

The White House yesterday said it has no idea how many e-mails have been lost.

Pat Leahy (D-VT) had the best remark about the latest Bush scandal:

Like the famous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes, it appears likely that key documentation has been erased or misplaced. This sounds like the Administration's version of 'the dog ate my homework.'

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), concurs:

"It's clear that the White House has been willfully violating the law, the only question now is to what extent? The ever changing excuses offered by the administration - that they didn't want to violate the Hatch Act, that staff wasn't clear on the law - are patently ridiculous. Very convenient that embarrassing - and potentially incriminating - emails have gone missing. It's the Nixon White House all over again."

CREW published "Without a Trace," (executive summary here and full report here) a report explaining the administration's violations of the Presidential Records Act of 1978:

1) The administration failed to implement adequate record-keeping systems to archive presidential email records; 2) two confidential sources independently informed CREW that the administration abandoned a plan to recover more than five million missing emails; 3) emails were not adequately preserved.

This is not an issue of a few dozen or few hundred emails, but of millions. That's not an oversight or an accident, that's conspiracy and obstruction of justice. In a just world, computer forensics investigators would already be on the job. (Glenn Greenwald provided a handy list of the Bushites' previous instances of dog-eaten homework, lest anyone believes this to be an isolated occurrence.)


update (3/22/2008 @ 2:21pm):
According to the AP, the White House destroyed the hard drives.

April 11, 2007

2007 Muzzle awards

The 2007 “Muzzle” award winners from the Thomas Jefferson Center have been announced, and the Bush Administration has claimed first place for its:

unprecedented efforts of discouraging, changing, and sometimes censoring the reports and studies of government scientists in order to make them more supportive of political policies. […] Over the course of the past five years, government scientists have felt an unprecedented degree of political interference in communicating their research to the public thereby making the Bush Administration a deserving recipient of a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle.

Fifth place goes to the Department of Defense for “launching and sustaining a program, ostensibly aimed at counter-terrorists, that gathered and stored extensive information about lawful anti-war demonstrators and other citizen groups that posed no national security threat.” Attempting to soften the blow, TJC director Robert M. O’Neil notes that:

“threats to free expression come from all over the political spectrum and are not the byproduct of a particular outlook or ideology. The presidential administrations of George Bush and Bill Clinton, former Attorney Generals John Ashcroft and Janet Reno, and both the Republican and Democratic national parties are among those who can claim the dubious honor of receiving a Muzzle.”

As true as this comment is, the Bush Administration has an unparalleled history of threatening, restricting, or otherwise abridging free speech. In addition to their first-place showing this year, the Bush Administration has won in various capacities numerous times during their disastrous time in Washington:

2000: first place to The George W. Bush Presidential Campaign
2002: first place to The United States Department of Defense and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
2003: first place to United States Attorney General John Ashcroft
2004: second place to The U.S. Department of Defense and third place to The United States Secret Service
2005: eighth place to The United States Department of State and The United States Department of Homeland Security
2006: first place to President George W. Bush, second place to The U.S. Department of Justice, and eight place to The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

At least we know that they’re good at something.

April 10, 2007

American Freedom Agenda

Several notable conservative political figures (Bruce Fein, Bob Barr, David Keene, and Richard Viguerie) have proposed an “American Freedom Agenda” for consideration in our political arena. The “Freedom Pledge” they recommend to candidates for public office could be a great leap toward restoring the separation of powers and driving a stake through the heart of Bush’s imperial presidency.

Beinhart on Bush's "library"

Larry (Wag the Dog) Beinhart has some comments on Bush’s Presidential “Library,” noting that “This institution will be used to keep presidential papers from real scholars, historians and researchers:”

Bush's goal is to raise $500,000,000 (five hundred million) for his memorial to himself.

Where could $500,000,000 possibly go? Part of it will pay for lawyers to keep real scholars out of the records. The bulk of it will go to paid political hacks who will churn out papers and books that will rewrite reality. Just as the Bush White House has done his entire administration.

That's why professors and students at SMU oppose it. Nobody opposes libraries. They are opposing a propaganda mill. They are opposing an institution intended to be the enemy of truth.

Every time anyone in the media uses the word library in reference to this project, they aid and abet the confusion and delusion.

It should be referred to as the George W. Bush Propaganda Mill.

April 9, 2007

almost-president Pelosi?

Did Nancy Pelosi narrowly escape being sworn in as President today? Did Dubya come close to killing himself and Cheney with an electricity-meets-hydrogen explosion? Check out this Detroit News article.

Maybe next time…

April 6, 2007

"epic collapse"

Joe Klein recounts for Time magazine the “epic collapse” of the Bush administration (h/t: John at AmericaBlog):

The three big Bush stories of 2007--the decision to "surge" in Iraq, the scandalous treatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for tawdry political reasons--precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history: arrogance (the surge), incompetence (Walter Reed) and cynicism (the U.S. Attorneys).

[…]

When Bush came to office--installed by the Supreme Court after receiving fewer votes than Al Gore--I speculated that the new President would have to govern in a bipartisan manner to be successful. He chose the opposite path, and his hyper-partisanship has proved to be a travesty of governance and a comprehensive failure. I've tried to be respectful of the man and the office, but the three defining sins of the Bush Administration--arrogance, incompetence, cynicism--are congenital: they're part of his personality. They're not likely to change. And it is increasingly difficult to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a leader so clearly unfit to lead.

April 2, 2007

former Bushie admits that Kerry was right

Yesterday’s New York Times op-ed tells the tale of former Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd, who is now openly critical of the Bush administration:

In speaking out, Mr. Dowd became the first member of Mr. Bush’s inner circle to break so publicly with him.

He said his decision to step forward had not come easily. But, he said, his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s presidency is so great that he feels a sense of duty to go public given his role in helping Mr. Bush gain and keep power.

[…]

His views against the war began to harden last spring when, in a personal exercise, he wrote a draft opinion article and found himself agreeing with Mr. Kerry’s call for withdrawal from Iraq.

The opinion article’s title: “Kerry Was Right!”

February 28, 2007

déjà vu all over again?

Ken Silverstein has a three part series on Iran (here, here, and here) at Harper’s. His interviews with various analysts dissect the situation, starting with the Busheviks’ bellicose blustering:

The Bush Administration's combative rhetoric—its accusations about Iran's nuclear program, involvement in Iraq, and support for Hezbollah and Hamas—looks like a prelude to military action. It's eerily reminiscent of the fall 2002/winter 2003 rhetoric on Iraq, when the administration was talking about WMDs and Saddam Hussein's meddling in the region. [Anonymous former CIA official #2]

Silverstein’s other sources are paint a pessimistic portrait of our future interaction with Iran, calling it everything from “risky in the extreme,” “delusional,” and stating flatly that “If the United States attacks Iran, the consequences would be disastrous.” Seymour Hersh’s new article in The New Yorker, “The Redirection,” explains that despite Robert Gates’ assurance that “we are not planning for a war with Iran,” a disturbing escalation is nonetheless underway:

According to current and former American intelligence and military officials, secret operations in Lebanon have been accompanied by clandestine operations targeting Iran. American military and special-operations teams have escalated their activities in Iran to gather intelligence and, according to a Pentagon consultant on terrorism and the former senior intelligence official, have also crossed the border in pursuit of Iranian operatives from Iraq.

[…]

The Bush Administration has publicly pledged the Siniora government [of Lebanon] a billion dollars in aid since last summer. A donors’ conference in Paris, in January, which the U.S. helped organize, yielded pledges of almost eight billion more, including a promise of more than a billion from the Saudis. The American pledge includes more than two hundred million dollars in military aid, and forty million dollars for internal security.

Thus, we are inadvertently helping to finance the Iraqi insurgency. Hersh, to his credit, draws the appropriate historical parallel:

The Bush Administration’s reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.

Hersh summarized his findings in an interview with CNN (h/t: ThinkProgress):

We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11, and we should be arresting these people rather than looking the other way…

The SundayTimes reported over the weekend that “up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack:”


“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

The article goes on to note that “A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented.” Craig Unger’s latest piece at Vanity Fair, “From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq,” is a disturbing look into the administration’s imperviousness to reality in the Middle East (h/t: Digby at Hullabaloo). Unger is scarcely more pessimistic than Silverstein’s interviewees in observing that “waging war against Iran could be the most catastrophic choice of all:”

It is widely believed that Iran would respond to an attack by blockading the Strait of Hormuz, a 20-mile-wide narrows in the eastern part of the Persian Gulf through which about 40 percent of the world's oil exports are transported. Oil analysts say a blockade could propel the price of oil to $125 a barrel, sending the world economy into a tailspin. There could be vast international oil wars. Iran could act on its fierce rhetoric against Israel.

[…]

The Bush White House has already built the fire. Whether it will light the match remains to be seen.

Iraq turned out so wonderfully that there’s no reason why Iran shouldn’t be another cakewalk.

February 25, 2007

emulating the enemy

Glenn Greenwald calls the Bush administration to task for its reprehensible tactics, observing that they are “Emulating the Enemy.” Greenwald identifies a central pathology of Bushism—its blind belligerence:

One of the hallmarks of the Bush presidency -- arguably the central one -- is that we have adopted the mentality and mimicked the behavior of "our enemies," including those whom we have long considered, rightfully so, to be savage and uncivilized. As a result, our foreign policy consists of little more than flamboyant demonstrations of our own "toughness" because that, so the thinking goes, is the only language which "our enemies" understand, and we must speak "their language" (hence, we stay in Iraq not because it makes geopolitical sense, but because we have to prove to Al Qaeda that they cannot "break our will").

Thus, any measure designed to avert war -- negotiations, diplomacy, compromise, an acceptance of the fact that we need not force every country to submit to our national Will -- are scornfully dismissed as "weakness," which, in turn, is "provocative." Conversely, war-seeking policies are always desirable because they show how tough and strong we are.

Greenwald excerpts Richard Hofstadter’s classic essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” which illuminated the same base bellicosity over four decade ago. In light of Hoftadter’s observation that “We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well,” perhaps we should be kinder to the long-suffering wingnuts. He concludes that:

Their obsessions with displays of power and their (quite related) intense fear of being perceived as weak are, as Hofstadter documented so conclusively, more psychological and personal than political…

I would say “pathological” instead of “psychological,” but that’s quibbling.

February 21, 2007

when will the firings happen?

This was Scott McClellan’s comment in September 2003 about the Plame leak:

The President has set high standards, the highest of standards for people in his administration. He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration. [emphasis added]

The NY Daily News (h/t: Ron Chusid at Liberal Values) summarizes the ten—yes, ten!—people in Bush’s administration who leaked Valerie Plame’s identity as a covert CIA operative:

Vice President Cheney When Libby reminded his boss the vice president that he learned about Plame from him, Cheney tilted his head quizzically and said, "From me?"

Karl Rove
Bush's top political mastermind told reporters Robert Novak and Matt Cooper about Plame.

Richard Armitage
The former deputy secretary of state gossiped about Plame to Novak, and marveled to Watergate icon Bob Woodward, "How about that?"

Ari Fleischer
Bush's former spokesman got immunity before admitting he told reporters John Dickerson and David Gregory about Plame. Reporter Walter Pincus said Fleischer told him about her, too.

Dan Bartlett
Fleischer claimed Bush's counselor blurted out to him on Air Force One in July 2003 that Plame "worked at the CIA."

Robert Grenier
The top CIA official overseeing Iraq operations got nervous over Libby's pestering and later "felt guilty" about telling Cheney's chief of staff about Plame.

Bill Harlow
The CIA spokesman told Cheney flack Cathie Martin.

Cathie Martin
She told Cheney and Libby about Plame.

Marc Grossman
The No. 3 at the State Department also told Libby about Plame.

Craig Schmall
Cheney's CIA daily briefer discussed Plame with Libby.

I wondered, briefly, when the firings would happen. Then I remembered: living up to a promise would require someone in Bush’s administration to have integrity.

February 19, 2007

Texas Monthly on Dubya's legacy

This long Texas Monthly article, “The Test of Time,” (h/t: Paul at Alien & Sedition) has a variety of opinions on how Dubya’s presidency will be remembered. It’s not a flattering portrait, even given its Texas provenance.

Douglas Brinkley refers to Bush’s “meanness of spirit,” noting that Bush isn’t “somebody who was in any way healing the nation or trying to be bipartisan. He became a stubborn ideologue.”

Kathleen Hall Jamieson opens her piece this way:

I think that George Bush’s legacy is going to be his use of signing statements [written documents that presidents can issue when they sign a bill into law]. He has used them to replace the veto, which represents a shift in institutional power and alters the relationship between the branches. When a president doesn’t issue a veto until the sixth year of his presidency but nonetheless systematically takes exception to legislation, that person is doing something different from what his predecessors did. Some observers view this as a healthy exercise of executive power; others view it as overstepping. I’m in the second camp.

Michael Lind takes the longer view, correctly placing the Bush presidency as the (literal and figurative) tail end of the GOP’s nearly forty-year dominance of the executive branch. Lind notes that “If you look at George W. Bush in a larger perspective quite apart from Iraq, you see him as the peak of the post-sixties conservative wave that began with the white backlash against the civil rights revolution.” The “worst” appellation comes only hypothetically, when Lind posits that:

If Bush were to attack Iran in the next two years, he could cement his legacy as the worst commander in chief of all time. The Iranians hate the Sunni jihadists and Al Qaeda hates both the Iranians and the Iraqi Baathists. To declare war simultaneously on three archenemies who are not coordinated, who have not formed an alliance against you, is just madness.

Paul Begala’s standard of judgment—the same one he uses to praise both Reagan and Clinton—is “Did George W. Bush accomplish what he set out to accomplish?” This benchmark leads to his evaluation of Bush as “an abject failure.” By the standard of “How long do your benefits last, and how long does it take to clean up your mistakes?” Begala rates Bush as “the worst president in history.” (Even conservative Niall Ferguson is forced to admit that “it’s going to be very hard…to conclude that this was a great presidency.”

H.W. Brands recognizes the two central failures of the Bush era: “The things that he chose to have happen—cutting taxes and going to war in Iraq—were not decisions he had to make at all. He decided to do these things utterly on his own. The fact that he got them both wrong is going to really tell against his historical reputation.”

Bruce Bartlett opines that “There isn’t much question that George W. Bush will rank among the bottom of all presidents in terms of his accomplishments in office,” placing Hoover and Nixon at the very bottom of the list. Bartlett identifies Bush’s two biggest failures as the pursuit of his policies “with such ineptness that he has made things worse” and his closed-mindedness: “He doesn’t listen to anybody. […] You can’t reason with him. You can’t do anything except wait for the clock to run out.

20 January 2009 can’t get here quickly enough.

Dubya wants to have anal sex with bin Laden

No, seriously! Haaretz reports that Ariel Sharon told his biographer Uri Dan about a conversation with Dubya about bin Laden:

Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon's delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: "I will screw him in the ass!" [emphasis added]

I hope Bush finds bin Laden soon, because I don’t the American people can stand two more years of him fucking us instead.

February 14, 2007

restoring the Constitution

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) has re-introduced a bill entitled “Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007” that, among other things, will:

restore Habeas Corpus protections to detainees, bar information acquired through torture from being introduced as evidence in trials, and limit presidential authority to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions.

Details are here (h/t: DU), and the full text of the bill is here (58KB PDF).

February 10, 2007

fiscal conservatism in Iraq

This tale of fiscal conservatism in Iraq—as evidenced by the unaccounted-for billions in pallets of $100 bills, as recounted here—is all-too-typical of Bushevik money management. Paul Bremer whined that, "I arrived in Baghdad at a time when much of the city was burning. Looting was still widespread. My responsibilities were to kickstart the economy."

Those sorts of slapdash slushfunds and cash handouts is quite at odds with the administration’s carefully planned wealth redistribution at home, with upwardly targeted tax cuts being the most obvious of many examples.

appointing attorneys

Joe Conason’s article at Slate about “Albert Gonzales’s Coup d’Etat” discusses the administration’s partisan antics with the appointment of US attorneys. Conason traces the problem to:

December 2005, when the Senate renewed the Patriot Act. At the behest of the Justice Department, an aide to Sen. Arlen Specter slipped a provision into the bill that permitted the White House to place its own appointees in vacant U.S. attorney positions permanently and without Senate confirmation.

How (un)surprising: the Bush administration promulgating its “unitary executive” theory at the expense of the separation of powers.

February 8, 2007

I think so

The Nation is polling people’s opinions on whether or not Dubya is the worst president we’ve ever had.

You know what my assessment is.

January 29, 2007

cretin on the couch

Bush on the Couch” from New York magazine (h/t: Ron Chusid at Liberal Values) has an interesting assortment of quotes about Dubya’s psychological condition. Alan Brinkley writes:

as the political cost of his current path becomes increasingly apparent to almost any sentient person, Bush—who may still have time to redeem at least some part of his legacy—still appears to be oblivious both to the downward spiral of his presidency and to his own likely place in history.

how apropos

The new pastry chef at the White House co-authored this book:

20070129-desserts4dummies.jpg

(h/t: ThinkProgress)

January 28, 2007

Bush isn't my commander-in-chief

The Right makes incessant references to the President (except during Democratic administrations) as the Commander-in-Chief. In a post on the distinction between a civilian President and a military Commander-in-Chief, Glenn Greenwald quotes from his own How Would a Patriot Act? to note how this relates to the constitutional division of powers:

Moreover, while President Bush's supporters are fond of referring to him as the "commander in chief" -- typically to insinuate that he should be beyond criticism or that his authority cannot be questioned, particularly in "times of war" -- the president under our system of government holds that position only with regard to those in the armed forces (see Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution: "The president shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States"). With regard to Americans generally, the president is not our "commander" but instead our elected public servant, subject to the mandates of the law like every other citizen and subordinate to the will of the people.

He also blames, appropriately, the commonality of this usage on the Right's media echo chamber while quoting Teddy Roosevelt on the moral treason involved in blind support for the President:

Most media flaws are so fundamental and systemic that they will take a long time to resolve, if they can be at all. But one quick, easy and critical step would be to cease speaking of the elected civilian President as our military Commander and instead treat him as the public servant that he is. There is no obligation or duty to support the President, fully including matters relating to war. Quite the contrary: he "should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole."

Greenwald also quoted from a Garry Wills op-ed on the same subject:

We hear constantly now about "our commander in chief." The word has become a synonym for "president." It is said that we "elect a commander in chief." It is asked whether this or that candidate is "worthy to be our commander in chief."

But the president is not our commander in chief. He certainly is not mine. I am not in the Army. [...] The president is not the commander in chief of civilians.

January 27, 2007

John Dean on Alberto Gonzales

John Dean’s article at FindLaw about Alberto Gonzales is a good read for its position on the implied right of habeas corpus. Dean writes that Gonzales’ recent appearance “bordered on the pathetic” and “increase[d] his standing as one of the least respected Attorney Generals ever,” which is remarkable considering the low bar set by his predecessor John Ashcroft. Dean concludes, after discussing the Founders’ rejection of the Anti-Federalist interpretation of the Constitution:

With all due respect, Attorney General Gonzales needs to read an American history book - to avoid relying on arguments rejected in the 18th Century when offered by those who opposed the adoption of our nation's founding charter. Every time Gonzales testifies, he leaves the Constitution a bit more battered by his right-wing gobbledygook and revisionist dogma. We are fortunate he seldom appears before Congress.

Andrew Sullivan broadly echoes this sentiment in response to a reader’s comment:

No conservative can support this administration. Except those conservatives gripped by power, partisanship and pride.

January 26, 2007

Eskow on Bush

RJ Eskow slams “the decider” (or is it “decision-maker” now?) for his vast ignorance of the Constitution (you know, the one that he has twice pledged to “preserve, protect, and defend.”):

In order to keep the job you have to follow the rules. And the rules say Congress makes the decisions about matters of war. You command, they decide. Now do you want to follow the rules and obey the law or not?

Decide that. That will determine where you live and work for the next two years.

Sure, it's not as neat and orderly as a dictatorship - or as your Vice President prefers to call it, a "unitary executive." But it's the law.

January 25, 2007

Pelosi and Bush

This exchange between the Speaker and the President is marvelous:

PELOSI: He's tried this two times — it's failed twice. I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?'

BUSH: Because I told them it had to.

PELOSI: Why didn't you tell them that the other two times?

impeachment opinions

The current issue of The Nation explores impeachment: Elizabeth Holtzman offers “The Case in Favor,” and Sanford Levinson offers “The Case Against.” (For a view from one year ago, check out Holtzman’s “The Impeachment of George W. Bush.”)

In my estimation, Holtzman’s case is the stronger one. She notes the public’s sentiment, largely unreported in the corporate media: “A Newsweek poll, conducted just before election day, showed 51 percent of Americans believed that impeachment of President Bush should be either a high or lower priority; 44 percent opposed it entirely. (Compare these results with the 63 percent of the public who in the fall of 1998 opposed President Clinton's impeachment.).” She concludes:

Failure to impeach Bush would condone his actions. It would allow him to assume he can simply continue to violate the laws on wiretapping and torture and violate other laws as well without fear of punishment. […] Worse still, if Congress fails to act, Bush might be emboldened to believe he may start another war, perhaps against Iran, again on the basis of lies, deceptions and exaggerations.

There is no remedy short of impeachment to protect us from this President, whose ability to cause damage in the next two years is enormous.

Levinson calls Bush’s potential impeachment and removal from office “wonderful,” as he is “quite possibly the worst president in our entire history.” He objects to impeachment proceedings as “a strategy doomed not only to fail but also to be perceived by most of the country as a dangerous distraction from the pressing problems facing the country.” Whether progressives’ impeachment efforts will be “entirely fruitless” remains to be seen.

update (1/26 @ 9:04am):
Despite Pelosi’s timidity, John Conyers has plans to begin Judiciary Committee hearings into Bush’s abuses of power (h/t: Dave Lindorff at Smirking Chimp).

January 23, 2007

made to be broken

This ThinkProgress article shows two things that Bush is in favor of recycling: proposals and promises. He makes many statements about “addiction” and “dependence”—concepts with which he should be quite familiar—but he and the Republican rubber-stamp Congress have done nothing for the past six years. Will tonight’s SOTU be more of the same, or will the spectre of oversight from the Democratic Congress force him to take action instead of relying on applause lines?


update (2:15pm):
David Roberts provides a Green Party perspective on the president and the upcoming SOTU at HuffPo:

Bush is reviled. His popularity is yet again at an all-time low in the polls. The American people have rejected him and overwhelmingly rejected his escalation of a disastrous war. His Congressional bootlickers are deserting him in droves. After six years he has no domestic accomplishments to speak of, only a foreign policy disaster of incalculable proportions.

His legacy to his party will be failure: Republicans are headed for a drubbing in 2008 that will make 2006 look like pattycakes. His legacy to the next president will be failure: whoever is elected will spend at least a term, possibly two, cleaning up the mess and managing fallout. His legacy to future generations will be failure: the U.S. is in every way less secure than when he took over, more vulnerable to everything from energy shocks to severe weather to terrorism.

He is a failure. A small, vain, vicious man backed into a corner. All his energy now is devoted to one thing: not being the guy who lost the Iraq War. He no longer hopes of winning it. He's just scrambling to stay afloat until he can dump it in his successor's lap. If he has to escalate to keep from losing, don't think he won't provoke Iran. That will be the story of the next two years. [emphasis in original]

January 20, 2007

psychoanalyzing Bush

This TruthOut analysis of Bush’s psychological makeup (h/t: UTI) is interesting, if unsurprising:

At this point, the president seems to have entered a place in his psyche where he is discounting all external criticism and unpopularity, and fixing stubbornly on his illusion of vindication, because he's still "The Decider," who can just keep deciding until he gets to success. It's hard not to feel something heroic in this position - but it's a recipe for bad, if not catastrophic, decisions.

[…]

We don't dare to really confront the scale of his incompetent behavior, because then we would have to face what it means to have such an incompetent and psychologically disabled decision-maker as our president. It raises everyone's uncertainty. And that is, in fact, happening now.

January 19, 2007

they’re not taking away our rights, only declaring that we never had them!

Alberto Gonzales’ statements on habeas corpus yesterday left my head spinning (h/t: ThinkProgress for the transcript):

GONZALES: The fact that the Constitution — again, there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away. But it’s never been the case, and I’m not a Supreme — [emphasis added]

SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?

GONZALES: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn’t say, “Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas.” It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by —

SPECTER: You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.

GONZALES: Um.

On an absolute textual level, Gonzales is correct: the Constitution does not directly state that a habeas right exists, merely that it cannot be taken away except as specified. (See Section I, Article 9: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”) The existence of a habeas right can be assumed by reading the same text, unless Gonzales is trying to convince us that the Founders were worried about the procedure for suspending a right that they weren’t assuming existed. If our rights disappear during the Bush administration, Gonzales will simply declare that they weren’t taken away: they never existed in the first place!

Today’s GOP: building a bridge to the thirteenth century!


update (3:32pm):
Joel Balkin has a more measured and articulate response to Gonzales’ view of habeas, noting that these are “sad days for the American Constitution:”

What is most troubling about this view-- that habeas is not a right but a default rule rather easily dispensed with-- is that it undermines the very purpose of the Great Writ, both in the United States, and in Great Britain, where it originated: The possibility that the King could dispense with the rule of law and throw individuals in prison because he regarded them an enemy of the state is the very reason why we have a writ of habeas corpus. Substitute "George W. Bush" for "King" and you are rapidly approaching the Administration's desired position.

January 18, 2007

the worst POSSIBLE president?

Jane Smiley’s psychological assessment of Dubya at HuffPo will no doubt become another example of what the Busheviks refer to as BDS (“Bush Derangement Syndrome”):

Bush is the worst possible president because he is simultaneously unusually ignorant for a president and unusually shallow, as well as desperate for a success he can call his own. […]The small pathologies of Bush the candidate have, thanks to the purposes of the neocons and the religious right, been enhanced and upgraded. We have a bona fide madman now, who thinks of himself in a grandiose way as single-handedly turning the tide of history.

Referring to Bush as “the worst possible president,” rather than (merely?) the worst to date, is too breathlessly hyperbolic even for me. As bad a president as Bush is, he’s not the worst possible president. There are ways in which a president could be worse than Bush, although I hope our country never has to experience them.

January 14, 2007

Sullivan on BDS

Andrew Sullivan says this about the Right’s mis-diagnosis of BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) being applied to all critics of the administration:

At some point, someone will surely point out that "Bush Derangement Syndrome" is more accurately applied to those who still believe the president is even minimally competent.

Uh, Andrew? I think you just did.

January 10, 2007

you say you want an escalation

Philosophoraptor at DU managed to make President Bush look like an idiot (h/t: Liberal Avenger) before Dubya did the job personally:

...I come before you tonight to tell you that I have thought long and hard about the results of the last election in 2006, and I have studied and contemplated the findings of the Iraq study group. I have heard the voice of the American people, loud and clear.

And after consulting with my new generals on the ground and in the theater of operation, and with my staff of experts, I want to announce this evening that I will go ahead and do exactly as I damn well please, and you can all go fuck yourselves, each and every single useless one of you. I am the president, I am the decider, you are beyond irrelevant to me and I utterly disregard you with the deepest contempt imaginable...

Seriously, though, Bush deserves kudos for owning up to his failure in Iraq:

Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me. It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq.

Other than that moment of honesty, his address was the usual steaming pile of horse puckey we have come to expect from his bully pulpit. My favorite part was when he claimed that if we withdraw from Iraq, we’ll have to stay there longer:

Our new approach comes after consultations with Congress about the different courses we could take in Iraq. Many are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States - and therefore, our policy should focus on protecting Iraq's borders and hunting down al Qaeda. Their solution is to scale back America's efforts in Baghdad - or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces. We carefully considered these proposals. And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. [emphasis added to point out the contradiction]

January 9, 2007

Congressional war powers

Despite the whines from supporters of Bush’s “unitary executive,” Congress is fully within its Constitutional rights to restrict funding for specific military actions. Center for American Progress has details on this web page, and in this PDF report: (h/t: ThinkProgress)

In sharp contrast to the 109th Congress, this new Congress will do more to exercise its powers and responsibility as a co-equal branch of government in shaping the future direction of the country’s Iraq policy. Such a policy will be successful only if it enjoys the informed consent of the American people. Unlike the previous Congress, the 110th seems to recognize the awesome responsibility they have to perform due diligence on our policy and on the President’s request for ever more resources to pursue that policy.

Bush’s upcoming escalation of the Iraqi occupation should be denied funding by the Congress, for all the obvious reasons.

Gulag Gitmo

Thursday will mark the fifth anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp. Witness Against Torture is running a campaign to shut down Gitmo. The hat tip for this one goes to Meteor Blades at DailyKos, who penned a depressing history of Gitmo and its legacy of torture and lawlessness under Dubya:

As has been learned little by little over the years as news trickled out from Guantánamo, prisoners were beaten, sexually humiliated, deprived of sleep, shackled for long periods in cramped positions, subjected to exceedingly loud music, forced to live under bright lights 24 hours a day, interrogated repeatedly under harsh conditions, waterboarded and otherwise cruelly mistreated.

The Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the U.N. Committee Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights and scores of ex-captives released from Guantánamo without charge after years of incarceration have a word for what happened there: torture.

[…]

Helped by its allies in North Africa and Asia and Europe, America still runs its very own gulag. We, the citizens of America, don’t know for certain where most captives in this secret archipelago of prisons are being held. Or their numbers. Or how many have "disappeared" permanently.

We cannot, however, plead ignorance about Guantánamo. Neither can our newly elected Democratic majorities. The House and Senate need to devote a few of their first hundred hours resolving to investigate and shut down this shameful violation of human rights and international law, and all similar prisons, known and unknown.

The word for the day isn’t “appalling,” or “illegal,” or “inhumane.” It’s “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Guantanamo is an impeachable offense.

who needs White House visitor logs…

…when you have photographic evidence?

Look what we have here: CREW has posted a photo of Dubya with disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, about whom Scott McClellan once said, “the President doesn't recall meeting him and he certainly doesn't know him.”

20070109-bush-abramoff.jpg

Moral of the story: photos don’t lie, but White House Press Secretaries do.

January 8, 2007

Hedges on American Fascists

Michelle (Kingdom Coming) Goldberg interviews Chris Hedges about his new book, American Fascists. Hedges carefully qualifies his use of the concept fascism this way:

there are enough generic qualities that the group within the religious right, known as Christian Reconstructionists or dominionists, warrants the word. Does this mean that this is Nazi Germany? No. Does this mean that this is Mussolini's Italy? No. Does this mean that this is a deeply anti-democratic movement that would like to impose a totalitarian system? Yes.

His take on Bush’s dysfunctional religious attitudes is equally harsh, and equally accurate:

I think he's a believer, to the extent that this belief system empowers his own arrogant sense of privilege and intellectual shallowness. When you know right and wrong, when you've been mandated by God to lead, you don't have to ask hard questions, you don't have to listen to anyone else. I think that plays into the Bush character pretty well.

I think there are probably other aspects or tenets of this belief system that he finds distasteful and doesn't like. But in a real sense he fits the profile: a washout, not a very good family life -- apparently his mother was a horror show -- a drunk, a drug addict, coasted because of his daddy, reaches middle age, hasn't done anything with his life, finds Jesus. That fits a lot of people in the movement.

January 7, 2007

The Onion on Bush

The Onion's piece "Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over" made me laugh out loud when I first saw it six years ago. Little did any of us know how poor a president Bush would be, or how close to truth this parody would become.

January 6, 2007

criminal visitors to the White House

Hiding criminal visitors to the White House is easy when you’re George W Bush: you just decide that the White House visitors’ logs are now your property rather than the Secret Service’s. (h/t: John at AmericaBlog) Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and ABC News have more details. CREW comments:

Of course the White House and the Secret Service declined to comment. This action is appalling. And, it begs the question: What is the White House hiding? Clearly, something big. The Bush Administration has gone to extreme lengths to prevent the public from seeing any information about Jack Abramoff's visits to the White House.

That’s Bush’s “unitary executive” in action, all right: plenty of secrecy and no accountability.

January 5, 2007

Bush can open your mail

This NY Daily News story has gotten some play in the blogosphere yesterday and the media today: Bush has granted himself the power to tamper with—and read—our mail:

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.

Bush's move came during the winter congressional recess and a year after his secret domestic electronic eavesdropping program was first revealed. It caught Capitol Hill by surprise.

"Despite the President's statement that he may be able to circumvent a basic privacy protection, the new postal law continues to prohibit the government from snooping into people's mail without a warrant," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the incoming House Government Reform Committee chairman, who co-sponsored the bill.



Another signing statement, another violation of privacy, another impeachable offense...it’s just another day in Bushworld.

January 3, 2007

what Congress can do

Dubya had an op-ed in the WSJ today, “What the Congress can do for America,” that includes this jaw-dropping line:

If the Congress chooses to pass bills that are simply political statements, they will have chosen stalemate.

Would that be “political statements” such as—to pick a few from the last six years of a GOP-dominated Congress—criminalizing flag burning, prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages, demanding that monotheism remain in the Pledge of Allegiance, mandating public endorsement of religion, and meddling in Terri Schiavo’s end-of-life decisions? Calling these instrusive big-government measures “principles” may work for Dubya’s true believers, but they’re nothing if not political statements. The outgoing GOP Congress was so consumed with symbolism over substance that they couldn’t be bothered to finish most of the federal spending bills.

Bush’s call for a line-item veto was also rhetorically interesting. It might have some small shred of credibility if he had vetoed even one spending bill (vetoing stem cell research hardly counts) in the past six years, or if he weren’t the most profligate president ever.

John at AmericaBlog put the smackdown on Bush, and Jerome a Paris gave Bush a solid thrashing at DailyKos:

These are not the words of someone willing to be conciliatory. This is defiant, petulant, arrogant posturing - unfortunately backed by a lot of institutional power.

The challenge is clear. Bush will be a resolute obstacle to anything sane the Democratic Congress will try to do, and will continue to do his things as if nothing had happened in November - while using the opportunity of Democrats being "in power" to blame them for everything.

There can be no compromise. This is a declaration of war. Which should be good news, right? Bush is unable to win any war. Time to wage this one.

How about issuing some subpoenas and beginning impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney? That’s something Congress could do for America.

update (2:25pm)
Brent Budowsky at HuffPo suggests a response to Bush’s threat to cause a stalemate on Capitol Hill:

My advice is: Senate Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi should make it abundantly clear immediately:
* co-equal branches of government mean co-equal branches of government; * consultation requires consulting, not treating Congress like subordinates to be informed of what decisions are dictated; * bipartisan government means both parties collaborate before decisions are made, * elections are elections and the American people have spoken; * a lame duck President who has lost both houses of Congress and created a catastrophe in Iraq , is in no position to make threats. * here in America, we believe in democracy, not Deciders.

The President has laid down the law.

The Majority Leader and Speaker should lay it down, right back.

December 31, 2006

10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006

Dahlia Lithwick lists the 10 most outrageous civil liberties violations in “The Bill of Wrongs” at Slate. It’s depressing to consider that we have 2007 and 2008 to endure before our long national nightmare of Bushism will be over.

December 29, 2006

pseudo-conservatism

Those who haven’t yet read enough declarations of conservatism that are simultaneously declamations of Bushism should read Ethan Fishman’s piece “Not Compassionate, Not Conservative” in the latest American Scholar. (Fishman quotes from two Richard Hofstadter essays, “The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt” from 1954 and “Pseudo-Conservatism Revisited” from 1965, and traces Hofstadter’s use of the term “pseudo-conservatism” to Theodor Adorno, but James Bond writes here that it has an even earlier provenance.) Fishman uses the concept of pseudo-conservatism to distinguish the current standard-bearers of conservatism from their Aristotlean/Burkean forebears:

…what makes the Bush administration an example of pseudo-conservatism is its dogmatic commitment to laissez-faire policies that deny the relevance of universal ideals and that rely primarily on market forces to guide economic activities. In its pursuit of laissez-faire economic policies, the Bush administration has relaxed banking standards, introduced no-bid government contracts, allowed private corporations greater access to public lands, and refrained from limiting monopolistic practices. It has sought, furthermore, to reduce governmental responsibility for the welfare of its elderly citizens by advocating the privatization of Social Security accounts.

[…]

Consistent in its inconsistency, the Bush administration celebrates economic freedom while acting to curtail other basic American freedoms, such as privacy, religion, speech, and press. The same government that hesitates to apply explicit moral standards to economic behavior has had few qualms about restricting the Fourth Amendment right against warrrantless searches, loosening rules on the confidentiality of medical records, supporting faith-based initiatives that cause citizens to subsidize religions to which they do not belong, ordering librarians to divulge information on material checked out by patrons, and attempting to influence the content of National Public Radio and public television. Equally disturbing has been its approach to sexual issues.

[…]

Certainty in the face of strong evidence to the contrary is the hallmark of ideological thinking. Ultimately, it is the ideological quality of Bush administration policies that classifies them as pseudo-conservative.

December 22, 2006

"James Buchanan is throwing a champagne party"

This piece from the Dartmouth Review about Jeffrey Hart is enjoyable, as is the response from Hart to the article’s author. I particularly like the anecdote about this conclusion being edited out of the published version of Hart’s book The Making of the American Conservative Mind: National Review and Its Times:

“Bush will be judged the worst President in American history, from both a conservative and a liberal point of view, finding a consensus on the bottom, at last, and so achieving a landslide victory that evaded him in 2004.”

Hart explains later that his premature assessment of Dubya has been amply vindicated:

[William F] Buckley did object to my conclusion that Bush had been the worst American president in that earlier draft. He thought it too categorical, and, at the time I was writing, he was right. That was soon after the 2004 election. But much of the evidence now is in. And I’m sure that somewhere James Buchanan is throwing a champagne party. He’s no longer the worst.

(h/t: Clive at Andrew Sullivan)

December 20, 2006

worst. idiot. ever.

Maybe it’s my sleep deprivation talking, but Bush is so far out of touch that words fail me. His comments on what Americans should do to alleviate an impending recession are so laughable that I have to assume he was drunk during Econ 101 (and every subsequent exposure to economic theory):

As we work with Congress in the coming year to chart a new course in Iraq and strengthen our military to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we must also work together to achieve important goals for the American people here at home. This work begins with keeping our economy growing. … And I encourage you all to go shopping more. [emphasis added]

Seriously, that’s all he has to offer: go shopping. It’s the perfect summation of the GOP attitude toward finances: spending more money than you have isn’t a problem, because your wealthy friends (or, in Dubya’s case, his father’s wealthy friends) are always willing to pony up some cash to stay in the good graces of the moneyed elite.

Actual economic reality isn’t a problem for him or for anyone he knows, so he assumes that it must not be a problem for anyone else. He doesn’t know anyone who is trying to raise a family on minimum wage, or living paycheck-to-paycheck, or uninsured, or unemployed, or being hounded by debt collectors, or bankrupt, or facing eviction, or homeless. He thinks everyone can piss away money they don't have like the GOP's drunken sailors in Congress.

“Go shopping more”…what a fucking idiot.

December 18, 2006

SMU protesting Bush library

Not everyone at Southern Methodist University is not pleased about becoming associated with Dubya, via his impending presidential library. Texas Monthly has the text of a letter from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology:

"We count ourselves among those who would regret to see SMU enshrine attitudes and actions widely deemed as ethically egregious: degradation of habeas corpus, outright denial of global warming, flagrant disregard for international treaties, alienation of long-term U.S. allies, environmental predation, shameful disrespect for gay persons and their rights, a pre-emptive war based on false and misleading premises, and a host of other erosions of respect for the global human community and for this good Earth on which our flourishing depends. […] [T]hese violations are antithetical to the teaching, scholarship, and ethical thinking that best represents Southern Methodist University.

Is Bush’s base deserting him, or are the moderate religious elements within the GOP emboldened by the midterms?

(h/t: ThinkProgress)

December 9, 2006

Iraq Study Group Report

The report from the Iraq Study Group is available in PDF here (1.3MB). This is part of the executive summary:

The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. […] Violence is increasing in scope and lethality. It is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency, Shiite militias and death squads, al Qaeda, and widespread criminality. Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability. […] If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq’s government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized.

Not to be excessively snarky, but haven’t some of those things already happened?

The ISG’s list of seventy-nine recommendations

In addition, there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq. The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases. A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn’t hurt U.S. personnel doesn’t count. For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals. (pp. 94-5, emphasis added)

That’s quite different from the administration’s persistent whine that the media focuses too much on the bad news from Iraq.

MediaMatters has a nice summary of the ISG Report, covering—as usual—the information left largely unmentioned by the media. The lack of analysts and fluent Arabic speakers is probably the most shocking indication of the administration’s poor planning.

Amid the many right-wing criticisms—such as the New York PostSurrender Monkeys” cover —the award for the most out-of-touch comment about the ISG report goes to Bill Bennett, Our nation’s premiere virtuecrat had this to say about the ISG’s report (h/t: Andrew Sullivan):

“In all my time in Washington I've never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority. Self-congratulatory. Full of itself. Horrible.”

That’s actually kind of amusing, considering its source. Bennett approvingly quotes an attack against critics of the Iraq quagmire who “never made it out of the Green Zone.” While it is obvious that such limited experience should be accorded limited significance, is it not more important to make the larger observation that Iraq can’t be in very good shape if it’s not safe to step outside the US military compound?

December 8, 2006

opposing impeachment

Chris Bower writes “On Impeachment” at MyDD, and lays out his reasons for opposing it. Here is his main objection:

Even if we had the votes for conviction, that means we would almost certainly have a veto proof congressional majority on the following policy areas: universal health care, revoking authorization to conduct the war, public financing of campaigns, renegotiating all of our trade agreements for better standards, passing complete energy independence legislation, and on and on and on. Now you tell me, if we had the ability to do all of these things, where would impeachment rank on the list of legislation that would actually help Americans?

David Corn penned “Impeachment at Our Peril” at TomPaine, and made a similar observation: “Democrats must deliver legislatively and produce significant bills that connect with the concerns of Americans. That's job No. 1:”

Impeachment would eclipse the positive components of the Democratic legislative program that can actually help American families—such as boosting the minimum wage, lowering college student loan rate and fixing the alternative minimum tax.

While—as the polling data suggest—impeachment proceedings could be politically unwise, Democrats shouldn’t decide their agenda based on political considerations. After all, excessive and unseemly concern for maintaining political power is what brought down the GOP. That lesson should not be forgotten so quickly.

December 4, 2006

WaPo on Bush: "The Worst Ever"

The Washington Post ran five op-eds speculating on the eventual ranking of Dubya’s tenure in the White House. Historian Eric Foner called Bush’s presidency “The Worst Ever:”

It is impossible to say with certainty how Bush will be ranked in, say, 2050. But somehow, in his first six years in office he has managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of his failed predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.

Douglas Brinkley says much the same thing in “Move Over, Hoover:”

Clearly it's dangerous for historians to wield the "worst president" label like a scalp-hungry tomahawk simply because they object to Bush's record. But we live in speedy times and, the truth is, after six years in power and barring a couple of miracles, it's safe to bet that Bush will be forever handcuffed to the bottom rungs of the presidential ladder.

[...]

Oddly, the president whom Bush most reminds me of is Herbert Hoover, whose name is synonymous with failure to respond to the Great Depression. When the stock market collapsed, Hoover, for ideological reasons, did too little. When 9/11 happened, Bush did too much, attacking the wrong country at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. He has joined Hoover as a case study on how not to be president.

David Greenberg notes that “At Least He’s Not Nixon:”

Bush has two years left in his presidency and we don't know what they'll hold. They may be as dismal as the first six. Future investigations may bear out many people's worst fears about this administration's violations of civil liberties. And it's conceivable that the consequences of the invasion of Iraq may prove more destructive than those of Nixon's stubborn continuation of the Vietnam War. Should those things happen, Bush will be able to lay a claim to the mantle of U.S. history's worst president. For now, though, I'm sticking with Dick.

Michael Lind contends in “He’s Only Fifth Worst” that it’s “unfair” to refer to Bush as our worst president:

He's merely the fifth worst. In the White House Hall of Shame, Bush comes behind four other Oval Officers whose policies were even more disastrous: James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and James Madison.

Vincent Cannato is much less inclined to take a stand in his piece, “Time’s On His Side:”

Today's pronouncements that Bush is the "worst president ever" are too often ideology masquerading as history.

[…]

No one expects historians to be perfectly objective. But history should at least teach us humility. Time will cool today's political passions. As years pass, more documents will be released, more insights gleaned and the broader picture of this era will be painted. Only then will we begin to see how George W. Bush fares in the pantheon of U.S. presidents.

December 2, 2006

more commentary on the Bush Library

Robert Elisberg takes a swing at the Bush Library’s bloated budget:

Keep in mind that when Bill Clinton funded his Presidential library, Republicans went loony, their collective heads exploding at the exorbitant cost. That exorbitant cost was $165 million. And Bill Clinton actually owned books. The Bush Library will be $500 million. (You can never say that too many times.) To put this in perspective, you could build the Clinton Library and Madison Square Garden - and still have $135 million left over to try and find the WMDs.

Half a billion dollars for a library? Perhaps it's part of a new "No President Left Behind" program. Only this one clearly isn't un-funded.

For half a billion dollars, you don't expect just books at Libraryland, there'd better be fuzzy mascots, themed roller coasters and a laser light extravaganza.

Happily, the place already has an audio-animatronic President. It repeats, "Stay the course," all day.

November 29, 2006

Webb v. Dubya

Check out this exchange between Bush and Senator-elect Jim Webb:

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t.

Glenn Greenwald observes that:

It is difficult to fathom the hubris and self-indulgence required for someone to ask a parent of a soldier in Iraq how their son is doing only to then snidely tell the parent that the answer isn't what he wanted to hear.

Greenwald also lambastes Prager for his anti-Muslim bigotry and ignorance of the Constitution.

November 28, 2006

Bush library

This New York Daily News piece on Bush’s Presidential Library shows its orientation toward the future:

Eager to begin refurbishing his tattered legacy, the President hopes to raise $500 million to build his library and a think tank at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. […]

The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the Institute for Democracy. Patterned after Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Bush's institute will hire conservative scholars and "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies," one Bush insider said.

Shelly Lewis comments at HuffPo:

Of course there will be a "think tank." Maybe that's where all the bitter neocons from the Project for a New American Century will go to write papers about how Bush screwed up their war and crushed their dreams.

I'm going to suggest the Karl Rove Center for the Study of Free and Fair Elections, and of course, there's got to be The Dick Cheney Institute for Constitutional Rights. And a Donald Rumsfeld "Known Unknown" research library. (Do you think it will be under-staffed and under-supplied?)

Maybe there'll be room on the public grounds for the Iraq Adventure Garden, a pool made of quicksand, oil and blood.

And how about a cakewalk in the museum cafeteria? No pretzels, though; they're a choke hazard.

I could go on and on (and you're welcome to if you like) but if I think about this much more I'll start to remember how much body armor a half billion dollars could have bought, or how many breakfasts for Head Start kids.

I like the sound of “legacy-polishing,” but gold-leafing Bush’s miserable failure of a presidency won’t be easy.

10 December is "Impeachment Day"

AfterDowningStreet.org is celebrating “Impeachment Day” on 10 December, which is also “Human Rights Day.”

(h/t: ima_sinnic at DU)

psychotic Bush supporters

This article in the New Haven Advocate asks “Are George W. Bush Supporters Certifiable?” and talks about a 2004 study of psychiatric outpatients. According to the study, “Bush supporters had significantly less knowledge about current issues, government and politics than those who supported Kerry,” and “[t]he more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.”

No surprise there…

(h/t: Tom Tomorrow)

November 26, 2006

misadventures in Iraq

Here are two views of the Bushite misadventures in Iraq: Mark Danner elucidates the near past (through a review of Woodward’s State of Denial, Suskind’s One Percent Doctrine, and Risen’s State of War) and the immediate past is covered by Glenn Greenwald. Danner writes of the ideological isolation of the Bush administration and the overwhelming desire to ignore inconvenient facts, which he calls the War of Imagination:

Anyone seeking to understand what has become the central conundrum of the Iraq war—how it is that so many highly accomplished, experienced, and intelligent officials came together to make such monumental, consequential, and, above all, obvious mistakes, mistakes that much of the government knew very well at the time were mistakes—must see beyond what seems to be a simple rhetoric of self-justification and follow it where it leads: toward the War of Imagination that senior officials decided to fight in the spring and summer of 2002 and to whose image they clung long after reality had taken a sharply separate turn. In that War of Imagination victory was to be decisive, overwhelming, evincing a terrible power—enough to wipe out the disgrace of September 11 and remake the threatening world.

[…]

…the War of Imagination draped all the complications and contradictions of the history and politics of a war-torn, brutalized society in an ideologically driven vision of a perfect future. Small wonder that its creators, faced with grim reality, have been so loathe to part with it. Since the first thrilling night of shock and awe, reported with breathless enthusiasm by the American television networks, the Iraq war has had at least two histories, that of the war itself and that of the American perception of it. As the months passed and the number of attacks in Iraq grew, the gap between those two histories opened wider and wider.[7] And finally, for most Americans, the War of Imagination—built of nationalistic excitement and ideological hubris and administration pronouncements about "spreading democracy" and "greetings with sweets and flowers," and then about "dead-enders" and "turning points," and finally about "staying the course" and refusing "to cut and run"—began, under the pressure of nearly three thousand American dead and perhaps a hundred thousand or more dead Iraqis, to give way to grim reality.

The idiocies of disbanding the army and de-Baathifying the government are in full view, but our inevitable exit from Iraq—amid the violent insurgency we helped to create—remains lost in the fog. (By the way, we have now been in Iraq longer than we were in World War II.)

November 19, 2006

speaking of the Federalist Society…

...they’re not uniformly pro-administration, as this New York Times article illustrates:

…as to the contentious issue of the reach of presidential authority, the Federalist Society membership is not united. Professor Yoo, who wrote several memorandums while in the Justice Department arguing that the president’s power is expanded during a war on terrorism, represents one wing of the conservatives, while many in the group are smaller-government libertarians.

At a spirited panel discussion Friday with Professor Yoo, one of the revered figures of the group, Prof. Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago Law School, branded as dangerous the notion of expanded powers for the executive branch because of the continuing fight against terrorism.

“This is an issue which splits this group right down the middle,” Professor Epstein said. [emphasis added]

h/t: Andrew Sullivan

November 18, 2006

Greenwald on Cheney

Glenn Greenwald dissects Dick Cheney’s speech to the Federalist Society last night. After a sarcasm-heavy analysis, Greenwald concludes:

It is worth reminding ourselves -- as the Vice President just made quite clear again-- that the pathological individuals who occupy the White House do not recognize the power of the law or the power of the courts to limit what they can do. Therefore, the fact that Democrats now control the Congress will be of little concern to them, because the most the Democrats can do is enact little laws or issue cute, little Subpoenas --- but, as the Vice President just said, they think that nothing can "tie the hands of the President of the United States in the conduct of a war." And he means that.

I hope Democrats in Congress recognize that and are prepared to do something about it. This constitutional crisis will exist until it's confronted. [emphases added]

Impeachment may not be a politically expedient move for the incoming 110th Congress, but it is certainly warranted by the (soon-to-be) outgoing administration.


update (11/19 @ 7:33am):
Anonymous Liberal has posted his analysis of Cheney’s “deeply pathological” speech. It’s also worth reading, especially for this gem:

I know that Cheney (and Addington and Yoo) have a deep desire for the law to be something other than what it actually is, but I don't see what is to be gained by simply asserting, and with unmistakable condescension, that up is down.

David Cole interview

Islamica Magazine’s interview with civil libertarian David Cole (230KB PDF here) has this nice exchange:

Islamica: You brought up the issue of domestic spying. What concerns you more about this practice: the actual substantive measure of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens on American soil or the aggrandizement of power by the executive branch?

Cole: I think it’s definitely the latter. We don’t know enough about the program to know how concerned we ought to be about invasions of privacy that are illegitimate. We don’t know how many taps there have been nor how widespread the program really is. At some point we may learn that and there may be serious concerns. But what we do know is what the Bush administration has put forth as its defense of the program, and they should give everybody pause. Because the argument is essentially that the president as commander-in-chief has the unilateral, “uncheckable” authority to select the “means and methods of engaging the enemy,” which is a quote from the Justice Department’s memo defending the program. And their claim is that when you’re talking about the means and methods of engaging the enemy, it is impermissible for either of the other branches of government, Congress or the courts, to restrict the president in any way, shape, or form. So that means that the president can spy on Americans in the face of any criminal statute that specifically prohibits it. […] So this is a view of unfettered executive power that I think all Americans ought to be concerned about.

Cole’s next book, Less Safe, Less Free: Why We Are Losing the War on Terror, is scheduled for release next May.

November 13, 2006

Greenwald: "Conservatism Defined"

Glenn Greenwald writes in “George Bush and GOP House Leaders: Conservatism Defined” about the meme claiming that the failure of the Bush administration’s failure is not a failure of conservatism:

It is the responsibility of journalists and, really, everyone, to preserve the basic truth that our country has been run exclusively by conservatives for virtually all of the last six years. It is true, as many (including myself, repeatedly) have noted, the Bush movement discarded "conservative principles" as they exist in text books. But it is equally true -- and far more important -- that all that has been done to this country has been done under the banner of "conservatism" and has been done by self-proclaimed "conservatives." There should be no debate about that because it is simply fact.

[…]

Semantic disputes over "real conservatism" are meaningless. In the only way that matters, "conservatives" are those who are responsible for the Bush presidency and everything it brought.

November 8, 2006

heck of a job, Rummy!

Donald Rumsfeld is the first rat to desert Bush’s sinking ship of state. As Dubya remarked at a press conference this morning, “after a series of thoughtful conversations, Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed that the timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon.”

Rumsfeld’s replacement will be Robert Gates, who may be familiar to careful observers from his peripheral role in Reagan’s Iran/Contra scandal. Lawrence Walsh noted in the sixteenth chapter of his Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters:

Like those of many other Iran/contra figures, the statements of Gates often seemed scripted and less than candid. Nevertheless, given the complex nature of the activities and Gates's apparent lack of direct participation, a jury could find the evidence left a reasonable doubt that Gates either obstructed official inquiries or that his two demonstrably incorrect statements were deliberate lies.

Who’s next?


update (8:18pm):
Glenn Greenwald observes at Crooks and Liars that Bush lied last week when he claimed Rumsfeld would remain as SecDef for the next two years:

What possible justification is there for the President to definitively assure the country that Rumsfeld is staying when he was actively in the process of replacing him? That a major election is about to be held is a reason which compels disclosure of such an important matter, not which justifies its dishonest concealment.

We've become so accustomed to being lied to in this manner by our political leaders that the President can just casually admit to this (just like he can casually admit to breaking the law), and it causes only the most minor of controversies, if that.

November 6, 2006

down the memory hole

This is pathetic in a way that must be seen to be believed: the White House has edited the “Mission Accomplished” video from 1 May 2003 to crop the banner out of the image. YouTube has the video.

(Thanks to DU for the tip.)

tomorrow's the day!

This “What Is at Stake” editorial from The Nation is worth re-reading in preparation for Election Day:

November 7 has taken on the shape and feel of a fateful election. We hope the results add up to repudiation--the beginning of the end of the disastrous, corrupt reign of George W. Bush. […] If the Democrats do succeed in winning a majority in the House of Representatives and possibly even in the Senate, then the country has a chance to begin the fundamental task of restoring democracy and the constitutional order that Bush & Co. did so much to desecrate.

[…]

Democrats could revive what used to be a staple of representative democracy--accountability, the power of Congress to question the chief executive and demand answers for misdeeds and misguided policies. A tall stack of outrages, lies and potentially criminal abuses awaits examination. Manipulation of intelligence. War profiteering. Energy policies that ignore global warming and fatten oil-industry hogs. The destruction of constitutional rights. The cynical neglect of citizens injured in New Orleans and elsewhere. The looting of the Treasury by lobbyist fixers and wholesale tax giveaways. A healthcare system that serves drug manufacturers and insurance companies instead of people. The list goes on and on.

Speaking of a list, this YouTube video shows that the list of corrupt Republicans can’t even be read in a single breath. (Thanks to John at AmericaBlog for the tip.) For a more comprehensive reminder of what we can expect if the GOP continues to control Washington, check out this list I wrote back in June. Since the GOP scandals haven’t abated since then, there are a few additions:

More heinous laws like the Military Commissions Act, more Mark Foley sexual predation, more Denny Hastert cover-ups, more lies about the “stay the course” policy in Iraq, more George Allen racism, more Don Sherwood payoffs to mistresses, and more Curt Weldon nepotism.

We’re the only ones who can make the GOP corruption stop, and our only weapon is the ballot. At Progressive Daily Beacon, A. Alexander explains “Why You Must Vote: Republican Abuse of Power:”

If on the other hand you, the American voter, sense a pattern of corruption and If on the other hand you, the American voter, sense a pattern of corruption and abuse of power - vote and cast your ballot for the Democratic ticket. Remember, the only power politicians have is that given to them through the generosity of your vote. Whether or not you, the American voter, believe it - you've got all the power. On Tuesday, November 7, 2006, consider using your power to take back your country. On the other hand, if you haven't had enough Republican abuse of power...

Brent Budowsky’s “The Issue Is Corruption of Conservatism and Damage to America” advances the claim—mistaken, in my opinion—that “the Republican government in Washington bears no resemblance to the core principles of conservatism:”

In many ways Bushism and Cheneyism have violated cardinal rules of principled conservatism with great harm to the nation and, I predict, great harm to true conservatism and the Republican Party.

Bushism involves a violation of the central tenet of conservatism and has become a new form of Big Government super-statism. In many respects Bushism is more akin to French style Gaullism than American style conservatism: big government with centralized power.

It violates classic conservatism and as well as liberalism, for an all powerful executive to claim the unilateral and inherent power to violate the constitutional and to violate Federal Statute.

Some conservatives, but far too few, have protested this extreme attitude which is an American version of neo-Gaullism, and threatens time honored notions of separation of powers and the rule of law that conservatives once held dear.

Bushism involves an extreme violation of the core idea of libertarian conservatism and the core notions of the right to protection against intrusion from the centralized super-state.

Whether or not one believes the ever-more-common claim that the Bush administration’s failures represent a betrayal of conservatism, the failures nonetheless exist. Whether or not the impending GOP implosion is a failure of unworkable principles or merely Acton’s Law in action, the corruption nonetheless exists. Whether it is Bushism or conservatism that has proven unworkable in the twenty-first century and brought our nation to this condition, a need for change nonetheless exists. This must-read New York Times editorial concludes that tomorrow’s election is indeed a referendum on Bush:

This election is indeed about George W. Bush — and the Congressional majority’s insistence on protecting him from the consequences of his mistakes and misdeeds. Mr. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 and proceeded to govern as if he had an enormous mandate. After he actually beat his opponent in 2004, he announced he now had real political capital and intended to spend it. We have seen the results. It is frightening to contemplate the new excesses he could concoct if he woke up next Wednesday and found that his party had maintained its hold on the House and Senate. [emphasis added]

To top it all off, even the latest issue of Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine is titled “GOP Must Go:”

There may be little Americans can do to atone for this presidency, which will stain our country’s reputation for a long time. But the process of recovering our good name must begin somewhere, and the logical place is in the voting booth this Nov. 7. If we are fortunate, we can produce a result that is seen—in Washington, in Peoria, and in world capitals from Prague to Kuala Lumpur—as a repudiation of George W. Bush and the war of aggression he launched against Iraq.

[…]

On Nov. 7, the world will be watching as we go to the polls, seeking to ascertain whether the American people have the wisdom to try to correct a disastrous course. Posterity will note too if their collective decision is one that captured the attention of historians—that of a people voting, again and again, to endorse a leader taking a country in a catastrophic direction. The choice is in our hands.

Conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan says this in his comment on the AmCon editorial:

Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, we have to repudiate this administration's disastrous incompetence, or face even greater perils than we have been exposed to already. Tomorrow's the day. Do not be silent.

Sullivan’s column in the Sunday Times lambastes the “incompetent, reckless fanatics now in control:”

My own profound hope is for a resounding victory for the Democrats. That’s not because I agree with them on every issue. Far from it. But I can recognise incompetence, fanaticism and recklessness when I see them; and right now, all three have seized the White House and the Republican leadership. It will be good for the Republicans to lose this election. […]

Given the level of denial in the White House, this is not really an election. It’s more like an intervention. To save Republicanism from Bush, to save Bush from himself, and to save the world from impending crisis.

Protect My Vote, the American Center for Voting Rights, and the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project are useful resources against those who are attempting voter suppression and intimidation—as well as other dirty tricks— to influence tomorrow’s election.


update (1:39pm):
MediaMatters lists the “Top election falsehoods, myths, and talking points.” It’s essential reading, as usual.

November 4, 2006

secret torture methods in secret prisons

Mark Kleiman writes in “Beyond Kafka” at HuffPo:

Can you imagine a government so absurdly tyrannical, so brutally insane, that it forbids "enemies of the state" to complain about being tortured on the grounds that interrogation techniques are state secrets? [emphasis in original]

The Washington Post article, “US Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons,” tells an appalling tale of abuse:

The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal details of the "alternative interrogation methods" that their captors used to get them to talk. The government says in new court filings that those interrogation methods are now among the nation's most sensitive national security secrets and that their release -- even to the detainees' own attorneys -- "could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage."

[…]

The government, in trying to block lawyers' access to the 14 detainees, effectively asserts that the detainees' experiences are a secret that should never be shared with the public.

I may have been too harsh in previously saying that “modern conservatism” is an oxymoron; the Busheviks has proven time and time again that they are drawing inspiration from somewhat rececnt sources. Unfortunately, those sources are the writings of George Orwell, Franz Kafka, and Lewis Carroll. They are laboring mightily to turn dystopian fiction into reality, and—all too often—they are succeeding.


update (5:39pm)
Kevin Frum at Washington Monthly has some comments:

This highlights the fundamental corruption of the human soul that torture causes. We know it's wrong, so not only do we torture prisoners, but we then do what we must to conceal what we've done. And then we try to conceal even that. Torture and secrecy, secrecy and torture, world without end.

That's not America. At least, it shouldn't be.

November 3, 2006

Garry Wills on Bush’s faith-based failures

Garry Wills’ “A Country Ruled by Faith” at NYRB leads with this observation:

The right wing in America likes to think that the United States government was, at its inception, highly religious, specifically highly Christian, and even more specifically highly biblical. That was not true of that government or any later government—until 2000, when the fiction of the past became the reality of the present.

The reminder of the piece is a bracing examination of the role of “faith-based certitude” in the Bush administration’s many miserable failures.

October 28, 2006

Lakoff on "stay the course"

George Lakoff writes at HuffPo about how Bush is “Staying the Course Right Over a Cliff:”

"Stay the course" was for years a trap for those who disagreed with the president's policies in Iraq. To disagree was weak and immoral. It meant abandoning the fight against evil. But now the president himself is caught in that trap. To keep staying the course, given obvious reality, is to get deeper into disaster in Iraq, while not staying the course is to abandon one's moral authority as a conservative. Either way, the president loses.