Sunday, March 30, 2008

... And then there was one.

As Atrios notes over at Eschaton, the N.Y. Times, in an editorial, mentions the fact that the thoroughly Right-Wing Authoritarian Dubya is insistent on getting his most whacko candidates confirmed for maladministratin positions. When Congress pushes back and says, "Hooo, you're craaaaaazzeeeeeeee!!!", he just gets more determined.

So we have this (from the editorial):
When Mr. Bush refused to withdraw the Bradbury nomination, the Senate’s Democratic leaders decided to stop processing other controversial nominations.


At this point, according to a review by, the election commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and the National Labor Relations Board do not have enough members to do their jobs. Scores of federal judgeships are vacant. The Council of Economic Advisers is down to one adviser.
But the editorial continues:
This is bad for the country. Mr. Bush should withdraw Mr. Bradbury’s nomination, replace him at the Justice Department with someone committed to upholding the law and take Mr. Reid’s offer.
I've got news for them. That's what some in Congress thought they were getting a while back. But I have just one word for them: "Mukasey"....

Thanks, Chuck and Dianne.

FWIW, the editorial concludes thusly:
The president’s hyperpartisanship and my-way-or-the-highway arrogance is now close to paralyzing his own administration.
Maybe that's not a bad thing....

Five out of five Secretaries of State agree...

... that Dubya should be flossed up between his butt-cheeks with a hemp rope.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
Five former U.S. secretaries of State said Thursday the next president should move quickly to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

That single act would improve America's dismal reputation in the world immediately, agreed Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell.
Here's James Baker:
Baker, secretary of State under the senior Bush, said he thinks America's reputation is on the upswing internationally, but he was harsher than the others in criticizing U.S. policy on enemy combatants.

Guantanamo "gives us a very, very bad name, not just internationally," Baker said. "I have a great deal of difficulty understanding how we can hold someone, pick someone up, particularly someone who might be an American citizen, even if they were caught somewhere abroad, acting against American interests, and hold them without ever giving them an opportunity to appear before a magistrate."
Quite true. The Guantánamo detention camp was created specifically for the purpose of providing a legal 'black hole', where legal protections could be denied to anyone that the maladministration thought fit to squirrel away there. The jurisdictional 'argument' for denying the rights guaranteed under the U.S justice system could be made, not because the detainee was allegedly committed any acts there or chose to go there to escape the U.S., but rather because the U.S. brought them there by force.

Hey, waiddaminnit... Baker... James Baker?!? Hey, wasn't he one of the guys that engineered the coronation of Preznit Dumbya by his buddies on the U.S. Supreme Court in the first place? And Guantánamo is enough to bother even this guy?

(h/t to ThinkProgress)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The "torture files" redux

We had the cases of Maher Arar and Khalid el-Masri before. Here <*surprise, surprise!*> is another one:
A German resident held by the U.S. for almost five years tells 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley that Americans tortured him in many ways - including hanging him from the ceiling for five days early in his captivity when he was in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Even after determining he was not a terrorist, Murat Kurnaz says the torture continued. Kurnaz tells his story for the first time on American television this Sunday, March 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Kurnaz, an ethnic Turk born and raised in Germany, went to Pakistan in late 2001 at age 19 to study Islam and wound up in Pakistani police custody. It was three months after 9/11, and Kurnaz says the U.S. was offering bounties for suspicious foreigners. Kurnaz says he was "sold" to the Americans for $3,000 and brought to Kandahar as terrorist suspect.

He claims American troops tortured him in Afghanistan by holding his head underwater, administering electric shocks to the soles of his feet, and hanging him suspended from the ceiling of an aircraft hangar and kept alive by doctors. "Every five or six hours they came and pulled me back down and the doctor came," he recalls. "He looked into my eyes. He checked my heart and when he said 'okay,' then they pulled me back up," he tells Pelley.
Imagine my surprise. Here's the real kicker:
He says he was then brought to Guantanamo as one of the first "enemy combatants."


After a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2004, Kurnaz was visited by an American lawyer, who successfully sued the U.S. government to release his classified file. That file contained information from the FBI, German Intelligence and even the U.S. military pointing to his innocence. But after a series of Kafkaesque military tribunals and review boards, he remained in Guantanamo until 2006.
So we have full confidence that the CSRTs and military commissions are going to get to the truth, eh?


More on the Kurnaz story and the "60 Minutes" piece here, along with video and references. Please check it out!

From the "doesn't it just make you sick" files

We know that the Dubya maladministration has been the most politicised executive ever. We have such things as the "U.S. attorneys" scandals, the appointment of political hacks to head emergency resources such as FEMA, the unshamable Lurita Doan at the GSA, the hiring of unqualified cronies and Republican sycophants in Iraq, and the Rove-led persecution of Siegelman....

But every once in a while you get a real stunner. The Miami Herald reports:
The Navy lawyer for Osama bin Laden's driver argues in a Guantánamo military commissions motion that senior Pentagon officials are orchestrating war crimes prosecutions for the 2008 campaign.

The Pentagon declined late Friday to address the defense lawyer's allegations, noting that the matter is under litigation.

The brief filed Thursday by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer directly challenged the integrity of President Bush's war court.

Notably, it describes a Sept. 29, 2006, meeting at the Pentagon in which Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, a veteran White House appointee, asked lawyers to consider Sept. 11, 2001, prosecutions in light of the campaign.

''We need to think about charging some of the high-value detainees because there could be strategic political value to charging some of these detainees before the election,'' England is quoted as saying.
Combined with what Col. Morris Davis said, this has all the hallmarks of a gross miscarriange of justice.

These are show trials. Where have we seen that before?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday starfishblogging

Posted by Picasa

Anyone feeling a little prickly lately about the Democratic primary campaign?

For reference, crown-of-thorns starfsh, Moorea, July 6, 2007, Nikon D70s with twin Ikelite DS-125 strobes, 105mm macro Nikkor lens, 1/60th @ F/11 [click picture for larger image]

Glenn Greenwald nails it again

Here's Glenn on the Selling Of Saint McCain:
McCain is being politically marketed in exactly the same way that Bush the presidential candidate was (he's a uniter not divider; a new kind of Republican; you always know where he stands; he's a conservative who deviates from dogma and appeals to Democrats; he transcends partisanship; we're going to be a more humble nation, etc. etc.). It's exactly the same wrapping. And the media believed all of that about Bush and they now believe it all about McCain.
And we see where that got us. It was all untrue back in 2000, and we now have a basket case of a country....

Glenn has more; go read it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

An example to follow

From CNN we have this report:
The British military admitted Thursday that it breached the human rights of an Iraqi man who died in custody, and that its soldiers also violated the rights of eight other detained Iraqis.

The Ministry of Defense said it expects to negotiate compensation for the survivors of the dead man, Baha Mousa, and with the eight former detainees.

The MoD admitted breaching prohibition on torture laws in the cases of all nine men.

The nine -- taken into custody as alleged insurgents -- were held in stress positions and deprived of sleep for about two days in extreme heat at a British army barracks near the southern Iraqi city of Basra in September 2003, prosecutors told a British military court.

Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, died from asphyxia after soldiers restrained him following an escape attempt.

One soldier, Cpl. Donald Payne, 35, was convicted of inhumane treatment in that case, making him the first British soldier to plead guilty to a war crime under international law.


In Mousa's case, the Ministry of Defense admitted "a substantive breach of Articles 2, right to life, and 3, prohibition of torture, of the European Convention on Human Rights."

It also admitted breaching the prohibition on torture in the cases of Mohammed Dhahir Abdulah, Maitham Mohammed Ameen Challab Al-Waz, Satar Shukri Abdullah, Joad Kadhim Jamal Al-Faeaz, Dhahir Abdullah Ali Al-Mansori, Radif Tahir Muslem Alhawan, Baha Hashim Mohamed and Ahmed Taha Mosah.

"The Ministry of Defense further accepts that the admitted substantive breaches of the convention give rise to claims for compensation," it said.
When torture is approved at the highest levels of the U.S. gummint, it is the people that did so that should also face war crimes trials.


Then we have this:

US Document Confirms Iraq Dungeon

By Jason Leopold
March 27, 2008

A classified memo written by the top U.S. military officer in western Iraq reveals that a prison in downtown Fallujah is so overcrowded and dirty that it does not even meet basic “minimal levels of hygiene for human beings.”

“The conditions in these jails are so bad that I think we need to do the right thing in terms of caring for the prisoners even with our own dollars, or release them,” says the memo, written in late February by Maj. Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S forces in western Iraq.

The classified document, leaked to the Web site Wikileaks where whistleblowers can "reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations," was authenticated by the organization and has not been challenged by the U.S. military when asked about it.

The memo contains other shocking revelations about conditions at the jail, including a massive shortage of food and water. The prison is said to be run by Iraqi officials. U.S. Marines oversee operation of the facility.

“I found the conditions there to be exactly (unbelivable [sic] over crowding, total lack of anything approaching even minimal levels of hygiene for human beings, no food, little water, no ventilation) to those described in the recent (18 February) FOX news artickle [sic] by Michael Totten entitled the ‘Dungeon of Fallujah,’” says Kelly’s memo.

So glad we closed down Saddam's hell-hole prisons like Abu Ghraib ... oh ... waiddaminnit....

Monday, March 24, 2008


Like clockwork.

Here it is.
U.S. Deaths Confirmed By The DoD: 3996
Reported U.S. Deaths Pending DoD Confirmation: 4
Total 4000
Snapshot for today, March 24th, 2008, from the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Let the sliming begin -- Part Six

Now that Obama's given the "Kennedy" speech and things are settling down concerning l'affaire Monsieur Wright, it's time for a "kinder, gentler [and more plausibly-deniable] sliming", amply assisted -- of course -- by the M$M and for free too.

Digby reports:
McCain has "suspended" a staffer for circulating a nasty video about Senator Obama. He says there is no tolerance for such behavior in his campaign and he will fire anyone who does it. He is so adamant about it that he alerted the media and told them all about it. And the media dutifully reported McCain's fine decision, citing his commitment to running a clean campaign and disowning of this horrible video --- and then they showed the name and URL on the Youtube site, just in case anyone needed to see the scurrilous video over which the good man McCain so righteously suspended his campaign staffer.
Wow, that works well. Particularly if -- nay, when -- the media does what they're supposed to do....


Digby's updates point to this Time magazine update, which says (with tongue in cheek) that this "plausibly deniable" attack is simply not working:
And for those who are counting, the smarmy YouTube attack on Obama has yet to get many viewers. As of this posting, it has only been watched 53,694 times.
Better luck next time....

Our broken "mainstream" media

Glenn Greenwald really nails it here.

But are the media as a whole irredeemably broken? Perhaps not. Ché Pasa, a commentator on Glenn's blog points out that there's perhaps some hope in our children:
There was something on NPR yesterday dealing with all the protests and arrests and interferences with Business As Usual that sort of crystalized the whole ridiculous situation.

Some Great Thinker on NPR was interviewing some young punk and asked how come there weren't more people in the streets if Americans were so opposed to this war, how come they weren't getting their heads bashed in and being dragged off to jail the way they did during Vietnam (apparently Chicago '68 is now the definition of protest over Vietnam, but whatever).

And the punk said something like: There were 8-10 million people in the streets before the Iraq invasion, more than have ever publically protested anything in human history, and you people barely noticed. If there were more in the streets now, would you know it?

Sputter, sputter.
Indeed. The kid isn't fooled.

The M$M is finished. They're the "walking dead", and they don't even know it (which is par for the course for them nowadays). We really don't need them any more.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Unclear on the concept

U.S. Constitution, Amendent I:
Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech....
OK, got it.... Just so we know what that means, here's John L. Indo of Houston, in a LTTE in USA Today [Mar. 19th, 2008, p. 10A]:
Retired pastor Jeremiah Wright will accomplish little putting down the very country to which he must appeal for social justice....
Really? So he's got to ask real nice-like? And butter the country up, before the country deigns to give him his "social justice", rather than complaining?!?!? Ever heard: "The squeaky wheel gets the grease"? Maybe some people are getting tired of asking politely....
... In fact, it might behoove him to realize that such inflammatory rhetoric might have gotten him killed or imprisoned in a society less tolerant of political dissent.
"Watch what [you] say, watch what [you] do..."

So, let me see if I've got this straight: I really should refrain from saying anything "inflammatory" here, because in other countries, they might not let me say such things.... Yeah, that makes sense. Yassuh, massah. What wahz ah thinkin'?...

The "Nürnberg defence"

I posted previously on the maladministration claim that the "high-value" Guantánamo detainees would enjoy more rights than did the Nazis at the Nürnberg (Nuremberg) trials and the assassins of Abraham Lincoln. The claim is nonsense, of course, and even cursory scrutiny will show that.

Here is a (longish) round-up of articles by others that detail this nonsense as well:

Civil libertarian Nat Hentoff:

With preparations begun for the first military-commissions trial for detainees at Guantanamo -- six "high-level" prisoners who could get the death penalty -- the customary attacks on the fairness of the proceedings there are mounting here and abroad. Adding to the discord is the refusal of Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, legal adviser for the military commissions, to exclude any evidence against the defendants that has been extracted through waterboarding.

Particularly troublesome to the Bush administration's continued insistence that there are careful standards of due process at Guantanamo Bay was the resignation last October of Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo. In an article for the Los Angeles Times (Dec. 10), he wrote he had "concluded that full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system." Precipitating Davis' act of conscience was the supervisory appointment over him of Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes, long criticized for having been instrumental in authorizing what are euphemistically called "coercive interrogation techniques" on terrorism suspects, some of which are purportedly torture.

Before Haynes became Davis' supervisor, Davis, while still chief prosecutor, had told Haynes there might be some acquittals during the Guantanamo Bay trial. But, as Davis told The Nation (March 10, 2008), Haynes response was: "Wait a minute, we can't have acquittals. If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We've got to have convictions." Indeed, a military lawyer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Swift, told me that when he was assigned to a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, he was ordered to represent him by obtaining a confession from him. This presumption of guilt at Guantanamo (not only in that case) hardly squares with how we describe our rule of law to the world.
More from Hentoff:
Davis recalls that Haynes told him that the forthcoming military commissions trial "will be the Nuremberg of our time" -- referring to the 1945 tribunals where the dread defendants included such prominent Nazis as Hermann Goering, Albert Speer, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Rudolf Hess.

In Sen. Christopher Dodd's superb book, "Letters from Nuremberg: My Father's Narrative of a Quest for Justice" (Crown, 2007), he quotes his father, Thomas Dodd, who became the No. 2 prosecutor in the American team at Nuremberg:
"Those of us who were privileged to serve at the Nuremberg Trial are proud of the entire proceeding. ... Every right of the defendants was scrupulously observed. They were given every possible opportunity to make every explanation and every possible defense.

"Witnesses were obtained for them merely at their request.

"Documents were made available, library facilities were at their disposal, and throughout every hour of the trial they were afforded every opportunity to answer every charge."
As others and I have reported, the procedures at Guantanamo -- by glaring contrast -- are the very opposite of those at Nuremberg.

The Nazis had vigorous lawyers waging their defense; they were able to talk to lawyers in private without a video camera watching; and all their correspondence and notes were not handed over to the military.
See my previous post for how these things are not afforded by the Military Commissions Act (MCA).
And that's only part of the utter mockery of due process at Guantanamo. But at Nuremberg, American prosecutor Thomas Dodd said of that trial: "This was a demonstration of judicial process honestly at work. I saw it take place -- this moral victory -- from day to day, slowly but surely in the dock and at the defense tables." But the Bush administration (reported in the Feb. 16, 2008, Economist) has actually authorized the State Department, "in a memo to American embassies," to suggest that the military commissions "be compared to the Nuremberg trials, partly because no one fussed when the Nazis got the death penalty and partly because, say the generals, legal protections (at Guantanamo) will be greater than at Nuremberg."
Saying it's so don't make it so....

Here's Chris Gelkin at OhmyNews International:
A four-page memo has been sent to all United States diplomatic missions instructing them to make the Nuremburg comparison in the event they were questioned about the legality of the death penalty requested by the prosecution in connection with the trials of the so-called Guantanamo Six.

There is no comparison. The Guantanamo trials will be held behind closed doors. The public will be denied the right to hear the evidence, or how that evidence was obtained. No television camera will record the examination and cross-examination of witnesses for the evening news.

A verdict will be announced, a sentenced passed -- and the world at large will be denied the right to know how it was achieved.

Nuremburg, on the other hand, was open to the public and newsreel cameras. To the best of any historian's knowledge, none of those on trial at Nuremburg was tortured in order to gain a confession. The accused were also presumed innocent until proven guilty, and as a consequence were offered legal rights and privileges they themselves had denied their victims.

No, not by any measure of comparison can the Gitmo trials be likened to Nuremburg.


A serious concern to human rights organizations, and apparently to Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband, are the unanswered questions regarding whether the confession of Khalid was obtained through the use of torture, specifically waterboarding.

The tribunal, or military court, has been instructed to ignore any evidence that may have been obtained through waterboarding or other "extreme interrogation measures" since the passage of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 -- but information gleaned by torture prior to this may be considered by the court.

Sheikh Mohammed was reportedly subjected to waterboarding in 2002 or 2003. So his half drowned, muffled confessions will likely stand. Any confessions or statements obtained thereafter were doubtless made with the possibly unstated but ever present implied threat of further torture.

Under these circumstances, anything Khalid said to his interrogators post-waterboarding is highly suspect and would normally be inadmissible in any court of law.

Here Jane Sutton at Reuters AlertNet quotes one of the original prosecutors at Nürnberg:
"I think Robert Jackson, who's the architect of Nuremberg, would turn over in his grave if he knew what was going on at Guantanamo," Nuremberg prosecutor Henry King Jr. told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"It violates the Nuremberg principles, what they're doing, as well as the spirit of the Geneva Conventions of 1949."

King, 88, served under Jackson, the U.S. Supreme Court justice who was the chief prosecutor at the trials created by the Allied powers to try Nazi military and political leaders after World War Two in Nuremberg, Germany.

"The concept of a fair trial is part of our tradition, our heritage," King said from Ohio, where he lives. "That's what made Nuremberg so immortal -- fairness, a presumption of innocence, adequate defense counsel, opportunities to see the documents that they're being tried with."

King, who interrogated Nuremberg defendant Albert Speer, was incredulous that the Guantanamo rules left open the possibility of using evidence obtained through coercion.

"To torture people and then you can bring evidence you obtained into court? Hearsay evidence is allowed? Some evidence is available to the prosecution and not to the defendants? This is a type of 'justice' that Jackson didn't dream of," King said.


The 2006 Military Commissions Act, which set revised rules for trying suspected terrorists at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "sort of turns its back on Nuremberg," King said. "I don't think it's a credit to us to have this thing."

"The United States has always stood for fairness. That's the important thing. We were the ones who started war crimes tribunals and we're the architects. I don't think we should turn our back on that architecture."

And here's Scott Horton at Harper's Magazine:

Davis resigned because he felt the commissions system was rigged. He also filed a formal complaint over the improper role played by the convening authority’s legal advisor in the Hicks case. That complaint is in the process of investigation by the Department of Defense. Here is a memorandum posted to the Department of Defense’s website concerning the still pending investigation and the issues raised. Note that while Davis was not in a position to premise the complaint on Haynes’s involvement, that is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. But Davis was not the only, nor even the first prosecutor to resign. Three others–Maj. Robert Preston, Capt. John Carr and Capt. Carrie Wolf–asked to be relieved of duties after saying they were concerned that the process was rigged. One said he had been assured he didn’t need to worry about building a proper case; convictions were assured.

Of course, the number of defense counsel claiming that the system is stacked against them is legion. I surveyed the views of the defense lawyers, and the serious mistreatment they frequently faced at the hands of the Rumsfeld Pentagon, in this article.

Even the chief judge at Guantánamo, Colonel Ralph Kohlmann is plainly troubled by the military commissions arrangement. He wrote in a paper published in 2002 that “even a good military tribunal is a bad idea.” Col. Kohlmann argued that the “apparent lack of independence” of military judges would present “credibility problems.” Col. Kohlmann wrote these words before the obvious political manipulation of the Hicks case and before Haynes’s jiggered the command structure to place himself in control of the entire process. The “apparent lack of independence” of which he wrote has ballooned into a nightmarish reality.


Hartmann was quick to invoke the model of the Nuremberg trials, calling these proceedings a “modern Nuremberg.” In fact, the Nuremberg process is worthy of emulation and had the Bush Administration turned to its grand design, or even some of the other model international tribunals, most of the embarrassment that now surrounds the Gitmo moral swamp would have been avoided. Robert H. Jackson, arguably America’s greatest attorney general, was responsible for structuring those proceedings. He made clear throughout that he was guided by two concerns. The first was to do justice. And the second was to be damned sure that the public recognized that justice was being done. He accomplished both goals, and the result was a landmark international law and a point of pride for America.

But the military commissions crafted by the Bush Administration are an embarrassing stain compared to Nuremberg. One of the main reasons is that they have been crafted by political hacks out on a partisan agenda, and the experts who could have done a credible job–first among them the military lawyers in the JAG corps–have been ignored or overruled at each turn. The ability of defense counsel to conduct a meaningful defense has been impeded, with gains coming grudgingly only after the Supreme Court overturned the first, colossally incompetent structure in Rasul. Most menacingly, the specter of torture hovers over the current military commissions proceedings, with the acknowledgement that many of the defendants were subjected to techniques which the entire world (excluding only the Bush Administration) considers to be torture.

There will be no justice in Guantánamo. Just an inevitable 'retribution'. And a political show for the Dubya maladministration's benefit.

Adopt the right viewpoint, and things are looking up

Thanks to Ondolette (from over at Home Of The Brave, as well as a frequent participant on Glenn Greenwald's blog), for the link to this article:

Nazi Atrocities, Committed by Ordinary People
By Georg Bönisch and Klaus Wiegrefe

From doctors to opera singers, teachers to truant schoolchildren, the extermination of European Jews was the work of roughly 200,000 ordinary Germans and their helpers. Years of research -- not yet complete -- reveal how sane members of a modern society committed murder for an evil regime.

Reading down in the article, we have this:
[T]he horrifying results of an opinion poll that the Americans conducted in their occupation zone in October 1945 could have raised doubts even then about the version of the story that blames everything on a few pathological criminals. Twenty percent of the respondents "agreed with Hitler's treatment of the Jews." Another 19 percent said that although they felt that his policies toward Jews were exaggerated, they were fundamentally correct.
20% agreed with Hitler's policies. 39% (19% more) said that while he may not have been doing the best job ever, the "war on Jews" was still correct.

Things could be worse for us as a nation, it seems. I think that puts the 26% that approve of Dubya, the 31% that think he's doing a good job, and the 36% that think going to war with Iraq was right in proper perspective. We aren't that bad off; other countries have had similar proportions of bloodthirsty complete whacks, even after they've had time to reflect back on the consequences and results of their actions.... We'll come around; Germany did.

Shorter, shorter Dubya on the anniversary of the invasion

Commander Codpiece will address the anniversary of the Iraq invasion today. Preview:

"Of course taking out Saddam was the right thing to do. Reasonable people may disagree as to how and when (and if) we should start to leave, but we need to look forward, and we'll do it my way. Next?"

The count today: 3990
The count tomorrow? Next week?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

We NEED newer and better intelligence tools...

... or the Terra-ists are gonna getcha! So quick, someone send Director of National Intelligence (and also admiral) Mike McConnell a link to, alt.folklore.urban, or

As reported in the L.A Times, here's the McConnell poop:
There's a serious problem with part of McConnell's speech. He opened it, as many speech-givers do, with a funny story. It was about a historical radio conversation at sea that begins with one voice advising a ship to change course 15 degrees to avoid a collision. The ship replies that the initial radio voice should be the one to change course.

And it escalates from there, each suggesting the other change course until the ship captain announces that he's navigating a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier accompanied by numerous other ships and orders the first voice to change course immediately.

To which the first voice replies, "Dear Captain. The next move is your call. This is a Canadian lighthouse."
Ahhhhh-haaa-haaa-haaa-ha-heh. What a backslapper! Always guaranteed to get guffaws from the landlubber crowd (even if also some groans from the salts that have heard it a couple of times too many). Heh. Hmmmm. Waiddaminnit:
Hilarious, especially to Canadians accustomed to Americans throwing their weight around the way Americans do without thinking. "The point of my story," McConnell told his attentive audience at Johns Hopkins University, "is always know who you're talking to."

And maybe also know what you're talking about. McConnell opened that sea story by saying, "Now this is... true. I was in the signals intelligence business where you listen to the people talk and so on. This is true. It’s an actual recording."
Oh.... My.... Did this guy ever spend any time in the foc'sle? Hasn't he heard this old saw a hundred times before?

Yeah, I know that some pretty "smart" people get taken in by good urban legends, but, really....

Ummmmm ... then again ... maybe McConnell isn't as clueless as he makes himself out to be here. Maybe he's just a lying piece'o'sh*te and is willing to throw any bull around that will further his story...

Does the admiral know who he's talking to?

(h/t to ThinkProgress for this juicy tidbit)

P.S.: Betcha that lighthouse was manned by Terra-ists.... ;-)

Monday, March 17, 2008

In the "No sh*t...." department

Here's the latest from Sen. Joe Lieberman ("CT for meeeee!" Party-CT):
Friday, Lieberman said he will attend the Republican National Convention this summer, "if Senator McCain thinks it will be helpful to be there in some capacity."

Lieberman is co-chairman of McCain's campaign in Connecticut with U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport.

"I am not going to attend the Democratic Convention for obvious reasons," Lieberman said.
But of course. "[O]bvious reasons." Why didn't Joe say something about this in Oct.-Nov. of 2006, I wonder. Oh, right. He wanted to get elected....

(h/t to ThinkProgress)

Free! Free movie!! Just bring your own popcorn...

Sometime the best things in life are free.

So, as we approach the five-year anniversary of the worst foreign policy blunder of the United States, we can pop a frothy one, look back at what happened, and get so outraged that we pick up our pitch-forks, buckets of tar and feathers, and head en masse for Washington, DC....

Click on it. Really. It is free.

Dubya is no Bill Pullman

From the always trenchant Democratic Underground's "Top Ten Conservative Idiots", we have this:
War is hell. Unless you're George W. Bush, in which case it's a fantastic, romantic experience that we should all be envious of.

I'm not kidding. Here he is taking part in a teleconference with military personnel in Afghanistan last week:
"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."

"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks," Bush said.
Of course, when George was slightly younger and not employed as President of the United States, he did have an opportunity to confront danger and have a fantastic romantic experience on the front lines in Vietnam. Yet, for some reason, he chose not to go. Funny how that works.
C'mon, Georgie, you can't let anyone stop you from doing your duty. Hell, you're a goddamn fighter pilot (even if they yanked your flight certificate), and if Bill Pullman can hop in a jet and go after those nasty aliens, surely you can do the same and blow those Mooooslim Terra-ists to Kingdom Come and save the world.... Go for it, big boy!

The good guys never get hit, even by a whole platoon of baddies all firing fully automatic weapons ... and if they do manage to scorch you, don't worry: It's just a movie, you'll be ready to fly another mission in the next blockbuster, "DuRambo: The Iranian Affair."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"Mammaaaa! He MADE me do it!!!"

... and other such type whining about their role in the Iraq war from maladministration flacks, vivisected for your viewing pleasure right before your very eyes. Behold:

The N.Y. Times, on the approach of the five year anniversary of the Iraq invasion, decided to publish nine pieces by various people looking back over the last five years. By my rough count, at least seven and probably eight of them were war hawks before the war, and quite a few were complicit in the "rush to war", either as cheerleaders, or, for several, as active participants in the maladministration.

These purported "experts" were asked by the N.Y. Times "to comment on the one aspect of the war that most surprised them or that they wished they had considered in the prewar debate". That is, did they have anything they would like to ... ummm ... 'reconsider'?!?

Needless to say, what we got was lots of whiny finger-pointing and persiflage, and not anything that might be considered less than laudatory of the esteemed talents of these people WHO GOT THINGS COMPLETELY WRONG!!!! Excuses abounded, as did some rather interesting means of admitting errors without actually doing so or taking responsibility.

1). Preznitential Medal of Freedom winner L. Paul Bremer (who has been effectively eviscerated by Chandrasekaran's book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City") does the "Democrats thought so too" dodge, followed by finger-pointing at the military -- and Rummy, I guess -- for not providing civil order:

For decades, American administrations from both parties had designated Saddam Hussein’s Iraq a terrorist state. He supported and lauded Palestinian terrorists. He had developed, and used, weapons of mass destruction against his own citizens. He had contemptuously refused to comply with 17 Security Council resolutions demanding he come clean on those programs.

Our soldiers were magnificent in liberating Iraq. But after arriving in the country, I saw that the American government was not adequately prepared to deal with the growing security threats. Looting raged unchecked in major cities. By late 2003, as the insurgency and terrorism grew, it became clear that the coalition also lacked an effective counterinsurgency strategy.

Our troops on the ground were valiant and selfless, but prewar planning provided for fewer than half the number of troops that independent studies suggested would be needed in Iraq. And we did not have a plan to provide the most basic function of any government — security for the population. Terrorists, insurgents, criminals and the Iraqi people got the impression that the coalition would not, or could not, protect civilians.

Wise ol' Bremer saw this, of course, but was thwarted in his efforts to fix things, although he made his best efforts by -- amongst other Republican-talk-point-driven stoopidity -- privatizing the utility companies, trying to set up a Baghdad Wall Street to trade rubble futures, and disbanding the Iraqi army.

2). Next on the list, "Prince of Darkness" Richard Perle with a "We were right"/"It's Colin Powell's fault!!!" medley:
The right decision was made, and Baghdad fell in 21 days with few casualties on either side. Twenty-five million Iraqis had been liberated and the menace of Saddam’s monstrous regime eliminated.

Then the trouble began. Rather than turn Iraq over to Iraqis to begin the daunting process of nation building, a group including Secretary of State Colin Powell; the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice; and the director of central intelligence, George Tenet — with President Bush’s approval — reversed a plan to do that.
It's some evil cabal!!! Thwarting Perle's immaculate advice!!! Zounds, Lex Luthor move aside....
Instead, we blundered into an ill-conceived occupation that would facilitate a deadly insurgency from which we, and the Iraqis, are only now emerging. With misplaced confidence that we knew better than the Iraqis, we sent an American to govern Iraq. L. Paul Bremer underestimated the task, but did his best to make a foolish policy work. I had badly underestimated the administration’s capacity to mess things up.
So it's Bremer's fault, and in addition, Perle's only mistake was not to know how f*cked up the maladministration was. <*PSSST!*> Perle was part of the maladministration, and one of those who pushed for the war from back in 1998 during PNAC days. Maybe he is of the opinion that Clinton could have done the job right. If so, out with it, Dick....

3). Ann-Marie Slaughter is the only one who doesn't finger-point and who takes her role seriously.

4). Perennial chickenhawk Ken Pollack goes for the "can't we just move on" dodge, and puts up the "others thought so too" as an excuse:
What matters most now is not how we entered Iraq, but how we leave it. If we leave behind an Iraq more stable and less threatening to its neighbors than the one we toppled, I think the intelligence community’s (and my own) mistakes about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration’s exaggerations of that threat and its baseless insistence on links between Iraq and Al Qaeda will all lose their edge — even though they will not, and should not, be forgotten.
As long as we had good motive, doesn't matter if we were wrong, as long as we find some way to fix things in the end (and sorry about that $2 trillion and 4000 soldiers....):
If we leave behind a raging civil war in which the Iraqi people are incomprehensibly worse off than they had been under Saddam Hussein and the Middle East more threatened by the chaos spilling over from Iraq than they ever were by the dictator’s arms, then no one will care how well-intentioned our motives.

For that reason, what I most wish I had understood before the invasion was the reckless arrogance of the Bush administration. I had inklings of it to be sure, and warned of the inadequacy of some of what I saw. But I did not realize that as skillfully, cautiously and patiently as George H. W. Bush’s administration had handled its Iraq war, that was how clumsy, careless and rash George W. Bush’s administration would treat its own.
Nooooo one could have known that the maladministration was incompetent ... as long as they didn't bother reading Molly Ivin's book "Shrub", I suppose. "I tried to warn people.... really.... not kidding..." Little pat on the back there for himself; yes, no doubt Pollack didn't do anything wrong other than misunderestimate Dubya, and who could be faulted for that?

5). According to Danielle Pletka, aside from the oh-so-common "everyone did it" whining, the problem is that we put down the White Mans' Burden, and expected those brutes to govern themselves with out proper example from our pith hats and jodphurs:
Looking back, I felt secure in the knowledge that all who yearn for freedom, once free, would use it well. I was wrong. There is no freedom gene, no inner guide that understands the virtues of civil society, of secret ballots, of political parties. And it turns out that living under Saddam Hussein’s tyranny for decades conditioned Iraqis to accept unearned leadership, to embrace sect and tribe over ideas, and to tolerate unbridled corruption.

Some have used Iraq’s political immaturity as further proof the war was wrong, as if somehow those less politically evolved don’t merit freedoms they are ill equipped to make use of.
See, our problem was in working with the wrong starting materials. Next time, we invade Denmark.

6). Marine officer Nathaniel Fick was misled by the WoMD hype. If the Marines just known that there weren't any WoMD, and hadn't gotten all worried about chemical attacks and taken their eye off the ball, they could have done a better job:
This deception twisted our priorities dangerously out of whack. Methodically clearing areas of enemy fighters, and then securing them to protect the populace, seemed like a risky luxury in March and April. By August, with the insurgency in bloom, it had become a colossal missed opportunity.

The weapons, we now know, were some combination of relic, bluster and ruse. We focused on the nerve-agent feint, and got roundhoused by the insurgent hook. I wish we could all go back to those nights in the Kuwaiti desert, when a more sober assessment could have changed the way we fought, and maybe lessened the likelihood that we’d still be fighting five years later.
Hate to say it, but "enemy fighters" were the "populace". And he might pay attention to the fact that if there weren't any WoMD, there wasn't any freaking reason to invade in the first place....

7). Paul Eaton has a good one: "Congress is to blame, Ma, Congress made me do it....":
My greatest surprise was the failure on the part of Congress to assert itself before the executive branch. That failure assured continued problems for the military in the face of a secretary of defense who proved incompetent at fighting war.

Had Congress defended the welfare of our armed forces by challenging the concentration of power in the hands of the president, the vice president and the secretary of defense, our Army and Marine Corps would not be in the difficult position we find them in today.
It is true that Congress (with some -- but way too few -- notable exceptions) showed no spine and even less judgement and intelligence, but outside of a refusal to pass the ill-considered AUMF despite intense GOP political pressure, there is really little they could have done. The day-to-day operations are generally thought to be a "Commander-in-Chief" function, and their disapproval would have little mandatory effect ... not to mention, this particular Doofus-in-Chief is the last person to listen to anyone, much less Congress....

Most surprising here is that Paul Eaton is a campaign advisor to Hillary Clinton (who was, ummm, a Senator in 2002 and onwards?)....

8). RW chickenhawk and AEI "scholar" Fred Kagan whines that "No one listened to meeeeeee.......":
From the moment the Bush administration took office, I argued against its apparent preference for high-tech, small-footprint wars, which continued a decade of movement in that direction by senior military leaders and civilian experts. In 2002, I questioned the common triumphalism about American operations in Afghanistan, and particularly the notion of applying the “Afghanistan model” of low-manpower, high-precision operations in Iraq. I supported the 2003 invasion despite misgivings about how it would be executed, and those misgivings proved accurate.
OK. "I thought it was dumb, but I said, 'Let's do it'...." Hell, it's just war and soldier's lives we're dealing with. "But the thing to note is that I was smart and perceptive and I'm a freakin' geenyus." But noting his disdain for high-tech, we have this:
However, the most surprising phenomenon of the war has been the transformation of the United States military into the most discriminate and effective counterinsurgency force the world has ever seen, skillfully blending the most advanced technology with human interactions between soldiers and the Iraqi people. Precision-guided weapons allowed our soldiers and marines to minimize collateral damage while using our advantages in firepower to the full.
So Kagan changed his mind about the "high-tech" toys, I guess. Of course, we've only blow up a couple of weddings with stand-off weaponry, due (in part) to that quaint habit folks in this part of the world have of firing off firearms into the sky during weddings (something I know about, but which has apparently not been passed on to either Kagan or the troops).
Once we pushed most of our combat forces into close interactions with the Iraqi people, the information they obtained ensured that the targets they hit were the right ones. Above all, the compassion and concern our soldiers have consistently shown to civilians and even to defeated and captured enemies have turned the tide of Iraqi opinion.
What's turned the tide is that we're giving arms and lots of money (and the promise of power) to the various chiefs, and they'll be well placed to fight the civil war once they boot us out or we get tired and leave. The "compassion and concern", of course, may be there, but it just takes one Abu Ghraib, and that's all gone down the crapper....

9). Republican Anthony Cordesman of the CSIS starts out by saying he's not a very astute pundit either, and thus we ought to cut the Bushies some slack:
In fairness to the Bush administration, I did not expect that we would discover no meaningful activity in rebuilding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and no Iraqi ties to Al Qaeda. I also never predicted, after the insurgency began, that the extremists in Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia would so alienate Sunnis and tribes in western Iraq that a combination of the “surge, win and hold” military tactics, American-led nation-building efforts that focused on local and provincial needs, and the cease-fire declared by Moktada al-Sadr could create today’s new opportunity for “victory.”
OK. So tell me why we're even listening to him.... But I thought the question was in part, "so what have you learned?"
In balance, however, the most serious surprise was that what appeared to be the American A-Team in national security ignored years of planning and months of interagency activity before the war, and the United States had no meaningful plan for stability operations and nation building after the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s armed forces. Relying on sectarian exiles with strong ties to Iran, disbanding the security forces and starting the process of de-Baathification were all obvious disasters, as were the creation of closed-list national elections and the failure to quickly hold local and provincial elections.

It was even more of a surprise to watch the Bush administration fail, from 2003 to 2006, to come to grips with creating effective counterinsurgency programs, focused aid and development efforts, political accommodation and effective Iraqi forces. As a Republican, I would never have believed that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would waste so many opportunities and so much of America’s reputation that they would rival Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy for the worst wartime national security team in United States history.
Oh, I get it. The Dubya maladministration is sooooo incompetent that they's almost as bad as a Democratic one (not to mention Dubya et al. had the advantage of hindsight so as to not have to learn the lessons learned from the Democratic mistakes all over again, the hard way).

If you take a consensus view of the nine pieces, perhaps the only common views are that it's someone else's fault and that the maladministration is a bunch of incompetents and eedjits. Does it look like any of these people actually learned something useful from the last five years (outside of the obvious fact I mentioned in the last sentence)?

But what's missing here is, say, nine views looking back from the people that really knew that the Iraq war was a bad idea from the beginning, and how they were right and perhaps ought to be paid more attention to ... you know, like getting editorial page billing in an august newspaper like the N.Y. Times....


Richard Perle is not one to back down:
Appearing on the radio show of Fox News’s John Gibson on Monday night, Perle chastised Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) assertion that “we cannot win” the civil war in Iraq. “We may not win, but to say we can’t win is clearly wrong,” argued Perle.
Right. We can win. Just have to decide what "winning" is. What would a "win" look like? Oh. Right. Forgot to figger that one out. Well, if we now carefully draw the target around the arrow....

More choice Perles from way back:
And a year from now, I’ll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush....
... build by Halliburton, no doubt. You know, it's so nice to see we've replaced Saddam.... Umm ... hmmm ... nevermind.

[T]hey understand that they’ve been liberated.
Yes, I'm sure they've noticed the changes....

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Let the sliming begin -- Part Cinq

Obama's a Mooooossssliiimmm. Or he's a wacky radical black Chris'shun. Or sumptin'....

But the media isn't giving up on the "Mooooooossssliiimmm" thing, even after they managed to get the pastor of his Christian church to drop out of his campaign.

Eric Boehlert has the nuts and bolts:
Less than one second. That's how long it took Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to answer, "Of course not," to Steve Kroft's question on 60 Minutes about whether she thought Sen. Barack Obama was a Muslim. You can time it yourself by watching the clip at YouTube.

Still, that didn't stop MSNBC's Chris Matthews from complaining on-air last week that it took Clinton "the longest time" to answer Kroft's question.

Lots of eager, tsk-tsking pundits and reporters agreed. They said Clinton was guilty of "hemming and hawing" in response to Kroft's peculiar, repeated insistence that she make some sort of declarative statement about her opponents religious beliefs. And then when she did, Kroft asked that she do it again. That's when Clinton, looking befuddled by the multiple requests, added some qualifiers to her response, including "as far as I know." What stood out in the exchange was not Clinton's responses, but Kroft's weird persistence in asking a question that Clinton addressed unequivocally the first time, as though he was trying to draw out something she was not saying. Even more peculiar was Kroft's obsession with the Muslim question amid a 60 Minutes report that was about Ohio's shrinking working class and what Clinton and Obama were going to do to try stop of the overseas flow of U.S. manufacturing jobs. (Note to Kroft and the rest of the media: Obama is not a Muslim; Clinton knows Obama is not a Muslim; Clinton does not believe Obama is a Muslim. Clinton made this very clear.
Of course, they can do double-duty by trying to pin the blame on Hillary Clinton:

After parsing Clinton's answer and then conveniently setting aside key sections of it, journalists at NBC, MSNBC, The New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Time, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post, among others, declared her response had been wholly deficient. Worse, Clinton's answer simply confirmed that she was running a "slimy," "nasty" contest. It was a "galling" comment; "the sleaziest moment of the campaign."

The only thing sleazy about the episode was the type of journalism being used to concoct a Clinton slur.

When people suggest that the press employs a separate standard for covering Clinton, this is the kind of episode they're talking about. There simply is no other candidate, from either party, who has had their comments, their fragments, dissected so dishonestly the way Clinton's have been.

The fact is, if you look at Clinton's exchange with Kroft in its entirety, which lasted less than one minute, I count eight separate times in which she either plainly denied the false claim that Obama was Muslim, labeled that suggestion to be a smear, or expressed sympathy for Obama having to deal with the Muslim innuendo.
Neat getting both memes out there, pandering to the unwashed xenophobes of the RW and at the same time attacking Clinton....

How about talking about McCain? You know, like, about his "rustic cabin"?!?!?


I suppose I can't leave out mention of the "Jeremiah Wright scandal", flogged 24X7 by the likes of FauxSnooze, Hannity, and Limbaugh.... They've even managed to get some "liberals" ducking for cover and demanding that Obama repent from his heresy-by-association ... which is exactly what the RW is trying to goad Obama into doing, but which he should not do (and in part for that very reason).

Glenn Greenwald has a good article with some good discussion on his blog.

And Obama has come back with a rather good speech.

We'll have to see what washes out in the end.

But nice to see that the RW is getting into a more honest and straight-forward form of race-baiting....

Update 2

Atrios weighs in: CNN's carrying someone's water.

"[T]here was a third possibility that we hadn't even counted upon..."

... with apologies to Arlo Guthrie.

At the end of a very interesting article by William Arkin in the Washington Post, we have this:
My take is that Bush has voted with Petraeus and has decided to tough it out with 130,000-140,000 troops in Iraq through the end of the administration. Fallon lost the battle. The good news is that with those kinds of resources being committed to Iraq, and with the lessons of the war, the likelihood of Bush and Cheney starting an Iran war is virtually zero.
I like "good news" and all, even if somewhat encumbered as this example is, but there is that "third possibility": We don't have to start a war with Iran. We can just bomb them...

(h/t to dday at Digby's Hullabaloo for the WaPo article)

"New Atheists": Chris Hedges's version of "FemiNazi"

Chris Hedges takes on an appalling new threat to the U.S. and the world in his latest book "I Don't Believe in Atheists". The "New Atheists" are gonna take over All Of Civilisation and establish a worldwide Caliphate ... oh, sorry, wrong fundie threat, nevermind....

From the Salon article on Hedges and the book:
Strange bedfellows indeed -- according to Hedges, the New Atheists and the Christian right pose the greatest threat facing American democratic society today.
What is the nature of this insidious new terror? Well, why not ask Chris?:
[Salon]: A lot of people would find it counterintuitive that you would go from your last book, "American Fascists," which was a scathing critique of Christian fundamentalism in the U.S., to writing against atheism. Do you see these as connected projects?

[Chris Hedges]: I do. I didn't start out that way, because these guys were not on my radar screen. I think a lot of their popularity stems from a legitimate anger on the part of a lot of Americans toward the intolerance and chauvinism of the radical religious right in this country. Unfortunately, what they've done is offer a Utopian belief system that is as self-delusional as that offered by Christian fundamentalists. They adopt many of the foundational belief systems of fundamentalists. For example, they believe that the human species is marching forward, that there is an advancement toward some kind of collective moral progress -- that we are moving towards, if not a Utopian, certainly a better, more perfected human society. That's fundamental to the Christian right, and it's also fundamental to the New Atheists.
Wow. I can seee danger lurking there, yowzah. Some [unspecified] people "believe the human species is marching forward". What next, will they think that mankind is made in the image of Gawd?

Someone forgot to invite Hedges to last Wodensday's sermon and rally at the Atheists United To Subjugate The World To Inevitable Improvement club (by invitation only; we have to make sure you're utopian enough to get in the door, you see). <*Sheesh!*> Like atheists are ever going to get organised.... Plus, I detest one of these Hedges-described "New Atheists", Christopher Hitchens, and wouldn't come within flame-jump distance of his breath.

But what's really lacking here is any evidence that there's any such New Atheist Church. Seems that Hedges gets to pick the membership, but doesn't have to tell anyone who's on the list. Not to mention, the "beliefs" he picks on above ("they believe that the human species is marching forward...") are hardly universal, hardly sinister (and no more sinister than many mainstream Christian beliefs), and hardly supported by any quotes by those that purportedly hold such beliefs. I, for one, don't have any such belief in any inexorable march to Better Living (see, e.g., the Dubya regime). Also lacking is any evidence that there is such a 'church', much less a conspiracy.

Anything else to add, Chris?:
[Chris Hedges]: I would say that the fascist agenda was Utopian, and that it adopted the cult of science. That's what leads Hitler to try and breed humans and apes to try to create an oversized warrior or to send expeditions to Tibet to find a pure, Aryan race. I mean, that's not science. It's the cult of science, and I think the New Atheists also make that leap from science into the cult of science, and that's a problem.
Godwin's Law sets in early, I guess. "Nazis were [purportedly] Utopian. Hedges's purported 'New Atheists' are purportedly Utopian. Therefore (all together now) ....."

Hedges's "New Atheists" is very reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh's "FemiNazis", a group Rush made up, and to which he alone holds the keys to membership (which list Rush is quite tight-lipped about when confronted with a request for just who are these terrible "FemiNazis"...)

If we're going to worry about demagoguery, isn't it worth while for Hedges to look at what he himself is doing?

More Hedges blathering:
[Chris Hedges]: I write in the book that not believing in God is not dangerous. Not believing in sin is very dangerous. I think both the Christian right and the New Atheists in essence don't believe in their own sin, because they externalize evil.
But Hedges will be glad to set them straight, you can be sure. Of course they're sinners!!! Who could doubt such a proposition? Aren't we all sinners? But where he gets this idea that atheists don't believe in sin is beyond me.... Just a hint for the brain-damaged like Hedges here: Belief that you are a sinner is logically a different proposition from saying that there is evil in the world; there is "right" and "wrong". But then again, what do I know; I'm not a Christian....

As for his claim that "I Don't Believe in Atheists", he's welcome to that absurd belief. But why he should expose his own arrant stoopidity on the cover of books in such a manner is beyond me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Imagine my surprise

Why don't you just pretend to be trying to pick my pocket, and I'll just pretend to be surprised?

The Rethuglicans demanded a "Sooper-Dooper Tippy-Toppy Hush-Hush Secret" House session, so they could discuss the House FISA amendment bill (more hilarity here from dday at Hulaballoo).

So what happened (outside of the Rethuglicans getting their keister kicked)? Correspondent Gordon over at Glenn Greenwald's blog has the answer:
From Rep.Steve Cohen (D-TN 9th)

Yesterday, for just the sixth time in House history and the first time in nearly 25 years, the House of Representatives went into secret session to discuss the electronic surveillance legislation. House Republicans requested the closed session, and while I can’t disclose what went on during that time, I can say definitively that no new information and nothing that needed to be kept secret was offered by Republicans during that time.
Thought so.

Friday fishblogging

Posted by Picasa

Got them ol' "Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues" again. In Dallas.

For reference, blue tang, Barbados, December 15, 2007, Nikon D70s with twin Ikelite DS-125 strobes, 105mm macro Nikkor lens, 1/125th @ F/18 [click picture for larger image]

You gotta watch the parsing

Mr. "Turdblossom" explains how he learned about "honesty" here:
[Karl Rove]: "Well I’ve been privileged to work for two men who’s last name is Bush. George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush are two pretty remarkable men. And I’ve learned a lot from them, learned a lot about life, learned a lot about character, learned a lot about loyalty and trust and honesty and straightforwardness."
I have no reason to doubt this. But what is he saying? He's not saying he learned to be honest from these people. He's saying he learned about "honesty" from them, and its many uses and drawbacks, depending on what you're trying to do....

Of course, we know what he learned from Dubya.....

FWIW, Rove learned about "loyalty" from George H.W. Bush, because Bush the Elder fired him for stabbing fellow Republican Robert Mosbacher in the back.

A maladministration flack struggles with his PAA/FISA "talking points"....

Columbia University law perfesser Philip Bobbitt, toady for the maladministion's lawbreaking, struggles to get his prepared points across in a mini-debate on PBS's Newshour with Jim Lehrer (Caroline Fredrickson of the ACLU carries the anti-immunity side):
JIM LEHRER: Now, Professor Bobbitt, you support immunity for the telecom companies, is that correct?

PHILIP BOBBITT, Center for National Security at Columbia University: That's right.


PHILIP BOBBITT: You want to think not so much about the past, about punishing the telecoms for something that's already happened. It is about the future.
Punishing people for stuff that hasn't happened is generally thought to be poor form. Perhaps Bobbitt doesn't understand this facet of justice, though.

And, given his mission to defend the maladministration, I can appreciate the impetus behind Bobbitt's plea, "Uhhh, can't we just move on?....", but retroactive immunity is hardly "about the future".
JIM LEHRER: Just to go back to something I asked before, I'm not sure I understood correctly what you were saying. What is it that these lawsuits, the retrospective -- in other words, the lawsuit that's filed against a telecom company for what it did, say, in 2001, what is the purpose of that lawsuit? What is it they want to get from -- the people suing the companies, what is it they want?

CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Well, ultimately, they want accountability. They want...

JIM LEHRER: No, but, I mean, how does that -- accountability, what does that mean?

CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Well, in some cases, that can be damages.


CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Some of the cases look for damages, but others are looking for...

JIM LEHRER: And the plaintiffs would be whom?

CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: The plaintiffs are a variety of customers of the different communications companies that have been sued, from AT&T and Verizon to others.

JIM LEHRER: And they're suing for damages on the basis that their privacy was violated illegally?


JIM LEHRER: What's wrong with that, Professor Bobbitt? Why shouldn't these people have a right to sue and get damages, if the court system allows it?

PHILIP BOBBITT: Well, that's the question: Should we allow it? And there are many interests involved here.

Of course, if people's privacy was violated, perhaps there should be some way of compensating it. Indeed, Congress could do that.
Yeah, Congress could do that.... Oh. Wait. In fact, that's precisely what they did, when they went and passed the FISA law back in 1978 and gave people a right to sue for civil damages when the law was violated.

I pity the poor students in Bobbitt's classes....


Bobbitt really pushes the "Can't we just move on?...." meme. It's all about the future, and that's why we have to give immunity for past law violations. The maladministration/GOP/RW Wurlitzer/Bobbitt "talking point" is apparently that, when we need people to assist the gummint break the law in emergencies, we don't want them to hesitate to break the law and put themselves in legal jeopardy, and thus we want to assure them we'll give 'em a 'pardon' if they do. Hell, don't we want these fine "patriotic" companies to help out illegally next time we have an emergency? Here's how it flows:
PHILIP BOBBITT: You want to think not so much about the past, about punishing the telecoms for something that's already happened. It is about the future.

How can you, in thinking of an unanticipated emergency, take steps that will maximize the cooperation not just of telecoms, but of the private sector generally? That's the objective.

It's not about punishing corporate America. It's about securing cooperation at a time when you need it, in circumstances you really can't anticipate.
Only problem here is that this purported "emergency" went on for five years or so....

Update 2

More of Bobbitt's persiflage:
PHILIP BOBBITT: But, again, just to sort of belabor this point [not that Bobbitt's doing anything of the sort, of course], I wish we could raise our sights a little bit and try and anticipate the future, try and look to those very difficult times that we really can't sort out right now in the midst of such technological change.

And imagine the time when, for good reasons and good faith, we go to private companies and say, "The law is kind of murky here. Your general counsel says you shouldn't comply; some general counsels have already said they will. But we need your help."

Do we want to make it easier or harder? Do we want to maximize the chances of cooperation or do we want to qualify them? I think that's really the basic question here.
I'd note that James Bamford, in his books (including "The Puzzle Palace" on the NSA), recounts that this is precisely the tactic used by the gummint to talk the third of the three big cable (telegram) providers many decades ago into going along with the other two and turning over -- every day -- the whole day's complete international traffic. In fact, it was the exposure of this "Operation Shamrock" -- along with the domestic spying abuses of the Nixon administration in COINTELPRO -- that led to the outrage and the passage in 1978 of the FISA law that outlawed such.

And just out of curiosity, who's this "we" there, Mr. Bobbitt?....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I can understand the concern with "mental health"....

ThinkProgress has this little gem today:
House Republicans are so intent on forcing through the Senate-approved surveillance bill “that they’ve tried to attach it to some strange vehicles,” including “an unrelated mental health parity bill (HR 1424).” Attempting to justify this move, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) was forced to stretch logic:

This bill is intended to ensure the mental health of Americans; yet, no American’s health can be fully secured if they are under attack by a terrorist or facing the potential threat of terrorist attack.

Mr. Hoekstra may well have a (personal) reason to insist on full funding for mental health care. And I don't disagree with the impetus for such (but tying it to the PAA may hurt its chances of passage). However, may I respectfully suggest that Hoekstra forgot to add in the supplemental appropriation for "Depends" price subsidies, which would also directly benefit him and his supporters.....

Stoopid (and clueless) to the Nth degree....

It's been said that stoopid people are just too stoopid to know that they're stoopid. I give you Exhibit B (Exhibit A was here):
"I think when people take a look back at this moment in our economic history, they’ll recognize tax cuts work." -- G. "Dumbya" Bush
ThinkProgress goes on to explain perhaps a bit as to why same people might beg to differ:

It’s doubtful Americans will remember this time period as an example of economic success. Yesterday, a government report from Energy Information Administration (EIA) , the statistical arm of the Department of Energy, broke with the Bush administration line, forecasting “for the first time that the country’s economy would enter recession in 2008.” The report reads:

U.S. real gross domestic product is expected to decline slightly in the first half of the year and then start growing again, with growth for 2008 as a whole at 1.3 percent, the slowest annual rate since 2001.

As the Financial Times noted, the EIA report did not specifically say that the U.S. economy would fall into recession, “but two quarters of negative growth is a common definition of recession among economists.”

Reuters said today that many economists foresee a recession “probably in quarter 1.” This assessment drops growth expectations to “none at all” for the first three months of this year, in contrast to the “anemic 0.2 percent they forecast last month.”

Making Bush’s tax cuts permanent won’t help the U.S. economy. They would cost taxpayers $4.3 trillion over the next ten years; Bush has proposed no measures to pay for this. Furthermore, they would increase the after-tax incomes of households with incomes above $1 million by an average of 7.5 percent, compared to a 2.3 percent increase middle-income households and 0.5 percent for lowest-income households.

Then there's the Iraq war fiasco's cost....

And this just in....

Some Democrat involved in a sex scandal. Quick, round up the reporters and start the 24X7 news coverage and gaggles of talking heads opining about how it affects the Clinton and Obama campaigns (the projectile emesis inducing Michelle Malkin near the head of the bevy).

Mr. "Just Doesn't Get It"

From FireDogLake, these pearls of wisdom from our preznit:
“The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision early in my presidency,” he said, to rousing applause and a standing ovation. “It is the right decision at this point in my presidency, and it will forever be the right decision.”
What an arrogant dumbf*ck. This site begs to differ.....