As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, April 05, 2008

World Report

If there's one thing the world needs, it's a report:

• Violence has once again sparked in Tibet, with at least eight dead in the latest round of clashes between protesters and Chinese police. Apparently you can be arrested just for being found with the Dalai Lama's picture. The government is planning 1,200 show trials for protesters and organizing what they call study sessions for residents, essentially to indoctrinate them into Chinese propaganda. Clearly the Chinese fear losing control of the situation, and now is the time for the IOC and the world community to increase pressure for reform. See also Matt Browner Hamlin's must-read demolition of "serious" thinker Nick Kristof's prescription for Tibet.

• If Tibet is bad, Zimbabwe may be worse, and it feels like we're headed toward a civil war or a brutal repression there. The reports are conflicting. The Guardian says that Robert Mugabe is negotiating a release of power in exchange for immunity from prosecution for past crimes, which the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) may not be willing to give. Morgan Tsvangirai is announcing that he has won the Presidency outright and that there's no need for a runoff through which "Violence will be the new weapon to reverse the people's will." Meanwhile Mugabe's ZANU-PF party is challenging the results of Parliamentary elections which resulted in an MDC victory. Prospects for a peaceful resolution look dim, frankly.

• Between the French offering a new battalion for Afghanistan and the United States vowing to add troops as well, it looks as if NATO is finally getting serious about the problem in the country, about 6 years too late. Democrats and Republicans basically agree about the need to increase our capacity in Afghanistan, though the Bush Administration has been asleep at the switch and has made the situation extremely difficult.

• Earlier this week I mentioned the growing world hunger crisis as food prices skyrocket and richer nations retrench and lower exports. The World Bank has recognized the scope of the problem as well.

The World Bank has called on the international community to co-ordinate its efforts in a "new deal" to fight global hunger and malnutrition.

A move was needed because of soaring global food and energy prices, said the bank's president, Robert Zoellick.

Mr Zoellick said the top priority was to give the UN World Food Programme an extra $500m for emergency food aid.

The World Bank estimates 33 countries face potential social unrest because of rising food and energy prices.

Unless we do something legitimate and globalized about climate change these resource wars are going to continue. In the case of the food crisis it's not the only cause, but it will be a sustained cause going forward.

• The fallout from having a Musharraf policy instead of a Pakistan policy continues, as we may have alienated the new Parliamentary players and sidelined our efforts at engagement and even counter-terrorism. Just another way Bush has harmed national security.

Fighting the right enemies:

Saudi Arabia remains the world's leading source of money for Al Qaeda and other extremist networks and has failed to take key steps requested by U.S. officials to stem the flow, the Bush administration's top financial counter-terrorism official said Tuesday.

Stuart A. Levey, a Treasury undersecretary, told a Senate committee that the Saudi government had not taken important steps to go after those who finance terrorist organizations or to prevent wealthy donors from bankrolling extremism through charitable contributions, sometimes unwittingly.

I remember when the 9-11 Commission report blocked out references to Saudi Arabian involvement, as if they could possibly cover up the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian. What could be more damning than "They did it"? Apparently this cover-up relationship with the Saudis continues, as they still fund terror and we still call them a great ally. How warped.

Really interesting article on the Iranian blogosphere. The fact that an Iranian blogosphere is allowed at all shows that it is not quite the caricature our leaders would have us believe, though some topics are filtered (often in surprising and erratic ways). Many bloggers have been arrested and persecuted, but also many have thrived and criticized the official dictates of the Islamic Republic. Eventually, open-source communication does make an impact, and it's an honor to be working in the same medium as those in Iran.

• Finally, it appears that a liberal is a conservative who's been mugged by reality.

Conservative U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., joined some of his most liberal colleagues in the House of Representative on a recent trip to Africa. What he saw there changed him, at least a little.

Struck by the unrelenting poverty in a South African slum, Nunes this week joined Democrats in supporting a $50 billion global AIDS relief package. Most of his fellow Republicans opposed the bill.

“It’s one thing to hear about a problem,” Nunes said Thursday. “It’s another thing to see it for yourself. This was horrendous.”

Once you step outside that bubble, it's hard to ignore the truth and the suffering.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Yoo's Law

State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas is forcing a vote on a bill that ought to be named after a certain Berkeley professor:

The California Senate is preparing to weigh in on the hot-button topic of torture, with a twist that combines elements of the Hippocratic oath and the military oath.

Under a resolution that state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas plans to put to a vote Thursday, California regulators would notify physicians and other health professionals that they could lose their license and be prosecuted by the state if they are involved in the torture of suspected terrorists [...]

During a committee hearing in January, Ridley-Thomas said there is evidence that physicians, psychologists and nurses licensed by the state "have participated in torture or its coverup against detainees in U.S. custody."

He cited "confirmed reports from the International Red Cross, New England Journal of Medicine, military records and first-person accounts."

"California has the obligation, I believe, to notify its licensees of laws pertaining to torture that may result in prosecution," Ridley-Thomas said.

The senator said physicians have reportedly advised interrogators whether prisoners were fit enough to survive "physical maltreatment, informed interrogators about prisoners' phobias and other psychological vulnerabilities that could be exploited."

Invoking the Hippocratic oath that physicians traditionally take, he said the state can "withdraw its consent to torture by demanding that its health professionals remember their oath to first do no harm."

This is extremely small-bore, but if the federal government is abusing detainees, the states ought to be able to step in and inform their own residents of the Constitutional and international treaty obligations citizens are required to uphold.

California Republicans will have a choice to make. There is substantial evidence in the public record of health professionals aiding and abetting in the practices at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. For each Yacht Party member, they must understand that their vote could either sanction these abuses, or affirmatively state that some parts of the United States still follow the rule of law.

I can only applaud Sen. Ridley-Thomas for this courageous proposal, which hopefully will spark a movement of revolt amongst state legislatures. This Administration is lawless and reckless, and diminishing what credibility we have left globally with each passing day. California can stand up, and steadfastly shout "We do not agree; we do not consent."

Labels: , , ,


Bring Back American Manufacturing

Longtime readers may know that I work on a lot of crappy TV shows. One of the less crappy ones that I'm currently doing is John Ratzenberger;s Made In America (order the first season today!), wherein TV's Cliff Clavin guides a tour through various American manufacturing companies, kind of like the old Sesame Street segment where you go to the factory and see how the candy is made. Well it's in its fifth season, and they've kind of run out of companies to profile. I've noticed this year that more and more of the segments are about buildings like the Space Needle and the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana than products manufactured in this country. If the majority of our productive output is construction, and the housing market falls apart in the way we've seen, then a horrific jobs number rise in unemployment should definitely be expected. This is the culmination of the hollowing out of the manufacturing base, without the continuation of the knowledge economy that rose up in the 1990s. This is why you see the disparity in jobs between the Clinton years and the Bush years.

Sharp downturns in the manufacturing and construction sectors led the decline, the biggest in five years. The Labor Department also said employers cut far more jobs in January and February than originally estimated.

I'm guessing this is why the housing bill being debated in the Senate includes all these tax breaks for new construction. It's the only manufacturing, of a fashion, that we have left.

While I agree that unemployment benefits ought to be extended, since it's a proven way to stimulate the economy immediately, calling it a second stimulus package is IMO the wrong thing to do. I don't mind being interventionist for people other than investment banks, and clearly the Bush laissez-faire policy spells disaster. But the first stimulus got mashed down into a paltry and ridiculous government handout that's probably going to be used to pay down debt as much as anything else - why didn't they give it directly to the credit card companies and eliminate the middle man? Any new "stimulus" that went into the sausage maker's hands would probably come out the same way. So I'd rather keep it as an unemployment benefits extension and leave it at that. In addition, we need to incentivize domestic job creation and punish outsourcing. Especially at this point, with the dollar plunging low enough that the additional expense is not as great, jobs need to stay right here. Finally, we need to open up another manufacturing sector, and that's clearly the green economy. One of the subjects of Made In America this year is a wind farm. We could put what's left of American economic might into tackling the energy vulnerability issue and building massive wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass projects.

There, that's my economic manifesto.

Labels: , , , , ,


Friday, April 04, 2008

Ya Gotta Be Funnin'

You mean to tell me a Bush Administration-authored assessment of the surge is filled with rosy scenarios and half-truths? What a completely emergent pattern! What a stray onto the beaten path!

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senior Democratic senators challenged a new intelligence report's assessment of President Bush's "surge" strategy Friday, saying the troop increase in Iraq has failed to achieve its strategic goals.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which was distributed to key lawmakers this week, sets the stage for the latest public progress report on Iraq that will be delivered Tuesday and Wednesday to congressional committees by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the top U.S. diplomat in Baghdad.

"In my judgment, it's too rosy, but there are parts of it that are not so rosy, and both pieces need to be declassified," Sen. Carl Levin said, pointing in particular to the portion of the report describing Iraq's political progress.

You know that it's bad when even the doctored, rosy report created by the Pentagon has to remain a closely guarded secret. Levin and Kennedy are heading up the effort to get the report declassified.

What could it possibly say in defense of this failed strategy? Violence is down but it's at a plateau and even ticked back up in February and March. The political situation is a mess; Maliki tried to be a tough guy and muscle Sadr out of the picture but his own army defected and eventually Iran - Iran! - had to broker a deal. And his reaction to the slaughter was to add 10,000 Badr Brigade militia forces at a time where Sunni Concerned Local Citizens groups are begging for jobs and are being told that no slots are available for them. There's precious little to be cheery about, and so I expect lying and evasion in place of the difficult truth.

ROSEN: There’s no positive scenario in Iraq these days. Not every situation has a solution.

Rosen also called the United States "an imperialist power." Whatever is needed to wake people up. The surge has failed.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Friday Random Ten

Better late than never.

Absolutely Bill's Mood - They Might Be Giants
The Bunting Song - The Good, The Bad & The Queen
Silently - Blonde Redhead
Green Arrow - Yo La Tengo
Eon - Supergrass
Fun - Sly & The Family Stone
Disappointed - Morrissey
Street Fighting Man - The Rolling Stones
The Enemy - Guided By Voices
Undertow - Tool

On a side note, I'm admitting my age here because I haven't bought more than maybe one song from iTunes in my life, and yet somehow it's the biggest music seller in the world. Of course I came up in the age of Napster (which means downloading songs to SAMPLE, people) so maybe the whole buying digital music isn't my cup of tea. Anyway I have a thing for jewel cases.

Labels: ,


Great Stuff Around The Web About Dr. King

These are all must-reads.

Kai Wright on Dr. King's forgotten legacy as a radical who pushed an economic and political agenda that was stridently antiwar and opposed to the demons of "racism, materialism, and militarism". Actually I don't know how lost this radical vision was, at least today. Even on the usually vapid cable news, you heard about economic justice and saw quotes from bystanders at McCain's ill-received speech saying "He's a war guy, Dr. King was all about peace." CNN ran a pretty powerful piece about the Memphis sanitation workers, and they aired copious excerpts from black radio that was really revealing. I think a lot of these concepts have become internalized, and kind of exploded today.

Maybe that's because Dr. King's ideas, including his 1967 speech protesting the Vietnam War at a time when it was uncomfortable to do so, was so evergreen, and could be applied to this very day.

See also Rick Perlstein, pushing back on the painted-over history that conservatives try to use to forget their incendiary hatred of the civil rights leader.

Martin Luther King was shuttling in and out of Memphis in support of striking garbage workers. Or, as Governor Buford Ellington put it, "training 3,000 people to start riots." 500 Tennessee citizens signed a complaint asking a U.S. district judge to suspend Governor Ellington's frightening plans for National Guard training exercises that would simulate riots in black neighborhoods. Ellington huffed in return: "When we say we are going to train the guard to protect the lives of people and their property, there is a big hullabaloo about it" from "people who would like to see riots." A third of the New York Times's dispatch on the controversy focused on the fact that one of the 500 petitioners had been arrested for possession of marijuana.

The 1968 civil rights bill moved to the House. Minority leader Gerald Ford announced he would fight the open housing provision. Southern governors, ignoring outright a 1967 decision of the Fifth Circuit articulating an "affirmative bring about an integrated, unitary school system in which there are no Negro schools and no white schools--just schools," were served a deadline by the dreaded Harold Howe II: comply by September of 1969, or else. The California Democratic Council adopted a pro-Gene McCarthy resolution at their annual convention. The keynote speaker--Martin Luther King--refused to indicate a preference for McCarthy or RFK, but made it clear he opposed the incumbent: "Flame throwers in Vietnam fan the flames in our cities--I don't think the two matters can be separated."

The next morning, a Saturday, the President popped around to the Sheraton Park Hotel for a breakfast speech to the National Alliance of Businessmen that all but accused his critics [like King] of being against the troops:

"Earlier this week in the East Room of the White House, I awarded the Medal of Honor to two of our bravest fighting Marines....

"As your President, I want to say this to you today: We must meet our commitments in the world and in Vietnam. We shall and we are going to win.

"To meet the needs of these fighting men, we shall do whatever is required."

Maybe the finest historian on the conservative agenda. That's a REAL must-read.

Labels: , , , ,


Beer Money

Ooh, gimme some more of that McCain using his wealthy heiress' money to buy the Presidency.

The McCains' marriage has mixed business and politics from the beginning, according to an expansive review by The Associated Press of thousands of pages of campaign, personal finance, real estate and property records nationwide. The paperwork chronicles the McCains' ascent from Arizona newlyweds to political power couple on the national stage.

As heiress to her father's stake in Hensley & Co. of Phoenix, Cindy McCain is an executive whose worth may exceed $100 million. Her beer earnings have afforded the GOP presidential nominee a wealthy lifestyle with a private jet and vacation homes at his disposal, and her connections helped him launch his political career -- even if the millions remain in her name alone. Yet the arm's-length distance between McCain and his wife's assets also has helped shield him from conflict-of-interest problems.

Nearly 30 years before John McCain became the Republican presidential nominee, he worked in public relations at his wife's family company.

Within a few years of marrying Cindy Hensley, the daughter of a multimillionaire Anheuser-Busch distributor, John McCain won his first election. He was new to Arizona politics and fundraising in the 1982 House race, and his campaign quickly fell into debt. Personal money -- tens of thousands of dollars in loans to his campaign from McCain bank accounts -- helped him survive.

Anheuser-Busch's political action committee was among McCain's earliest donors. Cindy McCain's father, James Hensley, and other Hensley & Co. executives gave so much the Federal Election Commission ordered McCain to give some of it back. McCain's campaign used Hensley office equipment such as computers and copiers, and Cindy McCain personally paid some of the campaign's bills.

Reform! Straight talk!

Now you have to add in how he dropped the first wife for Cindy and the sack of cash.

Coming at the time when McCain is magnanimously returning checks to donors and opting into the public system for the general election (because he can't raise that kind of money), the imagery of him using beer money to finance his political career is priceless. Let's see more of these articles please.

Labels: , , ,


SD-12: Simón Salinas Looks To Be In

Via Randy Bayne:

Simón Salinas has pulled papers to run in the Denham recall. He has until 5 p.m. tomorrow to turn in papers and signatures.

One Republican has also pulled papers, but there is a question about residency which may disqualify John Nevill, a Monterey County health care compliance officer.

I'm sure there will be a few stragglers on the ballot, but if Salinas is it that would significantly increase the chances of the recall, since Denham is not on that part of the ballot. It's an expansive district and no candidate has a power base throughout it, but between Salinas' stronghold in the Monterey County area, and the new report that Stanislaus County has turned blue, with a 5,000-vote registration shift between 2006 and today, there is obviously a lot of movement here, and if Denham continues to whine about the process than his record, his days are numbered.

Labels: , , , ,


Dying For Coverage

Advocacy group Families USA has put out a shocking report (PDF), "Dying For Coverage," detailing how Californians are impacted by a lack of health insurance. The number "47 million" that designates Americans without health insurance is too abstract and detached from meaning. Californians are dying because of their inability to afford or acquire insurance.

• Families USA estimates that more than eight working-age Californians die each day
due to lack of health insurance (approximately 3,100 people in 2006).

• Between 2000 and 2006, the estimated number of adults between the ages of 25
and 64 in California who died because they did not have health insurance was
nearly 19,900.

•Across the United States, in 2006, twice as many people died from lack of health
insurance as died from homicide.

The factors that lead to death include: 1) a lack of preventive care and screening, 2) unnecessary delays for medical care because of affordability concerns, 3) no access to care outside an emergency room, and more.

Some of our Democratic members of Congress have commented on the report.

"This new Families USA study highlights a sad statistic that more people in our country died from lack of health insurance than from homicide between 2000-2006," U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) said today. "In California alone, nearly 20,000 people in that time frame died because of being uninsured."

"Our nation has more people in jail than anywhere else in the world in its effort to combat crime," Stark said. "Yet, we allow 47 million people to go without health insurance-which translates into going without needed medical care-each year. It's time to take action and combat the real killer in our country-the lack of universal health care."

"It is appalling and irresponsible that more than eight working-age Californians die due to lack of health insurance each day," U.S. Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) said today. "In California , 60 percent of the uninsured are Latinos, which means that nearly five Latinos die each day because we cannot ensure access to quality, affordable health care."

"I am fighting in Congress to improve the health of communities of color and strongly support improving access to health care for all populations," Solis said.

When Republicans talk about "cost control" in medical care, they want a world very much like this. They believe that the problem with health insurance is that people have too much of it. They would rather it be limited and used only when necessary, and they would rather Americans hold out and comparison shop when they are ill or infirm. In other words, the conservative vision of health care aligns with the for-profit insurance company vision which directly leads to 8 dead Californians every single day.

As we pick up the pieces from the failure of health care reform from earlier this year, this powerful report shows the dire need to repair the broken system and ensure affordable care for everyone.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Making the Political Personal

Maybe because flying is something we all do and something we all dread, and because we've all been shafted by the airlines at least once or twice, yesterday's hearing about the closeness between airline chiefs and the FAA struck a nerve. But it's part and parcel of a continuing project to delegitimize regulation of any kind by installing as the chief regulators of industry the very people who headed those industries in the first place.

Three veteran Federal Aviation Administration inspectors told lawmakers on Thursday that their agency supervisors looked the other way while Southwest Airlines neglected to inspect planes as required, and continued to fly them even after discovering cracks in some of them.

The inspectors said that their F.A.A. supervisors knew of the problems but had discouraged them from pursuing the safety problems or addressing problems within the agency, even threatening to relieve them of their duties.

One was removed from his job as an office manager and another was encouraged to apply for a transfer, they said. A third said he was temporarily removed from his role overseeing Southwest, as a result of complaints by the airline.

It's just one example, but because we have a real stake in it, because our lives were basically put at risk because the FAA was in bed with Southwest Airlines, it made a real impact. You know, we all know that the President is eliminating numerous laws government the environment and Native American land management to put up his border fence, but most of us don't live there. We know that the military is using the FBI to obtain all kinds of private records on Americans, including phone and financial data, but we don't know which one of us is having their privacy invaded. We know that the Justice Department is firing lawyers not only for their political affiliation but their sexual orientation, but we aren't those lawyers, and while many of us have been victims of discrimination, it's still abstract. We know that private military contractors are unaccountable monsters whose employees commit crimes like rape and are never held to account, but we aren't involved intimately in the case. The airline issue is maybe a smaller thing, though if there was a crash it would have been scandalous. But we all have a stake in it. We all have a history with it. We can very easily see ourselves on that faulty airplane.

The project for progressives is to connect that feeling of outrage to the systematic conservative goal to deregulate all industry to maximize corporate profit. It's to connect this explicitly to conservatism, not George Bush or some other random legislator. This is a CONSERVATIVE vision of America.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Early Morning, April 4

(bumped. Also see Beyond the Mountaintop, a study of economic and poverty issues 40 years after the death of Dr. King.)

... shot rings out, in a Memphis sky,
free at last, they took you alive
but they could not take your pride...

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.

And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I'm happy, tonight.

I'm not worried about anything.

I'm not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

Just to contextualize, Martin Luther King was in Memphis working with striking sanitation workers who wanted a fair contract from the city. He was a civil rights leader but understood civil rights as an economic justice issue, as an issue of equality, not just of humanity but opportunity. The workers were threatened and attacked and kept on marching for their rights. King's fight was for freedom of assembly, for equal protection, for justice in all its forms. To me, this was actually the most powerful portion of that speech:

Now the other thing we'll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively -- that means all of us together -- collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That's power right there, if we know how to pool it.

We don't have to argue with anybody. We don't have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don't need any bricks and bottles. We don't need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, "God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God's children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."

And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy -- what is the other bread? -- Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart's bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. We are choosing these companies because they haven't been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on town -- downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right.

The power of collective action. The power of bottom-up organizing. The power of seeing a world where everyone is in it together, where everyone has a stake in one another. The power of fighting for justice and fairness and right, and moving mountains just by walking together. We get cynical in this medium a lot, and maybe we have a right to; after all, forty years ago they shot Dr. King for leading such a movement. But the legacy lives on, and I believe in his aphorism that "the long arc of history bends toward justice." This movement, this place where we've all gravitated, is but a small kernel of that legacy. But it's growing, and regardless of the President or the Congress or whoever it will continue to move forward. And one day, we will get there.

...oh yeah, just so you know, and want to tell a friend, John McCain voted against making Martin Luther King's birthday a holiday in 1983.

UPDATE: I guess people are killing Sen. Obama for not being in Memphis today, but I don't know, isn't it a measure of Dr. King's legacy that on this day, a black man is running for President in NORTH DAKOTA? Content of their character?

Labels: , , , ,


Populist Advisor

This revelation that Mark Penn is advising on the Colombian free trade deal while his candidate is out there bashing NAFTA at every opportunity really rankles. Clinton's continued loyalty to Penn reflects horribly on her, and certainly won't help her in the trustworthiness department. Of course, I don't think Obama is committed to dismantling NAFTA either - if we want that to happen we have to demand it.

Labels: , , , , ,


Detainee 063

The aftermath of the declassification of John Yoo's memo essentially validating torture came with a footnote:

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.

That view was expressed in a Justice Department legal memo dated Oct. 23, 2001. The administration on Wednesday stressed that it now disavows that view.

The October 2001 memo was written at the request of the White House by John Yoo, then the deputy assistant attorney general, and addressed to Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time. The administration had asked the department for an opinion on the legality of potential responses to terrorist activity.

The 37-page memo has not been released. Its existence was disclosed Tuesday in a footnote of a separate secret memo, dated March 14, 2003, released by the Pentagon in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.


As if the original memo wasn't bad enough, we now see that this theory of unlimited executive power permeated the thinking on practically every issue. What's interesting is the timing. The memo was written in October 2001. We know that the Administration asked the phone companies before 9-11 to gain access to their communications networks. This seems to me to be an after-the-fact justification, as the torture memo probably was as well. The need for these memos was to indemnify illegal conduct. And it came from the top down.

Some legal experts and advocates said Wednesday that the document, written the month that the United States invaded Iraq, adds to evidence that the abuse of prisoners in military custody may have involved signals from higher officials and not just irresponsible actions by low-level personnel [...]

Scott L. Silliman, head of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University and a former Air Force lawyer, said he did not believe that the 2003 memorandum directly caused mistreatment. But Mr. Silliman added, “The memo helped to build a culture that, in the absence of leadership from the highest ranks of the Pentagon, allowed the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.”

Because opinions issued by the Office of Legal Counsel are “binding on the Defense Department,” Mr. Silliman said, Mr. Yoo’s opinion effectively sidelined military lawyers who strongly opposed harsh interrogation methods.

Indeed. So much for "bad apples". Yoo is trying to wiggle out of his own culpability for abuses like Abu Ghraib, but it's clear that he was part of the executive machine that sought harsher and more violent interrogation methods, ostensibly to gather information but essentially to show their enemies that they mean business. In an incredible story in Vanity Fair, Philippe Sands recounts the days of 2002, when the Administration was pushing for techniques that amounted to torture. It all started with one interrogation of one detainee in Guantanamo Bay.

On a table before us were three documents. The first was a November 2002 “action memo” written by William J. (Jim) Haynes II, the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense, to his boss, Donald Rumsfeld; the document is sometimes referred to as the Haynes Memo. Haynes recommended that Rumsfeld give “blanket approval” to 15 out of 18 proposed techniques of aggressive interrogation. Rumsfeld duly did so, on December 2, 2002, signing his name firmly next to the word “Approved.” Under his signature he also scrawled a few words that refer to the length of time a detainee can be forced to stand during interrogation: “I stand for 8–10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”

The second document on the table listed the 18 proposed techniques of interrogation, all of which went against long-standing U.S. military practice as presented in the Army Field Manual. The 15 approved techniques included certain forms of physical contact and also techniques intended to humiliate and to impose sensory deprivation. They permitted the use of stress positions, isolation, hooding, 20-hour interrogations, and nudity. Haynes and Rumsfeld explicitly did not rule out the future use of three other techniques, one of which was waterboarding, the application of a wet towel and water to induce the perception of drowning.

The third document was an internal log that detailed the interrogation at Guantánamo of a man identified only as Detainee 063, whom we now know to be Mohammed al-Qahtani, allegedly a member of the 9/11 conspiracy and the so-called 20th hijacker. According to this log, the interrogation commenced on November 23, 2002, and continued until well into January. The techniques described by the log as having been used in the interrogation of Detainee 063 include all 15 approved by Rumsfeld [...]

We talked about the methods of interrogation. “In terms of their effects,” she said, “I suspect that the individual techniques are less important than the fact that they were used over an extended period of time, and that several appear to be used together: in other words, the cumulative effect.” Detainee 063 was subjected to systematic sleep deprivation. He was shackled and cuffed; at times, head restraints were used. He was compelled to listen to threats to his family. The interrogation leveraged his sensitivities as a Muslim: he was shown pictures of scantily clad models, was touched by a female interrogator, was made to stand naked, and was forcibly shaved. He was denied the right to pray. A psychiatrist who witnessed the interrogation of Detainee 063 reported the use of dogs, intended to intimidate “by getting the dogs close to him and then having the dogs bark or act aggressively on command.” The temperature was changed, and 063 was subjected to extreme cold. Intravenous tubes were forced into his body, to provide nourishment when he would not eat or drink.

We went through the marked-up document slowly, pausing at each blue mark. Detainee 063’s reactions were recorded with regularity. I’ll string some of them together to convey the impression:

Detainee began to cry. Visibly shaken. Very emotional. Detainee cried. Disturbed. Detainee began to cry. Detainee bit the IV tube completely in two. Started moaning. Uncomfortable. Moaning. Began crying hard spontaneously. Crying and praying. Very agitated. Yelled. Agitated and violent. Detainee spat. Detainee proclaimed his innocence. Whining. Dizzy. Forgetting things. Angry. Upset. Yelled for Allah.

The blue highlights went on and on.

Urinated on himself. Began to cry. Asked God for forgiveness. Cried. Cried. Became violent. Began to cry. Broke down and cried. Began to pray and openly cried. Cried out to Allah several times. Trembled uncontrollably.

And people wonder why 81% of the country thinks we're on the wrong track. Yes, there's the economic ruin, but more than that there's a malaise, a cancer, and it's borne from the sin of torture, one of the original sins coming out of this Administration, bullshit about inherent executive power and "new kinds of enemies" and wartime interpretations of commander-in-chief authority. It's truly the banality of evil - lawyers pushing papers around, writing memos sanctioning madness. The men and women who facilitated this monstrosity need accountability for these crimes and how much they've harmed this country. I've been out there in favor of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for a while, whether it's government-led or simply citizen-led. There must be a reckoning.

UPDATE: Scott Horton at Harper's has more, particularly about how this memo was used to sidestep Pentagon concerns and do an end run around the military's lawyers. This last bit is powerful:

On the other hand, I was amazed speaking with colleagues today who expressed their “torture exhaustion.” “But we already knew all this,” one said to me. “But how can you know about it, know that the nightmare still hasn’t stopped, and not be infuriated?” I answered. “Have you abandoned all sense of ownership, or at least of participation, in the American idea?”

In the end, this whole affair is about political hack lawyers behaving badly and doing so with impunity: the arrival of a culture of alcoholic frat boys chortling as they turn coathangers into branding irons, come now to middle age. When the scandal erupted, Rumsfeld and his crew turned to a standard “soldiers are cannon fodder” response–let’s scapegoat some grunts, and then it’ll all die out, they reasoned. And some two dozen low-level soldiers were court-martialed. Serious officers, and more to the point, the political hacks who crafted the torture system and hammered it through faced no accountability in any form. They depart with a big party and go off to take in six-figure salaries as oil company executives, it seems. The heroic figures in uniform who stood against the criminality are intimidated, hounded, denied promotions, forced out of the service. It’s all like some dark parallel universe–not the America I thought I grew up in.

Silence will buy us a continuation of this corruption of our nation. But isn’t it worth raising your voice and articulating your anger to get our country back? It should start with insisting that Congress use the tools it has–oversight and the budget–to force changes. Say “no” to torture; it’s an easy first step on the road back to decency.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Oinkers - Continued

So remember yesterday, when I basically said that Consumers Against Government Waste was essentially a GOP front group designed to sap trust in government by promoting Congressional waste and "runaway spending" without relating it to where the real runaway spending actually comes from?

Turns out that CAGW is actually a REAL GOP front group that makes a lot of its money through lobbying.

Two years ago, the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste launched a lobbying campaign about avocados.

The group, which enjoys a strong reputation in the nation's capital for keeping an independent eye on government spending, plunged into an obscure agricultural dispute. It issued press releases and prodded its members to support avocados from Mexico.

Tom Bellamore, whose California Avocado Commission was fighting the Mexican imports, was puzzled. "I don't think avocados have much to do with government waste," he said.

Indeed, Citizens Against Government Waste did not reveal what motivated the aggressive campaign: It had received about $100,000 from Mexican avocado growers.

That's just one of many instances in which CAGW has traded on its watchdog reputation by taking money from companies and trade associations and then conducted lobbying and public relations campaigns on their behalf - without revealing that money changed hands.

You can read on in this great investigative piece from the St. Petersburg Times, and the companion piece exploring CAGW's experience lobbying for Big Tobacco to the tune of $245,000. They also publish a lot of information in their Pig Book decrying federal grants for things like YMCAs without noting that they lobby for The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, whose members compete with YMCAs.

What's notable is that the exposé is in the St. Petersburg Times, a unique project owned by the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school. In other words, not a corporate entity.

Labels: , , ,


McCain On King

Color of Change:

McCain Voted Against Creating Martin Luther King Holiday. In 1983, McCain voted against a motion to suspend the rules and pass a bill to designate the third Monday of every January as a federal holiday in honor of the late civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The motion passed 89-77. [HR 3706, Vote 289, 8/2/83; CQ 1983]

McCain Said His Position Has ‘Evolved.’ During a 2000 interview, McCain compared his evolution on this issue to former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. "I believe that Barry Goldwater, to start with, regretted his vote on the 1964 Civil Rights Act," McCain said. "I think that Barry grew, like all of us grow and evolve. In 1983, when I was brand-new in the Congress, I voted against the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King. That was a mistake, OK? And later I had the chance to ... help fight for ... the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King as a holiday in my state." [ 4/18/00; Accessed 4/2/08]

Arizona Governor Rescinded Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In 1987, One of newly elected Governor Evan Mecham’s first acts in office was to rescind Arizona’s recognition of the Martin Luther King Holiday. “Mecham strikes many voters as a simpleminded ideologue who is giving a bad name to the nation's second-fastest-growing state. After rescinding the Jan. 19 holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Mecham defended the use of the term "pickaninnies" for blacks.” [Time 11/9/87]

McCain Said He Thought Governor Was Correct in His Decision According to the Huffington Post, “In 1983, McCain voted against passing a bill to designate the third Monday of every January as a federal holiday in honor of King. Four years later, then-Arizona Governor Evan Mecham rescinded Martin Luther King Day as a state holiday, saying it had been established through an illegal executive order by his Democratic predecessor. McCain said he thought Mecham was correct in his decision.” [Sam Stein, Huffington Post, 4/1/08]

McCain Consistently Voted Against The Civil Rights Act Of 1990. In 1990, McCain voted against a bill designed to address employer discrimination at least 4 times. According to the Washington Post, the “Civil Rights Act of 1990 is designed to overturn several recent Supreme Court rulings that made it much more difficult for individual employees to prove discrimination. The legislation, being fought by business, also would impose new penalties on employers convicted of job discrimination.” [S 2104, Vote #304, 10/24/90; Vote #276, Vote #275, 10/16/90; Vote #161, 7/18/90; Washington Post, 7/9/90]

McCain Avoided Directly Answering Question on Affirmative Action, Finally Said He Opposed Quotas. While appearing on Hardball, McCain was asked about his views on affirmative action. After criticizing teachers’ unions, McCain said, “I want to test voucher programs. Cindy and I have chosen to send our 15-year-old daughter to a Catholic school, because we think that's the best.” He added that he’d ensure that, “Every school and library in America is being wired to the Internet… But, no, I do not support quotas, and have seen the results of it.” [NBC, “Hardball,” 2/9/00]

McCain Would Not Support Affirmative Action for College Admissions. In a 2004 questionnaire, Senator McCain indicated he would not support affirmative action policies in public college admissions. [2004 National Political Awareness Test- Senator McCain]

McCain Voted Against Addressing The Disproportionate Number Of Minority Children In Prison. In 1999, McCain voted to table an amendment that required States to address juvenile delinquency prevention efforts and system improvement efforts designed to reduce, without numerical standards or quotas, disproportionate number of juvenile members of 'racial minority groups' who come in contact with juvenile justice system. The motion to table passed 52-48. [S 254, Vote #130, 5/19/99]

I don't think McCain is some kind of racist (though defending his vote rejecting the King holiday by saying there weren't a lot of black people in Arizona is pretty ignorant). I don't much think he cares. It's not "his" issue... which of course means that inequality isn't his issue, economic justice isn't his issue, dignity for the downtrodden isn't his issue.

This speech he's giving right now is very poorly received. It's in the rain and the umbrellas are obscuring his head on the live shot. People are yelling at him about being too late to recognize the King holiday. I don't think most of them are even listening. He sounds like he's mad at King. He has no idea how to give an inspiring speech, and there's kind of a value in that. They're yelling at him and booing him at the end. Wow. Jesse Jackson is being too gracious.

UPDATE: Think Progress has the video. I guess CNN had a better live shot. Meanwhile, Obama's speech in Fort Wayne, Indiana was typically superlative.

Labels: , ,


Man, People Hate What Bush Has Done To This Country.

81% think we're on the wrong track in the CBS News poll. This is not an outlier IMO. I think the cresting economic mess has combined with all the things we know about - the deceit, the war, the Constitutional shredding, the record gas prices and oil profits , et cetera - and now he's getting hammered by basically everyone. When people are pissed off about the war it's one thing; when they're pissed off AND unemployed, it's quite another.

You know what happened the last time Bush was confronted with numbers like these, right?

"I saw a poll that said the 'right track/wrong track' in Iraq was better than here in America. It was pretty darn strong."

As F-ed up as Iraq is, that's probably still true.

Labels: , ,


Thursday, April 03, 2008

SD-12: Kevin Spillane Is A Worthless Hack

I just want to start off this post right at the top, so he can see it, by saying that Denham flak Kevin Spillane is a worthless hack, and his little press release he wrote about me based on a recent blog post couldn't be more distorted and wrong. The state media is buying in to his stupid hissy fit, apparently unarmed with any institutional memory that goes back to 2003, that any California recall election against a Republican is an abuse of power. Grow some cajones, Kevin, and defend your candidate instead of inventing a boogeyman in the most hypocritical way possible. There will be a Democratic candidate, he'll come from the Central Valley, and he'll be a damn sight better than the unthinking automaton rubber stamp Jeff Denham turned out to be. If you can't defend your candidate you'll lose. Period.

And you'll have to defend him against these ads.

We sent Jeff Denham to Sacramento.
So how did he wind up with jet lag?
He spent thousands on travel - while the Senate was in session.
Airline tickets. Trips to Vegas. And a Sedona spa.
When he does show up, he's sleepwalking.
Denham held up the budget, hurting our schools
Denham said he wasn't taking raises - then secretly raised his pay by 20 percent.
The Fresno Bee called it "not quite honest."
Don't you deserve better?
Vote yes on the recall

Darn right. This isn't about process, it isn't about power grabs. It's hardball politics, and if you're going to run a campaign based on whining and griping you're going to lose. Jeff Denham is toast if this is your strategy.

Frank Russo has more.

Labels: , , , ,



I think Robert Mugabe is gearing up to take the country by force.

President Robert Mugabe's government raided the offices of the main opposition movement and rounded up foreign journalists Thursday in an ominous indication that he may use intimidation and violence to keep his grip on power.

Police raided a hotel used by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and ransacked some of the rooms. Riot police also surrounded another hotel housing foreign journalists, and took away several of them, according to a man who answered the phone there.

"Mugabe has started a crackdown," Movement for Democratic Change general secretary Tendai Biti told The Associated Press. "It is quite clear he has unleashed a war."

Zimbabwe really is a horrible place and it was clear that Mugabe wouldn't go quietly and give up his position as head of state without a fight. There's going to be a runoff in a few weeks and Mugabe will use all of the power of the state to win it. There probably shouldn't even be a runoff, as the MDC Party probably got the votes they needed to win outright. In case you're tuning in late, there's a primer on Mugabe at the end of this article:

Mugabe has ruled since his guerrilla army helped force an end to white minority rule in then-Rhodesia and bring about an independent Zimbabwe in 1980.

He ordered the often-violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms, ostensibly to return them to the landless black majority. Instead, Mugabe replaced a white elite with a black one, giving the farms to relatives, friends and cronies who allowed cultivated fields to be taken over by weeds.

Today, a third of the population depends on imported food handouts. Another third has fled the country and 80 percent is jobless. Inflation is the highest in the world at more than 100,000 percent and people suffer crippling shortages of food, water, electricity, fuel and medicine. Life expectancy has fallen from 60 to 35 years.

I was a little hopeful for a time, but only increased international attention will resolve this amicably. I fear the worst.

Labels: , , , ,


What Now In Iraq?

Even though a cease-fire between Shiite groups has been established, that hasn't stopped Commander Maliki.

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi soldiers rolled through a Shiite militia stronghold in Basra on Wednesday, drawing scattered bombs and bullets that wounded a camera operator for a U.S.-funded TV station and narrowly missed the commander of government troops in the city.

Followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr accused the army of violating an Iranian-brokered agreement that ended last week's fighting, which erupted in Basra and quickly engulfed Baghdad and major cities of the Shiite south.

Those complaints raised concern that fighting could flare again as the Iraqi government and Shiite militias maneuver for control of Basra — the country's oil capital 340 miles southeast of Baghdad and a major commercial center of 2 million people.

Iraqi troops met no significant resistance as a dozen-vehicle convoy drove Wednesday into the Hayaniyah district of central Basra, scene of fierce clashes last week with al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters.

Troops set up checkpoints and searched a few houses before leaving the neighborhood after a couple of hours, witnesses said.

To me that signals that this cease-fire won't hold, especially after Maliki rented all those Iranian-backed Badr Brigade and ISCI militia to join the Iraqi security forces. This makes a mockery of the least well-known Kagan's article in the WSJ today, calling for a new Iran-Iraq war, when that would involve the Iraqi Army going after itself.

It's extremely unclear where the United States goes from here, outside of getting out. The military has proven itself incapable of bringing disparate factions in Iraq together or holding down violence. They are witness to events rather than controlling them. The Iraqi Army has proven themselves incapable of any major offensives or dealing with the tribal militias. Iran is clearly the victor and the nation with the most influence on all Shiite groups in the country.

Next week David Petraeus will appear before Congressional committees, and while I'd rather hold a policymaker responsible to answer these questions, Mother Jones has a good number of questions from national security experts that ought to be asked. There are some more questions here and they provide a good understanding into how the non-Bush-apologists in the national security community see Iraq and what our options are (note: they're limited).

Labels: , , , , ,


John McCain Hates Our Troops

Via Digby, I can't tell whether this is a campaign ad for John McCain or an epsiode of "Why We Fight":

War is a force that gives us meaning.

It's interesting that McCain frames war as something soldiers engage in for the sake of their compatriots, not for any cause or ethos or any reason at all. Which makes sense, since McCain strongly believes in the nobility and bravery of the American soldier but doesn't believe in giving them an education.

S.22 and H.R.2702 would update the GI Bill for the 21st century and reward those who do fight for causes in our name with the world-class education they deserve. John McCain doesn't support it. He says that he hasn't examined it. The truth is that he doesn't want to get in trouble with his anti-public education conservative base who think that soldiers who protect them are some kind of welfare queens.

McSame cannot credibly talk about supporting the troops. He rejects providing them with anything once they return home. He thinks they're automatons, sausage, killing machines. Nothing else.

Labels: , , , , ,


Barr? Hello?

I remember that when Ralph Nader, who received 0.38% of the vote in 2004, about the same number as Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik, it ran in a loop all over the cable news after he announced on Meet The Press. It was a two-day story.

Bob Barr is running for President as an Independent. He's actually been elected in this country, unlike Nader. He has a paleoconservative message that was good for around 5% of the Republican vote in the primaries, judging by Ron Paul's performance, and may appeal to independents. I don't think he'll do a hell of a lot better than Ralph Nader, but shouldn't a Barr candidacy be worth a mention, considering that the traditional media threw a fit suggesting that Nader's candidacy would imperil Democrats? Just one mention? I mean, when they get time in between reports of Naomi Campbell's abuse of airline staff, that is.

I picked the wrong day to continue to watch the traditional media. Sorry for the harping on this.

Labels: , , ,


F-R-E-E That Spells Ripoff

A word to the Fountains of Wayne-like indie dudes singing about how their lives are miserable because they didn't join up with we're on to you.

As you may know (but obviously not enough do), Free Credit Report is a bait-and-switch campaign from the private credit bureau Experian. The omnipresent ad campaign offers the debt-ridden a "free" credit report service to help them regain good credit, barely mentioning that it only comes with enrollment in the never-explained "Triple Advantage" program. Also never explained is that, thanks to 2005 federal law, anyone can get an actual free credit report from's Red Tape Chronicles gave a definitive take down of the scam in 2006, one year after Experian was "slapped on the wrist by the Federal Trade Commission for misleading consumers." Reporter Bob Sullivan said, "it’s amazing that FreeCreditReport [dot] com is allowed to continue operating." Perhaps it's not so amazing that MSNBC, like several other cable channels, continues to air those misleading Free Credit Report ads, ad naseum.

I'd love to see a study showing the relationship between the ads on broadcast or cable news, and the stories done on those companies. Actually I don't think I need to see that, I can figure it out for myself. Hence the ads for Lockheed Martin and Boeing on Meet the Press. I am rarely in the market for a sophisticated weapons system, but that's not the point of the advertising.

UPDATE: I guess Smart Car doesn't advertise on MSNBC. I just saw a news story on them explaining that the low-emission vehicle got a 5 out of 5 on side impact tests but did have a problem with the side door unlatching(!) So it got a perfect score, but the lede was that Smart Cars are unreliable and dangerous. When was the last time you saw crash test reports about Pontiacs, Fords, Mitsubishis, or indeed any other vehicle? What you see on the news includes a whole host of different factors, including laziness and whether you have enough video for the story. But certainly, not pissing off advertisers and pissing off their competitors plays a role.

Labels: , , ,


Green vehicle fees: an idea whose time has come

The governor exacerbated the budget problem on his first day in office by slashing the vehicle license fee and denying the state billions of dollars in revenue. He could return money to the state's coffers without going back on his promise, by hewing to his supposed environmental credentials and following the will of the people:

Californians support the idea of charging "green" vehicle fees that would make drivers of gas guzzlers pay higher taxes and offer discounts for those driving less-polluting vehicles, according to a survey by a transportation researcher at San Jose State University.

The state now charges drivers registration and licensing fees and gasoline taxes at rates that do not take into account vehicles' pollution levels. But the survey, conducted by Asha Weinstein Agrawal, a research associate with the university's Mineta Transportation Institute, found that Californians would support a variety of taxes and fees to raise money for transportation improvements as well as combat global warming, including:

-- Raising vehicle registration fees, which now average $31, to an average of $62 and having higher-polluting vehicles pay higher rates and cleaner cars lower rates.

-- Offering rebates of up to $1,000 for people who buy new cars that emit very little pollution and levying a surcharge of as much as $2,000 on those purchasing gas hogs.

-- Levying a mileage-based tax that would replace the 18-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax. The per-mile amount would vary depending on how much a vehicle polluted the air.

"The public is very supportive of these green taxes and fees," said Agrawal. "This shows that it is realistic to improve the way we collect transportation taxes in this state."

You could even make this revenue-neutral for all I care and it would still have a meaningful impact. But if the budget could be improved and the air quality at the same time, all the better. The governor talks a good game on global warming but hasn't yet called for the kind of action necessary. This could be coupled with a direct investment in mass transit and incentives for transit riders, so that those who can't afford low-emitting vehicles aren't adversely affected. We're not going to get rid of the car culture in one fell swoop, so encouraging consumers to buy clean energy vehicles while implementing the proper smart growth and transit policies (along with massive renewable infrastructure) will get us there in stages with a meaningful reduction in emissions right at the beginning. The people want it, the government needs to give it to them.

Labels: , , , , ,


Everything In Washington Happens At 3 AM.

It's great that Hillary Clinton is going after McCain, although this ad is a little too nonspecific to be effective - it's essentially just "McCain doesn't want to do anything." The problem is it takes too much time in the windup trying to recreate lightning in a bottle with the ridiculous "3 AM" imagery.

It just kills a good message. The only thing that happens economically at 3 AM are bar transactions in New York City and the Asian markets. What's next, the "3 AM" phone call about changes to the parceling of national monuments in New Mexico? A study on the efficacy of postal rates? Can business be done within business hours?

Matt Yglesias is also right - McCain needs to be attacked on his strength, his perceived knowledge of national security issues when in actuality he doesn't know what the hell he is talking about. I would also like to see attacks on McCain for Republican failures generally. This is the point of tying McCain to Bush, but there are very specific failures that are actually failures of conservatism, and it'd be good to tie THOSE to McCain since his only out would be to say "I'm not a conservative."

For example, the federal government has been found to be completely negligent in the Utah mine collapse that killed nine men. This was a function of lax regulation and oversight, which is a watchword for the conservative deregulated world. John McCain would do exactly the same and leave miners and all workers at risk.

Example number two, almost 40,000 Americans are still living in mobile homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. What's more, these homes are extremely vulnerable in the upcoming storm season. Conservative ideology dictates that nothing be done for these people, that they simply be left to rot. There's no reason to believe that John McCain would do any better.

Now, work THAT into an ad, Democrats!

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Campaign Coverage Fever - Catch It!

ABC News sez Clinton told Richardson Obama can't win. But wait, according to Mark Halperin Richardson told Clinton Obama can't win!

Tune in for the exciting conclusion!

Alternatively, take opium and fall asleep for seven months.

UPDATE: Read this. Can we get a moratorium on any "news item" that begins with "On a conference call today, campaign surrogate X said..."? Who cares? Are we all in third grade?

In a high-minded alternate universe, the news media might briefly note the Carville and McPeak comments before returning to in-depth analyses of the economic theories undergirding the Obama and Clinton responses to the subprime mortgage crisis. But in a world of TV ratings, online traffic tallies and fast-vanishing newspaper circulation, trumped-up controversy (surprise) beats ponderous policy. According to a wide-ranging (and, at press time, unpublished) media-monitoring analysis by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), Carville and his Judas crack about Richardson were mentioned in 13 percent of all political campaign stories charted so far this week. At the height of Richardson's own ill-fated presidential campaign, the New Mexico governor was lucky to be mentioned in paragraphs that began, "Also on the ballot are..."

Cable TV deserves much of the blame for fanning the flames of these irrelevant controversies. According to the invaluable content analysis by Project for Excellence in Journalism, the three cable news networks have devoted a stunning two-thirds of their entire news coverage to the presidential campaign this year during key time slots. With a seven-week gap between major primaries, there is an alarming amount of airtime that would otherwise be filled with the mysterious deaths of photogenic blondes. As Mark Jurkowitz, the associate director of the PEJ, put it, "As the media platform most invested in campaign coverage, cable news seems to abhor a vacuum. And when people aren't voting in primaries, we find that tends to take the form of expansive coverage of potential gaffes, perceived insults and loose-cannon surrogates."

Can we turn in this media for a disount media?

Labels: , , , ,


Harry Reid For Something Other Than Senate Majority Leader

Joe Lieberman shouldn't even be in the Democratic caucus NOW. Contrary to popular belief, if he caucused with Republicans it would not flip the leadership in the House because the initial rules were written to keep the Democrats in control of the chamber. So he's free to endorse John McCain, and bash Democrats on Fox News and elsewhere, and stick his Homeland Security and Government Reform committee chair's gavel up his ass without using it for any meaningful investigation of Bush Administration practices, without the fear that his seniority will be taken away.

And that includes next year.

Lieberman's constant presence at McCain's side fuels speculation that he would join a McCain administration. Yet he already has talked with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about his future in the caucus.

Would Lieberman, 66, a four-term Connecticut senator, be stripped of his committee chairmanship and seniority if Democrats no longer had to rely on a self-described "Independent Democrat" for their one-vote majority?

"I can tell you Sen. Reid had talked to me a few times and said he knows there will be talk if we get more than 51 Democrats next year," Lieberman said. "As far as he is concerned, I will retain my seniority, etc., no matter how many Democrats there are next year."

Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, confirmed Lieberman's account.

This is a firing offense for Harry Reid. The DNC had enough sense to strip Lieberman of his superdelegate status. It's ridiculous to keep this ticking time bomb inside the caucus. I don't expect Lieberman to change - Democrats didn't elect him and have no leverage over him. In 2012 we're going to beat him handily. But Harry Reid's behavior here is inexcusable.

A lot of people have speculated that the loser of the Obama-Clinton nomination battle should get the Majority Leader's position. I don't know how nicely they'd be able to play with each other; in many ways that needs to be a closer relationship than the President and Vice President. But I like any scenario where Harry Reid is the biggest loser. He hasn't done enough to forcefully explain Republican obstructionism, there was the FISA mess where he refused a hold from a colleague (although with 68 votes it was likely immunity would have gotten in that bill no matter what), and he allows a mole inside the caucus. That's it. No more excuses.

Labels: , , ,


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

'Scuse Me?

Senator John McCain said Wednesday that he had begun the process of weighing the names of possible running mates, and that he hoped to be able to make a selection before the Republican convention in early September.

Mr. McCain, 71, told Mr. Imus “I’m aware of enhanced importance of this issue given my age.’’

First of all, people still go on Imus? Really? I guess old racists never die.

Second, do we really need a President who's ALREADY thinking about leaving office - or dying in it - without serving more than one term?

Labels: , ,


The Basra Aftermath

Well, in the aftermath of the great Basra debacle of Aught-Eight, the Coalition of the We Can't Leave Yet is assessing its options.

The Bush administration was caught off-guard by the first Iraqi-led military offensive since the fall of Saddam Hussein, a weeklong thrust in southern Iraq whose paltry results have silenced talk at the Pentagon of further U.S. troop withdrawals any time soon.

President Bush last week declared the offensive, which ended Sunday, "a defining moment" in Iraq's history.

That may prove to be true, but in recent days senior U.S. officials have backed away from the operation, which ended with Shiite militias still in place in Basra, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki possibly weakened and a de facto cease-fire brokered by an Iranian general.

"There is no empirical evidence that the Iraqi forces can stand up" on their own, a senior U.S. military official in Washington said, reflecting the frustration of some at the Pentagon. He and other military officials requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak for the record.

The British had the same reaction, which is not a promising one given five years of training the Iraqi security forces. And yet this shouldn't necessarily be the response. The Basra nightmare showed that the surge had limits and that it was doing little more than keeping a finger in the dike - standing in for the Iraqi security forces and paying off Sunni militias so that everyone keeps a lid on the violence. The Iraqi forces have no power because their loyalty is paltry compared to the tribal militias. And the mission exposed the degree to which Iran - in this case controlled by a guy on the US terrorist watch list - exercises territorial control over the nation and the region. In response to the failure, Nouri al-Maliki has recruited 10,000 Badr Brigade militia into the security forces, essentially joining the Mahdi Army militia since he couldn't beat them (it's clear that the regular forces were defecting by the thousands). The fact that Maliki added 10,000 Shiite militia after telling the Sunni militia groups that he had no room for them is sure to raise tensions. As is the continuing air raids in Sadr City.

' "We realized what kind of government we have: They are like foxes," Abu Amir said. "The Americans are our enemies, not our friends. Maliki is an agent of the Americans. '

So, we have the professional armies transformed into militias protecting sectarian power groups. The Americans are superfluous and quickly growing hated. And the Joint Chiefs of Staff recognize that the Army will be disintegrated without a draft if forces continue to be deployed at the same levels. No wonder nobody in Washington wants to release the next intelligence estimate on Iraq publicly. What's already out there is damning enough.

You can add to all this the moral depredations of our Iraq policy. We are either unable or unwilling to rescue those Iraqis who helped us and bring them to this country. A female soldier is more likely to be raped by one of her colleagues than be killed by enemy fire. And the contractors are either overcharging the government or poisoning our own soldiers due to lax environmental standards. All of these regrettable episodes would end with a complete withdrawal.

All the while, professional liars like Robert Kagan are so utterly and completely clueless about events on the ground that even Joe Klein has to kill him for it.

Fresh from his assertion that the Iraq civil war was "over" a week ago, here's Fred--plus added bonus attraction Kimberly--Kagan reinforcing their profoundly warped view of Iraq in the Weekly Standard. There are several truly disingenuous, and flat out misleading, things here:

1. The promulgation of the myth that Maliki's Folly was to clean out "terrorists" rather than a violent election-year ploy to clear out his legitimate Sadrist political opposition.

2. Perpetuation of the myth that effective Iraqi Security Forces actually exist and aren't primarily composed of (a) pro-Maliki and pro-Hakim militias and (b) former Iraqi soldiers more interested in making a living than in fighting. (Add: No acknowledgment that U.S. troops in the field simply do not trust their Iraqi counterparts...Oh, and I should also add: Some of the most "effective" ISF units are Kurdish pesh merga militias.)

3. Conflation of the "special groups"--trained and supported by the Iranian Qods force--and the Jaish al-Mahdi, which is the main Sadrist Iraqi nationalist militia. Kagan, a military historian, should check with David Petraeus about the relationship of those two separate forces. Indeed, part of Sadr's cease-fire strategy was allow the U.S. to cleanse Iraq of the "special groups." Sadr's no hero, but if he's a terrorist then so are the majority of Iraqi Shi'ites--i.e. his supporters.

4. No mention at all of the Badr Corps, the pro-Iranian Hakim militia that is Sadr's main enemy in Basra and Maliki's best friend. No mention of the widely held belief that the Iraqi Army units in Basra are riddled with Badr militia members.

5. No acknowledgment of the sheer complexity of the situation--the fact that all Shi'ite militias are receiving support from Iran, the fact that Sadr may be the most popular political figure in Shi'ite Iraq, courtesy of his father's fierce anti-Saddam, anti-Persian nationalism. No acknowledgment that our policy toward the various Shi'ite factions might be more successful if we were as nuanced as the Iranians.

The situation is truly complex and our presence is only making things worse. Whether we leave now or in ten years the same fundamental dynamic will be in place if we don't change course. And so rather than pause our drawdown of forces I think it makes more sense to see the Basra mess as a moment of clarity, where we recognize that the situation is untenable, our soldiers are only targets, and that the only surge needed is diplomatic and regional, not military. It's time to leave.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Why Are We Paying War Criminal John Yoo's Salary?

At my home site I took a look today at John Yoo's recently declassified memo, which is more responsible for torture and detainee abuse at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and throughout American prison sites abroad than practically any other document.

If you're interested in weeping, you can read the 81-page memo yourself.

Part 1

Part 2

Yoo simply made up a new set of executive powers that trumped the Geneva Conventions, domestic statutes against torture, and virtually the whole system of the law itself.

If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network. In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.

Kind of a "self-defense before the fact" belief, completely contrary to how the American legal system works [...] The closed loop here is self-perpetuating. The DoJ writes a memo saying that the President has virtually unlimited power in wartime. The CIA and the Pentagon then takes the memo and uses it as proof of legality for their crimes. So we have an executive branch validating the rest of the executive branch, essentially a one-branch government that writes, executes and adjudicates the law.

There is no question that John Yoo is a war criminal; he provided the legal theories that the executive branch follows to this day, even though the Defense Department vacated this particular memo in 2003.

Elsewhere in the piece I noted that Berkeley must be exceedingly proud. Yoo is a tenured law professor who has been teaching at the University of California since leaving the Justice Department. The UC, as we know, is a public university system paid for with 3.2% of the general fund budget. Full professors there can earn up to $164,700 a year annually.

That comes out of my hide. Your hide. John Yoo is making his living based on public payments through taxes and other receipts. And he is an unquestioned war criminal.

I believe in academic freedom and understand the slippery slope of removing a faculty member with tenure because of their political views. In a best-case scenario The Hague would be making the decision of when John Yoo leaves his cushy law professor job by dragging him off in leg irons. But failing that, there has to be at least some standard of competence and dignity among a public university. The shoddy logic and faulty reasoning in this declassified memo should be a firing offense alone; and the implications of that memo should be more than enough to cement that. Not only is John Yoo teaching your kids about the Constitution and the law, we're all paying him to do it. And so at the very least the UC Regents need to hear from everyone in California, expressing their disappointment that they are harboring a war criminal at their flagship school, and determining what they will seek to do about that.

Labels: , , , , ,


Daylight In Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe's rule, in Parliament at least, is over.

HARARE, Zimbabwe - President Robert Mugabe's long-ruling party lost its parliamentary majority Wednesday, bolstering opposition claims that impoverished Zimbabweans voted for change in this struggling southern African nation.

The opposition also claimed victory for leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Saturday's presidential vote, but the state-controlled newspaper predicted a runoff — the first official admission that Mugabe, the nation's autocratic leader of 28 years, had not won re-election.

The Movement for Democratic Change expressed confidence Tsvangirai could win a runoff with an even larger margin, but there were fears an embattled Mugabe would roll out every weapon in his considerable political and government arsenal to stay in power.

They ought to be afraid of that. Tsvangirai probably won handily in the first round, and would be President right now if it weren't for intimidation tactics like withholding food aid unless citizens vote for Mugabe. Tsvangirai has to move very delicately on this one. He's putting a lot of pressure on Mugabe to concede but I don't think a guy who basically ran the country as a dictator for three decades is likely to do that.

But the fact of a non-ZANU Parliament alone is pretty remarkable, and it's mainly due to electoral reforms demanded by the international community. Maybe the horrors of Zimbabwe are nearing the end.

Labels: , , , ,


Rove On Arrogance

Karl Rove kicks off the opening salvo in the quadrennial "Question The Democrat's Patriotism" derby:

Are you surprised at how Obama exploded?
You know, I want to be careful—I think we need to be careful about not getting carried away with a narrative that doesn't truly exist. Like the story this morning in The New York Times about "the Obamacans"—the Republicans who support Obama.

You don't buy that?
No. Do I buy that there are Republicans who support Obama? Sure, I do. But take a look at the last four polls on which there are cross tabs available. There are twice as many Democrats defecting to McCain as there are Republicans defecting to Obama. In the Fox poll, Obama takes 74 percent of Democrats and loses 18 to McCain. And McCain keeps 80 percent of Republicans and loses 10 to Obama. And in every one of the polls, it's nearly twice as many Democrats defect to McCain as Republicans defect to Obama. And against Clinton, it's three times as many. Know why? Well, there are a lot of different reasons why. There are Democrats, particularly blue-collar Democrats, who defect to McCain because they see McCain as a patriotic figure and they see Obama as an elitist who's looking down his nose at 'em. Which he is. That comment where he said, you know, "After 9/11, I didn't wear a flag lapel pin because true patriotism consists of speaking out on the issues, not wearing a flag lapel pin"? Well, to a lot of ordinary people, putting that flag lapel pin on is true patriotism. It's a statement of their patriotic love of the country. And for him to sit there and dismiss it as he did—

I think we all know what's coming next... all together now...

You're not wearing a flag pin, Karl.
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. But I respect those who consciously get up in the morning and put a flag lapel pin on.

I'd be thrilled if the Republicans decided to fight a War On People Who Don't Wear Lapel Pins fought by people who aren't wearing lapel pins themselves. Ionesco couldn't have come up with such an absurd scenario.

But let's look at this larger point, this depiction of Obama as an effete, out-of-touch elitist. Here's some more from Turdblossom's interview:

Do you see the elitist thing in other ways?
Obama is coolly detached and very arrogant. I think he's very smart and knows he's smart, but as a result doesn't do his homework.

Arrogant, ay? Well yes, if there's one thing that divides Democrats and Republicans, particularly Barack Obama and Karl Rove, it's arrogance.

Example #1:

After midterm election interviewer Robert Siegel stated that "many might consider you on the optimistic end of realism" regarding Republican hopes to retain both Houses in November, Rove suggested that the NPR host was biased.

"Not that you would be exhibiting a bias or anything like that," Rove said. "You're just making a comment."

"I'm looking at all the same polls that you're looking at every day," Seigel responded

"No you're not!" Rove exclaimed.

Rove said that he was reviewing 68 polls a week, and that "unlike the general public, I'm allowed to see the polls on the individual races," as opposed to public polls reported in the media.

"You may be looking at four or five public polls a week that talk about attitudes nationally, but that do not impact the outcome," Rove said.

Rove claimed that the polls "add up to a Republican Senate and a Republican House."

"You may end up with a different math, but you're entitled to your math," Rove said. "I'm entitled to 'the' math."

Example #2:

We asked Mr. Rove if he would consider taking a fresh look at the science of global warming. Much to our dismay, he immediately got combative. And it went downhill from there.

We reminded the senior White House advisor that the US leads the world in global warming pollution and we are doing the least about it. Anger flaring, Mr. Rove immediately regurgitated the official Administration position on global warming which is that the US spends more on researching the causes than any other country [...]

In his attempt to dismiss us, Mr. Rove turned to head toward his table, but as soon as he did so, Sheryl reached out to touch his arm. Karl swung around and spat, "Don't touch me." How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow? Unfazed, Sheryl abruptly responded, "You can't speak to us like that, you work for us." Karl then quipped, "I don't work for you, I work for the American people." To which Sheryl promptly reminded him, "We are the American people."

Yes, it's OBAMA that's the arrogant one.

It's really like watching a Greek tragedy watching the Republicans. They ALWAYS project onto others the deficiencies in themselves. But the other thing they do is thrive on constant repetition. There is nothing different in this critique of Obama that we haven't heard in critiques of Al Gore and John Kerry. They reinforce back on themselves because they aren't critiques of individuals but Democrats generally. Rove is trying to get you to paint a picture of all Democrats as latte-sipping Volvo-drivers who aren't real Americans. In fact there isn't anyone less American than a political hack who views his President as a king who is unanswerable to his lowly subjects. Honestly I don't think these attacks on patriotism work anymore when the guy supposed to be the ultimate patriot has deceived us into an intractable war, ruined our international standing and emptied our Treasury.

But where this interview got fun is when Rove was asked about his role in the Siegelman railroading:

Let's talk about the last couple of scandals you've been involved in. Don Siegelman in Alabama [the Democratic governor whom Rove was recently accused of trying to sabotage by forcing U.S. attorneys to bring corruption charges against him prior to an election]. What happened?
[rolls his eyes] Will you do me a favor and go on Power Line (hilarious -ed.) and Google "Dana Jill Simpson" [the Republican lawyer who told 60 Minutes that Rove asked her to take a picture of Governor Siegelman cheating on his wife]? She's a complete lunatic. I've never met this woman. This woman was not involved in any campaign in which I was involved. I have yet to find anybody who knows her. And what the media has done on this… No one has read the 143-page deposition that she gave congressional investigators—143 pages. When she shows up to give her explanation of all this, do you know how many times my name appears? Zero times. Nobody checked!

Then how did this happen?
Because CBS is a shoddy operation. They said, "Hey, if we can say 'Karl Rove,' 'Siegelman,' that'll be good for ratings. Let's hype it. We'll put out a news release on Thursday and then promo the hell out of it on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday." And Scott Pelley—the question is, Did [60 Minutes correspondent] Scott Pelley say to this woman, "You say you met with him. Where? And you say that he gave you other assignments earlier. When did he begin giving you assignments, and what campaigns did you work with him in? What evidence? I mean, this woman, she said she met with him: Okay, you met with him—where? Did you fly to Washington?" Now she says that she talked to me on the phone and she's got phone records. Of calls to Washington and Virginia. But what's Virginia? I don't live in Virginia. And it's 2001. What is in Virginia? It's not the Bush headquarters; that was in Austin, Texas. What is in Virginia? So—but look, she's a loon.

Touchy, touchy. As you would expect from someone whose fingerprints are smeared all over the case. By the way 60 Minutes initially caved to pressure to kill the story and then reluctantly aired it on the same night as the Oscars, so I'm not sure it was a ratings bonanza they were after.

Rove is trying a classic Chewbacca defense, going personal on Dana Jill Simpson to muddy the waters. It's what he does - personal attacks are the only ones that interest him. But in 2006 he should have recognized that his political moment was over. I'm hardly afraid of a guy who attacks Obama for not wearing a flag lapel pin when he isn't wearing one himself. If that's the best he's got he ought to go back to superior court judge campaigns in Alabama.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,