Monday, August 31, 2009

Political Break



When do you think Bob Dylan jumped the shark?


....but hey, do what you want, Bob....you will anyway.


Somebody Watches Fox News So I Don't Have To

And I thank them.

[L]ed by Chris Wallace of Fox "News" Sunday [Aug 23] -- Fox is alleging that President Obama is trying to prematurely end the lives of millions of veterans by forcing them to read a "death book" that urges them to "pull the plug" and commit "assisted suicide."

[...]

1. Fox's alleged "death book" is actually a guidebook on preparing living wills

[...]

2. Although Fox said VHA practitioners must give the guidebook to each of the 24 million vets they serve, there is no such requirement

[...]

3. The Bush administration, not the Obama administration, included the guidebook in the VHA handbook.

  Daily Kos

That sounds about right.

And somebody else reads Daily Kos so I don't have to. Thanks, Maru.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Sibel Edmonds Has Spoken

There has been about a decade passed now that Sibel Edmonds has been trying to tell the public what she learned as a translator at the FBI about “activities involving attempts by Turkish, Israeli and Pakistani operatives to obtain very sensitive, classified, highly classified U.S. intelligence information, weapons technology information, classified congressional records, recruiting key U.S. individuals with access to highly sensitive information, blackmailing, bribery."

There are top names from Congress and the Bush Administration in her list of criminal conspirators involving classified intelligence. Where are the reporters?

Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds has finally been given the opportunity to testify, under oath, about crimes that she became aware of during her work at the FBI.

The video and transcript of her deposition were released yesterday, and include details of "blackmail, bribery, espionage, infiltration, and criminal conspiracy by current and former members of the U.S. Congress, high-ranking State and Defense Department officials, and agents of the government of Turkey" according to Bradblog, who has done extensive reporting on this case.

The deposition included criminal allegations against specifically named members of Congress. Among those named by Edmonds as part of a broad criminal conspiracy: Reps. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Dan Burton (R-IN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Bob Livingston (R-LA), Stephen Solarz (D-NY), Tom Lantos (D-CA), as well as an unnamed, still-serving Congresswoman (D) said to have been secretly videotaped, for blackmail purposes, during a lesbian affair.

High-ranking officials from the Bush Administration named in her testimony, as part of the criminal conspiracy on behalf of agents of the Government of Turkey, include Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Marc Grossman, and others.

  Let Sibel Edmonds Speak

And where is this in the “mainstream news”?

She may have finally been allowed to speak, but if nobody reports it, who hears her words?


Surprise, Surprise

Yep, they got to him.

"I'm not second-guessing my colleagues," [Tom] Ridge said in an interview about The Test of Our Times, which comes out Tuesday and recounts his experiences as head of the nation's homeland security efforts in the first several years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

[...]

His most explosive accusation [in the book]: that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft pressed him to raise the national threat level after Osama bin Laden released a videotape criticizing President Bush shortly before Election Day 2004.

[...]

Last week, when word got out about Ridge's accusations, Rumsfeld's spokesman Keith Urbahn issued a statement calling them "nonsense."

Now, Ridge says he did not mean to suggest he was pressured to raise the threat level, and he is not accusing anyone of trying to boost Bush in the polls. "I was never pressured," Ridge said.

  USA Today

Wimp.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


The Lesser of Two Evils to Become Even Less

Handicappers can now envision an election in which Democrats suffer double-digit losses in the House.

  Politico

Deservedly so. It’s just a shame that we don’t have in place a system of electing officials that would allow us to replace them with possibly good legislators instead of just reverting to the other evil.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Never Enough

The top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan said Monday the situation in the country is "serious" and a new strategy is needed to defeat the Taliban.

[...]

He did not ask for more troops but is expected to do so in a separate request.

  Yahoo

That’s an old strategy.

[BILL MOYERS]: Here Obama has 68,000 troops over there and the Generals are asking for another 20,000 -- maybe 30,000 more troops -- saying it’s not enough. The military and the hawks will always say "not enough." Obama has to say "enough" -- or he’s going to be drawn into it.

Now they’ve shifted the mission of troops: to protect the villages of Afghanistan. 100,000 Americans can’t protect the villages of Afghanistan – and now they say we’re going to be there to build a nation – we’re not good at building other nations – we’re hardly good at building our nation. If you're an Afghani and look up and see Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California legislature coming to build your nation, you’re going to run – you’re going to put up a No Trespassing sign. We need to come home.

Actually, they won’t run. They’ll stand and fight.

That’s taken from a Glenn Greenwald post that links to an interview Bill Maher did this past weekend with Bill Moyers, perhaps the last great public voice of reason and conscience. I recommend you visit Glenn’s post and click on the links to the interview. Politico also has an article on the interview.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


"News"

This is a screenshot of a section of ABC's home page near the top.


(Click to enlarge.)

But I suppose they know their readers, because this is (on the same front page) a list of the links to stories (referred to as "news") that have been viewed the most:

I'm surprised the "WATCH: Pregnant Teen Struck by Lightning" isn't on the list.

And yes, the color-coded terror alert system is considered a current concern, apparently. I haven't seen an alert since ... I don't know ... Katrina?

And, they're also offering a slideshow titled "Drew Barrymore's Bare Belly."


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


He Said He Said

"[S]everal Members of Congress, including the full memberships of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and Senator McCain, were briefed by General Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, on the six techniques that we discuss herein," writes Steven G. Bradbury, a deputy assistant attorney general in the July 20, 2007, memo, which cites a CIA summary of the discussions. "In those classified and private conversations, none of the Members expressed the view that the CIA detention and interrogation program should be stopped, or that the techniques at issue were inappropriate."

A spokeswoman for McCain said that contrary to those claims, the Arizona Republican repeatedly raised objections in private meetings, including one with Hayden, about the use of sleep deprivation as an interrogation technique.

  Time

Why this argument matters is explained.

The U.S. State Department has long characterized extended sleep deprivation by foreign countries as a form of torture, though Bradbury in his memo dismissed this fact as not providing "controlling evidence" on the issue of contemporary standards. The U.S. Army Field Manual, which regulates military interrogations, also prohibits extended sleep deprivation, but Bradbury dismissed this standard as failing to provide "dispositive evidence" of the government behavior.

[...]

The CIA account of the congressional briefing was used by Bradbury to argue that prolonged sleep deprivation did not "shock the conscience," a legal standard based on the Constitution's Fifth Amendment right to due process. While "not conclusive on the Constitutional question," Bradbury argued that the lack of objections from members of Congress following the classified briefing contributed to providing "a relevant measure of contemporary standards." If Bradbury had concluded that extended sleep deprivation did "shock the conscience," the technique would have been illegal under the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which applied constitutional standards to the treatment of CIA detainees.

Personally, I don't think you can reasonably use Congressional members as standards of conscience.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Legacy

About this latest hiring [of Jenna Bush] by NBC, Atrios observed: "if only the Villager values of nepotism and torture could be combined somehow." The American Prospect's Adam Serwer quicky noted that they already have been: "Liz Cheney." [...] Jenna Bush as a new NBC "reporter" on The Today Show -- at a time when every media outlet is firing and laying off real reporters -- is a very nice addition though.

[...]

They should convene a panel for the next Meet the Press with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it's really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment.

[...]

Just to underscore [the] point: all of the above-listed people are examples of America's Great Meritocracy, having achieved what they have solely on the basis of their talent, skill and hard work -- The American Way. By contrast, Sonia Sotomayor -- who grew up in a Puerto Rican family in Bronx housing projects; whose father had a third-grade education, did not speak English and died when she was 9; whose mother worked as a telephone operator and a nurse; and who then became valedictorian of her high school, summa cum laude at Princeton, a graduate of Yale Law School, and ultimately a Supreme Court Justice -- is someone who had a whole litany of unfair advantages handed to her and is the poster child for un-American, merit-less advancement.

I just want to make sure that's clear.

  Glenn Greenwald


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Let Them Eat Cake

Not everyone is feeling the pinch.

In an annual survey by Financial News' sister publication Wealth Bulletin, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the President Wilson Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, tops the list as the most expensive hotel room in 2009, commanding $65,000 [per night] for its four-bedroom penthouse -- twice as much as patrons paid a year ago for its luxurious setting and views of Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc.

The hotel's management puts the rise down to "buoyant demand" from government officials and U.N. diplomats.

[...]

Hoteliers said that although the number of business travellers has fallen in the past year, government officials have taken their place in the best rooms and suites.

President Barack Obama and his entourage took over the entire Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow for three nights in June. The President Wilson Hotel said heads of state and other high-level government officials are fuelling demand for its hugely expensive Royal Penthouse Suite.

[...]

Despite the past year's financial and economic turmoil, prices at the best hotel suites have risen by an average of 10% this year. Herbert Ypma, founder of the Hip Hotels brand, said: "The very high end hasn't suffered all that much. A lot of hotels used to having upmarket clientele are getting the benefit of them taking far more time off than usual -- so they have more time to stay in hotels. Money was never the issue, time was."

  Yahoo


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Just Declare Victory and Pull Out

I believe that was the unwelcome advice some folks were giving at least two or three years ago.

The U.S. military is packing up to leave Iraq in what has been deemed the largest movement of manpower and equipment in modern military history — shipping out more than 1.5 million pieces of equipment from tanks to antennas along with a force the size of a small city.

The massive operation already under way a year ahead of the Aug. 31, 2010 deadline to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq shows the U.S. military has picked up the pace of a planned exit from Iraq that could cost billions.

[...]

First out, Brown said, will be the early withdrawal of an Army combat brigade of about 5,000. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said a brigade would leave by the end of the year, months ahead of schedule, if violence in Iraq did not escalate beyond current levels.

  Yahoo

But it did escalate. Oh well, don’t tell.

Not since Vietnam has the U.S. withdrawn so many troops and so much equipment with a looming deadline.

Yes, some of us remember that final fiasco.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


The Bomb


Re-Framed


Indeed, the GOP has successfully taken over the issue. You know who really needs the health care reform? Democrats, whose spines have deteriorated. I don't know about you, but I'd be more than happy to throw in some tax dollars to get them the needed surgery.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


And Just What IS Tom DeLay Doing on 'Dancing'?

[T]his is not The Hammer’s first time at the rodeo. Three years ago, several weeks after his resignation from Congress, he sent a letter to his fan base urging them to vote for country singer Sara Evans, a DANCING WITH THE STARS contestant.

“Sara Evans has been a strong supporter of the Republican Party and represents good American values in the media,” DeLay wrote. “From singing at the 2004 Republican Convention to appearing with candidates in the last several election cycles, we have always been able to count on Sara for her support of the things we all believe in… One of her opponents on the show is ultra liberal talk show host Jerry Springer. We need to send a message to Hollywood and the media that smut has no place on television by supporting good people like Sara Evans.”

Jerry Springer wound up outlasting Evans, who dropped out of DANCING WITH THE STARS in the midst of a messy divorce during which she accused her husband of serial adultery. He made similar charges against her. So it goes when bad things happen to good people.

  PBS


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


I Call This Portrait: Faces At A Funeral*


Very interesting. Read those faces at Ted Kennedy's funeral, if you can. (You can enlarge the picture by clicking on it.) What do you see?

The ever-classy Poopy and Ma Bush didn't even show. (And by the looks of the faces on Junior and Laura, neither did they.)


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

*Apologies to Rod Serling and Night Gallery.


Laundered Info

Too bad laundering information isn't as illegal as laundering money.

Glenn Greenwald comments on the next likely instance of Cheney giving information to the press and later citing the press article as proof of the information he gave them.

Just as happened with the run-up to the Iraq War -- when pro-war newspaper stories based on pro-Cheney leaks became the "evidence" Cheney cited on Sunday news shows to "prove" the Iraqi threat -- the Post article "proving" that Torture Worked will almost certainly be cited by all torture defenders on this weekend's Sunday shows -- including by Cheney himself when he appears on Fox News and his daughter when she appears on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

[...]

As of today, thanks to the Post article, KSM's torture-caused, life-saving disclosures will be every bit as much a blindly accepted "fact" in our political discourse as Saddam's aluminum tubes were in 2003 -- and both myths were disseminated by the same people and the same "journalistic" methods.

  Glenn Greenwald

I can’t say that I know and understand all classical logical fallacies; however, if there isn’t one that covers this (and I don’t know of it if there is), then I propose we add a new one to the list and call it the Cheney fallacy. Or would that be, Cheney phallacy?


It's Sunday

And if you’ve already seen that one, check out his latest (topic for discussion at Town Hall meetings).

"Take a look inside your genes, and pardner, thenya
will see that we’ve all got a birth certificate from Kenya."

And to further quote the inimitable Roy Zimmerman: Keep thinking freely. ‘Cause I told you to.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

More On Obama's "Successful" Afghan Election

In Afghanistan today, the American chairman of the commission investigating complaints about Thursday's presidential election says some of the charges his team is reviewing are serious enough to sway the final election result.

[...]

Mr. GRANT KIPPEN (Chairman, Election Complaints Commission): The allegations contained in the complaints we've received so far range from voter intimidation, violence, ballot-box tampering, interference in the polling, polling stations not opening and problems with the indelible ink.

[...]

Mirwais Yasini, a parliamentarian, stood behind a table piled with ballot papers that he said his supporters found ditched outside Spin Boldak city in southern Kandahar province. The ballots bore the stamp of the Independent Election Commission, which is applied only after the ballots are used for voting.

"Thousands of them were burned," he said.

[...]

An Afghan vote monitoring group said Taliban militants in Afghanistan's south cut off the fingers of two Afghan voters, carrying out a gruesome pre-election threat.

[...]

Weeks before the vote, NPR reporters and producers were shown a dozen voter registration cards that were purchased in a local bazaar.

[...]

The Washington, D.C.-based National Democratic Institute had observers in only 19 provinces, passing over many violent areas of the south and east.

  NPR


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Falling Down on the Job

From crib notes on the job of U.S. president...

"As chief executive, [the president] enforces laws, treaties, and court rulings; develops federal policies; prepares the national budget; and appoints federal officials."

The Convention Against Torture is the most important international human rights treaty that deals exclusively with torture. The Convention obligates countries who have signed the treaty to prohibit and prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in all circumstances. The Convention compels governments who ratified it to investigate all allegations of torture, to bring to justice the perpetrators, and to provide a remedy to victims of torture. The Convention was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1984 and went into force in 1987.

[...]

Because the U.S. ratified the treaty in October 1994, it is obligated to comply with the provisions of the treaty just as it would any other domestic law. The U.S. Constitution itself makes clear that treaties are “the law of the land.”

  ACLU

Taking notes for Obama's job evaluation?


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Friday, August 28, 2009

So What?

SarahPAC, the former Alaska governor’s conduit for campaign contributions, illegally gave larger contributions than allowed under federal law to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), her former running mate, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

  Raw Story


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Happy to Oblige

Who’s paying to defend CIA employees alleged to have tortured detainees abroad?

You are.

According to a report Friday, CIA Director Leon Panetta — who has reportedly clashed vehemently with the Justice Department over a probe of the CIA’s harsh interrogation practices — has decided that the agency will foot the bill to defend CIA interrogators who are accused of torturing detainees.

In other words, taxpayers will pay.

  Raw Story

Well, we footed the bill for them to torture in the first place.


Great Idea

From a TPM reader…

I think Obama should use all the fictional friction points as bargaining chips. You want us to give up the tyranny of compulsory coverage? You win, Dick Armey. Will you support the bill now? You disagree with death panels, Sarah Palin? What concession will you offer if we agree to give them up?

  TPM


So You Think You Aren't a Socialist?


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Now Here's Some Change I Can Believe In

Cindy Sheehan’s change of location.

After spending weeks dogging George W. Bush's presidential vacations, anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan is now trying to make life uncomfortable for President Barack Obama.

[...]

On Thursday, she and a band of anti-war protesters turned up outside the media center used by journalists covering Obama's vacation on the well-heeled east coast resort island of Martha's Vineyard.

"The reason I am here is because ... even though the facade has changed in Washington DC, the policies are still the same," Sheehan told a handful of journalists, against a backdrop of her "Camp Casey" banner.

  Raw Story


It All Depends on What You Mean by 'Success'

Barack Obama, who uses the George W. Bush dictionary, told us that the election in Afghanistan was a success. We’ve seen a little of that success already. Now we’re getting more news of it.

Just 150 Afghan voters dared to go to the ballot box in the area of Helmand province where [four] British soldiers sacrificed their lives to secure a safe election day, it was revealed yesterday.

[...]

However, the publicly stated aim of Panther’s Claw before it was launched on June 19 was to make the highly populated area between Lashkar Gah, Babaji and Gereshk safe for 80,000 Afghans to go to the polls without being intimidated by the Taleban.

  Times On Line


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I No Longer Have to Speculate

This morning's news that U.S. unemployment has hit 13.7 million, pushing the rate to 8.9 percent, tells only half the story of this recession.

The total number of Americans who are not working full-time but ought to be is actually about 22 million, or 15.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [Emphasis mine.]

  WaPo

That's a damned big number.


Judge Attempts to Keep Obama's Promise for Him

For months, many Democrats and civil libertarians have complained about the disconnect between what President Obama says and what he does as President. One area of the greatest criticism has been the effort of the Obama Administration to block public review of embarrassing pictures, White House logs, controversial memoranda, or disclosure of governmental actions — despite his promise to guarantee transparency in government. One such person who appears to have lost patience with the Administration is Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska. Judge Preska has rejected efforts by the Obama Administration to withhold information on who received $2 trillion dollars in bailout funds. The Obama administration argued that the public has no right to know such information. Given today’s news that the federal debt level will be reach $9 trillion, many people would like to look a bit closer at what Congress and the White House has been doing with the public fisc.

  Jonathan Turley

Well, good on Judge Preska. Now let’s see how long it takes the DOJ to file an appeal.


It's All in What's Left Unsaid

POTUS on the passing of Ted Kennedy:

"Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy. For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.

[...]

Our country has lost a great leader.

  Politico

Let me finish that for him…

”And so you are left with me. Fluff.”

Good luck.


A Voice Silenced

Juan Cole on the passing of Ted Kennedy…

Senator Ted Kennedy's death Tuesday night has deprived the nation of one of the most insightful and committed progressive politicians the country had. Kennedy all along had opposed Bush's Iraq War, and saw clearly before most of the country the various scams used to get it up. It is worth remembering that the narrative most of us now share on the catastrophes of Bush-Cheney foreign policy derives in important part from Kennedy's speeches. Note, too, that Kennedy got virtually no time on network or cable television for his critiques of Bush while the Democrats were in the minority. But CNN devoted half the day to covering John McCain's criticisms of Obama today. A millionaire senator from Boston was too far left for the corporate media.

  Informed Comment


SNAFU

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan…

A massive truck bomb was set off near a Japanese construction company in the southwestern city of Qandahar in Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing about 41 and wounding some 65 persons. All the wounded were innocent civilians.[...] The Telegraph reports that the Japanese construction company had recently taken over the building of a road that was being opposed by the Taliban.

[...]

There was other violence on Tuesday, including the killing of a top police official in Kunduz in the north, and and the killing of 4 US soldiers in the Pashtun south by a roadside bomb. The deaths bring the August total to 40 Americans dead, and likely August will be more deadly for them than July, when 45 were killed. July's total was the biggest in the history of the war from fall, 2001, forward.

[...]

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Taliban acknowledged the death of their leader, Baitullah Mahsud. The US maintains that he was killed by an American drone attack in Waziristan. In retaliation, a new leader of the Pakistan Taliban Movement has threatened to strike at Washington, London and Paris.

  Juan Cole


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


The Disappeared


The CIA and the Obama Administration continue to keep secret some of the most shocking allegations involving the spy agency's interrogation program: three deaths and several other detainees whose whereabouts could not be determined, according to a former senior intelligence official who has read the full, unredacted version.

  ABC News


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thinking Back

LaBelle: Could I possibly be more disappointed in Barack Obama? Doesn't seem possible. I wish I could stand face to face with him and tell him exactly that.

That would be interesting. Honestly, I don't think it would penetrate. It seems that the ego required for a person to actively seek the presidency these days most likely precludes that person from being introspective rather than self-absorbed. Sometimes that self-absorption can include a relatively small subset - i.e. one's immediate family. But it's still about the self.

I just watched the original David Frost interview of Richard Nixon. Talk about a self-absorbed psycopath. I wonder if he went into the job as completely bat-shit psychotic as he left it. I guess the dazzlingly total self-absorption of George W made me forget what a sick pathetic creature Nixon was. But at least back in Nixon's day, there were still citizens who could be shocked by and disapproving of criminal conduct by their president. And enough members of Congress willing to impeach on an impeachable offense rather than a poltical ruse. And there were still competent journalists with some integrity. We're short on all three these days.


Because He's Done Such a Fantastic Job So Far

Obama has renominated Ben Bernancke to the Fed.

"As a result of the greed, irresponsibility and illegal behavior of Wall Street our country has experienced the worst economic decline since the Great Depression," said [Vermont’s Independent Senator Bernie] Sanders. "Mr. Bernanke was head of the Fed and the nation's chief economist as this crisis, driven by reckless speculation, developed. Tragically, like the rest of the Bush administration, he was asleep at the wheel during this period and did nothing to move our financial system onto safer grounds."

"As the middle class of this country continues to shrink, we need a chairman of the Federal Reserve who is more concerned about expanding the productive economy -- increasing decent-paying jobs for all Americans -- than continuing to fan the flames of Wall Street greed and outrageous compensation packages."

  Huffington Post

But that’s just what we’re going to continue to get. Thanks for trying, anyway, Bernie.


Yahoo Ad

Click pic to enlarge.


Bounty hunter? You can get a degree in bounty hunting?


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Torture Report: Thank Heavens for the ACLU

If humanity gets any justice out of us at all, it will be due the ACLU. Again.

The Washington Post is reporting that Eric Holder has decided to name a special prosecutor to probe -- though only up to a point -- instances of torture under the Bush administration.

According to the paper's sources, Holder will name John Durham, a career prosecutor with a reputation for independence and impartiality, who led the investigation into the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes.

It looks like the probe will be somewhat limited in scope.

  TPM

What a surprise that is.

Attorney General Eric Holder has named a federal prosecutor to examine alleged CIA interrogation abuses — a move that could lead to the criminal prosecution of CIA officers and contractors.

  Politico

Leaving torture memo writers, and torture memo instigators untouched. Another great sweeping under the Oval Office rug. We have to have those periodically to make room for more abuses.

Aides said Holder himself was so troubled by some of the reports that he felt a prosecutor might be needed — even though the move is likely to be viewed by the White House as an unwelcome distraction.

Distraction.

The news of the inquiry into past interrogations came as the Justice Department released a CIA Inspector General report from 2004 that details some of the most extreme interrogation techniques used under the Bush Administration.

[...]

In a written statement about the inquiry, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs immediately invoked President Barack Obama’s mantra about focusing on the future, not the past, when it comes to questions how the Bush administration carried out its war on terror.

And I think we are well into implicating the Obama administration, which may be the real reason they don’t welcome this “distraction”.

Holder said “the information known to me” warrants opening a preliminary investigation. But he stressed that “neither the opening of a preliminary review nor, if evidence warrants it, the commencement of a full investigation, means that charges will necessarily follow.”

Oh, of course not. Totally understood, sir.

The White House also chose Monday, the first full day of Obama’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, to announce that he has decided to set up a new, elite terrorist interrogation team.

And he is also having a review into whether or not there are additional practices that should be allowed.

The new report calls for scientific studies which could augment the list of acceptable techniques, but an official said there would be “full transparency” if new techniques were adopted in the future.

Yes, I believe we are quite familiar with Mr. Obama’s adherence to promises of transparency.

The new interrogation group will be run by the FBI and include CIA personnel.

Given the longstanding animosity between the two agencies, I can only imagine how well that will work.

“The White House will not be involved in any type of operation of this group.”

Deniability up front.

And Mr. Obama has gone on vacation, so let’s get all our squabbling done before he gets back. He won’t appreciate having to be “distracted” from his health care plan fiasco when he returns.

Some top Democrats are expressing disappointment with Eric Holder's announcement of a probe into Bush-era torture, and specifically with Holder's apparent decision to ensure the probe doesn't look at the Bush officials who authorized the policy.

  TPM

”Some top Democrats” would be John Conyers, Russ Feingold, Patrick Leahy and Jerry Nadler. Where is everybody else?

As a practical matter, Holder is consciously establishing as the legal baseline -- he's vesting with sterling legal authority -- those warped, torture-justifying DOJ memos. Worse, his pledge of immunity today for those who complied with those memos went beyond mere interrogators and includes everyone, policymakers and lawyers alike: "the Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees." Thus, as long as, say, a White House official shows that (a) the only torture methods they ordered were approved by the OLC and (b) they did not know those methods were criminal, then they would be entitled to full-scale immunity under the standard Holder announced today.

This quite likely sets up, at most, a process where a few low-level sacrificial lambs -- some extra-sadistic intelligence versions of Lynndie Englands -- might be investigated and prosecuted where they tortured people the wrong way. Those who tortured "the right way" -- meaning the way the OLC directed -- will receive full-scale immunity.

  Glenn Greenwald


[It] should be emphasized that yet again, it is not the Congress or the establishment media which is uncovering these abuses and forcing disclosure of government misconduct. Rather, it is the ACLU (with which I consult) that, along with other human rights organizations, has had to fill the void left by those failed institutions, using their own funds to pursue litigation to compel disclosure. Without their efforts, we would know vastly less than we know now about the crimes our government committed.

  Glenn Greenwald

The Inspector General report describes the interrogations as “unauthorized, improvised, inhumane, and undocumented detention and interrogation techniques” and says that many of the detainees were held and interrogated from "assessments that were unsupported by credible intelligence." Innocent of any involvement in the “War on Terror”.

Manifestly, none of this happened by accident. As the IG Report continuously notes, all of these methods were severe departures from long-standing CIA guidelines (if not practices). This all occurred because the officials at the highest levels of the U.S. Government pronounced that this was permissible, the protections of the Geneva Conventions were "quaint," obsolete and inapplicable, and the U.S. was justified in doing anything and everything in the name of fighting Terrorists. As stomach-turning as these individual acts of sadism are, it is far worse to consider that only low-level interrogators will suffer consequences while those who were truly responsible -- the criminally depraved leaders and lawyers who ordered and authorized it -- will be protected.

[...]

In addition to the release of the IG Report today, Eric Holder announced the limited scope of the torture investigations he would conduct, and the Obama administration announced it would continue the Bush policy of "renditions."

Only expanding it to include people accused of bribing contractors.

Now what does that make Mr. Obama? Worse than Bush? And I thought only John McCain would take us there. With our current method of “electing” presidents, it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll get another Democrat next time. So, I can’t imagine we’ll change course. There is a river called The River of No Return.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Torture: Intel Experts Want Investigations

An article by Jason Leopold at the Public Record news site says that former FBI counterterrorism expert Jack Cloonan, military interrogator Col. Steve Kleinman, and “Matthew Alexander,” the pseudonym of a special-ops interrogator who was part of a task force in Iraq, are all urging Congress and the White House to launch investigations into torture practices during the Bush era.

Not only would the three like to see a wide-ranging investigation into torture practices — as opposed to the “narrow” investigation being mulled by Attorney General Eric Holder — they would also like to see a separate investigation into how the policies allowing torture were formed in the first place.

Cloonan and Kleinman “sharply disputed” the claim made last week by nine Republican senators that launching a probe into torture, even a limited one, would pose a hazard to US security and expose the country to risk of further terrorist attacks.

The two former intel experts said the GOP senators were sounding “false alarms” in order to keep secret embarrassing and possibly outrageous revelations about a Republican White House.

  Raw Story


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Abandon Hope

According to the Redding Record Searchlight, an incident broke out at a town hall at Simpson University in Redding [CA] on Tuesday when [US House Representative Wally] Herger signaled encouragement to a 67-year-old town hall attendee, Bert Stead, who called himself a “proud right-wing terrorist.”

“Amen, God bless you,” Herger reportedly replied to the comment. “There is a great American.”

[...]

Herger also told the crowd that the health care reform legislation currently before Congress is a “threat” to American democracy.

  Raw Story

Here’s my theory. We are already victims of biological weapons of mass destruction. Somebody – and I don’t know who, but probably the Russians, eh? Or maybe the Chinese – has contaminated our waterways and aquifers with crazy juice. And they’re just sitting over there waiting for us to implode.

It won’t be long.


SNAFU


More revelations about the CIA and Blackwater are out. But I just want to point out one obvious thing. Blackwater was bound to be the total fuck-up it turned out to be. Anyone who dresses their people in black for the desert is seriously short on common sense.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Koyaanisqatsi

Opponents of the practice of extraordinary rendition are growing increasingly vocal about the case of Raymond Azar, a Lebanese construction contractor who was picked up by the FBI on allegations of bribery, shackled, blindfolded and flown to the United States for trial.

It’s a case that the Los Angeles Times referred to Saturday as the “first rendition under [President] Obama.”

In affidavits filed in federal court, Azar says he was denied food, placed in a freezing room and threatened with never seeing his family again unless he confessed to the charges, the Times reports.

[...]

Despite Azar’s guilty plea, the circumstances of his arrest and interrogation will likely lead observers to question the outcome of his trial. The Times reports that Azar signed documents he did not understand because he was “frightened for his immediate safety … and under the belief he would end up in the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib to be tortured,” according to his lawyers.

  Raw Story

All this for bribery? And the bribery, btw, was for kickbacks in reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.

In an audio interview, Horton told Democracy Now! that Obama “never went as far as to say no more renditions,” and the Azar case “shows … how the program is being carried forward. And to a large extent, it’s a trip back to renditions the way they occurred in the Clinton era. This is what we call ‘rendition to justice’.”



Horton points out that “renditions have not been used in a case like this before,” even in the pre-Bush era. “They’ve been reserved for drug kingpins and terrorists.”

Somebody’s going to have to Photoshop me a fourth picture in that series.

P.S. All those right-wing lunatics that are portraying Obama as Hitler over health care (!) won’t even bat an eyelash over this.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Meanwhile, In a Parallel Universe

James Carafano, Heritage Foundation, Defense and Homeland Security:

"After watching afghans risk life and limb to go the polls and after witnessing the ability of the US military to break the spiral of violence in Iraq, I find it difficult to believe that Americans won't stick it out until Afghanistan can stand on its own and al qaeda is banished from Pakistan."

  Politico's Open Mic

Let me quote Barney Frank to Mr. Carafano: On what planet do you spend most of your time?


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

There's That Question Again

What if they gave a war and nobody came?

Six months into Barack Obama’s presidency, the U.S. public’s display of antiwar sentiment has faded to barely a whisper.

Despite Obama’s vow to withdraw all combat forces from Iraq before September 2011, he plans to leave up to 50,000 troops in “training and advisory” roles. Meanwhile, nearly 130,000 troops remain in that country and more than 50,000 U.S. soldiers occupy Afghanistan, with up to an additional 18,000 approved for deployment this year.

So where is the resistance?

In independent journalist Dahr Jamail’s “The Will to Resist: Soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Haymarket Books), Jamail profiles what may ultimately prove to be the United States’ most effective anti-war movement: the soldiers themselves.

  Mideast Dispatches

It’s not going to be effective, either. Look at all the top commanders who resigned rather than serve the illegal, ill-advised invasion in the first place. But I salute them all. It's got to be so much harder for soldiers who resist than for protesting civilians.


Without Any Sense of Irony

Make that, without any sense.

While scattered bombings continue, the Brookings Institution has described Iraq as existing in "a kind of violent semi-peace."

  NYT


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Things I Don't Want to Think About

The Financial Times argues that the final judgment on how upright the Afghan elections were matters enormously to the Obama administration. If the US public decides these election results were phonied up, it will turn, FT argues, even more against the war than it already is (51 percent oppose the Afghanistan war in the US).

I don't think the US public cares so much about these elections. I think support for the Afghanistan war depends on the administration effectively tying it to concerns about Americans' safety and security. And since that argument is so hard to make convincingly, I can't see how public support for the war is going to come back. With dozens of US troops killed in July, moreover, people are hearing more bad news than good.

What I think is true is that a poorly executed Afghanistan policy could turn Obama into a one-term president. It is too early to judge exactly what Obama's policy will be in Afghanistan, but it should become clear within a few months. So far, Obama has not made the case and hasn't explained what the end game is.

  Juan Cole

Perhaps he learned from George to wait until the end to make that statement. We already know his original intent was to move resources from Iraq to Afghanistan, which certainly seems like an intent to escalate the war there. And since when did one of our presidents concern himself with whether he had "support" for a war? (Late 30s maybe? If you don't have support, you create an incident. Pretty simple recipe that's worked well so far.)

Insurgents struck at the heart of the Iraqi government on Wednesday in two huge and deadly bombings that exposed a new vulnerability after Americans ceded control for security here on June 30. Nearby American soldiers stood by helplessly — despite the needs of hundreds of wounded lying among the dead — waiting for a request for assistance from Iraqi officials that apparently never came.

[...]

After weeks of escalating violence in Iraq, the powerful truck bombs on Wednesday killed at least 95 people and wounded nearly 600 at and around the Foreign and Finance Ministries in central Baghdad, assaults on symbols of government that lent an air of siege to the capital. The bombs crippled the downtown area, closed highways and two main bridges over the Tigris River, and clogged hospitals with the wounded.

  NYT

That will make our soldiers even more popular. They are proscribed by the agreement from even helping wounded Iraqis until a formal request from the ‘government’. So they stand and watch – and sometimes take pictures.

Around 11 a.m., the two truck bombs struck the Finance Ministry and the Foreign Ministry within three minutes, officials said, sending heavy smoke into the sky. The first blast, near the Finance Ministry, killed at least 35 people, collapsed a main elevated highway nearby and left rubble littered with shrapnel and blood. The second, more powerful blast near the Foreign Ministry killed at least 60 people, shattered windows inside the Green Zone and shook houses throughout Baghdad.

At roughly the same time, attacks in other parts of the city, including three roadside bombings and some mortar and rocket fire, left 17 people wounded, Iraqi officials said.

[...]

The bombings, the worst since American forces handed over security responsibilities for cities to Iraq at the end of June, shook the Iraqi government’s confidence that it was ready and able to secure the nation.

Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? Mission accomplished. George. Barack.

“The whole thing is just so disgusting,” the United States ambassador, Christopher R. Hill, said as he read reports from his staff about the extent of the damage while on an official visit to the northern city of Kirkuk. “They’re just psychopathic.”

Oh, that’s helpful. Actually, it could be helpful if anyone were to actually make plans accordingly.

Though no one claimed responsibility for the attacks, Iraqis doled out blame both to their government and to the United States for coming to Iraq in the first place.

“This country is finished,” said one resident, Jamil Jaber, 45, whose five-room home behind the Foreign Ministry had been flattened, crushing his 4-month-old grandson. “It’s just robbery and killing.” He cursed the United States and former President George W. Bush.

And it’s only going to get worse.

Apparently, senior Iraqi officers were involved. Should we be surprised? Hasn't it been true all along that Iraqis have been joining the military and civilian authorities only to get access to plans and arms? Yes, yes, yes.

It all becomes so insane that in the end at the bottom line, I apologize, but with these reports, I can't care so much about the tragedy of the people who live in these Hells; my focus hones in like a laser on my own son. Be safe, son, wherever you are right now over there. As you say, training people who will be fighting your children one day. I love you so much.


Deals from the Back Room

The U.S. Army said Friday it had reduced the sentences of three soldiers convicted of murder in the execution-style slayings of four bound and blindfolded Iraqi detainees.

Master Sgt. John Hatley, sentenced to life in prison in April, will instead receive 40 years, the military told the Associated Press.

He will still receive a dishonorable discharge and be reduced to the rank of private.

Sgt. Michael Leahy and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Mayo — sentenced respectively to life in prison in February and 35 years in March — had their sentences reduced to 20 years, the military said. They will also receive bad conduct discharges instead of dishonorable discharges.

[...]

The Iraqis were taken to the unit's base although there wasn't enough evidence to hold them for attacking the unit. Later that night patrol members took the Iraqis to a remote area and shot them, dumping the bodies in a canal.

  Fox


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


About That Successful Afghan Election

Violence that left some 50 dead, and a relatively low turnout in some provinces marred Afghanistan's presidential election on Thursday.

[...]

Global Post's correspondent spoke of "empty" polling stations throughout the capital of Kabul. Other reports say that voting was light in the morning because of attacks and fear, but that more voters came out in the afternoon.

[...]

This Persian report says that in the conservative eastern province of Paktia, men voted on behalf of the women of their families, who were said to be unable to come to the polling station because of poor security and Taliban threats. It reports that one Paktia man came to the polling station with a list of 36 female family members for whom he intended to cast the vote.

  Juan Cole

This is the success declared by Obama.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


On and On, On and On, On and On

I argued in summer, 2004, that when Ridge did raise the terrorism alert, it had the unfortunate effect of outing an al-Qaeda double agent who had been turned by the Pakistani government and was helping set a trap for al-Qaeda in the UK. In turn, that caused the British government to have to move against the people it had under surveillance prematurely, harming the case.

Ridge is alleging he was pressured on the eve of the election. But I still wonder about the circumstances of the summer announcement. He might have been being used then, too, and not known it.

And if any of us had said that Dick Cheney was setting up civilian mercenary assassination squads (at least 007 works for the British government), and set things up so that perhaps neither the CIA director nor the president even knew about it, we would have been branded moonbats. But well, that is today's story.

You shudder to think what hasn't come out yet.

  Juan Cole

And Juan has a good suggestion, if anybody has any money left to give:

It isn't enough that the corporate media lied to us for Bush for 8 years, they are continuing to do it. Give money to Amy Goodman.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Ooops

The White House is likely to dramatically increase its projected 10-year budget deficit estimate next week by nearly $2 trillion, senior administration officials said Friday.

  Politico

Well, that’s sure not going to boost Obama's diving approval ratings.


Slip Sliding Away

Paul Krugman has an excellent column today arguing that progressives have backlashed so intensely over the prospect of Obama's dropping the public option because -- for reasons extending far beyond specific health care issues -- they no longer trust the President. Citing Obama's steadfast continuation of Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies, the administration's extreme coziness with crisis-causing banks, and the endless retreats on health care, Krugman says that "a backlash in the progressive base . . . has been building for months" and that "progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it."

  Glenn Greenwald

I’m nost sure I agree with that last part, in that I’m not sure he ever was concerned about the progressives. The progressives haven’t been a part of the political equation in Washington since who knows when. He began and continues on the path of trying to get the right wing’s approval, which he never will. He’ll figure that out. Quite possibly too late.

Greenwald goes on to accurately describe the White House M.O.

In essence, this is the mindset of Rahm Emanuel, and its precepts are as toxic as they are familiar: The only calculation that matters is maximizing political power. The only "change" that's meaningful is converting more Republican seats into Democratic ones. A legislative "win" is determined by whether Democrats can claim victory, not by whether anything constructive was achieved. The smart approach is to serve and thus curry favor with the most powerful corporate factions, not change the rules to make them less powerful. The primary tactic of Democrats should be to be more indispensable to corporate interests so as to deny the GOP that money and instead direct it to Democrats. The overriding strategy is to scorn progressives while keeping them in their place and then expand the party by making it more conservative and more reliant on Blue Dogs. Democrats should replicate Republican policies on Terrorism and national security -- not abandon them -- in order to remove that issue as a political weapon.

[...]

all that matters is that we beat the Republicans and we should do anything to achieve that, including serving corporate donors to ensure they fund Us and not Them and turning ourselves into war-making, civil-liberties-abridging, secrecy-loving GOP clones in the national security realm

[...]

In a superb post the other day, Digby recounted what fueled the Naderite movement in 2000 and warns, presciently I think, that the willingness of Obama/Emanuel so blatantly to disappoint those to whom they promised so much (especially young and first-time voters who were most vulnerable to Obama's transformative fairy dust) will lead them either to support a third party or turn off from politics altogether.

Which would suit the GOP just fine. I know it will take a miracle to get me to waste my time in the voting booth again. And I didn’t even believe Obama was the great liberal he was talked up to be. Nor am I young. Of course I also didn’t believe our voting system is fair and honest. But a lot of young people got excited enough and thought they could actually make a difference, and that was a group that I thought this country had lost to political apathy a long time ago. It will be interesting to see whether they turn out again.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Health Care Brings Out the Crazies

"That's why people need to continue to go to the town halls, continue to melt the phone lines of their liberal members of Congress," said [Far Right Anti-Abortion Rep. Michele] Bachmann, "and let them know, under no [...] circumstances will I give the government control over my body and my health care decisions."

  TPM

Does she realize what she just said? How do they do it? How do they consistently talk out of both sides of their mouth - or maybe that's just out of their ass - and not feel ashamed?

Oh, wait. That's not contradictory. It's your body and your health care decisions - most specifically, if you're pregnant - they're willing to have decided by someone else. Them, of course.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Yet Another Contested Election

It's the only kind we hear about any more.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday the Afghanistan election appeared to have been a success, despite what he said were the efforts of Taliban militants to disrupt it.

The election was a test for Obama's new strategy aimed at reversing Taliban gains. U.S. combat casualties have risen amid a U.S. troop buildup, and opinion polls have shown weakening American public support for the war.

  Salon

Okay, a successful election, but who’s the winner?

President Hamid Karzai's campaign and chief rival Abdullah Abdullah both said on Friday they had won Afghanistan's election, but Washington's chief envoy warned candidates not to declare victory prematurely.

[...]

Election officials said no confirmed results had been released.

  TPM



....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


UPDATE: Success, you say?


Catching Up

Speaking from the White House on Michael Smerconish's radio talk show, President Barack Obama said he believed GOP leaders made a political calculation to defeat his health care legislation in order to take back Congress in the coming elections.

  Politico


Tangled, Tangled Web

Karl Rove’s latest attempt to proclaim his innocence and demand apologies from those who have accused him of being behind the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman may backfire if it turns out that Rove was improperly receiving inside information after leaving his position as Deputy White House Chief of Staff.

[...]

Rove [has attacked] Dana Jill Simpson, an Alabama Republican lawyer turned whistleblower who has linked him to the Siegelman prosecution. In doing so, however, he raises serious questions of impropriety by revealing that he has received confidential information from both the House Judiciary Committee and the Department of Justice.

  Raw Story

Give him enough rope. Please.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


This Will Be Interesting

Mexico decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and heroin on Friday — a move that prosecutors say makes sense even in the midst of the government's grueling battle against drug traffickers.

Prosecutors said the new law sets clear limits that keep Mexico's corruption-prone police from shaking down casual users and offers addicts free treatment to keep growing domestic drug use in check.

"This is not legalization, this is regulating the issue and giving citizens greater legal certainty," said Bernardo Espino del Castillo of the attorney general's office.

  Raw Story

Decriminalization ≠ legalization, apparently. Anyway, expect more Americans to migrate south. Or at least vacation.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Keeping the Left Marginalized

Just as is still commonly said about opponents of the Iraq War (even though they were right, they were still wrong and unSerious because their motives were bad), [The Atlantic’s Marc] Ambinder acknowledges that Bush critics were right that the terror alerts were being manipulated for political ends (he has no choice but to acknowledge that now that Ridge admits it), but still says journalists like himself were right to scorn such critics "because these folks based their assumption on gut hatred for President Bush, and not on any evaluation of the raw intelligence." As always: even when the dirty leftist hippies are proven right, they're still Shrill, unSerious Losers who every decent person and "journalist" scorns.

[...]

Throughout the Bush years, those who said demonstrably true things were continuously dismissed as fringe, conspiracy-driven leftist-losers: those who questioned whether Saddam really had WMDs; those who argued that the invasion of Iraq would lead to long-term military bases in that country; those who worried that warrantless eavesdropping and Patriot Act powers would lead to abuses; those who opposed the war in Afghanistan on the ground that it would be drag on for years with no resolution, etc. etc.

Having been proven right about all of those things hasn't changed perceptions any at all. As Ambinder's comments today reflect, the paramount unchangeable Beltway Truth is that those who distrust government claims are unSerious Fringe Leftist Losers.

[...]

No observation will cause one to be ejected from acceptable mainstream company more immediately than pointing out that what the U.S. Government is doing is "terrorism" by definition. Ask Noam Chomsky about that, if you can find him. That's because using Terrorist threats (or civilian-destroying violence) for political gain, or to keep a population in fear, is something that only other people do -- but never the United States -- even when it's as plain as day (as it is here) that the U.S. Government is doing exactly that.

  Glenn Greenwald


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Oh, Hey, Here's a Surprise

Former US homeland security chief Tom Ridge charges in a new book that top aides to then-president George W. Bush pressured him to raise the "terror alert" level to sway the November 2004 US election.

Then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and attorney general John Ashcroft pushed him to elevate the color-coded threat level, but Ridge refused, according to a summary from his publisher, Thomas Dunne Books.

  Yahoo

Refused?

He also says that Bush's homeland security adviser at the White House, Fran Townsend, called his department ahead of an August 1, 2004 speech to ask Ridge to include a reference to "defensive measures ... away from home" -- language that he read as being a reference to the Iraq war.

In those remarks, Ridge said he was raising the threat alert level for the financial services sector in New York City, northern New Jersey, and Washington DC, and went on to praise Bush's leadership against extremism.

I'm a little confused. Did he or didn't he raise the alert level? You know he did.

He later publicly acknowledged that much of the information underpinning the new alert was three years old, stoking Bush critics' charges of political manipulation.

Yes, I remember.

Ridge also charges that he was often "blindsided" during daily morning briefings with Bush because the FBI withheld information from him, and says he was never invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings.

Awwwwww. Poor baby. In other words, he behaved exactly as he was hired on to behave - just a mouthpiece - just say what the boss tells you to say. Tool extraordinaire.

Are we supposed to be sympathetic toward him now? Just like the lot of them who are telling tales now, he was too self-serving to report it when it mattered. He was too busy sucking up and collecting his blood money.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


How Could You Imagine We Need a Public Option?

The Labor Department says the number of first-time jobless claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 576,000 last week, from a revised figure of 561,000. Wall Street economists expected a drop to 550,000, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

[...]

The insured unemployment rate, which measures the percentage of the insured labor force who are jobless, was unchanged at 4.7 percent.

  Raw Story


Driving Miss Daisy

LaBelle suggests that rather than being in the driver's seat of our government, the Democrats have instead been going wherever the Republicans want to go - or as she put it - Driving Miss Daisy. That's going to be my title to all posts with this theme. And I imagine they won't be few or far between.

At any rate, my belief is that the Republicans aim to ruin Obama on the health issue. And he's not making it difficult for them. If they do, watch for them to offer some "reform" that is even more of a concession to the health care industry than the Democrats are flirting with and then brag that they, the Republicans, were the ones who gave us reform.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Ever-Thickening Plot

The specter of private contractors carrying out assassinations on behalf of the US government has been raised in a New York Times article that says the CIA hired contractors from security firm Blackwater to help carry out its recently-revealed hit squad program.

[...]

The CIA hit squad, ostensibly meant to target al Qaeda’s leadership in the years after 9/11, became public news when CIA Director Leon Panetta informed congressional intelligence committees about it in late June. Since then, stories have appeared linking Vice President Dick Cheney to the decision to keep the hit squads secret — a decision that may violate the National Security Act, which mandates congressional oversight of the CIA.

  Raw Story

Just one more thing in the very long line of CIA illegal, immoral activity for which neither the CIA nor Dick Cheney will ever suffer any consequences.

That the CIA used a private contractor for the program “was a major reason that [Panetta] became alarmed and called an emergency meeting to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years,” the Times reports.

Because it would have been so much worse than if they had used CIA agents?


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Not As Smart As He Looks

President Barack Obama now realizes he probably will have to pass health reform with Democratic votes alone, White House officials say.

  Politico

I guess I was giving him credit for being smarter than he is. He sure seems to not understand that the Right Wing has absolutely no intention of being bipartisan. They want to destroy him. And that didn’t start with the health care debate. Is he finally catching on? And, if so, has he given away too much already to recover?


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Working for Real Change

Glenn Greenwald sums up the health care reform battle.

The Obama White House isn't sitting impotently by while Democratic Senators shove a bad bill down its throat. This is the bill because this is the bill which Democratic leaders are happy to have. It's the bill they believe in. As important, by giving the insurance and pharmaceutical industries most everything they want, it ensures that the GOP doesn't become the repository for the largesse of those industries (and, converesly, that the Democratic Party retains that status).

This is how things always work. The industry interests which own and control our government always get their way. When is the last time they didn't? The "public option" was something that was designed to excite and placate progressives (who gave up from the start on a single-payer approach) -- and the vast, vast majority of progressives (all but the most loyal Obama supporters) who are invested in this issue have been emphatic about how central a public option is to their support for health care reform. But it seems clear that the White House and key Democrats were always planning on negotiating it away in exchange for industry support. Isn't that how it always works in Washington? No matter how many Democrats are elected, no matter which party controls the levers of government, the same set of narrow monied interests and right-wing values dictate outcomes, even if it means running roughshod over the interests of ordinary citizens (securing lower costs and expanding coverage) and/or what large majorities want.

That's why this debate has now taken on such importance -- regardless of whether you think a public option is important or even if you think it's a good idea. Thanks in large part to the months-long efforts of Jane Hamsher and her FDL team -- who spent enormous amounts of time and resources getting large numbers of progressive House members to emphatically commit on video to opposing any health care bill that lacks a robust public option -- there's actually a chance this time that the outcome could be different. If those progressive House members actually adhere to their pledge, they can and will block any health care bill that lacks a public option. They can actually thwart industry demands and the dictate of Beltway leaders; can empower a new faction in Washington (themselves) beholden to different interests (ordinary citizens); and can vest some actual significance in the outcome of the 2006 and 2008 election.

  Glenn Greenwald

And FireDogLake is raising money to keep progressives in Congress from folding.

While the teabaggers got all the media attention, we've been working diligently with local bloggers in the districts of progressive members of Congress who were in safe Democratic seats, asking them to vote against any bill that did not have a strong public plan. No co-ops, no triggers. We wanted 40 of them to stick together and block health care reform from passing until there was a strong public option.

It worked.

[...]

Now that they have made the commitment in sufficient numbers to stop a bad bill from passing, the challenge is going to be holding progressives while they get strong-armed to vote for a compromised bill. Promises of district pork, funding for pet project, influence and downright threats are very persuasive. A fundraising effort like this sends a very clear message that this one matters.

  FireDogLake

Donate if you can.

If not, you might be able to march...

Robert Reich, the former Labor secretary, scholar and commentator, called Tuesday for a “march on Washington” on Sept. 13 —“Grandparents Day” — in support of a health care bill that offers a public option.

[...]

He suggested the morning of Sept. 13 because “that's a Sunday, and it's also Grandparents Day. I've just become a grandparent, and I'm worried as hell about the kind of world my little granddaughter is inheriting. “

[...]

While he said organizing was not his strength, he would be prepared to assist. “If enough people feel that’s the best way for their voices to be heard, and can’t be heard in any other way, then we march,” Reich said in a reader question-and-answer session in POLITICO’s Arena.

[...]

“Very few things happen in Washington that are in the public's interest when corporations have huge financial stakes in the game, as they obviously do with health care — unless the public is actively involved, engaged and organized,” Reich wrote. “We won't get a public option, or anything close to it, unless people who feel strongly about it make a racket.”

  Politico


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Meanwhile in We'll-Never-Get-Out-Of-This-Place

A truck bomb tore through Iraq's Foreign Ministry Wednesday, knocking out concrete slabs and windows and leaving a mass of charred cars outside as a wave of explosions around Baghdad killed at least 75 people.

[...]

The deadliest of the attacks hit near the Foreign Ministry, killing at least 59 people and wounding 250. Officials said the toll may climb as rescue workers dig through rubble and debris. The ministry is just outside the Green Zone, the most heavily protected part of the capital.

  Yahoo



The Lone Ranger

Rep. Barney Frank lashed out at protester who held a poster depicting President Barack Obama with a Hitler-style mustache during a heated town hall meeting on federal health care reform.

"On what planet do you spend most of your time?" Frank asked the woman, who had stepped up to the podium at a southeastern Massachusetts senior center to ask why Frank supports what she called a Nazi policy.

"Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it," Frank replied.

  Yahoo

And that's why I love Barney.

Better yet - video at Crooks and Liars.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

That's a Very Good Question

My friend Sally also voted for Obama and still likes him, but she's increasingly upset about his policies. "He's giving away the store," she complains, pointing to his penchant for compromise. "He gave Wall Street $600 billion in bailouts and doesn't even want to regulate it, gave big polluters 85 percent of the cap-and-trade permits, and has promised the American Medical Association, Big Pharma, and private insurers whatever they want in return for their support of universal health care." Sally says she voted for Obama because he promised to change American politics, but she thinks corporate interests are more powerful than ever.

Sally also doesn't see why Obama is so bent on bipartisanship.

"Republicans haven't helped him a bit so far, won't help him, and he doesn't need their votes, so why compromise with them?"

  TPM


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


WH Steps Back

Yeah, you know the routine. But this time, it's a good step back. The White House, under pressure, took down its email account where it asked people to forward emails they received that were making 'false claims' about the health plan.

So now they're no longer asking you to turn in your neighbors, but they've given you an alternative forum to do so, if you still want to. Not that they're making a list of names, or anything, of course.


....and hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


8 More

Even Wal-Mart won't fund Glenn Beck.

I don't know how many this makes, but the last article I read said "5 more" companies pulled ad dollars from Beck's show. There must have been (maybe still are) oodles of advertisers sponsoring him. I haven't seen anything about Fox dropping him, though.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


UPDATE: Ask and you shall receive. The answer is 20 advertisers have abandoned Beck. (This may not be the case by the time you read this, but when I checked that page, there was still an ad urging people to call on Wal-Mart to pull its advertising from Beck's show.)


Monday, August 17, 2009

The Lesson Democrats Cannot Learn

No matter how many times they're shown.

President Barack Obama's weekend concession on a health care "government option" drew complaints from liberals and scarce interest from Republicans and other critics on Monday, a fresh sign of the daunting challenge in finding middle ground in an increasingly partisan political struggle.

  Yahoo

Democrats: You cannot placate the Right. They are not trying for “middle ground”. They want it all. And you are still giving it to them.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Meanwhile, Our Boy in Afghanistan . . .

Breaking his previous promises, Karzai has quietly slipped into law that bill letting Shiite men starve their wives if they don’t put out, legalizing child marriage and rape if blood money is paid, one supposes), requiring wives to get their husbands’ permission to work, etc etc (details still unclear because it’s a secret law; I have no idea how a secret law works).

  WIIIAI


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.