Thursday, September 28, 2006

the unmasking of the maverick

From TPM Muckraker:
The Senate just killed an amendment to ensure federal courts could review the legitimacy of individual' imprisonment on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. The amendment had been proposed by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It is a fundamental protection woven into the fabric of our Nation," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who supported the measure. It was defeated 48-51, largely along party lines.

Former torture victim Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), portrayed as a "maverick" by earlier bucking the White House on the issue of detainee treatment, voted against the amendment. The White House also opposes the changes the amendment would make to the bill. Sens. John Warner (R-VA) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who had also challenged the White House over the bill,
joined McCain in voting against the amendment.

Hey wait a sec, I thought McCain was the principled maverick, willing to buck the administration for Truth, Justice, and the American Way! At least, that's what the McCainites and the media keep telling me!

Some maverick.

the experts agree!

From a group of 609 law professors, in a letter to Congress quoted by Tim Grieve at Salon:
"Taken together, the bill’s provisions rewrite American law to evade the fundamental principles of separation of powers, due process, habeas corpus, fair trials, and the rule of law, principles that, together, prohibit state-sanctioned violence. If there is any fixed point in the historical understandings of constitutional freedom that help to define us as a people, it is that no one may be picked up and locked up by the American state in secret or at an unknown location, or without opportunity to petition an independent court for inspection of the lawfulness of the lockup and of the treatment handed out by the state to the person locked up, under legal standards from time to time defined by Congress. This core principle should apply with full force to all detentions by the American state, regardless of the citizenship of detainees."
These rights are required for there to be a free society. To curtail them-- and by expert accounts, this bill would curtail them for everybody, citizen or otherwise-- would be nothing short of tossing the whole idea of civil rights in its entirety. If the government can deprive you of your freedom whenever it wants for any reason it pleases, you have no rights. Period.

Screw Iraq; we need to save democracy in the United States!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Here is a great article in Salon on the need to preserve habeas corpus from the McCain torture bill from the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

As with so many political issues currently facing us, there are serious outrages in the McCain Torture Bill not getting as much coverage in the news because they're, frankly, less glamorous than waterboarding. The biggest, scariest, most significant of those outrages is the abolition of the writ of habeas corpus for aliens captured outside of the US (and perhaps even of resident aliens, or even US citizens, for all we know: lawyers are still looking over the bill to unravel all its ramifications).

For those of you a little rusty on your political science, here is
a refresher on habeas corpus:
A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he should be released from custody. A habeas corpus petition is a petition filed with a court by a person who objects to his own or another's detention or imprisonment. The petition must show that the court ordering the detention or imprisonment made a legal or factual error. Habeas corpus petitions are usually filed by persons serving prison sentences. In family law, a parent who has been denied custody of his child by a trial court may file a habeas corpus petition. Also, a party may file a habeas corpus petition if a judge declares her in contempt of court and jails or threatens to jail her.

In Brown v. Vasquez, 952 F.2d 1164, 1166 (9th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 112 S.Ct. 1778 (1992), the court observed that the Supreme Court has "recognized the fact that`[t]he writ of habeas corpus is the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action.' Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 290-91 (1969). " Therefore, the writ must be "administered with the initiative and flexibility essential to insure that miscarriages of justice within its reach are surfaced and corrected." Harris, 394 U.S. at 291. [emphasis mine]
Most of our modern civil rights were established, at best, with the Bill of Rights, and many not until much later. Habeas Corpus dates all the way back to the Magna Carta in 1215 (Habeas Corpus is the first 2 words of the writ originally delivered to the gaolers of Medieval Britain: Habeas corpus ad subjiciendum, or "Produce the body for the hearing."). It was also the only right considered so important and so universally agreed upon that the Founders included it in the Constitution itself (Article I, section 9).

Yet the top priority for Bush the Republican Congress right now is the curtailing of that right for anyone detained abroad. Of course, there is PLENTY wrong with the McCain "I Heart Waterboarding" Bill (I just can't help but wonder, why on earth would Bush want so badly to have Congress officially absolve everyone involved in torture from any future punishment just 6 weeks before Republicans may lose Congress? Hmmm...), but the sudden disappearance of what you might call "the first civil right" is a pretty freakin' huge step in the wrong direction.

In fact, has any free society ever existed without habeas corpus? Is it even possible to have a "free" society without it?

I fail to see how.

It seems that there's a little bit of slippage in the debate over habeas corpus rights as well. Democrats are talking about the merits of having this right in general, whereas Republicans and conservatives are only talking about preserving this right for non-citizens captured overseas, since that is apparently not quite as far down the road to totalitarianism.

Bushistas foolishly suppose that Jefferson, Madison and Co., when articulating the concept of inalienable rights in our most hallowed documents, were only talking about American citizens. It is patently obvious, however, that the founders intended for constitutional protections to apply to everyone, whether citizen or otherwise. Furthermore, contrary to the conservative "rights for terrorists" attack, civil rights by their very nature apply not just even, but especially, in case the person is suspected of a crime (remember, despite what Bill O'Reilly says, in a land where the accused are innocent until proven guilty, we're talking about alleged terrorists-- the whole point of due process is to more correctly ascertain guilt).

Bush apologists will then argue that the McCain "Habeas Shmabeas" bill would only apply to non-citizens outside the country's physical boundaries. Yet even assuming that those people are the only ones made vulnerable by this monstrosity (a big huge "if"), the bill would still contravene the spirit of the law because, again, do you really think the Founding Fathers only considered people on American soil to be "created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" (yes, I know, that's in the Declaration of Independence, but surely that can be used to ascertain the founders' intentions when dealing with constitutional issues)? Now admittedly, civil rights in their legal manifestation are only understood to expressly apply to people currently in the country, but that's not because the founders thought that only American citizens deserve civil rights. Rather, it's because all American law generally only holds jurisdiction on American territory, which apparently Guantanamo Bay somehow is not.

Any advocacy of stripping habeas corpus rights from detainees, then, is in contravention of the Founding Fathers' understanding of human rights, and is a vile twisting of the law that will work to undo that which it is supposed to uphold: the protection of all humans as created equal and endowed with inalienable rights.

Which is the prerequisite to a free society.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

they can still torture

From the Washington Post (c/o Digby):
The compromise language gives the
president a dominant -- but not exclusive -- role in
deciding which interrogation methods are permitted by
that provision of the treaty. It also prohibits
detainees from using the Geneva Conventions to
challenge their imprisonment or seek civil damages for
mistreatment, as the administration sought.
The biggest hurdle, Senate sources said, was
convincing administration officials that lawmakers
would never accept language that allowed Bush to
appear to be reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions.
Once that was settled, they said, the White House
poured most of its energy into defining "cruel or
inhuman treatment" that would constitute a crime under
the War Crimes Act. The administration wanted the term
to describe techniques resulting in "severe" physical
or mental pain, but the senators insisted on the word

Negotiations then turned to the amount of time that a
detainee's suffering must last before the treatment
amounts to a war crime. Administration officials
preferred designating "prolonged" mental or physical
symptoms, while the senators wanted something milder.
They settled on "serious and non-transitory mental
harm, which need not be prolonged."

These definitions appear in a section of the
legislation that specifically lists "grave breaches"
of the Geneva Conventions that might bring criminal

For lesser offenses barred by the Geneva Conventions
-- those lying between cruelty and minor abuse,
putting them at the heart of the intraparty dispute --
the draft legislation would give the president
explicit authority to interpret "the meaning and
application" of the relevant provisions in Common
Article 3. It also requires that such interpretations
be considered as "authoritative" as other U.S.

But the language also requires that such
interpretations be published, rather than described in
secret to a restricted number of lawmakers. That
provision was demanded by the dissident lawmakers, who
resented the administration's past efforts to curtail
the number of members who were told of its policies.
The provision also affirms that Congress and the
judiciary can play their customary roles in reviewing
the interpretations, a statement that Senate sources
say the White House vigorously resisted.

A senior administration official, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity, said in an interview that
Bush essentially got what he asked for in a
different formulation that allows both sides to
maintain that their concerns were addressed
. "We
kind of take the scenic route, but we get there," the
official said.

The New York Times editorial board is suitably pissed:
On other issues [than defendants seeing
evidence against them, which the Administration is
already backing out of
], the three rebel senators
achieved only modest improvements on the White House’s
original positions. They wanted to bar evidence
obtained through coercion. Now, they have agreed to
allow it if a judge finds it reliable (which coerced
evidence hardly can be) and relevant to guilt or
innocence. The way coercion is measured in the bill,
even those protections would not apply to the
prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

The deal does next to nothing to stop the president
from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. While the
White House agreed to a list of “grave breaches” of
the conventions that could be prosecuted as war
crimes, it stipulated that the president could decide
on his own what actions might be a lesser breach of
the Geneva Conventions and what interrogation
techniques he considered permissible. It’s not clear
how much the public will ultimately learn about those
decisions. They will be contained in an executive
order that is supposed to be made public, but Mr.
Hadley reiterated that specific interrogation
techniques will remain secret.

Even before the compromises began to emerge, the
overall bill prepared by the three senators had fatal
flaws. It allows the president to declare any
foreigner, anywhere, an “illegal enemy combatant”
using a dangerously broad definition, and detain him
without any trial. It not only fails to deal with the
fact that many of the Guantánamo detainees are not
terrorists and will never be charged, but it also
chokes off any judicial review.

Digby has a nice summary:
So the good news is that these fine
Republicans were all able to sit in Dick Cheney's
Senate office and hash out what "amount of time that a
detainee's suffering must last before the treatment
amounts to a war crime" in the last three days. We can
sleep better tonight knowing that they decided that
the suffering must do "serious and non-transitory
mental harm, which need not be prolonged." Excellent.
And now we know that "cruel or inhuman treatment" that
would constitute a crime under the War Crimes Act is
comprised of "techniques resulting in 'serious'
physical or mental pain, rather than 'severe.'" That's
just the kind of "clarity" they've been looking for.
On with the interrogations.

Oh and they will leave it up to the president to
decide if standing shackled naked in a cold room with
ice water splashed randomly on you for 72 hours is
torture. Or if being forced to walk around on a leash
like a dog or have fake menstrual blood smeared all
over your face is degrading. (I wonder what he'll

The best part is that they might let the prisoners see
classified evidence used against them that's been
redacted or summarized, nobody who was tortured will
be able to sue the government or hold anyone in it
legally liable and there's a nice fat habeas corpus
loophole so these embarrassingly innocent people down
in Gitmo will stay under wraps.

And from the
Washington Post editors
In short, it's hard to credit the
statement by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) yesterday that
"there's no doubt that the integrity and letter and
spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved."
In effect, the agreement means that U.S. violations of
international human rights law can continue as long as
Mr. Bush is president, with Congress's tacit assent.
If they do, America's standing in the world will
continue to suffer, as will the fight against

This is truly unbelievable. I know I've been hearing people say that St. McCain will do the big Fold, that this was all bullshit kabuki to preserve McCain's maverick reputation and make Senate Republicans look eminently reasonable going into the final stretch of the elections.

Yet I was starting to hold out hope that, for once, McCain and Co. would actually make a real stand, that their principles would prevail against electoral shenanigans. At least they might wrangle with each other too long to actually pass any legislation, I thought.

But that which those of who've watched McCain closely the last year or two feared actually happened. The Republicans stand united against fair trials and for the very things we referred to as "torture" when the
Viet Cong did them to St. John McCain the Sensible Republican.

It was all about image. Scruples had nothing to do with it.

Remember this, all you McCain fans, remember. Because every time I hear anyone say something that the Maverick is anti-torture or is "a good man" or "has morals" or "is worth voting for," I'm going to throw this in your face. He used his signature issue for electoral gain, and shamelessly pretended that he won after giving the Bush Administration the prerogative to torture people and use their confessions in kangaroo courts.

What a scumbag.

Monday, September 18, 2006

meritocracy now

From the Washington Post (c/o Digby):
After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.

This is how the Bush Administration prosecutes the War on Terrorism. These are the people we're supposed to consider the Serious Adults Who Will Protect America.

And they didn't just adopt this tactic in Iraq. Here's the Wall Street Journal on the reconstruction of New Orleans:
Congressional Republicans, backed by the White House, say they are using relief measures for the hurricane-ravaged Gulf coast to achieve a broad range of conservative economic and social policies, both in the storm zone and beyond.

Some new measures are already taking shape. In the past week, the Bush administration has suspended some union-friendly rules that require federal contractors pay prevailing wages, moved to ease tariffs on Canadian lumber, and allowed more foreign sugar imports to calm rising sugar prices. Just yesterday, it waived some affirmative-action rules for employers with federal contracts in the Gulf region.

Now, Republicans are working on legislation that would limit victims' right to sue, offer vouchers for displaced school children, lift some environment restrictions on new refineries and create tax-advantaged enterprise zones to maximize private-sector participation in recovery and reconstruction. Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would offer sweeping protection against lawsuits to any person or organization that helps Katrina victims without compensation.

"The desire to bring conservative, free-market ideas to the Gulf Coast is white hot," says Rep. Mike Pence, the Indiana Republican who leads the Republican Study Group, an influential caucus of conservative House members.

There is no such thing as Republican pragmatism. There is only wild-eyed ideology with these kooks.

I actually feel sorry for sensible, Burkean conservatives: there really is no party for you anymore. At least the Rockefeller Republicans have the Democratic Party!

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Black Knight is circling Baghdad!

Unbelievable. From AP (c/o AMERICAblog):
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi security forces will dig trenches around Baghdad and set up checkpoints along all roads leading into the city to try to reduce some of the violence plaguing the capital, the Interior Ministry said Friday.
"We will leave only 28 inlets to Baghdad while all other inlets will be blocked. Supports will be added to the trenches to hinder the movements of people and vehicles. The trenches will be under our watch," he said.

He did not have any details, but did say that there would be no concrete walls or razor wire. Khalaf also did not know how deep or wide the trenches would be.

"They will surround Baghdad," he said of the trenches.

In modern warfare, trenches are used to shield your soldiers from machine guns. What they're building is a much older technique: it's called a moat.

Ann was here

The first gubernatorial election I remember, and remember taking sides on, was in 1990. I remember a spunky, sharp-tongued woman with the beehive hairdo who looked and sounded like the quintessential Texas matron mother making Clayton Williams, a typical rich whitebread oilman who's kind had been running the show since...what, Reconstruction?..., look like a fool when she beat him despite being decidedly left of the rest of the state (and, though no one would ever admit it, a woman).

A woman who was punished at the polls 6 years later for having the sheer chutzpah to allow avowed homosexuals to serve in her administration and to feel some apprehension at the idea of executing 14-year-olds.

In her short time in office, she built an impressive record of achievements and breaking down old walls. Here is a good article on that from Salon. Yet, what I remember most about Ann Richards was that, as a speaker, she was great on her feet and sharp as a tack. Some of her highlights:

While campaigning for Governor, she was asked if she supported or opposed the death penalty. She said, "I will uphold the laws of the State of Texas." The reporter then asked, "But what would you do if the Legislature passed a bill repealing the death penalty?" to which she replied, "I would faint."

Someone told me a story about Richards and a black judge being honored at some awards dinner. As everyone was filing across and shaking their hands, one white guy showed that he was clearly uncomfortable/hiding contempt over the judge as he clumsily congratulated him. The man then looked at Ms. Richards and, not recognizing her, asked, "Well, hello darling, what are you here for?" Without missing a beat, she pointed to the judge and replied, "He's my husband."

Ann Richards on How to Be a Good Republican:
1. You have to believe that the nation's current 8-year prosperity was due to the work of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, but yesterday's gasoline prices are all Clinton's fault.
2. You have to believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own.
3. You have to be against all government programs, but expect Social Security checks on time.
4. You have to believe that AIDS victims deserve their disease, but smokers with lung cancer and overweight individuals with heart disease don't deserve theirs.
5. You have to appreciate the power rush that comes with sporting a gun.
6. You have to believe...everything Rush Limbaugh says.
7. You have to believe that the agricultural, restaurant, housing and hotel industries can survive without immigrant labor.
8. You have to believe God hates homosexuality, but loves the death penalty.
9. You have to believe society is color-blind and growing up black in America doesn't diminish your opportunities, but you still won't vote for Alan Keyes.
10. You have to believe that pollution is OK as long as it makes a profit.
11. You have to believe in prayer in schools, as long as you don't pray to Allah or Buddha.
12. You have to believe Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde were really faithful husbands.
13. You have to believe speaking a few Spanish phrases makes you instantly popular in the barrio.
14. You have to believe that only your own teenagers are still virgins.
15. You have to be against government interference in business, until your oil company, corporation or Savings and Loan is about to go broke and you beg for a government bail out.
16. You love Jesus and Jesus loves you and, by the way, Jesus shares your hatred for AIDS victims, homosexuals, and President Clinton.
17. You have to believe government has nothing to do with providing police protection, national defense, and building roads.
18. You have to believe a poor, minority student with a disciplinary history and failing grades will be admitted into an elite private school with a $1,000 voucher.

I'm pretty sure that every liberal Texan's love for Molly Ivins is founded upon the apparition of Ann Richards still jaunting around somewhere in their psyche. There was a lot of hope for the Lone Star State in those days, now seemingly so long ago.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

the real lesson of Lamont/Chafee

M.J. Rosenberg at TPMCafe catches something in the Ned Lamont and Linc Chafee wins that everyone else in the media seems to have missed in all the hoopla about incumbents and liberals and George McGovern (where do they come up with this shit?).

Both candidates are anti-Iraq War.

Lamont's case is obvious, but it's easy to forget that Chafee was the lone Republican vote against the Iraq War.

stealing elections in under 1 minute!

Scary. Here's a video of Princeton researchers rigging a Diebold voting machine in less than 60 seconds.

Go the Youtube. Uprate this video. Show it to everyone you know. If you live in a district that uses it, write your congressman. And your senators. And your state senators and state reps. And your mayor. And your local news.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

blogospheric self-regulation

For some rubbernecking, The Office-style fun, check out the hoopla over this post from Avedon, guest posting on Eschaton. It's a good point that he quotes:
The American Airlines ticket agent who checked in Mohammed Atta on 9/11 later committed suicide - unlike the man in charge who, being briefed on the potential threat, told his briefer, "Okay, you’ve covered your ass."

Yet, it makes Brendan Nyhan at the American Prospect have an acute attack of cranial-rectum inversion syndrome (which, in full disclosure, happens occasionally here on the Ranch as well). Apparently, aside from mistaking Avedon for Atrios and saying that Atrios approved of said quote above, he titles his post "Liberal bloggers politicize a suicide" and quips:
Is nothing sacred? And do they want Bush to commit suicide out of remorse, as the post suggests? This is just vile.

His point is asinine, the kind of Chris Matthews "Gotcha" that assumes the speaker actually meant the most inflammatory interpretation you could possibly tease out of a certain quote, combined with the New Republic's annoying habit of quoting one or two bloggers (usually out of context or culled from comment threads) and implying that all liberal bloggers are saying X. And he is appropriately beaten senseless for it in the comments, starting with a response from Atrios himself:
Leaving aside your other usual reading comprehension issues, I didn't write the post.

God you're an idiot Brendan.

That sets the tone for the rest of the comments, and Nyhan ends up having to retract or alter nearly the entirety of his post.

Nyhan then becomes Atrios' Wanker of the Day.

This is why blogging can be a scary thing-- you have to be thick-skinned, just in case someone with a readership the size of Atrios' catches you in a Moron Moment.


This is for all you people who, like me, read The Trial or 1984 or Darkness at Noon and were actually frightened by them. From The San Francisco Chronicle (c/o Glenn Greenwald):
Two relatives of a Lodi man who was convicted of supporting terrorists have been cleared to return home from a long trip to Pakistan, ending a five-month standoff in which the U.S. citizens were told they had to cooperate with the FBI to get off the government's no-fly list, a federal law enforcement official said Tuesday.

"There's been a change," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity and would not detail the reason for the move, which was made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Lodi residents Muhammad Ismail, a 45-year-old naturalized citizen born in Pakistan, and his 18-year-old son, Jaber Ismail, who was born in the United States, were never charged with a crime. But they are the uncle and cousin of Hamid Hayat, 23, who was convicted in April of supporting terrorists by attending a Pakistani training camp and is awaiting sentencing.

The most striking aspect of this entire travesty was the sheer lawlessness of it. There was never any document issued to these citizens or their lawyers stating what the restrictions were or the basis for them. Instead, they were given multiple inconsistent explanations as to why they were barred from returning -- all delivered orally and informally by a shifting mix of airline security agents and representatives of the FBI. They were essentially trapped in some caricature of a Kafka nightmare where they were barred by unseen powers from returning to their country without any explanation as to what, if anything, they did to provoke that punishment and without being able even to know for certain who imposed the punishment.

The Republicans hate us for our freedom.

the threat from Al Qaeda

Digby sez:
I just heard Tucker Carlson casually say that he told his "lesbian leftist friend" (probably Rachel Maddow), "when al Qaeda takes over you'll be the first one hung up by your thumbs."

I would really love to hear by what scenario these piddling chickenhawks see al Qaeda "taking over" the United States of America. Super secret laser beams from Mars? How?

What children these people are.

I think this is a point that should be obvious, but is not for far too many people in this country. Put another way, here's Josh Marshall's take:
The point is that al Qaida itself does not pose an existential threat to our civilization. It can kill hundreds or even thousands of us. There's the outside chance of a catastrophic attack perhaps with hundreds of thousands of death, though most of the people Fallows spoke to think that it's far, far harder for al Qaida to get, say, a nuclear device than people imagine, particularly with the reduced means of al Qaida today. But if al Qaida itself doesn't threaten our civilization itself, our possible reactions to al Qaida's threat do. This is a elementary point about assymetrical warfare and the ways that a relatively weak group like al Qaida can leverage our own tremendous power against us.

This seems persuasive to me as an argument and it also seems borne out by the evidence of the last five years.

Our geopolitical and diplomatic posture certainly seems diminished. And I don't think there's any question that our military capacity has been reduced, both in the concrete sense of the grinding down of preparedness that has taken place in Iraq and also in the way that the limits of our military power has been displayed in that disastrous endeavor. Perhaps most of all though, I wonder about what we have allowed to happen to our national character.

There is no country or militant group on the planet that can destroy America, or topple our government, or abolish our way of life except our own. Only we have the capacity to do that.

And that's precisely what George Bush and co. have been doing these last 6 years.

Edward R. Murrow once said that we are not descended from fearful men. Yet the Bush Administration specifically and intentionally uses a type of rhetoric to instill fear in the American people. Of course, they also use a number of policies to achieve that end (our ridiculous color-coded terror alert comes to mind-- quick quiz: of course you know that we have spent lots of time on terror level: red (severe) through yellow (elevated), but how many days have we spent on terror level green (guarded) or blue (low)? Think about the shape of an egg for a hint). But that's really not an end, it's a means. Then what is the end, you might wonder?

The end is always the same in these stories: it's power. People-oppressing, freedom-annihilating slippery-slope power. Perhaps that sounds alarmist, but you tell me: if the president gets what he's already openly fighting for, if his unitary executive theory wins out and the president gains the power to selectively make or break the law in wartime (and in the kind of "War on Terror" type wartime that lasts many decades), including laws enshrined in the Constitution, international treaties and congressional statute, along with the ability to punish or imprison both foreigners and American citizens for indefinite periods of time and without due process of law, how, exactly, would this still be a free society?

That is why, as many before me have said, the national discussion on the threat of terrorism and Iraq and Iran and Syria and appropriate solutions to said threats is deeply unserious. It's because we have no sense of perspective when it comes to these questions, and those sober personalities who dare to try and give us that perspective are aggressively challenged and talked down by the clowns in charge.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ethnic Rally

From the campaign website of conservative favorite and Republican presidential hopeful George Allen:

You know it's bad when this Texan laughs at the f&%king rube Virginians have voted for over and over again. That there's a level of dumbassitude I wasn't expecting even from Senator Felix Macaca.

Worst. President. Ever.

Here is a long but great article from Salon taking a slightly different tack on W. Instead of Bush the Idiot, it offers us the exploits of Bush the Extremist. The writer also brings in an array of quotes, events, and rage-inducing (furiferous?) plots that you may have forgotten, making lots of interesting connections and weaving all the cacophony of the last 6 years into a mostly compelling narrative.

I, for instance, had forgotten that Bush's national security team met to discuss an invasion of Iraq 10 days after his first inauguration. And that the idea of a presidential signing statement was devised by none other than Rehnquist-aide Samuel Alito during the Reagan Administration.

There's one particular idea I've been hearing a lot of people bounce around lately, and that's neoconservatives as the intellectuals heirs of the Leninists/Trotskyites of the 20th century. Like totalitarians without a social conscience, I guess. But wouldn't that just make them run-of-the-mill authoritarians, even (in W's case) monarchists?

Not that it's not still an apt comparison, of course.

Monday, September 11, 2006

the war is over in 1/3 of Iraq... and the US lost

From The Washington Post:
The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.
One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost."

Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Quite the Sunday bombshell, isn't it? We may have now lost the Iraq War in one of the provinces.

And how big is Anbar province, you may be wondering?

The same guys who screwed this pooch wanna take us to Iran now, too!

Had enough? Support the Democrats.

the "peacetime" constitution

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
UC Berkeley law Professor John Yoo, who as a Justice Department lawyer was one of the Bush administration's chief legal theorists, summarized its view in his forthcoming book, "War by Other Means":

"We are used to a peacetime system in which Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them. In wartime, the gravity shifts to the executive branch.''

I'm pretty sure the fact that Separation of Powers only applies when we're not at war with anyone or anything will be news to EVERY F&#KING CONSTITUTIONAL LAWYER IN THE COUNTRY.

It sure was to Glenn Greenwald, who is also a constitutional lawyer:
The Constitution is actually pretty clear on that score. Article I says "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States" -- Article II says the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" -- Article III says "the judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in . . . inferior Courts." That arrangement isn't really a side detail or something that shifts based on circumstance. It's pretty fundamental to the whole system. In fact, if you change that formula, it actually isn't the American system of government anymore.

John Yoo (Mr. "Shifting Gravity," above) is the guy who provided the intellectual backing to Bush's "Unitary Executive" theory (the one about how the president becomes Supreme Overlord of the Universe whenever he decides it's time of war). This is the guy that the Republican White House thinks is the cream of the crop of America's constitutional scholars. The guy who thinks Separation of Powers is a thing of the past.

This will be the prevailing view in our government until the Republicans get booted out of office. And not one second before.

9/11 exploited

On my RSS for the Washington Post:
Bush Honors 9/11 Anniversary - 10 hours ago
Worried CIA Officers Buy Legal Insurance - 10 hours ago
Bush Joins in 9/11 Moment of Silence - 20 minutes ago
Moments of Silence Mark 9/11 Crashes - 23 minutes ago
In Crises, People Tend to Live, or Die, Together - 10 hours ago

That's 4 stories about or referencing 9/11, and one about CIA officers preparing to get sued for torturing people.

I'd say that sums up our current media (and political) environment pretty well.

what we have to look forward to

From Andrew Sullivan at TIME:
Next week, I'm informed via troubled White House sources, will see the full unveiling of Karl Rove's fall election strategy. He's intending to line up 9/11 families to accuse McCain, Warner and Graham of delaying justice for the perpetrators of that atrocity, because they want to uphold the ancient judicial traditions of the U.S. military and abide by the Constitution. He will use the families as an argument for legalizing torture, setting up kangaroo courts for military prisoners, and giving war crime impunity for his own aides and cronies. This is his "Hail Mary" move for November; it's brutally exploitative of 9/11; it's pure partisanship; and it's designed to enable an untrammeled executive. Decent Republicans, Independents and Democrats must do all they can to expose and resist this latest descent into political thuggery. If you need proof that this administration's first priority is not a humane and effective counter-terror strategy, but a brutal, exploitative path to retaining power at any price, you just got it.

Digby predicts the conscientious conservative trio are going to do what the Prez's would-be opposition has been doing for 6 years now: go on TV and get up on their high horse, bemoaning the direction the president is taking our country in, and then go into the Capitol Building and fold like a cheap suit.

I'm just surprised Arlen Specter didn't take another opportunity to slide up to the cameras and do his faux vertebrate finger-wagging act. Admittedly, he's still not finished pushing his FISA evisceration bill (no seriously, it makes the president's pursuit of a FISA warrant to wiretap Americans optional). I guess he can only cave on one principle at a time.

a quick note on tomorrow

It's unfortunate that the 5 year "anniversary" of 9/11 falls on a midterm. It's even more unfortunate that it falls on a midterm in which the Republicans stand to lose, and lose big.

Watch out for all the hype and pseudo-solemn occasions drummed up to scare the shit out of you and make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the glory days of King W. It's going to be ugly, it's going to be crass and it's going to be utterly and completely craven. And there's going to be A LOT of it.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

boycott Disney

Well, they did it. Disney (via their proxy, ABC) aired, commercial-free, 3 hours of conservative Republican propaganda today, while taking a dump on the graves of 3,000 people and wiping afterwards with their (and ABC's) credibility (Tim Rutten at the LA Times refers to "the smoking ruin that is ABC's reputation). The Walt Disney Co. has officially taken sides in the election and has joined with Turdblossom in his attempts to fool Americans through lies and deception (please turn to your copy of Karl Rove's The Republican Party Guide to Winning Elections, p. 218, to the entry titled "Swaying the Low-Information Voter").

The reviews are, umm, mixed. I love this one from the Chicago Sun-Times:
I once sat in a car forever waiting for my mom to come out of a grocery store. I thought that was the definition of "interminable." I had no idea "The Path to 9/11" was in my future.

This is what happens during 4 1/2 lonnnng hours of "Path." Terrorists talk about killing Americans for Allah. FBI and other security officials try to track them but fail. 9/11 happens.

You don’t say.

This is the most anticlimactic, tension-free movie in the history of terrorist TV.

It’s hard to fathom a brouhaha brewed over such a bore. ABC has received tens of thousands of letters — including one from Bill Clinton’s office — insisting "Path" is wildly inaccurate and should not air. But ABC still plans to air the two-part movie.

Controversy could boost viewership, except "Path" is the dullest, worst-shot TV movie since ABC’s disastrous "Ten Commandments" remake. It substitutes shaky handheld cameras and dumb dialogue for craftsmanship. It could not be more amateurish or poorly constructed unless someone had forgotten to light the sets.

An appalling secondary concern is the tone makes almost every pre-9/11 American look like a fool.

Look, there’s a security guard yawning while terrorists plant the 1993 bomb at the World Trade Center. How dare a security guard work while tired.

Oh, hey, there’s an airline agent checking in a 9/11 terrorist even though he has a carry-on bag. Stupid airline agents.

Excuse us all, writer Cyrus Nowrasteh and director David L. Cunningham, for not acting like Hitler Youth in the glory days before ordinary Americans knew commercial planes could be turned into missiles.



Interestingly, in this week's Sunday Post was a report that W, unlike Clinton, was demonstrably distracted from the hunt for bin Laden:
On the videotape obtained by the CIA, bin Laden is seen confidently instructing his party how to dig holes in the ground to lie in undetected at night. A bomb dropped by a U.S. aircraft can be seen exploding in the distance. "We were there last night," bin Laden says without much concern in his voice. He was in or headed toward Pakistan, counterterrorism officials think.

That was December 2001. Only two months later, Bush decided to pull out most of the special operations troops and their CIA counterparts in the paramilitary division that were leading the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for war in Iraq, said Flynt L. Leverett, then an expert on the Middle East at the National Security Council.

"I was appalled when I learned about it," said Leverett, who has become an outspoken critic of the administration's counterterrorism policy. "I don't know of anyone who thought it was a good idea. It's very likely that bin Laden would be dead or in American custody if we hadn't done that."

As with the rest of reality, the true story's exactly backwards from the Disney/ABC version.


WASHINGTON - There’s no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaida, according to a Senate report issued Friday on prewar intelligence that Democrats say undercuts President Bush’s justification for invading Iraq.

Bush administration officials have insisted on a link between the Iraqi regime and terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Intelligence agencies, however, concluded there was none.
It discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam’s government “did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates.”

Bush and other administration officials have said that the presence of Zarqawi in Iraq before the war was evidence of a connection between Saddam’s government and al-Qaida. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in June this year.

Meanwhile, in fantasyland:
Rice, giving a series of interviews ahead of the fifth anniversary of the September 11 Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States, brushed aside a recently released US intelligence report (PDF) saying there was no evidence Saddam's regime was helping Al-Qaeda obtain such arms.

"There were ties between Iraq and Al-Qaeda," she said on Fox News Sunday.

And in the Oval Office in Fantasyland:
As recently as two weeks ago, President Bush said at a news conference that Mr. Hussein "had relations with Zarqawi.''

No wonder 40+% of the American people still believe there was a relationship. That number includes everyone in the White House.


FOOTBALL!! or, Penn Splat

Well, it looks like people are going to be singing a different tune about Brady Quinn this week, as Notre Dame beat the everlovin' dogshit out of Penn State 41-17. The game was actually a lot more one-sided than the score would indicate, as Penn St. scored 2 touchdowns after both teams benched their starters and brought out the B team. So yes, when Brady left the field today, it was 41-3. Our D is for real this year.

The big game of the day, of course, was #1 Ohio St. vs. #2 Texas, which the Buckeyes won handily. I was routing for the 'Horns, but this wasn't exactly a surprise. On the other hand, I was actually impressed with the young Texas QB with the ridiculously stereotypical name (Colt McCoy? come on, you know he made that up). He hasn't figured out how to inspire confidence in his teammates yet, but that will come as he earns their trust, and in the meantime he showed he has the accuracy, power, and poise under pressure to lead a bigtime time. He's gonna be great in a couple of years, no question about it.

In other news, at this point Tech is in overtime against freakin' UTEP. WTF? Leave it to Tech to screw the pooch in one of their early season snoozers.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Swaying the Low-Information Voter"

You may have heard by now about the upcoming ABC movie The Path to 9/11 that they plan to air without commercials on Sept. 10 and 11. There may be some things about the movie you haven't heard about, however, like the fact that it's conservative propaganda, about as factual as Team America: World Police:
They got the small stuff wrong such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed instructing Ahmed Rassam to carry out the millenium attacks. Then they got the big stuff wrong, this fantasy about how we had a CIA officer and the Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Massoud looking at Bin Laden and they breathlessly call the White House to say we need to take him out and the White House said no. I mean it’s sheer fantasy. So, if they want to critique the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, based on fact, I think that’s fine. But what ABC has done here is something straight out of Disney and fantasyland. It’s factually wrong. And that’s shameful.

That was from a Bush Administration anti-terror official. Here's more from Digby on that keystone episode of the movie:
As most of you have probably read by now, the movie features an entirely fabricated scene --- and it's a doozy. Here's Rush Limbaugh gleefully describing it:

"So the CIA, the Northern Alliance, surrounding a house where bin Laden is in Afghanistan, they’re on the verge of capturing, but they need final approval from the Clinton administration in order to proceed.

So they phoned Washington. They phoned the White House. Clinton and his senior staff refused to give authorization for the capture of bin Laden because they’re afraid of political fallout if the mission should go wrong, and if civilians were harmed…Now, the CIA agent in this is portrayed as being astonished. “Are you kidding?” He asked Berger over and over, “Is this really what you guys want?”

Berger then doesn’t answer after giving his first admonition, “You guys go in on your own. If you go in we’re not sanctioning this, we’re not approving this,” and Berger just hangs up on the agent after not answering any of his questions."

Richard Clarke vociferously denies that this ever happened and it is most definitely not part of the 9/11 commission report. This is apparently a key scene, perhaps the most important scene in the movie, in that it indicts the Clinton administration for being too soft and weak to take out bin Laden when they had the chance. Rush certainly does seem to love it. Unfortunately, it just ain't true.

Greenwald, who is very quickly becoming my favorite online voice, has a great post exposing the notion of Clinton's inattention to Al Qaeda as demonstrably revisionist. I strongly suggest you read it for yourself.

As the last couple of days have gone on, the story just kept getting weirder and weirder. We found out that ABC sent copies of the movie to Rush Limbaugh and various rightwing bloggers, like Hugh Hewitt, to vet the movie (Rush just luuuuved it, if that tells you anything), yet didn't send it to any progressive voices or bloggers, or any Democrats for that matter. Then we found out that they didn't even vet the movie with any of the Democrats on the 9/11 commission, which the movie claims to be based upon, nor did they show it to President Clinton, Sandy Berger, or Madeline Albright, 3 people ferociously vilified in it. When Clinton's office requested a copy, they refused him.

And when confronted about the gross inaccuracies in the movie, ABC responds that it is "a dramatization, not a documentary, drawn from a variety of sources, including the 9/11 commission report, other published materials and from personal interviews."

In other words, it's not so much the truth about 9/11 as "Law and Order: 9/11." Don't tell that to the kids who are being shown the movie as teaching material, however.

Don't like that ABC is polluting the midterms with pro-Bush propaganda? Then do something about it.

Even just calling your ABC affiliate and raising Hell would do a lot of good.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Ahh, it's that time of year again! Saturday was the beginning of the NCAA football season, when seemingly every team in the country takes the opportunity to kick the dogshit out of the someone lower in the pecking order, as Tech did with SMU, and Texas with North Texas. In fact, it looks like the only 2 exceptions to this rule were California (who foolishly thought they could whip up on Tennessee; even when the Vols are on a rebuilding year, you better bring your A-game to that one or you're gonna get embarrassed) and Notre Dame (as every year).

One of the things I love about Irish football is that ND doesn't believe in padding their schedule with early season cupcakes like other teams do; there aren't gonna be any Indiana States or Florida Internationals on the list. Sure, we play the military teams this year, but Notre Dame has a long, long history of playing those teams, good or not. And frankly, the sheer pageantry of those games makes it worth it.

The downside to ND's schedule, however, is early season scares like we had on Saturday. I'm rarely right when I talk about football, but even I knew that Georgia Tech, a team that last season beat Auburn and Miami-- at Auburn and at Miami-- wasn't going to be a pushover. Why everyone expected a blowout is beyond me.

Despite some disappointments with the game, like Quinn's maddening (and very much new) tendency to overthrow his receivers, there were 2 things about the game I found promising. One was the performance of the Irish defense, as everyone has noted. The other, less talked about, observation I had was the lack of turnovers. In fact, the utter lack of turnovers (there were 0 on either side). On the one hand, it may show a D that has forgotten how to cause them, but it definitely shows an offense that could keep them under control despite extreme pressure and frustration. It shows patience and poise. The Brady bunch had faith that their teammates and coaches would figure this team out in time, and didn't try to force big plays. And sure enough, by the end of the first half the adjustments had been made, and it was all over for Georgia Tech.

labor day

Sorry people. I just had to unplug for the weekend (just long enough to earn myself a tetanus shot, apparently). We have quite a bit on the menu, however, from an ABC special to more on racist Senator George Allen's capitol hill shenanigans to a couple of great posts over the weekend from Greenwald et al.

And of course, over on 'Round the Bend I'll be blathering on about IN-02, including some new Count verbal bloopers and more on the ad blitz by the Count and his special interest bedfellows. I'll also start talking more about the man of the season himself, Joe Donnelly.