It's been more than four decades since Arlen Specter, senator from Pennsylvania, earned the nickname "Specter the Defector." With his decision this week to leave the Republican Party, he confirmed that it is indeed an accurate description of his political character.
I was a kid reporter for the New York Times back in 1965, when Specter's flip-flopping first attracted attention, and the report I filed recounts the circumstances that led to his unflattering nickname.
Specter, then a Democrat, had been an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, and he harbored an ambition to run against his lackluster boss, James Crumlish. The Democratic bosses of Philadelphia were not encouraging Specter because, as one of them told me, "We don't want another young Tom Dewey," the reform-minded New York prosecutor who launched himself into the governorship and two presidential nominations by sending a string of prominent officeholders of both parties off to jail.
So Specter, with the encouragement of such prominent Pennsylvania Republicans as Sen. Hugh Scott and Gov. William Scranton, said he would run against Crumlish on the GOP ticket. To hedge his bets, and to help himself gain Democratic votes, he waited until he won the race to change his party registration.
Specter is hardly the only politician willing to do anything to stay in, or to accumulate more, power. But as Broder says, it's all good as long as the Dems know what kind of "team player" they're regaining:
But much as Specter's decision reflects an increasingly serious weakness in the Republican Party, there is no escaping the fact that it is also an opportunistic move by one of the most opportunistic politicians of modern times.
The one consistency in the history of Arlen Specter has been his willingness to do whatever will best protect and advance the career of Arlen Specter.
Harry Reid, who's not shown himself to be the strongest cat in the kennel, should be forewarned. Watch this guy. Meanwhile, top Senate Dems, who know him well, tell Specter in advance: hands off our seniority.
Eric Cantor has come up with a bold, new idea: take the same old Republicans who got the party into this mess, and build a brand new organization around them to sell the public on putting them back in power ... with town halls! Brilliant...
Jeff Zeleny is in his own way, a freakin' genius, having produced the most interesting moment of the night ... and Obama thinks damned fast on his feet, using deft debate technique (writing it down, thinking through the next answer while answering the current one, etc. ...) to explain what has "enchanted" him most about the presidency so far...
Obama still prefers to be a generalist when answering questions specific to Black America. (And the Chyron guys at MSNBC didn't know who Andrew Showell is (he's from BET. I didn't know either until this morning, because I don't watch BET...) probably because the administration understands the dangers that still lurk in his being perceived as the "Black president" rather than the American president. Still, the communications team should come up with a lexicon that works.
The president skillfully explained why his government has intervened so heavily in the auto industry, and expressed hope for Chrysler's survival ... (he'll talk more about the automakers at noon today.)
He pronounced "nuclear" correctly, as "nuclear" and Pakistan as "Pah-kee-stahn" not "Paak-i-staan" (like Aflak).
And unline his predecessor, he didn't embarrass either himself or us with stupid fraternity-style nicknames and razzing of the press corps.
The other important moment in the press conference came when President Obama invoked none other than Winston Churchill to explain why the U.S. should not be in the business ot torturing people (and in doing so, he stated clearly what waterboarding is.) Per the Times of London:
President Obama last night waded back into the bitter controversy over the CIA’s harsh interrogation of terror suspects by declaring clearly that the waterboarding authorised by the Bush Administration was torture.
In a White House press conference, Mr Obama said that the simulated drowning technique used repeatedly on detainees such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had violated “our ideals and our values”.
He added: “I do believe that it is torture. I don't think that's just my opinion; that's the opinion of many who've examined the topic. And that's why I put an end to these practices.”
... Citing the experience of Britain in the Second World War, “when London was being bombed to smithereens”, he pointed out that Winston Churchill had refused to allow torture of 200 German detainees because to have done so would have corroded “the character of a country”.
And while some at the Huffpo are crediting Brit Andrew Sullivan for the Obama reference, the Times says the credit for the original article goes to one of their writers, Ben McIntyre:
The President cited an article he'd read,
"talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees, and Churchill said, 'We don't torture,'".
"As Britain's very survival hung in the balance, as women and children were being killed on a daily basis and London turned into rubble, Churchill nonetheless knew that embracing torture was the equivalent of surrender to the barbarism he was fighting."
Charlie Crist isn't even officially running for Senate yet (okay, yeah, we all know that lady he's married to ain't staying in Tallahassee, so he's running...) but the DSCC is already attacking him for allegedly bailing on the state when times get tough. Peep the ad (HT to Politico):
More than half (57%) of Florida voters say it is at least somewhat likely they would vote for Republican Gov. Charlie Crist in the state's United States Senate race in 2010. That figure includes 23% who say they are Very Likely to do so.
The DSCC's heart was in the right place when it produced this "wrecking ball" ad attacking Republican Senators. But note which Senator they highlighted as "voting against a bill to help struggling homeowners..."
It's almost obligatory that everyone comment on the president's first 100 days in office, so here goes. I agree with Joe Klein that so far, President Obama has done an admirable job, and set himself on a course to be a more than consequential president. He hit the ground running, quickly reversed several bad Bush policies on the environment, stem cell research, Gitmo and Iraq, passed a massive stimulus bill which, while it could have packed more punch, clearly packed enough to get both consumer confidence and the stock market growing again, and to call a halt to the once precipitous slide in the U.S. economy. Things haven't turned around yet, but the fall is much less steep, and most people at least believe we're on the right track. His poll numbers are outstanding, 8 in 10 Americans just plain like the guy (even more like his wife,) and he has quickly and deftly set aside the opposition party as a serious player in the game in Washington.
Showing an ability to use both charm and forcefulness as needed, Obama beat back the pirate debacle, turned around our image around the world, wowed Europe (with a lot of help from Michelle) and set the table for a new start in relations with the Middle East and Latin America. He returned home to a country that is more hopeful now than it has been in nearly half a dozen years. Obama has been helped by the weakness and increasing derangement of his opponents, who have gone so far off the cliff that it's not clear they can be pulled back (even after losing Arlen Specter, and with it, their Senate fillibuster.) Most important, he has been a man of action, and that in the end, is what the country needs and wants. Whether on swine flu, or Gitmo, Iraq, Pakistan, hemispheric relations or the economy, the president has tackled the problems that President Bush left for him quickly and assertively, and made Americans feel that someone is actually at the helm of the ship again.
The biggest disappointment so far has been on the subject of torture and secrecy, where the president has seemed to prefer to either prop up or sweep past the crimes of the Bush administration, and simply "move on." And while I think Amnesty International is being a bit too harsh when it says that the administration has sent a mixed message on human rights, there will be no moving on when it comes to torture, or the detainees at Gitmo and other U.S. prison facilities, and I suspect Obama will have to face the past, and deal with what was done by his predecessor, like it or not. Another disappointment has been on Wall Street, where the president's team seems so stacked with Goldman Sachs alum, that they can't bear to really take on the Big Boys in NYC.
Remarkably, one of the things that hasn't confronted Obama as yet, is race, which has faded so quickly from the conversation that you've almost got to remind yourself from time to time that he is the "first Black president." Whether it's through his own force of personality, America's cultural maturing, or the myriad crises that have taken precedence, race has been a surprisingly neutral factor in Obama's first 100 days as president. I think that's a good thing. Many black leaders probably do not.
Overall, I give him an A for strong effort, a B for execution, and an A- for message. And I give him an A+ for bringing on Rahm Emanuel, who has proved to be an effective operator on the Hill.
In case you missed it, the New Yorker's Hendrik Herzberg makes the case for secession:
For the old country, the benefits would be obvious. A more intimately sized Congress would briskly enact sensible gun control, universal health insurance, and ample support for the arts, the humanities, and the sciences. Although Texas itself has been a net contributor to the Treasury—it gets back ninety-four cents for each dollar it sends to Washington—nearly all the other potential F.S. states, especially the ones whose politicians complain most loudly about the federal jackboot, are on the dole. (South Carolina, for example, receives $1.35 on the dollar, as compared with Illinois’s seventy-five cents.) Republicans would have a hard time winning elections for a generation or two, but eventually a responsible opposition party would emerge, along the lines of Britain’s Conservatives, and a normal alternation in power could return.
The Federated States, meanwhile, could get on with the business of protecting the sanctity of marriage, mandating organized prayer sessions and the teaching of creationism in schools, and giving the theory that eliminating taxes increases government revenues a fair test. Although Texas and the other likely F.S. states already conduct some eighty-six per cent of executions, their death rows remain clogged with thousands of prisoners kept alive by meddling judges. These would be rapidly cleared out, providing more prison space for abortion providers. Although there might be some economic dislocation at first, the F.S. could remedy this by taking advantage of its eligibility for OPEC membership and arranging a new “oil shock.” Failing that, foreign aid could be solicited from Washington. But the greatest benefit would be psychological: freed from the condescension of metropolitan élites and Hollywood degenerates, the new country could tap its dormant creativity and develop a truly distinctive Way of Life.
And Sarah Palin could finally rule! Texas, are you listening?
The Club for Shrinkage: Olympia Snowe schools the GOP
In a NYT op-ed today, Sen. Olympia Snowe, one of just two remaining Northeastern Republicans in the Senate, makes it plain: the Republican Party is shrinking away to nothingness:
It is true that being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of “Survivor” — you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe. But it is truly a dangerous signal that a Republican senator of nearly three decades no longer felt able to remain in the party.
... I have said that, without question, we cannot prevail as a party without conservatives. But it is equally certain we cannot prevail in the future without moderates.
In that same vein, I am reminded of a briefing by a prominent Republican pollster after the 2004 election. He was asked what voter groups Republicans might be able to win over. He responded: women in general, married women with children, Hispanics, the middle class in general, and independents.
How well have we done as a party with these groups? Unfortunately, the answer is obvious from the results of the last two elections. We should be reaching out to these segments of our population — not de facto ceding them to the opposing party.
There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party. Ideological purity is not the ticket back to the promised land of governing majorities — indeed, it was when we began to emphasize social issues to the detriment of some of our basic tenets as a party that we encountered an electoral backlash.
It's worse than that. The Republican Party has so many litmus tests, and so many contradictory philosophies (pro torture and domestic surveillance, reading of people's mail and monitoring their phone calls and email, but supposedly pro individual liberty; for government control over pregnancy and research, but also "pro freedom," for zeroing out taxes for the rich, but supposedly "for the little guy" too; against big government but for big government handouts to corporations, and on and on...) it's almost impossible to qualify for membership. Hispanics are not welcome. Attacking black people is part of the fun. The elderly shouldn't' get Social Security, and women should remain under the firm control of the state, but both are crucial constituencies at election time. As a result, losing Arlen Specter is the least of the party's troubles, as Avi Zenilman of the New Yorker points out:
... the number of Republicans are shrinking, and almost sixty per cent of independents support Obama. “There’s no doubt that the G.O.P. has lost about a third of the identifiers it had six years ago,” Michael Dimock, the associate director of the Pew Research Center, told me. In this most recent poll, Democrats outnumbered Republicans two to one. “The larger gap in approval is almost more driven by excitement among Democrats,” he added.
Dimock noted that most Republican defectors become independents—unlike Senators, civilians don’t need to join a party to keep their job. Specter is a lagging indicator; he was threatened by a primary challenger in a shrinking party, so he took his generally centrist instincts to the other side of the aisle.
This means Obama and Democrats may have less trouble passing their agenda. It also means that if things get worse under the Democrats, and Republicans come to power, then even fewer moderates stand in the way of Rush Limbaugh’s agenda.
Republicans have ZERO blacks in Congress, five Hispanics, and exactly ONE Jewish member (Eric Cantor.) They are literally a party almost exclusively for and of, southern and western white men. In other words, the GOP as a national party is fading away, and fast. And the sad thing is, even as their party is dying, they won't listen to Sen. Snowe, they'll roundly attack her, and then they'll invite her to leave the party, just like Specter. Rush and company will bid her "good riddance," and continue to disappear into an angry, white, gun hoarding ideological cave in the American South.
Michael Steele whines: he didn't even call me! ... and the now two-time loser RNC chair (after his Limbaugh agonistes and that NY-20 debacle) adds that Specter's mama didn't raise him right... (note to Steele: it's not that Specter doesn't respect you, it's that ... well ... no one does.)
The Club For Greed Growth, whose out-going president Pat Toomey is in large part responsible for this mess, is at first speechless, then downright miserable:
“Senator Specter has confirmed what we already knew – he’s a liberal devoted to more spending, more bailouts, and less economic freedom. Thanks to him, Democrats will now be able to steamroll their big government agenda through the Senate. ..."
If the Democrats do succeed in pushing through national health insurance, they really should set aside a little extra money to erect a statue to Pat Toomey. They couldn’t have done it without him!
Pat Toomey is of course the former president of the Club for Growth who planned to challenge Arlen Specter in the 2010 Pennsylvania Republican primary. Polls showed Toomey well ahead – not because he is so hugely popular in the state, but because the Pennsylvania GOP has shriveled to a small, ideologically intense core. Toomey now looks likely to gain the nomination he has sought – and then to be crushed by Specter or some other Democrat next November.
The Specter defection is too severe a catastrophe to qualify as a “wake-up call.” His defection is the thing we needed the wake-up call to warn us against! For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren’t real Republicans – that they don’t belong in the party. Now he’s gone, and with him the last Republican leverage within any of the elected branches of government.
For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) a fellow moderate, didn’t seem surprised. On the national level, she says, “you haven’t certainly heard warm encouraging words of how they [Republicans] view moderates. Either you are with us or against us.”
“Ultimately we’re heading to having the smallest political tent in history they way things are unfolding,” Snowe said. “We should have learned from the 2006 election, which I was a party of. I happened to win with 74% of the vote in a blue collar state but no one asked me how did you do it. Seems to me that would have been the first question that would have come from the Republican party to find out so we could avoid further losses.”
“I don’t want to be a member of the Club for Growth,” said Graham. “I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican party that can attract people from all corners of the country — and we can govern the country from a center-right perspective.”
“As Republicans, we got a problem,” he said.
Look, of course Specter made the switch to save his political hide. What 79-year-old do YOU know who'd want to wade back into this particular job market? Politicians exist for one reason only: re-election. And they'll do just about anything to see it done. Specter played realpolitik, and so did the Dems who wooed him. Get over it, GOPers. You've got Specter, we're still stuck with Lieberman.
Meanwhile, the WaPo's Dan Balz is among the many members of the press who are still trying to shake the GOP awake (and put an end to all that useless "RINO hunting...") Good luck with that. As former New York Gov. Pataki intimated to CQPolitics, with a few rolls of the eyeballs, you can't help a party that doesn't WANT to be helped. Case in point: RedStaters are already warning the Republican Senate Campaign Committee not to even THINK about backing the most viable GOPer probably in PA: Tom Ridge. It's purify all the way, baby. All the way to oblivion.
The WaPo culls more GOPer reaction here, including a Newt missive and a full statement from Sen. Snowe.
Housekeeping: BTW, kudos to The Fix's Chris Cillizza for breaking the story. I linked originally to a different iteration of the story, but the scoop was his.
"I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania," Specter said in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."
... Specter was being challenged by conservative former Lehigh Valley Congressman Pat Toomey, who seized on that vote and others that favored Obama's spending priorities.
... Toomey came within 17,124 votes -- out of more than 1 million cast -- of defeating Specter in the 2004 primary.
The move couldn't come at a more important time. Including Al Franken, Specter's move gives Dems the magic number in the Senate. Now, let's see if Steele can get a right winger elected in Pennsylv... oh, never mind. Happy 60!
But he also calls for a "revolution" to save the GOP from the right wing kooks who seem bent on "purifying the party" (and losing elections.) BTW, this is the second party switch for Specter, who was a Democrat through the JFK era, before he found it more electorally convenient to become a Republican. Just sayin' ...
Far be it from me to start agreeing with Matt Drudge's assistant, but Andrew Breitbart is right on this one. Perez Hilton's gutter-level attacks on Miss California were out of line. I don't care how celeb-fab you think you are, or how passionate you are about gay rights. You shouldn't get to call any woman the c-word (or the b-word for that matter,) and get away with it (how desperate was the Miss USA pageant for cool points that they put such a controversial, to say the least, celeb hunter on that dais in the first place...?) If say, Mel Gibson, or Don Imus, had called a beauty contestant, or any woman for that matter, a c---, the hew and cry would have lasted for weeks, and careers would be hanging in the balance. African-American actor Isaiah Washington lost his gig on "Gray's Anatomy," alon with his career and livelihood over an anti-gay slur that doesn't come close to the "c-word" in terms of sheer repugnance (when word leaked that he and his wife would soon be kicked out of their home, Perez cheered his misfortune...) Michael Richards, formerly of "Seinfeld," committed career suicide by using the "N-word" at a comedy club. And yet, the "Queen of Mean" gets away with his slur because ... what ... Carrie Prejean's a religous rightie? ... Because she's "just a pageant girl"...? Because ... he's gay? Well he shouldn't have gotten a pass for any reason, and shame on the media, and on my side of the political spectrum for not calling him out.
Meanwhile, while onstage, she mangled the syntax, and while there is clearly growing support for gay marriage in the U.S., and Republicans risk even further diminishing themselves by continuing to harp on it, Miss Prejean's views (and those of fellow gay movement scourge, Rick Warren,) are hardly shocking. In fact, they turn out to be precisely the same as those of the president of the United States. Remember him? And millions of religious Americans, who by no means "hate" gay people, are conflicted on the issue, indeed, many struggle sincerely with it. Are all of these people c---t's and bitches, too? Or in the vernacular of a certain British MP, maybe they should all just be killed.
Like any movement, the gay marriage cause has two sides: one reasonable and thoughtful, the other ranging from snarky and entitled to downright nasty. (Perez Hilton, it seems, belongs to the latter, and you can throw in a rather awful strain of mysogyny in his brand, too.) And yet, both sides lay claim to the civil rights movement of the 1960s (which is one reason blacks often shut down on the issue.) On that score, it's helpful to remember history with a sense of proportionality. During segregation, whites who opposed integration and "intermarriage" weren't "uncomfortable" with blacks, they wanted blacks to remain a servant class, physically separated from society and denied the basic rights of citizenship, and they held literal life and death power over an entire class of people whom many literally thought to be subhuman. Opponents of gay marriage don't want to turn gays into servants or property, they simply hold to traditional religious notions of human coupling. Not exactly equivalent. Meanwhile, the movement the gay marriage cause hopes to emulate was one Dr. King patterned after Mohandus K. Ghandi, whom I suspect would never have called even the worst of all colonialists a c---.
VAN SUSTEREN: Anything -- politics, theater, music, anything.
LIMBAUGH: Oh, gee! You know, this is when I have brain freezes. It's like asking me what my favorite movie is. Who do I admire and why? Well, you know, I...
VAN SUSTEREN: You like the Humane Society.
VAN SUSTEREN: The Humane Society.
... the only real question is, who will abjectly apologize to whom, first??? Rush, for taking the wrong side on the issue of cruelty to animals -- I mean, how could anybody who really cares about hunters be for that??? Isn't hunting by definition cruelty to animals??? And why are the black helicopters circling my house!!!! Or the hunters, who by now should know that one who is a winger doesn't speak ill of El Rushbo for long, before a very public apology is due... And by the way, why does Rush consider dog fighting to be a cruel "fountain of suffering," but waterboarding to be akin to kiteboarding with Richard Bramson?
If Charlie Parker were a blogger... big site recommend
"If Charlie Parker were a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats" is a fantastic site I stumbled across this morning, by pure accident of Google. If you love great pictures, you'll love this site. Check out their December 2006 archive, on which you'll find this classic pic of Rev. Al Sharpton and his mentor, James Brown...
And this one, of Sonny Liston taking to the canvas in 1965 (which is particularly relevant to the project I'm working on right now.)
Other great pics, including snaps of classic screen stars, rockers from the 60s on up, artists and artwork, can be viewed through the site's front door.
You'd think that given the serial bombshells that dropped from the Senate Arms Services Committee report, that the chair of that committee, whose name has become synonymous with the bombshells, would have been a prime booking for the Sunday chat shows. Instead, the debates over the "Levin Report" were confined mainly to the pundits, who were content to debate the vagueries of "politicizing policy," rather than the concrete lawbreaking and outrageous descent from civilization that torture represents.
Levin appeared on just one program: Fox News Sunday, and even there, what would seem to be the most relevant question of all was never asked. That question was framed by Frank Rich on Sunday:
The [Levin] report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful.” As higher-ups got more “frustrated” at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, “there was more and more pressure to resort to measures” that might produce that intelligence.
In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee’s memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) “Downing Street memo,” in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” A month after Bybee’s memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on “Meet the Press,” hyping both Saddam’s W.M.D.s and the “number of contacts over the years” between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.
But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus “intelligence” from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.
In short, to a show, and to a reporter, the media have treated the Levin report as if its most important finding was that waterboarding took place. Well, we already knew that. What we didn't know, and what the media has to date, almost completely erased from the coverage, is that the waterboarding was confined to so-called "high value detainees" of a very specific sort: men who the Bush administration must have considered credible witnesses to a lie (if only they could torture them enough to get them to tell it) ... namely, that an invasion of Iraq would be justified because Saddam Hussein was somehow complicit in 9/11. As Rich, who was the only member of the media, to my knowledge, who even brought up this incredible set of facts (and by the way Levin, who told Rich plainly that the torture for false information scenario was accurate, didn't bring it up on his own, either...) sums up:
Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to “protect” us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from “another 9/11,” torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House’s illegality.
And yet, that is the very possibility the media is, en masse, refusing to contemplate. You've really got to wonder why.
Well, the Sunday shows were a wash. David Gregory had a rather dull interview with Jordan's King Abdullah, whose new book sounds like a keeper. The only interesting moment: Abdullah's obvious affection for his late father as he watched a clip of the late King Hussein. Meanwhile, in the panel afterwords, we learned from two Pulitzer Prize-winning historians that well, great presidents violate American values in wartime. It's just the way it is.
On "This Week," Stephanopoulos interviewed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmenidejad, and managed to asked him the same question about a dozen different times: would he accept Israel if the Palestinians go for a two-state solution? Will he accept them in a box? With a fox? On a train? In the rain? Will he, will he? Make it plain...! The extent to which the American media (not to mention American politics) is obsessed with Israel's point of view is striking. And the extent to which the Muslim and Arab world are resistant to the pressure to bow to Israel is equally striking; witness Abdullah's repetition over and over again to a resistant David Gregory that a Palestinian state is crucial to peace, and Ahmadinejad's repetition over and over again to a resistant Stephanopoulos that the Palestinian people have rights that should be respected by the international communty. Natch.
CNN managed to get through an entire Sunday without really questioning the absurd notion that somehow, torture is a necessary evil (but only when WE do it,) and without once bringing up the now-exposed Iraq-torture connection. In fact, none of the networks brought it up. Instead, each of the Sunday shows focused on the entirely irrelevant question of whether torture got us any good intel. For the hosts of America's Most Important News Programs, torture is just another policy choice in the grand war on terror, and the debate is over politics, not legality. It's a non-debate debate that is, in a word, shameful, as is the complete rub-out of the most important news to emerge last week: that the Bush administration began torture Abu Zubaydah AFTER he gave up whatever relevant information he had, and did so at the same time the Bush administration was looking for some link -- any link -- between al-qaida and Saddam Hussein. It's a point that has been entirely erased from television since it broke last week, and as of Sunday, has been repeated by only three media personalities: Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and on Sunday, Frank Rich, who points out the following revelations from the Levin report:
The report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful.” As higher-ups got more “frustrated” at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, “there was more and more pressure to resort to measures” that might produce that intelligence.
In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee’s memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) “Downing Street memo,” in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” A month after Bybee’s memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on “Meet the Press,” hyping both Saddam’s W.M.D.s and the “number of contacts over the years” between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.
But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus “intelligence” from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.
With this kind of bombshell laid at their feet, what explains the media's refusal to cover this story? Perhaps the newsies are simply ignorant of the relevant law (presented for them here in black and white...) on torture, and so they can't make the connection in their minds to Iraq ... or perhaps they, the Washington press corps in particular, were and continue to be wholly complicit in -- even cheerleaders for -- the whole "war on terror," Iraq war adventure thing, and thus can't bring themselves to question their own beliefs. Or worse, perhaps an editorial policy has been set at the top, at each of these networks, not to talk about the big, fat elephant in the room: the probability that the Bush administration tortured "high value detainees" Pol Pot style, in order to create false "evidence" that would allow them to sell the American people on going to war in Iraq.
In related news, Andrew Sullivan declares FBI interrogator Ali Soufan a national hero. Hear hear.
And the Washington Post publishes a lengthy he-a-culpa, essentially an excused absence letter to the school of public opinion from Judge Bybee's friends, saying he's a wonderful, thoughtful man after all, who rather regrets a certain memo legalizing torture. How sweet. Now, if the Post could just get up an article abouthow John Yoo loves to pet puppies... beautiful, fluffy puppies...
Has CNN adopted an editorial policy of ignoring altogether, the finding reported last week by McClatchy, that the serial torture of "high value detainees" Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and Abu Zubaydah was done not to prevent another terrorist attack, but rather to try and extract false confessions that would tie Saddam Hussain to 9/11?
John King this morning (Sunday) had on Diane Feinstein, Lindsey Graham and the treacherous Mr. Lieberman to discuss, among other things, the release of the torture memos. Lieberman and Graham were allowed, unimpeded by King, to repeat the meme that "enhanced interrogation techniques" (torture) was used, in Graham's words, "not to commit a crime against individual people, but to save us all from another attack."
He interjected no such thing. In fact, I don't recall hearing the McClatchy story repeated on CNN in any daypart since the news broke last week. Has anyone else noticed what seems like an editorial decision to stick to the official (Bush-Cheney) narrative about torture being necessary to prevent another attack? Perhaps CNN simply doesn't believe McClatchy's sources, or maybe they don't want to open up this line of inquiry against the prior administration for reasons unknown.
(Not that NBC has been exactly aggressive, other than Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow's shows about making this point, either, but CNN seems to be particularly determined to hew to the Cheney line.)
The Washington Post yesterday went inside the debate within the Obama administration over whether to release the torture memos. A salient clip starts with remarks from former Democratic Senator David Boren of Oklahoma:
Boren, who chaired the Senate intelligence committee from 1987 to 1993 and is now president of the University of Oklahoma, said that attending the briefings was "one of the most deeply disturbing experiences I have had" and that "I wanted to take a bath when I heard it. I was ashamed of it." He said he concluded that "fear was used to justify the use of techniques that violate our values and weaken our intelligence" and that the agency did not prove those methods "are particularly effective at getting the truth."
One of those present said that when asked, the CIA officers acknowledged that some foreign intelligence agencies had refused, for example, to share information about the location of terrorism suspects for fear of becoming implicated in any eventual torture of those suspects. Sources said that Jones shared these concerns and that, as a former military officer, he worried that any use of harsh interrogations by the United States could make it more likely that American soldiers in captivity would be subjected to similar tactics.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration will release more information, in the form of photos of widespread torture and abuse of detainees, not just at Abu Ghraib, but at U.S.-run detention facilities around the world. From Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon said on Friday it will release hundreds of photographs from investigations into prisoner abuse but insisted they did not reveal a policy of mistreatment.
The Obama administration's commitment to release the pictures by May 28 could fan the flames of a political firestorm over the treatment of terrorism suspects and other detainees during George W. Bush's presidency.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced concern this week that publicizing details of U.S. interrogation practices and photographs of prisoner treatment could trigger a backlash against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The American Civil Liberties Union has spent years suing the government for the release of the pictures, which came from military investigations. The group said they showed prisoner abuse went far beyond well-known cases in Iraq and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, yet another pro-torture GOP straw man falls, as the former FBI agent who interrogated Abu Zubaydah before the CIA took over and began torturing him up to 83 times in one month, says the salient information he provided to the U.S. came during HIS interrogations, before the torture began. NPR catches Michael Hayden in a lie as he claims Zubaydah gave up Khalid Shaikh Muhammad after we started torturing him, when in fact, Zubaydah was tortured AFTER giving up the most important information he had:
one of Zubaydah's FBI interrogators, Ali Soufan, remembers it differently. Soufan wrote in The New York Times that Zubaydah talked without being coerced.
Two high-ranking former FBI sources remember it that way, too. They say that intelligence breakthroughs came before Zubaydah was subjected to harsh techniques, not after. Another person close to the interrogation, Rohan Gunaratna, has similar recollections. He is an al-Qaida expert who has worked with U.S. government agencies on terrorism issues.
"Gen. Hayden is dead wrong" about harsh techniques getting information from Zubaydah, he says. "I have tremendous respect for Gen. Hayden, but he is wrong in this case."
Tending To The Prisoner
Gunaratna and FBI agents familiar with the Zubaydah case say he was shot and near death when he was captured. FBI agents, including Soufan, tended to Zubaydah during his convalescence. The idea was partly to bond with him.
When he was well enough, the agents began showing Zubaydah pictures of suspected members of al-Qaida. When he saw a photograph of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Zubaydah apparently asked, "How do you know about Muktar?"
"We know all about Muktar," the agent said, without missing a beat. He flipped through several other photos and then went back to the picture of Mohammed.
Zubaydah looked up and added, "How did you know he was the mastermind of 9/11?"
Gunaratna says that was a critical revelation — and there were others. "In fact, most of the information that was exceptionally useful to the fight against al-Qaida came from Abu Zubaydah," he says, "and it came before the U.S. government decided to use enhanced techniques."
Torture, secret detentions and Europe strikes back
On the radar today:
It's not just Spain. Other NATO allies are considering perusing torture prosecutions against CIA and Bush administration officials if the Obama administration doesn't.
Meanwhile, British officials have released new information about the Bush administration attempts to cover up their crimes on the way out the door. In short, military prosecutors tried to pressure a former Gitmo detainee, Binyam Muhammad, into signing a plea deal that would have imprisoned him for 10 years in addition to the 7 he'd already been held, and that they tried to get him to sign a statement claiming he was NOT tortured, when he was, to promise not to sue, and to not talk to the news media.
... while Iraq continues to be a very violent place, where bombings killed scores yesterday/today, even as the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq (a group the Bush administration was kind enough to put there) is arrested.
What's going on at Apple? And who in their right mind would come up with a baby shaking game, anyway?
Lynndie England did time for Abu Ghraib while the architects walked
Given that we now know that the abuses at Abu Ghraib did indeed flow from Gitmo, and ultimately, from the Pentagon and White House (which many of us long suspected, and Gen. Janis Karpinski tried to tell us years ago, as she was being scapegoated for the Abu Ghraib outrages) should not the president now pardon the low level military personnel who took the fall for Bush administration torture policies? England, a nasty sort of gal who blamed the media for her plight, nonetheless got 3 years in prison for her part in the scandal; Army Spc. Charles Graner, England's superior at Abu Ghraib, is serving 10 years. Senior officers got relative slaps on the wrist, and Karpinski, who ran the facility, but not the interrogations, got demoted, all while the Bush administration continued to insist that it was these "bad apples" who did the dirty deeds, not them.
Now that we know better, is it time for pardons to be issued by the new president, and prosecution of the real criminals to commence? Watch Karpinski's impassioned appearance on "Countdown" last night:
The debate over the Bush administration's torture policies just got ratcheted up about 1,000 notches yesterday, when reporters, digging through the incredibly important Levin Report, discovered the following bombshell: the torture program may not have been about preventing another terror attack at all. It may, in the end, have been about trying to elicit false confessions from high value detainees that would produce "evidence" of a (non-existent) link between al-Qaida and Iraq. From McClatchy:
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that [Dick] Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.
"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.
"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."
It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.
"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder," he continued.
"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."
Senior administration officials, however, "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information," he said.
The Red Chinese-style push (the Chinese used waterboarding to elicit false confessions from American G.I.'s during the Korean war, and then we adapted their techniques, using the military program that trained our soldiers to resist the communist interrogators) to get confessions out of Zubaida and Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was approved not just by Cheney and Rumsfeld, but also by Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's National Security Advisor. From NBC News:
Rice gave a key early green light when, as President George W. Bush's national security adviser, she met on July 17, 2002, with the CIA's then-director, George J. Tenet, and "advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaida," subject to approval by the Justice Department, according to the timeline.
Still don't believe that we were using torture the same way the Maoists did? Salon reports:
Top Rumsfeld aides were already laying the groundwork for torture barely two months after the 9/11 attacks, and just weeks into the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon's general counsel's office contacted the military agency that runs the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape programs -- schools where U.S. personnel and contractors are taught how to resist abuses that prisoners of war have been through before -- in December 2001 to find out how the SERE training could help interrogators break al-Qaida suspects. Military officials at the time told top Pentagon aides that the SERE techniques produced "less reliable" information.
By the spring of 2002, Cabinet-level Bush aides -- including Rumsfeld, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, then-CIA Director George Tenet and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft -- began evaluating the CIA's plans to set up an interrogation program at Guantánamo using tactics developed by the SERE schools. The Justice Department's memos giving legal cover for the techniques were written that summer. In October 2002, military commanders at Guantánamo asked the Pentagon to okay the techniques. Uniformed military lawyers had decided they needed approval from Rumsfeld, because otherwise what was being proposed would be illegal. "It would be advisable to have permission or immunity in advance" before carrying out the interrogations, wrote a staff lawyer at the Guantánamo base, Lt. Col. Diane Beaver. Her analysis found the tactics would constitute a "per se violation" of military law, the report says.
Meanwhile, the SERE trainers who taught the CIA how to torture people (when they themselves had no experience in interrogation -- only in training soldiers to resist interrogation) wound up as contractors in Iraq, making money on the Iraq war that they were essentially hired to foment:
On April 16, 2003, Rumsfeld authorized 24 techniques at Guantánamo including sleep deprivation, messing with detainees' diets and pretending the interrogators were from a different country -- one where torture was even more acceptable -- in order to scare them into cooperating. And he told commanders to ask him for permission to use additional techniques.
From there, it was only a matter of time before the tactics spread. "The techniques -- and the fact that the Secretary had authorized them -- became known to interlocutors in Afghanistan," the Senate report says. Rumsfeld's memos authorizing dogs in Guantánamo quickly arrived at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. SERE school trainers, who had developed the interrogation techniques at Gitmo, started showing up in Afghanistan and Iraq. The techniques became standard operating procedure.
Meanwhile, we now have definitive proof that the grunts from West Virginia weren't "bad apples" who cooked up the dog leash and naked stacking policies on their own:
The report, the executive summary of which was released in November, found that Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other former senior Bush administration officials were responsible for the abusive interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld approved extreme interrogation techniques for Guantanamo in December 2002. He withdrew his authorization the following month amid protests by senior military lawyers that some techniques could amount to torture, violating U.S. and international laws.
Military interrogators, however, continued employing some techniques in Afghanistan and later in Iraq.
You begin to see why President Obama reversed course, surely knowing that now, he cannot just "look forward."
BTW, there's also a question of whether the SERE training was given to foreign nationals. A Spokane, Washington blogger who ordinarily focuses on crime posted this, back in 2007:
Fairchild AFB is home to a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Program. SERE Programs train soldiers, seaman, airmen, CIA operatives, and others–including foreign nationals–in resistance techniques. However, they also provide military and other government torturers, trainers, foreign nationals, contractors (aka US government mercenaries employed by corporations such as Blackwater, CACI International, Titan Corp, and SAIC) and psychologists, among others, the opportunity to develop, refine, practice and polish their torture techniques.
In their must-read June 29, 2007 Spokesman-Review article, reporters Karen Dorn Steele and Bill Morlin reveal that “the SERE program is used by the Army at Fort Bragg, where Green Berets train, and at the U.S. Air Force Survival School near Spokane, where thousands of other trainees are instructed annually.” Using first-hand reporting and research as well as reporting from sources such as the New Yorker and Salon.com, Dorn Steele and Morlin reveal the role of Spokane area psychologists and businesses in the U.S. government’s reverse-engineering of torture resistance training.
These techniques of torture–witnessed at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other U.S. facilities around the world–have been employed by the U.S. government, military, intelligence agencies, contractors and foreign agents with the express purpose of breaking human beings as part of the global U.S. “war on terror”. That so-called “war on terror” has produced worldwide denunciations of U.S. preemptive attacks, massacres of civilians, torture, disappearances, use of “depleted” uranium, and other actions which are illegal under international standards and laws.
As the memo shows, foreign government representatives from the U.S. government’s Iraq “coalition” partners participated in the two conferences as did three representatives from each of the FBI, DEA, and CIA. In point of fact, the facility has all the markings of a CIA facility such as those at Warrenton, VA and other locations in the U.S. (compare the similarity between the facility maps by clicking the respective links above).
On September 16, 2002, a prior SERE Psychologist Conference was hosted by the Army Special Operations Command and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency at Fort Bragg for JTF-170 (the military component responsible for interrogations at Guantanamo) interrogation personnel. The Army’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team from Guantanamo Bay also attended the conference. Joint Personnel Recovery Agency personnel briefed JTF-170 representatives on the exploitation and methods used in resistance (to interrogation) training at SERE schools. The purpose was the reverse engineering of interrogation resistance to design more “effective” torture techniques. (See “Shrinks and the SERE Techniques at Guantanamo“)
The torture program was not about terrorism. It was about invading Iraq. This relentless neocon and Cheney/Halliburton obsession with toppling (and bumping off) former CIA asset Saddam Hussein, and turning his country into a cash cow.
Howard Stern plays the hilarious "straight from the boards" version of Beyonce's appearance on "The Today Show," and all I have to say is, oh ... my ... god... listen. It's clear that she can't hear herself (lucky her...)
That would seem to be the last remaining justification for the use of torture by our CIA. A New York Times story this morning reveals that the torture tactics were adopted without even a cursory examination of the history of the methods, or their usefulness.
The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?
In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.
This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.
Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.
The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.
They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.
The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.
Read the Senate Arms Services committee report here.
I read with interest Pat Buchanan's latest column for the fast-failing Human Events (they keep sending me increasingly desperate fundraising emails, meaning they're either on death's door or mimicking those electronic stores that stage "Going Out of Business" sales every week for years on end...)
In his column, the wonderfully entertaining (and occasionally on point) Buchanan lambastes President Obama for being too cudly with leftist LatAm leaders and for not walking out on Daniel Ortega's 50-minute anti-Western and anti-American (and let's face it, for Pat, anti-white) diatribe during the recent Summit of the Americas (for the record, Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson took President Obama to task for not "slapping back" at Ortega's rant, too.) Pat's beef:
For 50 minutes, Obama sat mute, as a Marxist thug from Nicaragua delivered his diatribe, charging America with a century of terrorist aggression in Central America.
After Daniel Ortega finished spitting in our face, accusing us of inhumanity toward Fidel Castro's Cuba, Obama was asked his thoughts.
"I thought it was 50 minutes long. That's what I thought."
Pat goes on to defend America's role in Latin America as one of a "liberator." But here's the problem. Ortega is the same guy Buchanan and Company's favorite president, Ronald Reagan, tried to oust in a CIA-sponsored coup, in which the "rebels" were a gang of thugs paid for with drug money, and with clandestine U.S. sales of armaments to of all people, Iran. Around here, we call it "Iran Contra," and if Congress and the Independent Counsel had had any cojones, it would have resulted in the impeachment of the then-president and vice president, and charges against several officials under the Trading with the Enemy Act, not to mention the fact that Oliver North would be in prison instead of working for Rupert Murdoch. Back to the speech. As Murdoch's Fox News reported it:
Ortega, meanwhile, droned on about the offenses of the past, dredging up U.S. support of the Somoza regime and the "illegal" war against the Sandinista regime he once led by U.S.-backed Contra rebels in the 1980s. Ortega was a member of the revolutionary junta that drove Anastasio Somoza from power in 1979 and was elected president in 1985. He was defeated in 1990 by Violeta Chamorro and ran unsuccessfully twice for the presidency before winning in 2006.
Of the 19th and 20th centuries, Ortega said: "Nicaragua central America, we haven't been shaken since the past century by what have been the expansionist policies, war policies, that even led us in the 1850s, 1855, 1856 to bring Central American people together. We united, with Costa Ricans, with people from Honduras, the people from Guatemala, El Salvador. We all got together, united so we could defeat the expansionist policy of the United States. And after that, after interventions that extended since 1912, all the way up to 1932 and that left, as a result the imposition of that tyranny of the Samoas. Armed, funded, defended by the American leaders."
Ortega denounced the U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro's new Communist government in Cuba in 1961, a history of US racism and what he called suffocating U.S. economic policies in the region.
And while Ortega isn't exactly a paragon of virtue, he is the twice-elected president of Nicaragua, unlike what the Contra regime would have been (a U.S. installed government by coup.) Buchanan and other righties like to caricature him, and Brazil's Lula de Silva, Bolivia's Evo Morales and especially the Venezuelan boogeyman, Hugo Chavez, as "left wing dictators," ignoring the fact that all were democratically elected. Does Chavez want to be president for life? Signs point to yes. But his elections have yet to be questioned as false, and the plain fact is that the spread of socialist government across Latin America is in many ways a reaction to generations of U.S. policy in the hemisphere, where we have participated in coup after bloody coup, and supported dictator upon dictator, from Cuba's noxious Batista regime (which turned that country into America's Caribbean gambling whore house) to Somoza, to the ruthless, U.S. installed dictator Agusto Pinochet of Chile. Between that and the failed attempts, including the Bay of Pigs and what sure looked like a Bush Team action against Chavez in 2002, it's not all that hard to understand why so many Latin American leaders aren't fond of the U.S. As the BBC's LatAm correspondent put it back in 2006:
In pursuit of American interests, the US has overthrown or undermined around 40 Latin American governments in the 20th Century.
The reporter goes on to describe, via a case study of Nicaragua, how to lose a hemisphere:
As a young reporter I travelled across Nicaragua witnessing the fall of the left-wing Sandinista government led by the revolutionary Daniel Ortega.
For years Mr Ortega was Washington's Enemy Number One, the ultimate bogeyman.
President Bush's father, George Bush senior, was a key player in undermining Mr Ortega and the Sandinistas.
Mr Bush senior had been Director of Central Intelligence and Ronald Reagan's vice-president before he became president of the United States in January 1989.
During the Reagan administration money was channelled - illegally Democrats said - to the Nicaraguan "Contra" guerrillas, a motley crew of CIA trained anti-communists, paramilitaries and thugs.
The resulting scandal - known as "Iran-Contra" - almost brought down the Reagan administration. George Bush senior survived the scandal, and as president managed to see his policies finally work when Nicaragua's own people threw out the Sandinistas in a democratic election in 1990.
After the polls closed in the capital, Managua, I stood in a counting station next to a young Sandinista woman in green military fatigues. Shaking with emotion she brushed away a tear as the voting papers piled up for the Washington-supported opposition candidate, Violeta Chamorro.
"Adios, muchachos," the Sandinista girl called out to her defeated comrades, "companeros de mi vida!!!" (Goodbye boys, comrades of my life.)
That was then. This is now. The young Sandinista revolutionary, Daniel Ortega, is back. He may well be re-elected president of Nicaragua.
Can you imagine it? The man who survived CIA plots and Contra death squads, who relinquished power peacefully to Washington's candidate, Violeta Chamorro, sweeping back into the Nicaraguan presidency?
It will be a huge embarrassment for George Bush junior, a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with American foreign policy in the hemisphere. And guess who predicted it would go wrong? Violeta Chamorro herself.
The night before her election victory over Mr Ortega I was invited to dinner at the walled compound of Mrs Chamorro's house in Managua. She told me that Washington politicians could always find money for wars in Latin America - but rarely for peace in Latin America.
She said even a slice of the money used to back the anti-communist Contra guerrillas could build a new Nicaragua - but she predicted that if she won the election Washington would declare victory - and then cut off the money supply. She was right.
Imagine for a moment that a sitting member of Congress had been caught in an NSA wiretap offering to obtain reduced sentences for a couple of Russian spies, or perhaps North Korean ones, in exchange for help getting the chairmanship the House Intelligence Committee of all things. The irony of that aside, the alarm over the idea that agents of a foreign government even thinking that they could influence appointments in Congress would by itself, evoke national outrage. And that member of Congress would be finished.
So, is Jane Harman finished? CQ Politics uncovered what looks like a double quid pro quo, only the spies are Israeli lobbyists for AIPAC, and Harman also got a free pass on the Justice Department investigation of her spy dealings by Alberto Gonzales, the felonious former attorney general, who thought her more useful to the administration as a Democratic booster for ... wait for it ... NSA illegal wiretapping. Oh, the irony. Something Torquemada has yet to deny...
Harman is now demanding ... demanding! ... the release of the wiretaps on which she was caught. But as a former supporter of warrantless wiretapping (at least in her case there was a warrant,) shouldn't she actually be praising the inquiry?
CNN is reporting that President Obama today signaled a shift toward investigating former Bush administration officials on torture, saying now that he's open to an investigation, so long as it's done "in a bipartisan way." So my question is, what happened in the last 24 hours to change the president's mind? Could it be Dick Cheney's braying? And could the media stop saying that the only people seeking accountability are "supporters on the left?" Last time I checked, those seeking to hold the torturers to account include Libertarians like professor Jonathan Turley and Republicans like John Dean (also on the record re Bybee...)
Prediction: Miss California will get a show on Fox News
She stood down Perez Hilton, stammered her support for "opposite marriage," and lost the crown. And yet, to a Fox News exec, she's pretty, she's conservative on family values (maybe she could do a national traditional marriage tour with Rudy Giuliani ... and his three wives, including his ... cousin ... and his wife Judy's ... other husband??? ... ahem...) and she's blonde. Done deal.
Prejean picked celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, who is openly gay and calls himself 'queen of all media'.
Hilton asked her: 'Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalise same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit. Why or why not?'
Prejean paused for a moment before replying: 'Well, I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage.'
She continued: 'And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.
'No offence to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be - between a man and a woman. Thank you very much.'
No, thank YOU very much. ... And then Perez:
... went on to describe Prejean as having 'half a brain' and said he would have stormed onto the stage and ripped off her tiara if she had won.
Which he followed by...
In an expletive-laced online video blog, the gay self-proclaimed “Queen of All Media” said after the telecast that Prejean should have just avoided the question. “She lost not because she doesn’t believe in gay marriage, she lost because she’s a dumb (expletive)..."
The expletive in question was "bitch." (Ahem.) At least for a time...
So ... question ... what was the Miss USA pageant thinking, hiring a madcap entertainment blogger who named himself after Paris Hilton and styles himself the "Queen of All Media" as a judge in the first place? Is this an admission that the only people who watch these silly pageants anymore are 90-year-olds, gay men, creeepy pageant moms and entertainment bloggers? Even then, is it ever appropriate for a judge to call a pageant contestant a bitch ... and worse ... even if he's mad at her over gay marriage? Here's the worse. It starts with "C" ...
Paris Hilton just lost this fight. Throwing out the c-word ends the conversation, and makes Ms. Prejean look reasonable by comparison, on-stage stammering aside. Meanwhile, Fox News executives await Ms. PreJean's answer...
Sometimes, even in this celebrity-over-merit driven society, people who really seem to be the genuine article are rewarded for a job well done. Congratulations to WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson on winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Read Robinson's column for today, in which he takes the president to task for being a bit too cool in Trinidad, here.
I realize that he's a private citizen with a perfect right to speak his mind, criticize the current president, or do whatever he feels will help beat back the demons of total public repudiation that dog his every, lurching step... but could somebody please muzzle the felonious former vice president, like, for a couple of days, so we can all recover from the migraines?
Meanwhile, a friendly reminder from George Lucas: Dick Cheney is not Darth Vader ... he's too evil to be Darth Vader. (Though I'm not sure the GWB as Vader comparison works either, since at no point in his history could you call Dubya a "promising young man..."
Jay Bybee, the sitting federal judge whose previous occupation was crafting crude legal arguments that would allow CIA personnel to torture, including waterboarding two terrorism suspects up to 6 times a day ... has hired a lawyer. And while we in the blog world would like to think it's our (or Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann's) doing, the real reason is that the Justice Department is not in any way obligated to go along with President Obama in eschewing prosecution of those who committed or attempted to sanction war crimes. (Despite the twisting of the job by Al "Torquemada" Gonzales, the A.G. is NOT the president's lawyer. He's OUR lawyer.) From Michael Isikoff at Newsweek (nowadays looking into things much more important than stained dresses...)
... the Obama administration is not off the hook. Though administration officials declared that CIA interrogators who followed Justice's legal guidance on torture would not be prosecuted, that does not mean the inquiries are over. Senior Justice Department lawyers and other advisers, who declined to be identified discussing a sensitive subject, say Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has discussed naming a senior prosecutor or outside counsel to review whether CIA interrogators exceeded legal boundaries--and whether Bush administration officials broke the law by giving the CIA permission to torture in the first place. Some Justice officials are deeply troubled by reports of detainee treatment and believe they may suggest criminal misconduct, these sources say. Even if prosecutions prove too difficult to bring, an outside counsel's report could be made public. For his part, Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is still pushing for a "truth commission." In a democracy, the wheels of justice grind on--and the president, for good reason under the rule of law, does not have the power to stop them.
Bybee does have legal counsel, for free, even. But the notion that he might be off the hook in Spain is a non-starter. A judge there has overruled that country's attorney general on the prosecution of the so-called Bush Six, Bybee included. Meanwhile, Isikoff also uncovered this interesting piece of data:
After several intense cabinet meetings, Obama appeared to back down and go along with a Panetta proposal to heavily "redact"—black out—all references to specific interrogation techniques, say the administration sources. But this would make the release meaningless, argued others, and Obama began to swing back again. Panetta had one ally, John Brennan, a former agency official who is now Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser. But Adm. Dennis Blair, the national intelligence director, backed a more complete release, and so did Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a Bush holdover (and former CIA director).
"As a practical matter, it's over—nobody is going to get prosecuted," says Robert Bennett, the Washington lawyer whose clients include Jose Rodriguez, the former chief of the CIA's clandestine service, who has been under investigation for his November 2005 decision to destroy 92 videotapes showing the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. But what if evidence emerges that CIA officials (or contractors, who actually conducted most of the interrogations) went beyond the boundaries that the Justice Department erected? The CIA has consistently denied wrongdoing, but an intriguing footnote to one of the memos says that an internal CIA investigation found that there might have been "unnecessary use of enhanced techniques" against one Qaeda suspect.
There are other inquiries to come, in Congress, and inside the Justice Department's ethics division:
Three Bush administration lawyers who signed memos, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department’s ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work. The ethics office has the power to recommend disbarment or other professional penalties or, less likely, to refer cases for criminal prosecution.
On a side note, Jason and I were discussing last night whether President Obama might be more clever in this regard than he's being given credit for -- pushing the notion of prosecutions away from himself as a political matter, knowing that he can't stop Congress, Justice or the international community from acting. Not the most principled use of power, I'd argue, but perhaps a clever way to keep the politics at arms length, while ultimately having those who broke the law held to account. We'll see what happens.
Okay, I'm I going to have to cry at every episode of Britain's Got Talent??? First came Susan Boyle, and now another fabulous performance, this time by a 12-year-old boy named Shaheen Jafargholi. Another must-see out of the UK, which apparently has more entertaining talent programs than we do. Also talented, last week's "Flawless."
From the Nut Files: I thought Glenn Beck was crazy, until I heard Alex Jones
So this weekend, I'm driving along, and this being South Florida, there was absolutely NOTHING worth listening to on the radio. I happened to pop over to the business station (Salem owns it, so really I should be boycotting it just based on WorldNutDaily alone, but that's just how slim the pickings are around here...) and what did I hear? The Alex Jones radio show. You know, Alex Jones: the guy from InfoWars and PrisonPlanet, and at one time, a leading purveyor of alternate 9/11 theories (and apparently, a David Koresh devotee, too.) Well ... um ... I had become increasingly convinced that Glenn Beck has gone insane, his Obama Derangement Syndrome having finally driven off the cliff of sanity (him, and all his winger friends...) but now that I've heard Alex Jones, who is a screaming, shrieking, conspiracy theorizing HOT MESS (hell, even the FReepers think he's nuts...) I'm ready to re-admit Beck to polite society. Okay, almost ready...
In a nutshell, Jones believes:
1. The government IS preparing to put us all in prison camps (even Beck has backed off that one) and that Glenn Beck's "investigation" of the supposed FEMA camps was a classic case of misdirection, since Beck is clearly a decoy employed by THEM...
2. The government IS spreading these so-called "chem trails," which I had only previously heard from religious cultists (including a very dear friend of mine who is caught up in one of those Yahweh cults.) And the latest iteration of this horror is the Obama administration's cover story -- fighting global warming by cooling the atmosphere.
3. The governmetn IS preparing to confiscate everyone's firearms.
4. The government is run by Satan worshippers who are operating as part of a one-world secret society based alternately at Jordan Grove and the Bilderberg group.
5. The U.S. has already handed over American sovereignty by a one-world currency, and is preparing to be complicit in the creation of a worldwide DNA database that is being accomplished through arrests at which DNA is taken, the "forced" immunization of our children, including teenaged girls who are being induced to be vaccinated with Gardasil, and on and on, all of which I believe have been previous plots on "The X Files."
It goes on from there, complete with black helicopters, and all the nuttery that has become, unfortunately, more and more common AM talk radio -- only Alex Jones combines the SS-like shrieking of Michael Savage with the mind-numbing conspiracy craziness of, well, Alex Jones. Throw in pathetic true-believer callers, like the young man who called in this weekend, saying he was a college student who was recently laughed down by his class for trying to present the chem trails evidence to his teacher and fellow students, then throw in Jones' literal screaming, at the top of his lungs: "YOU'RE ALL SHEEP!!! THEY'RE COMING TO GET YOU!!!!!" and you've got the craziest damned thing I've ever heard on the radio, including Glenn "Harold Hill" Beck.
And that's saying something.
I must admit I paid only vague attention to Jones (and never heard his radio show) during the Bush years, when he was accusing the Bushes of everything from participating in the JFK assassination, to plotting the New World Order and being complicit in 9/11. Crazy people probably sound less crazy to you when you share a common foe (and the idea that the Bush administration had either foreknowledge or some part in 9/11 is not an implausible theory.) But now that I've heard him, Jones' demeanor alone makes everything he writes or says incredible (meaning not credible, not "incredible.") He really ought to take some medication. Hey, maybe he could borrow some from Rush Limbaugh...
He'll nip it in the bud, he will! Then again, maybe gay marriage will give Rudy a little nip!
Meanwhile, Rudy's anti-gay marriage stance, as he preps for a run for governor (perhaps against Andrew Cuomo after Cuomo smacks down Guv Patterson in a primary???) hasn't stopped his gay former roommates from looking forward to tying the knot:
While Rudy Giuliani is waging war on gay marriage, his pals Howard Koeppel and Mark Hsaio are planning to go to Connecticut next month to tie the knot.
They see no contradiction in the ex-mayor's opposition to gay marriage and the fact he roomed with them for six months in 2001.
"Rudy doesn't discriminate. I should know. I lived with him for six months," Koeppel, 68, a car dealer, said yesterday outside his West Side apartment.
Koeppel, a Republican, said he believes that Giuliani's opposition to gay marriage stems from his religious and political beliefs, not his personal ones.
"He isn't an advocate for gay marriage because of his religious beliefs," he said of Giuliani, who has supported abortion rights. "He is a traditional Catholic. Those teachings say marriage should be between a man and a woman."
Koeppel said Giuliani told him that if gay marriage ever became legal in New York, "he would marry us himself."
That last bit won't look good on a Giuliani campaign poster ... nor will the part about Rudy living with them because he had committed the sins of adultery and divorce. But on a more important note, will Rudy get an invite to the wedding, and will he wear blushing pink or bridal white???
Today the unruly hair, bushy eyebrows and spinster image that for so long attracted cruel teasing, especially from young children, are set to be the passport to her undoubted future success. "Why should I change?" she told Larry King on his US chat show, when asked about her image. But she does expect life to be very, very different. "Well, I certainly won't be lonely any more," said the church volunteer, who has admitted she has never been kissed.
Certainly not, Ms. Boyle. Certainly not. Maybe it's just the times we're in, but I love this woman, and I love this story.
The reiterations of the Obama policy on the Sunday shows this morning do not convince. On this one, the administration is dead wrong. Well, let me back up a bit. I suppose I can understand the practical reasons for granting immunity to those in the CIA who carried out torture policies "under the color of law" due to the advice issued by the then- Justice Department. The Obama administration doesn't want to incite a wholesale rebellion at Langley, or make the CIA the scapegoat for what were clearly Bush administration -- not intelligence community -- policies. However, three points from the Sundays that slap down the argument that immunity should be anything more than immunity to testify against those higher officials who ARE being prosecuted:
1. As Katty Kay pointed out on the "CMS," the Nuremberg trials, conducted by American prosecutors, didn't distinguish between those who committed war crimes out of pure depravity, and those who did it under color of law. They said they were following the laws of Germany (or Japan); we prosecuted them anyway.
... in an interview with the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Manfred Nowak, explained that Obama’s grant of immunity is likely a violation of international law. As a party to the UN Convention Against Torture, the U.S. is obligated to investigate and prosecute U.S. citizens that are believed to have engaged in torture:
STANDARD: CIA torturers are according to U.S. President Obama not to be prosecuted. Is that decision supportable?
NOWAK: Absolutely not. The United States has, like all other Contracting Parties to the UN Convention Against Torture, committed itself to investigate instances of torture and to prosecute all cases in which credible evidence of torture is found.
3. Indeed, there is no legal argument that the administration can point to that would get them out of their obligation to pursue these torture allegations. Dick Cheney has admitted to authorizing torture, and many of the details of what was done during the Bush administration are already publicly known, as Rahm Emanuel pointed out on "This Week." The memos have people's names and signatures on them, including the name of Jay Bybee, who now occupies the dual role of probable war criminal and sitting federal judge (though hopefully, he's soon to be an impeached one, as the NYT called for in an editorial yesterday.) At a minimum, the lawyers who concocted the torture memos should be disbarred, and in the case of Bybee, "disbenched." And the people who put the policies in place, at the Pentagon, Justice Department and yes, the Bush White House, should, as Andrew Sullivan eloquently pointed out, be held to account.
As the Times points out in its editorial, the intent behind thememos makes what should be done clear enough:
These memos are not an honest attempt to set the legal limits on interrogations, which was the authors’ statutory obligation. They were written to provide legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country’s most basic values.
And as the Times further points out:
It sounds like the plot of a mob film, except the lawyers asking how much their clients can get away with are from the C.I.A. and the lawyers coaching them on how to commit the abuses are from the Justice Department. And it all played out with the blessing of the defense secretary, the attorney general, the intelligence director and, most likely, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Except that mobsters don't generally brag on television about the horse's heads they've laid to rest on victims' pillows.
The Bush administration went to great lengths to impose Soviet-style eavesdropping, gulags and torture on the American experiment. Shouldn't America repay them by imposing a little constitutional law on them?
What you can do:
To get more info and to get involved in the push to impeach Jay Bybee, click here.
For more on the push to have John Yoo removed from his professorship over his role in the torture memos, click here.
To sign the ACLU petition to call on the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate torture during the Bush administration, click here.
“This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic,’ i.e., the perception of drowning. The individual does not breathe any water into his lungs. During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of 12 to 24 inches. ... The sensation of drowning is immediately relieved by the removal of the cloth. The procedure may then be repeated.”
On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post published a front-page photograph of a U.S. soldier supervising the questioning of a captured North Vietnamese soldier who is being held down as water was poured on his face while his nose and mouth were covered by a cloth. The picture, taken four days earlier near Da Nang, had a caption that said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk."
The article said the practice was "fairly common" in part because "those who practice it say it combines the advantages of being unpleasant enough to make people talk while still not causing permanent injury."
The picture reportedly led to an Army investigation.
Twenty-one years earlier, in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.
"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.
We also hanged them, according to John McCain. And next, the unbelievable justification for waterboarding U.S. detainees:
“Although the subject may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning, the waterboard does not inflict physical pain. ... Although the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result to violate the statutory prohibition infliction of severe mental pain or suffering. ... Indeed, you have advised us that the relief is almost immediate when the cloth is removed from the nose and mouth. In the absence of prolonged mental harm, no severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted, and the use of these procedures would not constitute torture within the meaning of the statute.”
The May 10, 2005, memorandum from the attorney general's office to the CIA defines torture as -- among other things -- activity where a subject suffers prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from "the threat of imminent death." From there, waterboarding was justified as a technique that, while possibly qualifying as a "threat of imminent death," had "safeguards" in place "that make actual harm quite unlikely." The qualifier seemed to clear the Bush White House of illegality.
But in a footnote at the bottom of page 43 of that same memo, the authors dropped the formalities. "For purposes of our analysis," the footnote reads, "we will assume that the physiological sensation of drowning associated with the use of the waterboard may constitute a 'threat of imminent death' within the meaning of sections 2340-2340A."
For purposes of analysys??? Those on the right justify all of this because in their mind, it doesn't rise to the level of what, say, Saddam Hussein was up to. But what's truly scary, if you read the various winger commentaries floating around the blog world, they are entirely comfortable with the barbarism described in the memos, and some even seem to feel that our techniques should be more like Saddam's, not less. And their biggest beef is that Americans are too pansified to embrace the violent treatment of prisoners under Bush's "leadership."
Let me start out by saying that I don't have a dog in the Florida U.S. Senate fight. But do you ever get the idea the Miami Herald is, shall we say, a bit cynical about a certain second-generation politician running for the job? From today's paper:
For Senate race, Kendrick Meek is raising big money from out of state
At a recent campaign rally, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami branded his U.S. Senate bid a ''grassroots campaign,'' boasting of more than 1,000 donors in Florida.
''The more Floridians that we have who are stakeholders in this campaign sends a message, a message that we're here to do business on behalf of working people,'' he told about 100 supporters in the parking lot of a small Hallandale Beach diner.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars from out-of-state corporate interests and Washington lobbyists also have helped Meek -- the only Florida Democrat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee -- emerge as a fundraising powerhouse with nearly $1.5 million in donations. Democratic party officials say he appears to have raised more than any other non-incumbent running for the Senate nationwide.
''When you are in a leadership position like he is, you do develop relationships with people all over the country,'' said Ana Cruz, a senior advisor to the campaign. ``It's a testament to the number of people who believe in him in and outside of the state.''
Cruz notes that Meek received support from more than 800 Florida donors who gave less than $200 each. ''Those are dollars from working-class folks from all over,'' she said.
Since he began his campaign in mid-January, Meek accepted $293,000 from political action committees representing law firms, drug companies, payday lenders and other businesses. PAC donations also came from Democratic Reps. James Clyburn of South Carolina and Xavier Becerra of California. In total, 44 percent of Meek's money came from outside Florida.
In contrast, 10 percent of the money raised by Meek's leading Democratic rival, state Sen. Dan Gelber, came from other states. He received $9,500 from political action committees.
Stipulating that we are talking about an off-year election, but just 100 supporters? By Obama rally standards what's that, about 2 people? Another bite:
His campaign calculated that he raised nearly $17,000 a day in the first three months of the year. His total even surpassed Democratic incumbents like Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Michael Bennet of Colorado.
At the Hallandale Beach rally on Monday, Meek suggested his aggressive approach takes its cue from the president's record-setting campaign -- though Barack Obama did not accept money from federal lobbyists and political action committees.
Much of that power fundraising is coming from Kendrick palling around with Bill Clinton (they are sharing another "Thelma and Louise" moment at the upcoming commencement at FAMU, and Clinton has been hitting the streets for Kendrick since day one, as have Big Bill's major Florida fundraisers.) And they left out the fact that taking cues from Obama is ironic given the fact that had Meek had his way, Obama would be Hillary Clinton's secretary of state, rather than the other way around ...
A review of Meek's campaign report due at the FEC on Wednesday found he spent more than $200,000 on cell phones, catering, a website, plane tickets and consulting. He paid more than $14,000 for a private jet to fly former President Bill Clinton to Florida for a fundraiser.
Meek's expenses also included $428 on a ''campaign dinner'' at the Biltmore Hotel, $177 at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Washington and $149 at Houston's in Miami. ''Some of these are strategy sessions and some are cultivating donor relationships,'' Cruz said.
One of the Democratic congressman's biggest donors is the political arm of Wackenhut, a Palm Beach Gardens-based security company that retains his mother and wife as lobbyists. Wackenhut gave Meek the maximum donations of $5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the general election. Miami-Dade County has accused Wackenhut of overbilling; the company denies any wrongdoing.
Meek -- who would be Florida's first black senator if elected -- also received big donations from former officers of the Congressional Black Caucus and Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television. Individual donors can give a maximum of $2,400 for the primary and another $2,400 for the general election.
Cue the Dan Gelber email campaign ... though so far, they've been as quiet as a mouse.
Stipulating that the various, clackety strains of "conservatives," including the folks over at the Wall Street Journal op-ed desk (who published a piece by Bush's CIA director and second round A.G., decrying the Obama administration's release of the torture memos, and of course, the chickenhawk neocons) are very much in for torture. Non-conservatives, including the Washington Post editorial board, are against it, calling it what it is: a disgrace. But on the question of whether torture is even worth the shame, I came across this post, from the NYT's The Lede blog, back in January:
In the days after Saddam Hussein’s capture, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was tossing wisecracks on subjects serious and trivial. The cab that the former Iraqi leader hid inside? “He didn’t have the meter running.” Who’s going to be responsible for interrogation? “It was a three-minute decision, and the first two were for coffee.”
But Mr. Hussein’s fate would be much different than Abu Zubaydeh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, two members of Al Qaeda who endured harsh interrogation techniques while in C.I.A. custody.
Mr. Rumsfeld and other senior officials quickly pledged that he would be treated as a prisoner of war, although it took a month to make it official. And the three-minute decision was reassessed within weeks as the Federal Bureau of Investigation took the interrogation reins for the reason described in a January 2004 article:
The F.B.I. involvement reflects C.I.A. reluctance to allow covert officers to take part in interrogations that could force them to appear as court witnesses. In contrast, F.B.I. agents are trained to interview suspects in preparation for prosecutions.
What was the rivalry about? FBI agents were apparently shocked, and not happy, to discover that CIA agents were using torure, approved we now know, by the Justice Department and presumably the president and vice president/president's boss, on terrorism suspect Abu Zubayda, the low level jihadist we got all that false information from by illegal waterboarding. The then-FBI director, Robert Meuller, wound up pulling his agents, who were more skilled at interrogation, having been the ones to query Saddam Hussein himself, for example, out of the theater entirely, rather than allow them to continue to witness war crimes.
A rift nonetheless swiftly developed between FBI agents, who were largely pleased with the progress of the questioning, and CIA officers, who felt Abu Zubaida was holding out on them and providing disinformation. Tensions came to a head after FBI agents witnessed the use of some harsh tactics on Abu Zubaida, including keeping him naked in his cell, subjecting him to extreme cold and bombarding him with loud rock music.
“They said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” said [Retired FBI agent Daniel Coleman], recalling accounts from FBI employees who were there. ” ‘This guy’s a Muslim. That’s not going to win his confidence. Are you trying to get information out of him or just belittle him?’ “
F.B.I. Director Robert S. Mueller III pulled his personnel over the disagreement, and former officials in the agency continue to make the case that Mr. Zubaydeh gave up his most important information before, not after, the harsh techniques commenced.
As David Johnston of The New York Times reported earlier this month, both agencies say the rivalry is over. Still, some officials said privately that the F.B.I. was looking for a payback moment in its investigation into the C.I.A. tape destruction.
Clearly, we've been operating with some sadists in our midst, at the CIA, in the Justice Department, in the neocon think tanks, and in the Bush White House. So why not prosecute them? Probably because the current president has decided that, as a political matter, it can't be done without a circus-like spectacle (and it might not be done in Spain, either...)
But it seems to me that there are people who should be prosecuted, starting with the men who wrote, authorized and approved the memos.
Related: Experts debate whether prosecutions should commence. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights sums it up succintly:
Torture is torture and all the legal window dressing in the world cannot hide its essence: the infliction of pain and suffering on human beings. If legal advice can protect torturers, no official anywhere can ever be prosecuted. Legal advice then becomes a get out-of-jail free card and will be employed by every petty dictatorship to protect its abusers.
As President Obama heads to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, his administration finally releases the last (we hope) of the torture memos. (Curious that the wingers have no problem with things like torture, secret detentions, sneak and peak searches, forcing librarians to divulge customer reading habits, infiltration of Quaker peace groups etc., but they're all a-teabaggin' over a 4 percent increase in rich people's taxes... but I digress...)
Meanwhile, here in Florida, Cuban-Americans are needled by the fact that several Latin American presidents, including Lula of Brazil, Hugo of Venezuela and Evo of Bolivia, among others, will likely push for an end to Cuba's exclusion from the Organization of American States, which forms the attendance base of the summit. Writes the Miami Herald's Myriam Marquez:
Cuba's not invited to the big party in Trinidad and Tobago, but it will crash it anyway.
It'll be the pesky ghost at the table, pushing, shoving and booing -- all in an effort to derail President Barack Obama's first foray Friday into Latin America's often messy love-hate relationship with the United States.
With the help of Hugo, Lula, Evo, Daniel, Michelle, Cristina and many other Latin American presidents who learned how to play leftie politics -- and win -- virtually at Fidel Castro's knee, the ghost is demanding a clean slate and collective amnesia.
Forget 50 years of an atrocious human-rights record. Never mind that there are no property rights, labor unions or free speech.
Forget multiparty elections, the ghost thunders, it's tiny Cuba vs. the bad Imperialist Goliath.
Obama would rather forget, too, but he's not ready to deliver more freebies like the end of the U.S. embargo or the tourist ban -- yet. But as first steps, he has opened the door wide for Cuban-American travel and unlimited remittances to Cuba.
He figures that's enough to get the ghost off his back at the summit, where Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has vowed to press for the island's membership in the Organization of American States.
OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza told Herald reporter Frances Robles at the summit Thursday that he agrees. Obama counters that Cuba needs to first show it belongs back in the organization that kicked it out in 1962.
Fidel Castro rails against any such inclusion in the OAS, calling it a tool of U.S. will. One reason he won't give: Cuba doesn't begin to meet the principle of the OAS charter -- democracy.
Ironically enough, the "Inter-American Democracy Charter"was adopted by the OAS on September 11, 2001 during a special session in Peru, hours after the 9/11 attacks in New York. The charter lays out the essentials of regional cooperation, democracy, the need to fight poverty and improve education and the environment, and of course human rights -- which brings us back to Cuba, which has got some issues on that front. And yet, as Marquez points out, over the last eight years the U.S. hasn't exactly been a champion of human rights, either (see "torture memos" above...) So Obama goes into the summit borne on the winds of change, but still refusing, as of yesterday, to hold the previous administration accountable for the human rights abuses that, if we were, say, applying for membership to the OAS today, would likely make us as ineligible as Fidel's Cuba.
Related: Raul says he's willing to talk to the U.S., including about human rights.
Cuban President Raul Castro has said he is willing to talk to Washington about everything, including human rights, political prisoners and press freedom.
His comments came hours after US President Barack Obama said Cuba needed to make the next move if there was to be further improvement in relations.
Mr Castro was speaking in Venezuela ahead of a Summit of the Americas.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he will veto any final declaration as Cuba is excluded from the meeting.
The summit, due to start in Trinidad, includes 34 Latin American and Caribbean countries.
The US has said the gathering is reserved for democratic nations.
Which brings us back to our checkered recent past:
Speaking to Latin American leaders in Venezuela, President Castro said he had sent word to the US government "in private and in public" that he is open to negotiations as long as it is "on equal terms".
Alas, amigos, we're pretty much already on equal terms. More on the potential thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations here.
Message to comedian who used to portray a cross-eyed woman named Wanda who will forever be in my mental picture, even when you're trying to be a sexy R&B singer? Don't mess with stars who are waaaay more popular than you. Or, Jamie Foxx goes on Leno to beg Miley Cyrus' forgiveness:
Leno asked the actor, “Did you say something inappropriate?”
“Yeah,” he admitted before taking a deep breath. “I so apologize to (Miley), and this is sincere. I am a comedian, and you guys know that whatever I say, I don’t mean any of it. And sometimes, as comedians, as we do, we go a little bit too far.”
Right wingers continue to identify with the crazies
Heidi Harris last night on Hardball became the latest winger to identify themselves -- willingly -- with right wing extremists (or ex-treh-mists, if you're from Boston...) And she makes the extraordinary claim that there are no lone wolf nuts out there. None at all! She just doesn't believe it.
Police seized 22 rifles and handguns this month from the home of a South Beach waiter after co-workers alleged he planned to gun down beachgoers from atop a condo tower, then trigger car bombs, court records show.
No charges have been pressed against Timothy Allan Svec, 44, a waiter at the Pelican Hotel restaurant.
Miami Beach detectives, working with federal authorities, are investigating.
The confiscated guns were legally owned as part of Svec's private collection, according to his lawyers, Sebastian J. Balliro and David Seltzer.
So what was Mr. Svec planning, you ask?
In late March, two employees at the Pelican approached a vacationing police officer from Tinton Falls, N.J. to complain that Svec had made threats to ``randomly kill people in South Beach using automatic weapons.''
''They described him as unstable and capable of carrying out his threats,'' Miami Beach police Detective Luis Estopinan wrote.
About two months ago, the employees explained, Svec told them he planned to go to the Continuum building in the 100 block of South Pointe Drive.
''From the rooftop, he was going to shoot at people on the beach,'' the warrant said. ``As people ran away from the beach, he was going to set off car bombs to effect those fleeing from the beach.''
Svec also talked of ``driving a van loaded with explosives onto Lincoln Road with the intention of detonating self and causing human casualties.''
TALK OF BOMBS
Svec had shown the men brochures depicting his weapons, and also said ''he had bomb-making capabilities and had a grenade,'' the warrant said.
On April 6, Beach detectives and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives raided Svec's small, one-bedroom house in the 200 block of Michigan Avenue.
Among the weapons seized: a .22 cal. Ruger carbine, a 9mm MAC-10 machine pistol, several antique rifles and a custom long-range rifle with a scope and no serial number.
And you need a Ruger carbine for ... what exactly?
Dick's Army: the toooootally spontaneous 'tea parties'
The ones in South Florida are backed by Clear Channel and James Crystal Radio. Go figure! Meanwhile, one wonders just how much money Dick Armey's corporate underwriters are doling out for today's events... funny tea bag moment so far: the news reporter on right wing NewsRadio 610 this morning gushing that "thousands" of people are expected to attend the tea parties, across the entire country. Thousands, huh? Not exactly the Million Man March, is it?
On Tea Party day (stop laughing, you!) ... it's fitting that we find out that the election of our first black president has touched off a rise in right wing nutcases:
In a report made public today, the Department of Homeland Security warns that the recession and the election of President Obama are "fueling resurgence" of right-wing extremist groups that are seeking new recruits, especially returning veterans.
The intelligence assessment suggests that veterans make attractive recruits because of "combat skills and experience" that could boost the "violent capabilities" of radical right groups. Further, it says that any possible new restrictions on gun ownership, combined with vets' trouble reintegrating into their communities during a bad economy, "could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks."
"The high volume of purchases and stockpiling of weapons and ammunition by right-wing extremists in anticipation of restrictions and bans in some parts of the country continue to be a primary concern to law enforcement," the report states.
But DHS "has no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence," spokeswoman Sara Kuban told Fox News. The assessment was issued last week to law enforcement. A similar assessment on left-wing groups was issued earlier in the year.
How does DHS define "right-wing extremism'? It writes that it "can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."
When we were in D.C., I was told that there were some 800 right wing/racist/extremist groups under surveillance by the FBI and Secret Service. And gun nuts have been a-stock-pilin of late, worried that Barack was sending the black helicopters over. So what to make of the report? Not surprising, unfortunately. Hell, the Palin rallies were attended by a rise in right wing extremism, and I expect that at least some of the "tea parties" will be, too. I await the Youtubes...
Sorry Redstate (which still hasn't gotten the basic facts of the rescue straight -- no, dears, the captain didn't jump off the boat a second time...) "No Drama" Obama's handling of the pirates of the Horn of Africa is getting kudos, even from the increasingly wingery Associated Press:
Obama's handling of the crisis showed a president who was comfortable in relying on the U.S. military, much as his predecessor, George W. Bush, did.
But it also showed a new commander in chief who was willing to use all the tools at his disposal, bringing in federal law enforcement officials to handle the judicial elements of the crisis.
The rescue appeared to vindicate Obama's muted but determined handling of the incident. What won't be known for some time is whether Obama will benefit politically.
And the pillars of Obama's success should be remembered by the wingers:
1. No exploitation for political gain:
When Obama campaigns for re-election, he may take Bush's approach of turning any such incident into evidence of his leadership acumen. On the other hand, Obama didn't go before the cameras Sunday to trumpet the success, instead releasing a written statement that saluted the bravery of the military and Phillips but claimed no credit for himself.
2. No empty, Bush-style "tough talk":
He didn't call in his Cabinet for a high-profile command meeting. He let military and top administration officials do the talking, but even they kept saber rattling out of the equation.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said Obama's silence should not be interpreted to mean that he wasn't deeply involved. The president's public posture was calculated to not raise the temperature on the situation or give the hostage-takers anything to exploit.
3. Actual work instead of Rovian marketing:
So what Obama did was receive regular briefings, sometimes as often as half a dozen times a day. He weighed in with two critical decisions allowing the military to take action to save Phillips' life. And he laid the groundwork for a federal criminal law enforcement response.
4. No "war on terror" B.S.:
Obama doesn't like labels for himself or catch phrases for policy. So it's notable that in an administration that has virtually banned the phrase "war on terror," no one called the pirates "terrorists."
I happened to be watching "Larry King Live" when Rick Warren made his apparently controversial statements about not working very hard for California's Proposition 8 opposing gay marriage (one of the rare times I was watching the old dude,) for which he was roundly criticized by the right and the left. I have to admit to seeing Warren's conundrum. He's trying to promote a new kind of evangelical-ism: less scary and right wing sounding, more inclusive seeming, more Book of Matthew ("blessed are the meek and all that...) and less Book of Revelation (wait till your Jesus gets home...!) At the same time, while the marketing is changing, the core beliefs have not. Even most of the "new age" evangelicals I know are diametrically opposed to gay marriage, and truly believe homosexuality to be a sin. So what's a Book of Matthew Christian to do? That, by the way, is also the conundrum faced by most Black Christians... And remember Warren trying to sound like a friend of both Barack Obama and John McCain, right before he fed McCain the debate answers and went on Fox News to declare himself a conservative Republican? Conundrums...
Warren bailing on Stephanopoulos today (exhaustion? Try freaking out-stion...) was frankly, not surprising. He probably needs to get his story straight within his own head and movement before he goes out in public trips himself up again.
Reason #244 not to listen to Newt Gingrich: he spends a lot of time braying about things he knows nothing about.
This morning on "This Week," the former disgraced House Speaker took his Twitter bitching about President Obama's handling of the Somali pirate capture of an American seaman to the big leagues. I suppose Newt, who gets exactly zero national security briefings or hell, briefings of any kind, wanted Obama to go out Dubya style: start blustering on television about nuking Somalia, and order the U.S.S. Bainbridge to blow the pirate dinghy out of the water with the Maersk captain still inside, or have Navy SEALs storm the ship, risking the captain's life. Just hours later, news reports said the captain had been rescued, after three dead-on (no pun intended) simultaneous shots by SEAL snipers who had parachuted in secret aboard the Bainbridge, and CNN reported that the president had on Friday given the Seals the go-ahead to use deadly force if necessary to save the captain's life.
The song is actually from a podcast I did about a year ago. The video is new, though; inspired by the recent rantings of Richard "The Torturer" Cheney (analyzed by the fabulous Joan Walsh here.) Enjoy, and happy Good Friday!
Related: Duke U flunks Cheney on security analysis. The bottom line:
Cheney's ideas are directly contrary to our constitutional values. Whether in the Bill of Rights or the separation of powers, the Constitution consistently sacrifices expediency for principles that better serve our nation's long-term interests. Cheney's lack of faith in this core American belief may be his most troubling legacy.
Who's picking the Republican leadership of tomorrow? Why, it's the unsexy of today. You remember the unsexy don't you? It's El Rushbo, who topped the Boston Phoenix's unsexy list already this year, with three quarters of the year still to go!
JABBA THE NUT America’s ugliest moment of 2009? Rush Limbaugh, his man-boobs a-jiggle, bouncing at the CPAC podium to bask in the sickly glow of conservatism’s orgy of greed, avarice, and arrogance. Here, at last, was the shining image of the 21st century Republican Party: a leeringly rich Baby Boomer squatting at the top of the mountain, reaping his jollies from the suffering of those at the bottom, praying for the failure of hope. If this hypocritical and morally repugnant reformed Oxy junkie wants to discuss “failure,” maybe we should talk about his career as an NFL commentator — or the last time he detoxed off prescription smack.
Is the "f-in redneck" becoming the good guy in this family drama or what? Spurned Alaska teen says Sarah Palin's family thinks he's not good enough for Bristol, the media is misrepresenting his family as "white trash" and the campaign ruined their relationship. The CBS Early Show got the interview, after Miss Tyra did, of course:
You've really got to feel sorry for him and Bristol. Her mom really put them in the shizznit. And no, I don't believe Sarah if she's saying Levi didn't sleep under her roof with her daughter. Try another one, hun. BTW Levi says he'll either become an electrician or an actor/model. Hey, he's definitely got a brighter future than "Joe the Plumber" -- at least his family members really are electricians.
BUMP... Jon Stewart eviscerated the wingers tonight last night, pointing out the irony of their sudden fear of fascism and dictatorship (which he said they're probably mistaking for losing an election...) given their support for the warrentless wiretapping, foreign invasions, secret detentions, torture and squashing of dissent by the previous administration. (Spoiler alert: conservatives don't do irony. I think it kind of goes over their heads.) Waiting for the video to post on "The Daily Show" site.
CBC members gush over Fidel ... now there's a bad idea!
There is a certain segment of the 60s-era left (the Ron Kuby segment, we'll call it) and of the 60s-ear African-American left, too, that remains enamored of Fidel Castro. Not sure if it's the favorable impression on black America when he first took power, even traveling to Harlem and staying at the famous Theresa Hotel, or Cuba's taking in black activist Assata Shakur after her cop killing conviction, or Castro's alleged abolishment of racism on the island (Kuby's love affair is due to the fact that he just likes revolution, according to a recent ep of his radio show.) However ... um ... Fidel Castro is a dictator, guys ... an actual one. And while I think the U.S. embargo of Cuba is a stupid anachronism that should be scrapped immediately -- especially since we're the only ones upholding it (while trading with and being bankrolled by Communist China) -- sometimes I wish that black folk with Castro affections would keep those particular feelings to themselves...
Lee and others heaped praise on Castro, calling him warm and receptive during their discussion. But the lawmakers disputed Castro's later statement that members of the congressional delegation said American society is still racist.
"It was quite a moment to behold," Lee said, recalling her moments with Castro.
“It was almost like listening to an old friend,” said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Il.), adding that he found Castro’s home to be modest and Castro’s wife to be particularly hospitable.
“In my household I told Castro he is known as the ultimate survivor,” Rush said.
Meanwhile: President Obama will head to Trinidad & Tobago next week for the Summit of the Americas regional meeting, which will include Hugo Chavez, but apparently, there will be no one-on-one talks. However:
What if Chávez walks over to Obama during a coffee break, I asked. ''If they run into one another at a coffee break, my president is not going to run away from him,'' one U.S. official said.
Hey, and Chavez probably won't call Obama the Devil, either. Progress!
Former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh says $2 billion that flowed from a British arms manufacturer to U.S. bank accounts controlled by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi ambassador to the U.S., was not a bribe, but was instead part of a complex barter involving the exchange of Saudi oil for British fighter jets.
The transfer of funds to accounts at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., has come under scrutiny as the Justice Department continues an international corruption investigation involving British arms manufacturer BAE Systems. Freeh, who is now a lawyer and consultant for Bandar, made his comments to the Public Broadcasting Service for a “Frontline” documentary to be broadcast this evening. Bandar is now a national security advisor to the Saudi king. He has denied any wrongdoing, as have other Saudi officials.
Freeh said that a 1985 treaty between Britain and Saudi Arabia allowed the trade of oil for weapons. BAE signed an $86-billion contract with the Saudis under the provisions of the treaty, and the funds that flowed between Britain and the Bandar-controlled bank accounts in the U.S. may have come from the sale of Saudi oil under the terms of the contract. As part of the deal, BAE also supplied an Airbus 340 plane, which for years has been used by Bandar.
By Bandar, we're talking "Bandar Bush," seen here in a previous "Frontline" interview defending a wee bit of corruption:
Glenn Beck's 9/12 project is calling on all bunker-dwelling Bud drinkers to arm themselves with buckshot and await the call to revolution. Well. This guy may have answered the call:
PITTSBURGH – A gunman wearing a bulletproof vest and "lying in wait" opened fire on officers responding to a domestic disturbance call Saturday, killing three of them and turning a quiet Pittsburgh street into a battlefield, police said.
Richard Poplawski, 23, met officers at the doorway and shot two of them in the head immediately, Harper said. An officer who tried to help the two also was killed.
Poplawski, armed with an assault rifle and two other guns, then held police at bay for four hours as the fallen officers were left bleeding nearby, their colleagues unable to reach them, according to police and witnesses. More than 100 rounds were fired by the SWAT teams and Poplawski, Harper said.
They were Eric Kelly, a 14-year veteran of the force and married father of three daughters, and a pair of two-year department veterans, partners Stephen Mayhle, a married father of two daughters, and Paul Sciullo III, who was engaged to be married.
One friend, Edward Perkovic, said the gunman feared "the Obama gun ban that's on the way" and "didn't like our rights being infringed upon." Another longtime friend, Aaron Vire, said he feared that President Obama was going to take away his rights, though he said he "wasn't violently against Obama."
... Vire, 23, said the gunman once had an Internet talk show but that it wasn't successful. Vire said his friend had an AK-47 rifle and several powerful handguns, including a .357 Magnum.
This is the third mass shooting with an automatic weapon in a month, that we know of, and not counting the epidemic of street sprayings by AK47-wielding street gangs all over the U.S., including here in Florida, not to mention south of the border, where American guns are fueling the drug wars (a fact which by the way, is the current rationale for the right's Obama-baiting.) By the way, all three recent mass murderers bought their assault weapons the NRA way: legally. Which brings us to our buddy Beck. As one Pennlive commenter points out re Poplawski:
So he straps on a bulletproof vest, causes a domestic disturbance, and lies in wait for the cops to arrive so he can unload all of the assault weapons against agents of the government.
Sounds like the calls of Glenn Beck and other prominent conservatives for armed revolution are getting through to some mentally imbalanced folks.
And the weepy 9/11 family hater is hardly alone in advocating armed revolution by his winger followers. Crazy-train conductress Michelle "Re-education Camp" Bachman, Sean Hannity and others are doing the same thing. Hell, at this point, Rush seems the sane one! Media Matters has a chilling rundown of the right wing/Fox News call to arms.
And sure, maybe our Pittsburgh gun-man didn't open fire and kill three family men because he thinks the Beckster wanted him to, but then again...
as Neiwert noted this morning, the conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ran a story just three days ago about "speculation that President Obama might pull the trigger on tighter regulations for gun ownership." The article quoted a gun-store salesman raising the specter of a "confiscation of firearms" from the government.
Not that nutty gunmen read the morning paper ... right? The bottom line is, the right has been whipping up pretty scary anti-Obama hysteria since the campaign, when supporters of GOP standard-bearer John McCain, or more correctly, of his gun-totin' running mate Sarah Palin, felt compelled to scream "terrorist!" and "Kill Him!" at campaign rallies. Now the right, on talk radio, online, and on Fox News, is whipping this small but scary crowd of AM radio devotees into a brand new frenzy, complete with literal calls to get "armed and dangerous" to fight the president of the United States. On its worst day, you never heard that about George W. Bush from the left.
Look, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that with all the other crap going on, from the economy and job loss to the usual stresses of life, compounded by this kind of rhetoric, some crazies are going to take the rodeo clown's rantings deadly seriously.
NewsBusters conveniently catalogs the I think, pretty obvious reaction from the sane part of the blogosphere here. Meanwhile, the Beckster says "who??? ME???" and then he and Newsbuster editor, Noel Sheppard actuallyentertain the crazy gunman's beliefs, advising that President Obama could stop the killings tomorrow, if he just reassured the crazy gun nuts that the black helicopters aren't coming...
SHEPPARD: But I think one of the -- but I think one of the other aspects here is: Under the current administration with a Democrat-controlled Congress, knowing what Obama's positions were, as a senator and also as an Illinois senator, is it an irrational fear of any gun owner at this point --
SHEPPARD: -- to think that gun laws are going to be changed? The answer is no!
BECK: No! It's not irrational at all. They have said it.
... BECK: Well, OK, look, if the president wanted to calm people down, but there's no reason to in the first place because what we're talking about is a crazy man on Saturday.
But if he wanted to calm anybody who had any fears he would have said, "This is such a tragedy and let me reassure, the 2nd Amendment is the 2nd Amendment, and I will not infringe on those rights in any way, shape, or form. But he won't say that because he can't say that. Because he will slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun. He will make them more expensive; he'll tax them out of existence. He will because he has said he would. He will tax you gun or take your gun away one way or another.
So to sum up: Glenn's advice to the president is that he respond to this incredible tragedy by defending the Second Amendment? Only on the right, folks.
Americans have grown more optimistic about the economy and the direction of the country in the 11 weeks since President Obama was inaugurated, suggesting that he is enjoying some success in his critical task of rebuilding the nation’s confidence, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
These sometimes turbulent weeks — marked by new initiatives by Mr. Obama, attacks by Republicans and more than a few missteps by the White House — do not appear to have hurt the president. Americans said they approved of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan; fully two-thirds said they approved of his overall job performance.
By contrast, just 31 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of the Republican Party, the lowest in the 25 years the question has been asked in New York Times/CBS News polls.
And it appears, the pollsters say, that Obama's honeymoon has been more durable than that of his recent predecessors.
Still, there are worries out there:
The poll found that 70 percent of respondents were very or somewhat concerned that someone in their household would be out of work and looking for a job in the next 12 months. Forty percent said they had cut spending on luxuries, and 10 percent said they had cut back on necessities; 31 percent said they had cut both.
For all that, the number of people who said they thought the country was headed in the right direction jumped from 15 percent in mid-January, just before Mr. Obama took office, to 39 percent today, while the number who said it was headed in the wrong direction dropped to 53 percent from 79 percent. That is the highest percentage of Americans who said the country was headed in the right direction since 42 percent said so in February 2005, the second month of President George W. Bush’s second term.
The percentage of people who said the economy was getting worse has declined from 54 percent just before Mr. Obama took office to 34 percent today. And 20 percent now think the economy is getting better, compared with 7 percent in mid-January.
“It’s psychology more than anything else,” Arthur Gilman, a Republican from Ridgewood, N.J., said in a follow-up interview to the poll. “President Obama has turned around the negative feeling in this country. He’s given everything an impetus because he’s very upbeat, like Roosevelt was. It’s too soon to tell if the spending stuff works, but some things have improved.”
That last guy, the Republican, is bad, bad news for the GOP.
By the by, who does the public blame for the economic crisis we're in? Sorry, Scarborough:
... The poll found that he shoulders virtually none of the public blame for the economic crisis: 33 percent blame Mr. Bush, 21 percent blame financial institutions, and 11 percent blame Congress.
And whom do voter trust to turn things around? Sorry Glenn Beck. You may want to break out the tissue:
By more than three to one, voters said they trusted Mr. Obama more than they trusted Congressional Republicans to make the right decisions about the economy. And by more than two to one, they said they trusted Mr. Obama to keep the nation safe, typically a Republican strong suit. Nearly one-quarter of Republicans said they trusted Mr. Obama more than Congressional Republicans to make the right decisions about the economy.
“As far as acting like adults and getting things done, the Democrat Party has done better,” said Rachel Beeson, an independent from Wahiawa, Hawaii. “The Republican Party seems to have decided that they are going to turn down anything that comes out of the White House, and nothing will get done that way.”
And that, from a guy who still says "Democrat Party." Meanwhile, GOPers still clinging to the notion that Obama is more polarizing than George Dubya Bush may want to avoid reading this.
If you can believe it, the segment AFTER Frank Gaffney's on "Hardball" last night was even crazier than the Gaffster. It featured one of the dyed-in-the-wool right wing crazies, whom I lovably call the AWMSGN (Angry White Male Survivalist Gun Nuts.) Charles Blow of the New York Times profiled them last Saturday, and appeared on the segment. His take:
My read: They’re apocalyptic. They feel isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged. And some of their “leaders” seem to be trying to mold them into militias.
Now watch the segment, and ask yourself, how did the Nutters of Appalachia manage to recruit a guy named Gottlieb, and does he feel entirely safe among them...
The neocon crazy train rides again: Gaffney plays 'Hardball'
If you missed the performance on "Hardball" tonight by the almost comically paranoid Frank Gaffney (the man whose life is apparently devoted to tilting at Muslim windmills) you missed a treat like few others. David Shuster filled in admirably for Chris Matthews, and the only thing missing was that look of utter consternation that Chris tends to get on his face whenever a neocon speaks. Gaffney, who has created an entire organization to fight ... wait for it ... sharia law (which isn't being implemented in the U.S. ... yet) claimed, with all due seriousness, that:
1. The U.S. should have shot down that failed North Korean long-range missile launch, possibly restarting the Korean War and causing the annihilation of tens of thousands of South Koreans in the process. It's a thought echoed by the purportedly legit wing of the neocon press.
3. Dick Cheney (of whome Gaffney declared himself a "member of the fan club" is right about the country being less safe, and we'll be even worse off if the Obama administration dismantles our super secret missile shooter-downer ... rays!!
I think I've figured it out. The neocons, who also said Saddam Hussein had developed wooden, pilotless drones that could deliver chemical weapons over the U.S., (and that he, not Tim McVeigh, blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma) and who insisted that Ronald Reagan go to war with the Soviet Union which was going to nuke us into last week ... even as that country was busy collapsing ... are not only insane, and constantly in need of a Boogeyman to go to war with (I mean for other people to go to war with ... they don't DO fighting, themselves... too busy thinking up crazy stuff...) they're living in a warped, Twilight Zone episode of "The Jetsons," in which Mr. Spacely isn't just mean, he's trying to kill you, and make you submit to Sharia law...
Watch the segment, and pay close attention to the incredulous look on fellow panelist David Corn's face:
President Obama's first speech in a Muslim country took place this morning (our time) in Turkey.
President Barack Obama sought Monday to make American amends with the Islamic world after eight years of tension, declaring in a speech to the Turkish parliament that he is determined to have a “partnership with the Muslim world.”
“Let me say this as clearly as I can: the United States is not – and will never be — at war with Islam,” Obama said in remarks delivered in Ankara. “In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject but also to strengthen opportunities for all people.”
Obama’s declaration that the U.S. is not at war with Islam is certain to get huge play throughout the Arab world. ...
... Obama, seeking to mend strains with a critical ally that bridges Europe and the Middle East, acknowledged “difficulties these last few years.”
Turkey, the only majority Muslim country in NATO, refused use of its territory as an invasion route to Iraq.
If you haven't noticed, because you're one of the smart/lucky people who's gotten XM (as I did for one brief and shining week recently when I drove a rental car,) the AM dial has become pretty much the sole province of angry white male survivalist gun nuts and die-hard sports talk addicts too broke to get XM. ... And since I too am too broke to get XM, it will henceforth be my job to tell you what the AWMSGNs are talking about.
On Friday, I heard my first round of chit-chat, fresh off the talk radio morning prep: the Chia Obama. Todd Schnitt was opining about it on our Clear Channel winger talk outlet with his callers, who were expressing consternation that they could no longer find the product at their local Walgreens, the chain apparently having banished it from their shelves as a potentially racist product not in keeping with the chain's corporate image (or maybe as just plain tasteless.) As Walgreens is the lone retail distributor of Chia-fare (a product that dates back to the 1970s,) now, one can only purchase the Chia Obama online. And who is buying said Chia? Apparently, wingers. Lots of them! There are the wingers who are angry that Obama won ... the wingers who want to teach their kids to make fun of the president (in revenge for all those Dubya "chimp" references...) and the wingers who are burning that 90 percent of the world loves the guy, and hates (slash "fears and is disturbed by") them. Huh. Go figure.
So this morning on a really creaky AM station I used to do a show on (1470 AM) a winger host whose name I can't remember actually interviewed the founder of the Chia enterprise; a septugenarian whose company, Joseph Enterprises, also sells The Clapper! Mr. Chia was very disheartened that Walgreens misinterpreted his product, which he meant as a tribute, not an opportunity for 40-something white guys living in their mother's basements and stockpiling semi-automatic rifles in her garage while fine-tuning their AM radios on the shortwave and surfing Little Green Footballs on pirated Internet connections using a 1993-era IBM PC, to grow a green afro on the Negro. A sample/paraphrased clip from the show:
RIGHT WING HOST I CAN'T REMEMBER THE NAME OF: Don't you think it's a little disrespectful to turn the president into a Chia-pet?
CHIA GUY: He's not a Chia pet!
The Chia guy also pointed out that he is a Republican, but voted for Obama.
That's your AWMSGN update for this morning! Have a great day, and tune in tomorrow!
The links all connect with the main contention in “Legacy of Secrecy” that the assassination was engineered by Carlos Marcello, longtime Mafia boss in New Orleans. That theory is far from new. There's evidence that Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the president's brother, believed it. Authors Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann broaden the theme.
Marcello had a special grudge against the Kennedys because Robert, who fought organized crime, once had him deported to an uncomfortable exile in Central America. Born in Tunisia, Marcello carried false papers that gave Guatemala as his country of origin. He soon found his way back to the United States.
... White supremacist Joseph A. Milteer had aroused suspicion when police recorded him predicting, less than two weeks before the assassination, that Kennedy would be killed by a high powered rifle with a telescopic sight, fired from an upper-floor window. That's the official version of what actually happened in Dallas. The new book says a proper investigation of the prediction could have led to Marcello through Milteer's contacts with Mafia figures, and might have frustrated the assassination.
Four years later, the book says, Marcello brokered a deal in which Milteer paid James Earl Ray to kill Martin Luther King Jr. It also finds that Marcello's biographer, John H. Davis, and journalist David E. Scheim made "compelling cases" for Marcello's involvement in the killing of Robert Kennedy.
Buy the book here. The assertions about Milteer paying James Earl Ray to kill Dr. King are apparently supported by newly released FBI files, which help explain how a hayseed like Ray was able to globetrot after the killing:
The recently-uncovered 1968 FBI files support new evidence showing that the late Joseph Milteer was one of four Georgia white supremacists who funded the assassination of Dr. King. Rep. Stokes's committee had actually investigated Milteer for the murder of President John F. Kennedy, because of a Miami Police undercover recording of Milteer made two weeks before Kennedy's death. On that November 9, 1963 tape, Milteer discussed a plan to "assassinate the President with a high-powered rifle from a tall building." On the same tape, Milteer also discussed an unsuccessful attempt to kill Dr. King. The FBI did not provide any information to Stokes's committee indicating they had looked at Milteer for the assassination of Dr. King. As a result, the Congressional committee didn't investigate Milteer for King's murder.
FBI files, along with other new information, indicate that Milteer and his white supremacist associates in Atlanta turned to the Mafia to "broker" the contract to kill Dr. King. The mobster involved was Louisiana/Texas godfather Carlos Marcello, who died in 1993. Congressional investigators uncovered statements and evidence indicating that in the months prior to Dr. King's murder, James Earl Ray was a low-level heroin runner for Marcello's drug network.
James Earl Ray's backing by Milteer and several associates in Atlanta explains for the first time why Ray--after shooting Dr. King in Memphis and fleeing to Canada--first made a 450-mile detour south to Atlanta, where Ray abandoned his getaway car only blocks from Dr. King's office and church. Ray then called one of Milteer's associates, and Milteer himself admitted in a letter that he was in the area when Ray abandoned his car. Authorities have long known that after killing King in Memphis, Ray was somehow able to flee to Canada, then to England, to Portugal, and back to England, where Ray was finally apprehended.
What's truly sad, is that Ray was able to convince members of the King family that he was innocent of the killing, and that King's widow went to her grave probably believing him.
In today's episode of "The Alaska Hillbillies..." Sarah Palin's would-a-been son-in-law, "F**in Redneck" Levi Johnston, is catching hell from mama bear after talking up his sex life with Lil' Bristol on that swarthy Tyra Banks' teevee show. Said F**in:
Levi Johnston not only says he practiced safe sex "most of the time" when they were together, he also reveals to Tyra Banks that he believes Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin knew he and Bristol were having sex when they lived under her roof. "I'm pretty sure she probably knew. Moms are pretty smart," Johnston, 18, says in an interview set to air April 6.
The couple, who were high school sweethearts, planned to wed after graduating – but ended up splitting earlier this year. At the time, Johnston told Good Morning America that he needed to mature before getting married.
"Bristol did not even know Levi was going on the show. We're disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship," says the statement from the Palin family rep.
"Bristol's focus will remain on raising Tripp, completing her education, and advocating abstinence," the statement continues. "It is unfortunate that Levi finds it more appealing to exploit his previous relationship with Bristol than to contribute to the well being of the child."
The statement ends, saying, "Bristol realizes now that she made a mistake in her relationship and is the one taking responsibility for their actions."
Quick takes: unemployment, detainees, and the Obamas take Paris!
The March unemployment figures are as dire as you thought they'd be: 663,000 jobs lost, unemployment at 8.5 percent. As per usual, Wall Street could care less. Meanwhile:
Google also rose before the bell, although its gains were limited as Techcrunch, the website, reported the company may be in talks to buy Twitter, the microblogging service that has become the latest online craze. Google’s shares picked up 0.8 per cent to $365.45.
If the Googs make Twitter as bug-free as Blogger, we're all in big trouble...
Overseas, President and Michelle Obama get the full red carpet treatment as they arrive to a rapturous welcome in Paris, where the president held a town hall and promised a less arrogant America. Meanwhile, were Michelle O and Carla Bruni Sarkozy wearing the same dress in different colors??? You be the judge:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today that his country will accept one prisoner from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay as a way of demonstrating approval of President Obama's decision to close the facility, adding that "it feels really good to work with a U.S. president who wants to change the world."
One of the t-shirts has a rifle sight aimed at a pregnant Palestinian with the slogan "1 shot, 2 kills," according to a report last month in the Haaretz newspaper.
A spokesman for the military called the shirts "simply tasteless," and said the armed forces' chief educational officer had instructed commanders to ensure soldiers did not create or wear the items and to discipline those who disobeyed.
Haaretz said soldiers graduating from a snipers' course designed the t-shirts with the gun sight on the pregnant woman and printed them privately. The paper described examples of soldiers in other units printing shirts with their own slogans.
This as some Israelis fear a growing isolation of that country from Europe, and potentially, from the Obama administration. Indeed, when it comes to the creation of a Palestinian state, Israel's new ultra-right wing government is quickly becoming the odd man out, with its new foreign minister, Mr. Lieberman, even pissing off Israel's one sem-friend in the region, Egypt.
The NYTimes profiles Beck, and includes this pretty good summation:
The conservative writer David Frum said Mr. Beck’s success “is a product of the collapse of conservatism as an organized political force, and the rise of conservatism as an alienated cultural sensibility.”
“It’s a show for people who feel they belong to an embattled minority that is disenfranchised and cut off,” he said.
WASHINGTON — The House and Senate approved budgets of about $3.5 trillion for the government on Thursday with no Republican support, a sign of deep partisan tensions likely to color Congressional efforts to enact major policy initiatives sought by President Obama.
On the heels of House approval of its spending plan for 2010, the Senate voted 55 to 43 shortly before midnight to adopt a similar budget after a day spent laboring over politically tinged amendments that did little to change a fiscal blueprint generally in keeping with Mr. Obama’s ambitious agenda.
Democrats said the two budgets, which will have to be reconciled after a two-week Congressional recess, cleared the way for health care, energy and education overhauls pushed by the new president. The Democrats said the budgets reversed what they portrayed as the failed economic approach of the Bush administration and Republican-led Congresses.
The House version passed 233-196, with 20 House Dems voting no, along with all the Republicans. Two Senate Dems opposed their version (Evan Bayh (IN) and Ben Nelson (NE)...) which went through on a straight up or down vote. Lieberman, still on his best behavior, voted with the majority of Dems.
Dennis Kucinich voted "no" in the House, because the bill includes funding for what he sees as an expansion of the wars.
Said Kucinich: This budget is a statement of principles for the upcoming year, and I cannot accept it in its entirety. I will not vote for a budget that ties military spending to the operational funding of our government. This year, the budget includes $130 billion for war funding. The Washington Post reports today another 10,000 troops may be sent to Afghanistan, bringing our total number of troops there to as much as 78,000 by 2010 –- a more than 100% increase from today's troop levels. This budget is a plan that authorizes the expansion of the war. I simply cannot endorse a budget or a plan that sends more of our brave men and women to Afghanistan, a conflict which has the potential to become this generation's Vietnam."
What's interesting is that after all the sturm and drang, the budget whizzed through in the dead of night. Quietly, while Michelle and Barack were off courting the Queen. But Obama got pretty much everything he wanted, and it's hard to imagine the reconciliation version being much different than what he proposed.
John McCain's spending freeze went down in flames, as did the GOP Fudge-it. Go figure. But Republicans, by voting universally against the budget, have placed all of the consequences of it, good or not, in the hands of the party in power. It's one heck of a roll of the dice, and most likely, not a smart one. Remember Clinton's 93 budget? No GOPers voted for that one, either, and the party is still trying to convince Americans that Clinton's roaring economy was something they did. But in their delusions, Congressional Republicans see these votes, along with public anger over bailouts, as a way to take back the House.
By the way, it wouldn't be Congress if they didn't tuck in something for the rich, and here it is:
Among the amendments that won Senate approval was a bipartisan proposal that would raise the estate tax exemption by $1.5 million, to a total of $5 million, and reduce the tax’s maximum rate by 10 percentage points, to 35 percent.
I mean, we wouldn't want Biff not to be able to give his little Muffy's his all...
One said: 'There was a bit of a bottleneck as all of the leaders filed out so the Queen started chatting to Michelle Obama. She appeared to look up at her and make a comment about how tall she was.
'As she did, she put her arm around Mrs Obama and rested her gloved hand on the small of her back.'
Almost simultaneously, Mrs Obama put her arm around the Queen's shoulders rather more firmly.
'The pair then looked at their feet and appeared to be discussing their shoes.
... No-one - including the ladies-in-waiting standing nearby - could believe their eyes. In 57 years, the Queen has never been seen to make that kind of gesture and it is certainly against all protocol to touch her.
'But she didn't seem to mind a bit and was smiling and joking throughout,' the eyewitness said.
Michelle and Barack go to the opera, with Michelle in her signature sleeveless.
Michelle in her fave: J-Crew
President Obama and "the bros" formed the new "Frat Pack" (Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev)... though Barack didn't look into anybody's eyes and see their soul...
Is it just me, or do Chinese P.M. Hu and the Saudi prince look like the guys who sat near the cool kids table in junior high school?
Meanwhile, Obama and His Frumpiness, Gordon Brown, got down to business.
And while they are decidedly not anti-American, or anti-Obama (sorry wingers,) there are still lots of protests, though some of the protesters were civilized enough to make time for tea. Ah, the English!
For all Powell's continuing respectability, and I am one who still respects him -- if less so than I did before he held up those vials of sand at the United Nations -- the quite well done Maddow interview highlights, once again, the fact that as a man of the military, and a man of principal, General Powell had many, many reasons to resign from the Bush cabinet, and would have raised the level of respect many of us have for him had he done so.
And speaking of torture, Doug Feith calls Spain's investigation of him and 5 other Bush administration torture proponents "outrageous!!!" I've met Doug Feith, and I can tell you that he's one arrogant S.O.B. I wish him happy travels ... just maybe keep those travels domestic, brother.
Judge Garzon, however, has built an international reputation by bringing high-profile cases against human-rights violators as well as international terrorist networks like Al Qaeda. The arrest warrant for General Pinochet led to his detention in Britain, although he never faced a trial. The judge has also been outspoken about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five citizens or residents of Spain who were prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have said they were tortured there. The five had been indicted in Spain, but their cases were dismissed after the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained under torture was not admissible.
BTW, Pat Leahy has now said his idea for a "truth commission" in lieu of legal proceedings here in the U.S., is D.O.A.
Cop who kept NFL player from his dying mother-in-law resigns
He's being called "the most hated man in Dallas," and now, he's also unemployed:
Dallas Police Officer Robert Powell, who delayed NFL player Ryan Moats and his wife from the hospital bedside of a dying relative, has resigned.
Powell handed in his resignation to Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle Wednesday morning. Click here to read it.
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert calls the decision a good solution to the issue. "What we've seen in the last week or so is not what we want to come out of the city of Dallas," he said.
Powell's attorney released a statement from the officer. It says:
"With a heavy heart and great sadness, I resigned from the Dallas Police Department this morning. I made this decision in the hope that my resignation will allow the Dallas Police Department, my fellow officers, and the citizens of Dallas to better reflect on this experience, learn from the mistakes made, and move forward. I still hope to speak with the Moats family to personally express my deep regret, sympathy, and to apologize for my poor judgment and unprofessional conduct. I also want to apologize to my fellow officers. I have sincere respect and admiration for the men and women of the Dallas Police Department and the work they perform daily, and I wish them well."
Powell's attorneys say he was "screwed" by the department, which they say shouldn't have released his photo, and that the chief was going to fire him anyway:
"We definitely got the impression that Chief Kunkle had already made the decision, and he was going to fire Officer Powell no matter what," said Chris Livingston, one of Powell's attorneys. "The appeal process would have played out. But that's many months down the road."
"Let's face it," said Bob Gorsky, another one of Powell's attorneys. "They threw him under the bus."
Watch an interview with former Officer Robert Powell on the CBS affiliate in Dallas here, in which he repeatedly apologizes and says several times "it was my mistake," but appears to blame his "training" for the incident. Powell also admits that he was "terrified" of getting fired because he has two young children at home. So much for that. And in case you don't remember the incident, here's the short version:
The Florida File: Greg Gumbel kidnapped by infomercials!
In the end, infomercial producers, have you no shame?
When you can't trust somebody whose paying you $110,000 to tape a series of video introductions, who can you trust??? The CBS Sports broadcaster is suing an infomercial producer in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale:
... Paul Douglas Scott, owner of the Deerfield Beach-based Encore Television Group Inc., did not tell Gumbel the introductions would be used to promote products ranging from time-shares to tools, the lawsuit says.
Scott approached Gumbel and his agent in 2007 with a deal to introduce educational and news-oriented programming that would be produced by Encore, according to the lawsuit. Scott told Gumbel they would be producing 2-minute education stories called "Eye on America."
The stories were supposed to cover subjects like health technology, business, trends and fashion. Gumbel was paid $50,000 to tape introductions for one day in late 2007 at Encore's studios. He was then paid $60,000 to record for another day in early 2008.
It wasn't until later that Gumbel learned the programs were actually infomercials, designed to look like news broadcasts but paid for by the subjects of the shows, according to the suit. Gumbel claims the shows incorrectly suggest he personally endorsed certain products.
... Infomercial subjects included time-shares, real estate, cell chargers, water treatment, fiber products, beverages, magnet therapy, employee-monitoring software, marketing tools and yoga.
What an inauspicious day to unveil your plans for America. However in this case, I think they're actually serious. From the CSM, we discover that the fresh, new ideas contained in the Republican budgetfudge-it consist of tax cuts, tax reductions, and then opening your arms to heaven, throwing your head back with a hearty grin and waiting for the rainbows!
Compared with the Obama administration’s 10-year budget projection, House Republicans propose spending $4.8 trillion less, borrowing $3.6 trillion less, and zeroing out $1.5 trillion in proposed tax increases over the next 10 years.
To get there, the GOP alternative would rescind the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus package, beginning in fiscal year 2010 – with the exception of unemployment insurance for those who have already lost their jobs.
It would also repeal the omnibus spending bill for FY 2009, thus rolling back spending – with the exception of defense and veterans spending, “our nation’s primary discretionary responsibilities” – to the levels of FY 2008.
Looking forward, the GOP plan proposes freezing nondefense, nonveteran spending for five years, followed by a “modest annual increase” for the next five years.
Instead of scheduled tax increases in 2010, the Republican budget would permanently extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and permanently fix the alternative minimum tax.
And did I mention there's tax cuts? There's a whole bucket-load of tax cuts in there! Says the DNC:
"If House Republicans had their way and the budget they outlined today were adopted, President Obama's economic recovery program, which is already saving and creating jobs throughout the country, would be gutted, Medicare as we know it would all but be eliminated, Social Security checks would be slashed and a proposed spending freeze on discretionary programs would cut essential services - from health care and support for veterans to education to job training - that Americans most depend on when the economy is in crisis.
"Not surprisingly, while House Republicans are proposing to cut essential initiatives in the areas of health care, education, energy, medical research and economic recovery, they are proposing to make permanent the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans and expand those tax breaks even further. It's just these type of failed, trickle down economic policies that led to the current economic downturn and led Americans to vote in overwhelming numbers against GOP candidates in the last two elections.
"If you expected a GOP alternative to the failed policies of the past that got our country into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, then I have two words for you: April Fool's," said Kenneth Baer, OMB communications director.
Put forward by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, the 10-year plan seeks to trim $3.6 trillion altogether from the accumulated deficits projected for Obama’s budget by the end of the decade. But given the generous tax cuts, deficits would still be large, and debt as a percentage of the gross domestic product would grow to 62.5 percent compared to 40.8 percent in 2008.
Has anybody ever explained to these guys that when you eliminate the federal government's revenue via massive tax cuts, the government runs an even bigger deficit because it ... has ... so ... much ... less ... revenue...??? Oh, and they privatize Medicare, as ThinkP explains:
Republicans are taking Americans under 54 out of Medicare and leaving them in the hands of private insurers. Americans under 54 would chose a new private insurance plan that provides a standard Medicare benefits package or some other managed care option.
Which should work out well, especially if they can get that great company AIG to get into the health insurance biz! Old, sick people derivatives for everybody!
In case you missed it: Miss Universe hearts Gitmo!
Torture-shmorture! The reigning Miss Universe thinks Gitmo's a hoot!
Wishing for world peace is so passé; nowadays Miss Universe can be found blogging about Guantanamo Bay.
"I didn't want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful," Dayana Mendoza gushed at the end of a five-day trip. It may not be a sentiment that Binyam Mohamed would share about his time at the US base in Cuba, but then he wasn't buying souvenir necklaces to take home at the end of his four years of incarceration.
Ms Mendoza, a Venezuelan model, was crowned Miss Universe last summer. Since then, she has clocked up stops in Indonesia, Spain, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. "This week, Guantanamo!!!" she trumpeted on her blog.
The offending post has been promptly taken down and replaced with this:
Dayana Mendoza’s comments on her blog were in reference to the hospitality she received while meeting the members of the U.S. military and their families who are stationed in Guantánamo.
Israel's new foreign minister dismayed the international community today with a rancorous analysis of the peace process and an announcement that the new government favours aggression rather than concessions to the Palestinians.
In his first speech since taking office, the rightwinger Avigdor Lieberman dismissed the last round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, arguing that Israeli concessions made in a bid to secure peace had all been fruitless.
"Those who want peace should prepare for war and be strong," he said. "There is no country that made concessions like Israel. Since 1967 we gave up territory that is three times the size of Israel. We showed willingness. The Oslo process started back in 1993, and to this day I have not seen that we reached peace."
Speaking to what the Associated Press describes as a roomful of "cringing diplomats", the new foreign minister said Israel was not bound by the Annapolis peace talks. These were initiated in November 2007 to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and involved around 40 countries.
"The Israeli government never ratified Annapolis; nor did [the] Knesset," said Lieberman, promising to honour only the US-initiated "road map" of 2002, which has long been in stalemate amid accusations from both sides.
Lieberman's speech is in stark contrast to remarks made by the incoming prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, who both said the new government would pursue peace on every front. ...
Unemployment rates were higher in February than a year earlier in all 372 metropolitan areas, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S.Department of Labor reported today. Fourteen areas recorded joblessrates of at least 15.0 percent, while 20 areas registered rates below 5.0 percent. The national unemployment rate in February was 8.9 per-cent, not seasonally adjusted, up from 5.2 percent a year earlier. Among the 310 metropolitan areas for which nonfarm payroll data wereavailable, 270 areas recorded over-the-year employment decreases, 37reported gains, and 3 had no change.
...with particularly bad news for California:
El Centro, Calif., recorded the highest unemployment rate, 24.5 per- cent. The areas with the next highest rates were Merced, Calif., 19.9 percent; Yuba City, Calif., 18.9 percent; and Elkhart-Goshen, Ind., 18.0 percent. Among the 14 areas with jobless rates of at least 15.0 percent, 10 were located in California.
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy shed another 742,000 jobs last month. Still, if you can believe it, things are not all bad:
April 1 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks advanced for a second day as sales of existing homes unexpectedly increased and a manufacturing gauge topped economists’ estimates, bolstering optimism that the worst of the recession is over. The dollar strengthened against the euro and oil fell.
D.R. Horton Inc. led gains in 12 of 13 shares in an index of homebuilders as the National Association of Realtors reported a 2.1 percent increase in pending home resales in February. Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. added at least 5.8 percent after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said there are signs that financial markets are recovering.
Of course, we now know for sure that what's good for Wall Street isn't necessarily, or even all that often, good for Main Street, but signs that we may have hit the bottom are out there. Let's hope so, anyway.
Sy Hersh says Dick Cheney left "stay behinds" inside the NSA and Pentagon, and perhaps elsewhere in government, to inform him, and possibly undermine President Obama, on matters Cheney deems important. Per ThinkP:
In an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, host Terry Gross asked investigative journalist Seymour Hersh if, as he continues to investigate the Bush administration, “more people” were “coming forward” to talk to him now that “the president and vice president are no longer in power.” Hersh replied that though “a lot of people that had told me in the last year of Bush, ‘call me next, next February,’ not many people had talked to him. He implied that they were still scared of Cheney.
“Are you saying that you think Vice President Cheney is still having a chilling effect on people who might otherwise be coming forward,” asked Gross. “I’ll make it worse,” answered Hersh, adding that he believes Cheney “put people back” in government to “stay behind” in order to “tell him what’s going on” and perhaps even “do sabotage...”
Cheney, who we already know held unprecedented power in the Baby Bush administration, apparently is also strangely unafraid of being indicted for war crimes, or even investigated by the Obama Justice Department. One wonders why...
First off, stations flipping formats is not at all new. Happens all the time. However, it is pretty unusual for a radio station to admit to listeners in advance that their favorite station is about to undergo "the change." Typically, a listener just tunes in one day to find their usual shows replaced by, say, HYPED UP DANCE MUSIC FROM THE 80s, 90s and TODAY!!!... or in the case of my former station, the Good News of Jesus. At 1080, we weren't allowed to tell listeners that we were flipping, though we knew for weeks (instead, we did everything in our power to rebel telepathically, including playing "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men and other giveaway songs in every break.) Five minutes before the flip, on a Thursday, the general manager of the new station came on the air with us to announce the new format. Surprise! On the other hand, when Radio One canned Michael Eric Dyson for talking about Tupac (I guess they missed the part about him being the hip-hop professor) he was allowed to do a farewell show. Big mistake. Half the callers phoned in to slam Radio One... (btw, Dyson is getting a new show, courtesy of the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Take that, Lee Michaels!)
Fast forward to the present day, and AM station 940 WINZ, the lone "progressive talk" station in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale market (I use the quotes because their most recent morning show was Don Imus...) WINZ, a Clear Channel outfit, is flipping to Fox Sports on April 6th. Most people in the business know it's happening -- it's been rumored on the "Internets" for quite some time. But the listeners are now getting official confirmation of the flip ... from AM 940. They're running clever promos announcing "mission accomplished" due to the election of the country's first Black president, and another spot saying "we might as well prove the rumors true."
A new strategy for a new time. So in one week, this market will have five ... count 'em, FIVE AM sports talk stations, two right wing nut-job dial positions, and no progressive talk. Not that Clear Channel has exactly put their all into the latter (though they were the only ones who even tried,) and not that Air America and Nova M haven't made it easy for conservative PD's to walk away from the format, with weak lineups and wack programming... (Montel Williams...? Seriously???)
So there you go. South Florida talk listeners can choose from Glenn Beck crying into the microphone, fat boy Limbaugh defending the rich from the rabble, Schnitt insisting he's not a GOP shill (he is) and that psych-job Joyce on 850 who nobody actually listens to, according to Arbitron (which will soon be replaced by People Meter, at which it will become official that nobody listens to her.)