Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Nothing Serious"

Reuters has a very important article today chipping away at the war-mongering narrative that grips the beltway common wisdom. The headline should be trumped from all rooftops in D.C.: "IAEA found nothing serious at Iran site"
U.N. inspectors found "nothing to be worried about" in a first look at a previously secret uranium enrichment site in Iran last month, the International Atomic Energy chief said in remarks published Thursday.

Mohamed ElBaradei also told the New York Times that he was examining possible compromises to unblock a draft nuclear cooperation deal between Iran and three major powers that has foundered over Iranian objections.

The nuclear site, which Iran revealed in September three years after diplomats said Western spies first detected it, added to Western fears of covert Iranian efforts to develop atom bombs. Iran says it is enriching uranium only for electricity.
Note the phrasing of that third paragraph as well; "three years after diplomats said Western spies first detected it." That does not support the strange assumption that Iran revealed the Qom facility only after it became aware Western spies detected it.

And while Reuters reporter Mark Heinrich does outline the reasons for Western suspicion of the Qom facility, he also provides the
common-sense counter for that suspicion. Iran explains the worrisome aspects of the new facility as "a fallback for its nuclear program in case its larger Natanz enrichment plant were bombed by a foe like Israel." Remember the non-stop saber-rattling towards Iran for most of this decade from nuclear-superpower and nuclear-armed Israel, and the thirty years of distrust built up between our country and Iran, and ask yourself if Tehran has been behaving in the least bit irrational.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Probably the most important article on health insurance reform today. (h/t Memeorandum).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The right response

Louis Caldera is now out of a job.  He was the politically-appointed chief ultimately responsible for the horrifying low-altitude flyover photo op two weeks ago.   A plane used sometimes as Air Force One was given a mission to buzz lower Manhattan so a picture could be taken of the plane over the Statue of Liberty.
Within two weeks, the White House has released this report (.pdf) explaining how it went wrong at the top level.  It presents a clear story, easily understandable, of the compounding of mistakes; we are now certain that Mr. Caldera had the sole responsibility for the mistake; and he made the correct decision and resigned his post.

The memo is clear that its scope is limited to White House decision points; it says that the Department of Defense is conducting its own review; I think we should also see one from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The biggest hole in the story presented by the White House memo is the question of origin:
Initial planning for the New York City flyover appears to have begun in March 2009 or earlier.  On Friday, April 3, 2009, representatives of the PAG, the FAA, and several local authorities held a teleconference to discuss "operational issues and public affairs / outreach issues." According to a written summary of the call, the participants discussed the details of the proposed flyover including the date, time, and location of the operation; the altitude of the plane (1,000 feet), and the preferred flight path. The participants recognized "the sensitivity of the aircraft involved," and concluded that "public affairs and outreach efforts must be carefully coordinated and timed." Coordination with "the general public" was planned to commence two days before the flight. The written summary of the call further specified that "[n]o reference should be made to the Presidential aircraft in any public outreach." However, it suggested that public outreach could reference "DOD aircraft." 
Where did the idea come from originally?  Shouldn't that idea person also lose his or her job, or at least be moved sideways out of that position?

It's pretty clear from the memo that from an operational standpoint, this flyover was nothing more than an intricate training flight; the kind of routine thing that it has not been common practice to discuss with the White House.  Colonel Scott Turner, commander of the group responsible for Air Force One, is obviously a very competent officer who was not insensitive to possible public reaction.  He threw up as many flags as he could, and was basically assured that his concerns had been addressed by the White House.  He executed his task extremely well.  I'm extremely glad that no blame is being attached anywhere except squarely where it should be.

It's a small event, and Mr. Caldera is obviously of very little political importance to anyone, but as a microcosm, this is the kind of response we should demand from our government.  As Fester says, "Minimal levels of accountability should prevent some stupidity" and accountability is what is desperately missing from our current ruling class, from Wall Street bonuses to torture architects, enablers, actors and silent opposition to military contracting to lobbyist influence.  In a bi-partisan way, from the bottom to the top, we need transparency and accountability, and it's up to each of us ordinary citizens to demand it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I do mean to finish writing responses to the Mukasey/Hayden entry on American Torture, but just quickly I wanted to share my thoughts on this amazing video (h/t avocado):

In this episode of 30 Days, a Mormon mom spends a month living with two gay men who have adopted four boys.  The men agreed to do the show because they believed that personalizing the situation could change an opponent's mind; the woman agreed to do the show in order to test her faith.

She spends much of the show feeling like an outcast; feeling very defensive; watching her non-religious myths about gay families crumble in the face of reality; however, she clings to her faith as the core of her identity.  Her faith tells her that homosexuality is wrong and therefore any apparent benefits surrounding gay and lesbian individuals must be wrong and worked against.  If it weren't for her faith, she would be on board with the family by the end of the month, I have no doubts.  HOWEVER, she sees her religious belief as absolutely equal a gay man's desire to adopt children.  Early in the show, a gay dad tries to tell her that if she had her way, she would take his children away from him, and her reply is essentially that if he had his way, he would take her faith away from her.  He would erase her identity, because her identity is so bound up in what she sees as her beliefs - as an Orange County Mormon, she must have been active in or at least very aware of the pro- Prop 8 campaign.

For me, this points out that there must be a faith-based argument FOR same-sex adoption, marriage, and families.  That was the only tactic not used by anyone in the show, and without some way of reconciling same-sex families with her identity/faith, she could not let go of her position.  An articulate argument for the Separation of Church and State, showing how that separation protects churches, might have made some inroads, and that wasn't tried either.

Friday, April 17, 2009

American Torturers

I don't have time to write today.  I'm writing anyway because of this.
The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them.
The release of these opinions was unnecessary as a legal matter, and is unsound as a matter of policy. Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001.
Proponents of the release have argued that the techniques have been abandoned and thus there is no point in keeping them secret any longer; that they were in any event ineffective; that their disclosure was somehow legally compelled; and that they cost us more in the coin of world opinion than they were worth. None of these claims survives scrutiny.
Soon after he was sworn in, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that suspended use of these techniques and confined not only the military but all U.S. agencies -- including the CIA -- to the interrogation limits set in the Army Field Manual. This suspension was accompanied by a commitment to further study the interrogation program, and government personnel were cautioned that they could no longer rely on earlier opinions of the OLC.
Leaving aside the WSJ's inclusion of the mugshot of KSM, so that we all know that it's only horrible brown people like that who were tortured in our name, the thought of these presumed war criminals arguing their sadistic fantasies in a major newspaper makes me uncharacteristically long for the death of newspapers once and for all.
Messrs. Hayden and Mukasey combine to tell us that the deterrence of legal consequences demanded by democratically enacted legislation and international treaties was merely "timidity" and brings a completely unsupported claim that because we weren't torturing prior to 2001, we couldn't prevent the attacks on 9/11.  Conveniently thrown down the memory hole are these six words:  "Okay, now you've covered your ass."  Those six words alone were grounds for impeachment, in my opinion, for gross incompetence. But that's an aside.
I'd like to respond to Hayden and Mukasey's characterization of the anti-torture crowd.  They list four arguments that they say "don't survive scrutiny"  by which they mean "we can write complete fiction and find bullshit answers to each of the things we want to argue against, and there's no way they can survive our bullshit."  I would have thought that humanity was enough of an anti-torture argument, but we're currently living in an America I don't recognize, so let's scrutinize their scrutiny a little.  

1. "There's no reason to keep them secret anymore."  Their answer is that Al Qaeda will now train their terrorists to withstand the "absolute limit" of American interrogation.  This is self-evidently false from both the pro-torture and the anti-torture points of view.  The anti-torture point of view is probably most eloquently presented by former Master Instructor of the SERE program, Malcolm Nance:  "The torturer will trigger within the subject a survival instinct, in this case the ability to breathe, which makes the victim instantly pliable and ready to comply. It is purely and simply a tool by which to deprive a human being of his ability to resist through physical humiliation. "  That article should be required reading for all American citizens before discussing anything having to do with the CIA's torture regime.  The survival instinct Nance describes is not something you can be trained against.  Millions of years of evolution have hardwired into our system this response to drowning.  Bullshitters Hayden and Mukasey need to provide one example of someone who resisted torture successfully before their claim can be taken at all seriously. 
From the pro-torture point of view, it's also false.  For the purposes of argument, let's assume that Mukasey and Hayden have their way, Obama is politically forced to re-institute the torture program.  But, they say, because the world now knows all the details of the "absolute limit" we will go, Al Qaeda is now able to train against it.  Listen, fellas, the techniques are all public information already.  Not even the sadists who decided that America now had to torture its detainees were creative enough to think up new ways of pain.  I haven't made my way through the four published memos yet, but if someone can show me a technique in there that someone in history hasn't thought of before, I'll never type online again.  The CIA program was a perversion of the SERE training created by Malcolm Nance and others to help American soldiers who fall into the hands of a torture regime.  When it was developed: 
"I [Nance] traveled to Cambodia to visit the torture camps of the Khmer Rouge. The country had just opened for tourism and the effect of the genocide was still heavy in the air. I wanted to know how real torturers and terror camp guards would behave and learn how to resist them from survivors of such horrors. I had previously visited the Nazi death camps Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. I had met and interviewed survivors of Buchenwald, Auschwitz and Magdeburg when I visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. However, it was in the S-21 death camp known as Tuol Sleng, in downtown Phnom Penh, where I found a perfectly intact inclined waterboard. Next to it was the painting on how it was used. I found a perfectly intact inclined waterboard.
And finally, if Mukasey and Hayden think that this is the "absolute limit" of what an American torture regime would do, that merely shows us the limit of their personal morality, such as it is.  The poor souls who are ordered to torture, and don't have the wherewithal to refuse the illegal order,  are damaged by the experience.  Not as much as their subjects, probably, but don't we all remember the Stanford Prison test?  When those torturers are promoted, they'll be able to dig into the Spanish Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials and medieval dungeons for their inspirations, and all of a sudden "Iron Maiden" will no longer just be a band I liked twenty years ago.  From the pro-torture point of view, all this disclosure means is that future American torturers will just have to take the gloves off even more.
Now my little girl has woken up from her nap and I have lost that hour of work I needed to do; but reading that disgusting drivel in the WSJ I couldn't rest until I'd at least begun my own personal response.  I will not be a party to torture.  Never.  No matter how much idiots in power want to justify it.  I hope to respond to the remainder of Mukasey and Hayden's so-called arguments soon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Speculation on today's "tea parties"

Something on Rachel Maddow just clicked a connection for me.  Bear with me while I reason it out.

I've been wondering for a while now what is connecting with ordinary right-wing people in the "tea party" protests - why do they care that people making more than $250K should pay about 3 cents more on each dollar over that amount than they are now?  Especially when that doesn't come into effect until next year, while the other 95% of us are seeing relief in our pay stubs right now?

I understand how people upset about government spending could be against the stimulus bill, particularly if they don't believe that government spending creates jobs or creates demand to keep businesses afloat (such as the recent purchase of thousands of vehicles from the Big 3, at a time when average consumers aren't buying).  I'm not qualified to discuss all that, but I will say that Paul Krugman and Nouri Roubini have made a lot of sense this year and have been right about many of their predictions.

But I totally get how people who get their news from one source - Fox News, or Rush Limbaugh, or Michelle Malkin - could respond to a call to action.  I haven't followed the "astroturf" accusations because I'm interested in policy, not politics; but the only way tea party protests make sense is if you realize that they are driven by the GOP ruling class.  There is no rational policy being proposed - anywhere.  Meanwhile, Republican political operatives are very good at filtering reality to their best advantage, at giving people impressions that support them while withholding facts that counter them.  They think they can channel negative emotions against their political opponents.

In a political environment that is seeing a dramatic diminishment of the religious right's cultural wedge issues and their ability to pull people to the polls,  the GOP is attempting to co-opt issues that led to excitement among Ron Paul supporters.  They think that anti-tax and anti-government sentiment can return them to power again so they can loot the treasury for their friends and squeeze even more blood from the stone of the middle class.  The Republican party is looking for their next wave of mind-controlled foot-soldiers.

I have to think that most people remember how the so-called fiscal conservatives behaved when they last ran the government - it really wasn't so long ago - and that's why tea parties are relatively small, compared to the sixties civil rights marches and gay pride parades (for example).  

While the people following the instructions on how to create tea party protests in their own communities most likely believe they are standing for something, the elites in charge are catching names and e-mail addresses and hoping to replace campaign rolls thinned by the waning of the religious right.  

I hope that the working stiffs among us (including myself) will finally realize we don't have a dog in that fight, and start promoting policies rather than politics.  Some intellectual consistency is needed in our political debates, and it's needed now more than ever - consider it a civic duty.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Republican Party is Dead

Here's my question: why take a job if you don't think the job should be done?  

Listening to Governor Barbour's response to the President's Weekly Address, I can't help but think that the governor believes his job should be limited to cashing his paycheck and making sure his friends don't pay taxes.  I am coming to the belief that holding elected office as a Republican ought to preclude one from ever seeking election to government again.  Seriously, Republican politicians have come to believe their own "Government is the problem" propaganda so much that they seem to be actively working to destroy it.  And isn't it clear that "fiscal conservatism" only happens when Republicans are in the minority?  I'd rather have some real fiscal conservatives elected in this country and have them be the other party in our two-party system, rather than the war-loving, tax-breaking, torture-works party that elected Republicans have become.

Back to Gov. Barbour.  Like any Republican office-holder, he must have at least one lie in every paragraph.  Let's see if I can find them:

"Hi, I'm Haley Barbour. It's budget time for a lot of states, and we governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, are working to balance our budgets.

The lie in this paragraph is the word "balance".  There is nothing balanced about California's budget; we just barely succeeded in passing a budget at all, due to Republican politician's tax-break ideologue idiocy.
"Though the stimulus package spends an incredible amount of money, with some of it going to state governments, the mandates about how we have to spend much of that money, plus the severe drop in most states' revenue, mean all governors are preparing a wide variety of significant spending cuts to balance our budgets.

The lie here is that because of "mandates" to spend stimulus money, governors are deciding on "significant" spending cuts.  How much more "significant" would the cuts be if it wasn't mandated to spend the stimulus money?  Gov. Barbour, the federal government is concerned with getting the economy going again - that is, spending - they are not concerned about your state deficits.  That's owned by the people of your state, and shouldn't be paid for by taxpayer money from other states.
"With the federal government it's just the opposite: President Obama's budget spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much.

Leading economists, who have a track record of being correct for years about the fundamentals of our economy, think the stimulus package was too small.  Shouldn't we start listening to the people who have been warning about this mess rather than the people who have been wrong all along, who are currently saying the "budget spends too much"?
"It's breathtaking: The new Administration's budget for next year alone calls for a one point two TRILLION dollar deficit ... nearly triple any past federal deficit.

The lie here is "next year alone".  This is a more traditional Republican politician's lie:  it's true on the face of it, but conveniently doesn't mention that President Obama promises to halve the national deficit within four years.  The budget also ends the lying going on within each of President Bush's budgets; war spending is on the books, and a contingency plan is included for natural disasters, rather than assuming that earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes just never happen.  President Obama's team knows that "Stuff happens."
"While families are cutting back, President Obama has proposed a massive government spending spree. It reminds me of how one of our old senators used to joke about the federal budget. He said it was like a newborn baby: insatiable appetite at one end and total irresponsibility at the other.

The lie in this paragraph is a false analogy.  It is ludicrous and counter-productive to compare family budgeting with government budgeting.  It also ignores the economic fact, historically proven by Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, that when no one else is creating demand the government must.  An economy without demand is not an economy.  That's the situation we are in now.
"This astronomical record federal deficit would be accompanied by the largest tax increases in history. But trillions of new taxes won't nearly cover all the new spending, so our children and grandchildren will be saddled with trillions more in debt.

Here's one of my favorites: the compound lie (with a bonus: lie of omission).  "the largest tax increases in history."  It's a lie stacked on top of another lie, like pancakes.  ALLOWING the Bush tax cuts to expire, as written into the original tax cuts legislation, is not INCREASING taxes.  The compound lie is that the Republicans wanted us to believe back in 2003 that the cost of the tax cuts would not affect government, BECAUSE THEY WOULD SUNSET in 2011.  So, they didn't include any costs past 2011 in trying to get it passed.  The lie of omission is that all of these tax increases affect only income over $250,000.  That's right, rich people pay exactly as much tax on their money under $250,000 as you do.  It's only dollar number 250,001 and above that's taxed more.  That means that 95% of Americans are going to see tax CUTS under the Obama proposal.
"And this budget blowout comes on top of the debt for the $787 billion Obama stimulus package, the $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress this month, the $300 billion the Federal Reserve said this week it would spend to buy U.S. government bonds, and the $750 billion the Fed announced just Wednesday it would spend to buy mortgage-backed securities. Trillions and trillions in new spending mean record tax increases and record government debt.

Another lie of omission: no mention of the $4 Trillion cost of the Iraq War.  An unnecessary, unjustified, probably criminal war.  Or the economic crisis President Obama inherited that is the reason for most of this necessary spending.  Also, the bad math lie: $787 + $410 + $300 + $750 = $2.247 Trillion.  That's not "trillions and trillions" -- unless that is where Gov. Barbour is hiding the cost of the Iraq War.
"The cap and trade tax and other energy taxes will drive up both electricity and gasoline prices for families and for businesses. And while Wall Street gets trillions to bail them out, small businesses will get stuck with not only income tax increases but also enormous cost increases for energy: for electricity and gasoline. Families will get clobbered, too.

Here's the lie: "will drive up both electricity and gasoline prices".  President Obama's cap and trade proposal would have affected only new coal plants built, not the current coal plants people are counting on.  
"Don't take my word for it; listen to what Barack Obama himself told The San Francisco Chronicle last year, and I quote: Under my plan of cap and trade, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.

I remember during the last days of the presidential campaign right-wing blogs were trying to talk up the "put coal companies out of business" quote from San Francisco, but see above.  Also, Sen. John McCain was campaigning on a cap and trade promise as well.
"And President Obama was right. His energy taxes, like the cap and trade tax, will drive energy costs for American families through the roof.

Both presidential candidates understood that the government needed to direct energy towards sustainability.  If we don't get the energy grid fixed, and fixed now, then our children won't have one.  It's that simple.  And finally, this argument of Gov. Barbour's has just been rendered moot as Stephanopolous is reporting that cap and trade is being dropped in favor of tackling health care reform.
"In this budget season we have choices. While states are controlling spending and balancing their budgets, the Obama budget spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much. It's not the right choice for America."

To leave that pleasant aftertaste in your mouth, another lie of omission.  In order to be perfectly truthful, Gov. Barbour should have added "Of course, Republicans have no ideas on how the budget ought to be constructed."  So we might as well go with the budget we have, right?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

speculation deleted - rant remains

For the record, every death I hear about in the Iraq war, and every sacrifice made by our troops, I get madder and madder.  This must stop.  If I could wish, I would wish all our troops out of harm's way today, and not a single injury further on behalf of President Bush's imperial misadventure.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

idiotic commentary

Washington Times:
Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele plans an “off the hook” public relations offensive to attract younger voters

I don't care that this idiom is new to political speech.  English is a living language, and phrases like that will clearly become more and more part of everyday usage.  I also have no sense of whether Mr. Steele uses the phrase often in his discussions.  (If Dick Cheney had made a point of using it in his recent interview, I think it would have been much more notable as we all would have seen it as obviously affected.)  I care much more that Mr. Steele said "government doesn't create jobs," for instance.

I hope that young voters aren't so easily swayed by P.R. and that they actually examine policy stands when choosing a political party. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

trust but verify

I am hopeful the American Assistance and Recovery Act will help mitigate the worst aspects of this recession, and the launch of looks like it may be helpful.  If we had had transparency like this five years ago, we may not have lost that $9 billion in Iraq.
However, the website appears to be more design than substance at the moment.  I like the graphs, but wish they had more drill-down;  and I'm having trouble actually getting the text of the bill.
I hope the functionality of the website increases and that all citizens get informed on what the effect of the huge spending bill actually comes out to be.

phone call diplomacy

With Secretary Clinton in Asia currently, American press are completely uninterested in the phone calls President Obama is making with various European and Middle Eastern leaders.  
Given the past skirmishing between Turkey and the Kurdish terrorists hiding in Northern Iraq, I was hoping for some details regarding our current stance on the PKK.  The report at TurkishPress is the only report I've found to mention it:
Obama also expressed his willingness to work with Turkey on such issues as peace in the Middle East, ending PKK terrorism, and relations with Armenia.

Overall, all reports say the president had positive discussions on the relations between our two countries, and given the recent strained relations, that is good news; I hope that positive discussions lead to productive actions.
AFP reminds us:
In January, President Gul urged Obama to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a priority, saying an active US engagement was needed to reach a settlement.
I find it interesting that Turkey places such a strong emphasis on U.S. brokering of Israeli/Palestininan peace, but I have no background to opine on that subject, so I'll just note it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

American Hero

Paul Rieckhoff, for those of you who don't know, served as a 1st Lieutenant in Iraq.  In addition to that service to his country, he's used his degree in Political Science to found the non-profit group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  Their website is

IAVA just completed a political event they called "Storm the Hill" meeting with lawmakers in D.C., lobbying for a change in the manner that our country funds the Veterans' Administration.  Mr. Rieckhoff, appearing on Rachel Maddow Show last Thursday, explained that simply funding the VA a year in advance, the way our government does with other departments, would allow the VA forward planning in their budget and lessen the amount of rationing of care currently going on.  I hope to post the video when MSNBC uploads it; it's well worth watching.  The IAVA lobbying effort lead broad bipartisan support and I hope a bill passes quickly.

There can be no argument that our country is not doing enough to support its veterans.  A large part of my disgust for the Bush administration is over their incompetence in dealing with the repercussions of their war of choice in Iraq, and the mishandling of Afghanistan.  I seriously, vehemently disagreed with them on the policy issues; but what really raises my bile is the cavalier and careless way they looked after the troops who fought their wars for them.  The VA and the DOD are playing catch-up with the severe cases of PTSD coming back from the front.  

Mr. Rieckhoff also called for the Obama administration to organize a volunteer service effort among our nation's mental health-care professionals to boost the service even a fully-funded VA could provide.  The need is desperate, immediate, and frankly, years late.

When I get depressed about our country, I remember that it produces citizens such as Mr. Rieckhoff, and hope returns.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quick response

Susan Duclos (reviewing a sampling of outrage over the Holder DOJ invoking Bush's "state secrets" legal strategy): 
NEWSFLASH for the far left.... you got what you asked for, you believed all the change hype and you were told it was all crap, so quit acting all offended and surprised.
Obamas [sic] most ardent supporters, three weeks into his presidency, are now turning on him like he is the enemy.....
now THAT is change I can believe in!!!!!!!!!!!! [emphasis in original]
In order to say "You got what you asked for" to Americans who voted for Obama, aren't you implying that we should have voted for McCain instead? 

Does anyone doubt that a McCain administration would have continued to hide the U.S. torture regime and protect the torturers? 

The left, unlike most of the right, has no fear in taking government officials to task no matter what their party. When the president does something wrong, he needs to be called on it; and a universal denial of the use of torture is something all Americans should work for.

Finally, I'll point out that Ms. Duclos includes Andrew Sullivan in a group she calls "far far left liberal bloggers". Aside from his vocal opposition to torture and equally vocal support of gay marriage, Mr. Sullivan is about as far to the right as anyone should be. The opposition of torture and the persecution of its perpetrators is a noble effort and should be the goal of all Americans.
[updated for typo]

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Charles Krauthammer's op-ed last Friday starts off with Rovian politics. Accuse your opponents of your own failings:

So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared "we have chosen hope over fear." Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.

No, fear-mongering is exploiting the terror attacks of 9/11/01 to mount support for an unnecessary war. Fear-mongering is cooking the intelligence to persuade Americans that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons. Fear-mongering is "
We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Here is a graph showing the facts:

The U.S. economy lost
2.6 million jobs in 2008. According to the President, another 2.8 million people had to take part-time work instead of full-time work - think about the strain on their health care, let alone the rest of the tough decisions they need to make. These are hard, verifiable facts, that we all are aware of.

Mr. Krauthammer, when President Obama says "A failure to act, and act now, will turn a crisis into a catastrophe" - that's not fear-mongering, that's reporting.

Another POV

AJ Strata saw the same Telegraph article I did, but has a completely different take on it.   He(?) also knows who to blame:

This news leak/article deserves a good fisking to illustrate how Obama may be leading this year's Darwin Awards, for the act of taking a whole nation to the brink of extinction...

We are now all being let in on  Obama's intelligence briefings - how wonderful...

And whoever is yapping across The Pond has exposed the fact that 40% of the CIA's assets are now in the UK, leaving many other areas less covered, if covered at all.  This kind of information is strategic gold (if true).

It seems like the right-wing is just thrilled that they lost the 2008 elections, because now everything wrong with our country is squarely and only the fault of the Democrats, personified by President Obama.  Armchair spooks like AJ Strata probably know much more about the state of national intelligence than I do, but I note that back in 2002, people who questioned the Commander-in-Chief were called traitors.  People who do that now are patriotic Americans, of course, because IOKIYAR.  And shut up.

Back to AJ Strata:
One thing no one would argue is that President George W Bush kept this country safe.

Indeed, no one should argue that; it's clear that he didn't.  "Ok, now you've covered your ass."

And his team did so by quietly - well outside the limelight - chasing down our enemies and disrupting their plans. He did this quietly so we had a chance of catching them, never letting on we had them in our sites, never bragging about how we got them so they could learn to evade out security nets.

Sure, we never heard anything about the LA Library Tower, the blow-torching of the Brooklyn Bridge, or the al-Qaeda cell in Florida.  

I'm not partisan for the sake of partisanship, I support President Obama because his policies are much closer to mine than those of the neo-cons; but there's no sense in being "bipartisan" when people are just plain wrong, or if by "bipartisan" they mean "capitulation".

Meet Binyam Mohamed

Tomorrow, the ACLU is bringing a case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco - Mohamed vs. Jeppesen Dataplan.  They charge that Jeppesen, a subsidiary of the Boeing Corp., "knowingly provided logistical services that aid the CIA's 'extraordinary rendition' program."  This is the current Dept. of Justice's first opportunity to show whether it will repudiate or cover up the torture regime created by former President George W. Bush.

The Bush administration in 2007 filed for dismissal based on "state secrets", despite of all the information already in the public domain.  In similar cases, the U.S. government has chosen to release detainees rather than give them any kind of hearing. The only reasonable conclusion is that the administration wanted to hide their criminal acts of torture more than they wanted to bring suspected terrorists to justice.  In this case, despite a request from the UK for Mr. Mohamed's release in 2006, he still remains at Guantánamo Bay. [edited for factual error]

Following up on a campaign promise, President Obama signed a series of executive orders in his first week in office that, in no uncertain terms, ordered the close of Guantánamo Bay and all the CIA "Black Sites" around the globe.  Another order specified the use of the Army Field Manual as the guidelines for interrogation for all agencies.  I took that as a sign that the U.S. torture regime had ended, and that I could once again fly my country's flag.

However, last week, the BBC reported that UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband "disputed claims...that the US threatened to stop sharing intelligence with the UK over an alleged torture case."  (This is in regards to a UK court case alleging Mohamed, a British citizen, was tortured.) And in response to Mr. Miliband's position, 

In a statement, the White House said it "thanked the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information".

It added that this would "preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens".

That statement, from Obama's White House, made me question his commitment to erasing the stain of torture.  Those worries were enhanced by Attorney General Holder's confirmation hearings. 

However, the Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday that David Davis alleges "the information being held back is [protecting] the British government, where at least two cabinet ministers have denied any complicity whatsoever.  It is very clear who stands to be embarrassed by this and who is being protected by this secrecy.  It is not the Americans, it is Labour ministers."  I read that as distancing the current U.S. government from the travesty of justice evidenced by preventing Mr. Mohamed from presenting evidence of his torture in a court of law;  the current UK government has just as much motivation to hide that evidence as the former Bush administration did.

I'm extremely interested in finding out if Mr. Holder's DOJ will plead "state secrets" tomorrow.

UPDATE: (10:47am)

Via Susan Duclos,  I see that the CIA is working their propaganda machine again, this time avoiding breaking U.S. law by dumping the article in the UK Telegraph

They believe that a British-born Pakistani extremist entering the US under the visa waiver programme is the most likely source of another terrorist spectacular on American soil.

Intelligence briefings for Mr Obama have detailed a dramatic escalation in American espionage in Britain, where the CIA has recruited record numbers of informants in the Pakistani community to monitor the 2,000 terrorist suspects identified by MI5, the British security service.

I'm not a spy, the report may very well be factually true.  But why is this reported today?

For the record, Binyam Mohamed was born in Ethiopia.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Problems to fix

I've been busy reading blogs for a couple of years now. Recently I've realized that the comments I have been leaving on other peoples' blogs are far too long, and if I really have that much to say, I should do it on my own space, not theirs, and give links to the stuff I'm reading - whether I agree with it or not.

Here are the problems with the U.S.A. that get me fired up (in rough order of descending crisis at the moment):

Ending the U.S. torture regime (h/t Cernig)
Finding a winning strategy against violent extremism (h/t Abu Muqawama)
Restoring sensible economic policy (h/t White House)
Restoring the Rule of Law (h/t Greenwald)
Supporting union activity and organization (h/t Working Life)
Equality for all
Reducing the waste in the military/industrial complex

That's by no means a comprehensive list, but it's a good enough start for now.