Thursday, July 31, 2008

McCain's desperation grows

Now they've resorted to juxtaposing Obama with Paris Hilton and David Hasselhoff's name.

I kind of feel bad for them. Apparently a former strategist does too.

Monday, July 28, 2008

New McCain Ad Bashes Obama for Not Visiting Troops Using Footage of Obama Visiting Troops

This is one of the worst things that I've seen on TV.

Here's the godawful video.

I'm not sure what's worse: the fact that they accuse him of not seeing the troops due to cameras being barred when no one has claimed that or the fact that they imply that he took a trip to the gym when he was playing basketball with soldiers in Kuwait.

I can't believe that I used to think that this hack had integrity. Anything to be President, I guess...

Monday, July 21, 2008

US Human Rights Credibility: Shot

Well, we already knew that, but now the UK government agrees:
The UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the government does not rely on such assurances in the future We also recommend that the government should immediately carry out an exhaustive analysis of current US interrogation techniques on the basis of such information as is publicly available or which can be supplied by the US.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rove attempted to have Fitzgerald fired while under investigation

This is downright Nixonian.
In a supplement to his responses to the House Judiciary Committee, Patrick Fitzgerald confirms what we've always suspected: Karl Rove was trying to have Patrick Fitzgerald fired while Fitzgerald was still investigating Rove for his role in leaking Valerie Wilson's identity--and the timing lines up perfectly with the Administration's efforts to fire a bunch of US Attorneys.

Remember back in June, when Fitzgerald publicly suggested he had more details to share with Congress about Rove's efforts to get him fired?

"If I owe a response [about the putsch to remove him from his job], I owe it to Congress, first," Fitzgerald said when asked about all this after the verdict.

Well, it turns out Fitzgerald did share those details with Congress. And those details make it clear that Fitzgerald learned Rove was trying to fire him while Fitzgerald was still actively investigating Rove's role in the leak of Valerie Wilson's identity.

In my answers submitted on May 2,2008, I noted in my response to Question Eleven that I omitted discussion of when I first learned that I might be asked to resign as United States Attorney. I declined to answer more fully due to the then pending trial of United States v. Antoin Rezko in the Northern District of Illinois. With that trial concluded, I can briefly elaborate further: I learned some time in or about early 2005 from agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") that a cooperating witness (who later testified at the Rezko trial, but not about this topic) had advised the FBI agents that he had earlier been told by one of Mr. Rezko's co-schemers that it was the responsibility of a third person in Illinois to have me replaced as United States Attorney. I should be clear that I did not understand that any putative effort to replace me as United States Attorney was related to my conduct as Special Counsel but understood instead that it was related to the investigative activities of federal agents and prosecutors conducting a corruption investigation in Illinois. [my emphasis]

As a reminder, here's the allegation with all the names handily added in (though I think Fitzgerald is referring to someone besides Ata, because Ata was not yet cooperating with the Rezko prosecutors):

In a hearing before court began, prosecutors said they hoped to call Ali Ata, the former Blagojevich administration official who pleaded guilty to corruption yesterday, to the stand.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Carrie Hamilton said she believed Ata would testify to conversations Ata had with his political patron, Rezko, about working to pull strings to kill the criminal investigation into Rezko and others when it was in its early stages in 2004.

"[Ata] had conversations with Mr. Rezko about the fact that Mr. Kjellander was working with Karl Rove to have Mr. Fitzgerald removed," Hamilton told U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve.

Note, Fitzgerald emphasizes that Rove was trying to fire him to protect Republican donor Bob Kjellander, not to protect Rove and Libby and Cheney. But that doesn't change the fact that Rove was in discussions about firing Fitzgerald while he--Rove--was under active investigation.

Also note the timing: while the discussions between this cooperating witness and (presumably) Kjellander happened earlier, the timing lines up with the effort to fire all the US Attorneys--and then, when Kyle Sampson suggested his name, Fitzgerald specifically--at the beginning of 2005.
It would be nice if they got a contempt of Congress charge to stick this time. This bullshit has gone on long enough.

Here's Rep. Sánchez, chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law:
Why Karl Rove Should Go To Jail

Again last week, we saw the arrogance of former White House advisor Karl Rove when an empty chair sat for him in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee where he was required by subpoena to testify. Not only did he refuse to appear before the committee -- let alone testify -- but he defiantly left the country thereby blatantly ignoring his obligations under the congressional subpoena served on him. When he did return to the country, Rove found the time to gab with TV reporters on a summer press tour in Beverly Hills, but failed to stop by the Judiciary Committee in Washington.

After my ruling that Mr. Rove's claims of immunity are not legally valid, Congressman Conyers and I gave him one last chance to comply with the law. He ignored us. As he let yet another deadline slip by this week, Mr. Rove's disregard for Congress has become intolerable. Mr. Rove needs to understand that he is not above the law and should obey a subpoena just like any other American is required to do.

Mr. Rove should not be able to hide behind the president to avoid the American public. Americans are fed up with this administration flaunting the law. They expect Congress to hold people accountable and that is exactly what we intend to do. Letting Mr. Rove get away with this would set a dangerous precedent. I have recommended that we hold Mr. Rove in contempt of Congress. If we need to revive the inherent contempt procedure which gives Congress the authority to arrest those who defy Congressional subpoenas, then so be it.

The courts have made clear that no one, not even the president, is immune from compulsory process. Any person who scoffs at the law and who has committed an offense that is punishable by jail time should be put in jail. This includes Karl Rove.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The New Yorker

In a strange way, I think the New Yorker cartoon might have actually been successful. Sure, people didn't take it for satire, but maybe that's not the point. People got a good distillation of the ridiculous garbage that has been hurled at the Obamas and were disgusted. We actually got to see the same media figures that trafficked in xenophobic rumors about Obama come out and attack the image. I suspect that the reason that they were so outraged with the cartoon is that it hit a little to close to their own rhetoric.

Isn't that the point of irony? It's not about getting someone to say, "Hey, I get it. That's clever." It's about getting people to come face-to-face with absurdity. It expresses the truth in the guise of a lie. The image is false and offensive, but in showing that, it has exposed a lot more about bigotry underlying attacks on the Obamas than a direct refutation may have. Lakoff writes about how simply denying a claim ("Obama is not a jihadist") can reinforce the idea that you're trying to attack.

Then again, irony can do the same thing (see the people who are cynically ironic and use their detachment to get away with offensive rhetoric, or to paraphrase Zizek, those who know that what they are doing is wrong and are doing it anyway). There is the risk that the image will be adopted by those who actually believe Obama is a secret Muslim. A number of conservative editorial cartoonists have attempted to do this, identifying Obama with those that protested the Danish Mohammed, even though his comments have been very reasonable:
"I know it was The New Yorker's attempt at satire. I don't think they
were entirely successful with it," Obama said. "But you know what?
It's a cartoon ... and that's why we've got the First Amendment."
You can see what passes for conservative humor: here, here, and here.

So some people have taken this as a chance to express horrible views under the guise of irony.

But the people who spilled the most bile over the cartoon were the same ones who propagated the lies that it depicts in the first place. It's telling that someone like Bill O'Reilly was offended by it. Sometimes the subversive move isn't to disidentify with an oppressive image, but to overidentify with it. The cartoon got too close to the racism underlying American politics and people recoiled in horror from it, in the same fashion that the Cathar heresy was offensive to the Catholic church because it came too close to Catholic ideology and demonstrated its inherent excess.

The whisper campaign against Obama has operated by staying under the radar. The GOP benefits from rumors that are spread via dispersed networks, such as e-mail, but can't directly propagate them for fear of being exposed for encouraging bigotry. The cartoon provokes anxiety because it threatens that distance.

Maybe it wasn't entirely successful, but I'm not sure that the case is as simple as people are making it out to be.

Edit: Let's watch idiot cartoonists run this shit into the ground!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Keep on hoping, keep on dreaming, one day maybe...

...whilst in the real world you rot.
Obama: This Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. When I am president, there will be no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens; no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime; no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. Our Constitution works, and so does the FISA court.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Goddamnit, Obama

The Wiretapping Bill: President Bush, and Fear, Lead the Senate Off a Cliff

And here's the icing:
Senator Christopher S. Bond, the Missouri Republican who is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there was nothing to fear in the bill “unless you have Al Qaeda on your speed dial.”
You have nothing to fear unless you're a counterrevolutionary...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

What to do about Guantanamo?

The Truth Commission
July 6, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist

When a distinguished American military commander accuses the United States of committing war crimes in its handling of detainees, you know that we need a new way forward.

“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,” Antonio Taguba, the retired major general who investigated abuses in Iraq, declares in a powerful new report on American torture from Physicians for Human Rights. “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

The first step of accountability isn’t prosecutions. Rather, we need a national Truth Commission to lead a process of soul searching and national cleansing.

That was what South Africa did after apartheid, with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it is what the United States did with the Kerner Commission on race and the 1980s commission that examined the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Today, we need a similar Truth Commission, with subpoena power, to investigate the abuses in the aftermath of 9/11.

We already know that the United States government has kept Nelson Mandela on a terrorism watch list and that the U.S. military taught interrogation techniques borrowed verbatim from records of Chinese methods used to break American prisoners in the Korean War — even though we knew that these torture techniques produced false confessions.

It’s a national disgrace that more than 100 inmates have died in American custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo. After two Afghan inmates were beaten to death by American soldiers, the American military investigator found that one of the men’s legs had been “pulpified.”

Moreover, many of the people we tortured were innocent: the administration was as incompetent as it was immoral. The McClatchy newspaper group has just published a devastating series on torture and other abuses, and it quotes Thomas White, the former Army secretary, as saying that it was clear from the moment Guantánamo opened that one-third of the inmates didn’t belong there.

McClatchy says that one inmate, Mohammed Akhtiar, was known as pro-American to everybody but the American soldiers who battered him. Some of his militant fellow inmates spit on him, beat him and called him “infidel,” all because of his anti-Taliban record.

These abuses happened partly because, for several years after 9/11, many of our national institutions didn’t do their jobs. The Democratic Party rolled over rather than serving as loyal opposition. We in the press were often lap dogs rather than watchdogs, and we let the public down.

Yet there were heroes, including civil liberties groups and lawyers for detainees. Some judges bucked the mood, and a few conservatives inside the administration spoke out forcefully. The Times’s Eric Lichtblau writes in his terrific new book, “Bush’s Law,” that the Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner, James Ziglar, pushed back against plans for door-to-door sweeps of Arab-American neighborhoods.

The book recounts that in one meeting, Mr. Ziglar bluntly declared, “We do have this thing called the Constitution,” adding that such sweeps would be illegal and “I’m not going to be part of it.”

Among those I admire most are the military lawyers who risked their careers, defied the Pentagon and antagonized their drinking buddies — all for the sake of Muslim terror suspects in circumstances where the evidence was often ambiguous. At a time when we as a nation took the expedient path, these military officers took the honorable one, and they deserve medals for their courage.

The Truth Commission investigating these issues ideally would be a non-partisan group heavily weighted with respected military and security officials, including generals, admirals and top intelligence figures. Such backgrounds would give their findings credibility across the political spectrum — and I don’t think they would pull punches. The military and intelligence officials I know are as appalled by our abuses as any other group, in part because they realize that if our people waterboard, then our people will also be waterboarded.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain should commit to impaneling a Truth Commission early in the next administration. This commission would issue a report to help us absorb the lessons of our failings, the better to avoid them during the next crisis.

As for what to do with Guantánamo itself, the best suggestion comes from an obscure medical journal, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. It suggests that the prison camp would be an ideal research facility for tropical diseases that afflict so many of the world’s people. An excellent suggestion: the U.S. should close the prison and turn it into a research base to fight the diseases of global poverty, and maybe then we could eventually say the word “Guantánamo” without pangs of shame.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

More waterboarding

From Christopher Hitchens, who has managed to not be completely insane when it comes to the war on terror: Believe Me, It's Torture


China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo

Japanese Soldiers Who Waterboarded Tried for War Crimes

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

US loses first post-Boumediene detainee hearing

Good news. Maybe sanity is making a comeback.

Awesome quote from the decision:
First, the government suggests that several of the assertions in the intelligence documents are reliable because they are made in at least three different documents. We are not persuaded. Lewis Carroll notwithstanding, the fact that the government has “said it thrice” does not make an allegation true. See LEWIS CARROLL, THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK 3 (1876) (“I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”). In fact, we have no basis for concluding that there are independent sources for the documents’ thrice-made assertions. To the contrary, as noted in Part III, many of those assertions are made in identical language, suggesting that later documents may merely be citing earlier ones, and hence that all may ultimately derive from a single source. And as we have also noted, Parhat has made a credible argument that -- at least for some of the assertions -- the common source is the Chinese government, which may be less than objective with respect to the Uighurs.