Friday, November 30, 2007

The Shag Fund Spinners Think You Are Dumb

The story originally broken by Politico, which Talking Points Memo has titled the Shag Fund, has Rudy Giuliani in a pickle. This is a direct attack at the Mayor on issues which the Republican base pay attention too. The Mayor was boffing a mistress on the side while he was still married, and using taxpayer funds to pay for the trips and sundry expenses to do it... as well as having the taxpayers pay for the cops to chauffeur the mistress around town and so on.

But the part that caught my attention today was the disclosure that the city of New York prepaid an American Express account $400,000.00 for travel expenses incurred by the mayor. The AMEX account was billed to the Assigned Counsel Administrative Office, who are responsible for providing lawyers to indigent defendants. The permutations and smokescreens associated with this type of accounting fairly cry out for an auditor to take a fine tooth comb to the books. This type of accounting gimmick is the very definition of money laundering.

Giuliani's spokesman put the following spin on this AMEX prepayment revelation: "[I]t's fiscally responsible to anticipate predictable expenses and prepay them." With logic like this, the Giuliani camp must think whoever listens to them is dumb, or just not paying attention. They must be counting on the penchant of many Americans to roll their eyes and tune out once numbers and economic theories are the topic.

If this AMEX prepayment is really an example of fiscal responsibility by a Giuliani administration, the nation is in deep budgetary doo doo if he is ever elected President. Giuliani's money laundering cost the city thousands of dollars because of this gimmick. Rather than the city keeping that money in interest bearing accounts, and paying from those accounts when the bills came due, they gave AMEX that money. So taxpayer dollars were used to enrich AMEX, who certainly did draw interest on that money, and applied the funds as they were spent by the Mayor during his little extramarital excursions. In fact AMEX wound up refunding $298,000 after Giuliani left office, which reinforces what a great deal this was for AMEX. Just imagine some kindly billionaire depositing $400k in your bank account with the understanding that it is not your money, but the interest that accrues from that money is yours to keep. That is a sweet deal no matter how you slice it.

Calling this "fiscally responsible" is precisely the opposite of the truth. The Shag Fund tells us a good deal about Giuliani's commitment to family values, but we also are learning about his very careless manner in dealing with fiscal concerns.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Every Word Of The Bible: Infallible?

The Republican debate last night brought an interesting theological question into the political spotlight. Is the bible the infallible word of God?

This question is especially cogent in the Republican primaries because of Mitt Romney's beliefs. Mormonism explicitly denies the infallibility of the bible. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints, actually wrote his own interpretation of the bible which included what he considered to be divinely inspired corrections to the original text.

This is not to say that Mormons deny the bible. They simply do not hold it to be correct word for word... which is one cause for schism betwixt Mormons and mainstream Protestant evangelicals. There are millions of evangelicals who are absolutely certain that the original King James Bible is literally correct, from the six days of creation through the foundation of the early church.

I am no Mormon (my wife and her family are), but I am no fundamentalist evangelical either. When it comes to the question of the inerrant truth of the bible I can prove with a scientific certainty that the King James bible is not word for word inerrantly correct. In fact the very first post I ever wrote as a blogger was on this very subject!

Let us open the good book to Deuteronomy chapter 14, verses 11-18:
11 Of all clean birds ye shall eat.
12 But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,
13 and the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind,
14 and every raven after his kind,
15 and the owl, and the nighthawk, and the cuckoo, and the hawk after his kind,
16 the little owl, and the great owl, and the swan,
17 and the pelican, and the gier-eagle, and the cormorant,
18 and the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.
So the bible gives a list of birds, including eagles, owls, swans, cormorants and so on and so forth, and the very last bird listed is ... "the bat". Do the fundamentalist die hards who believe the bible is inherently correct, really think bats have been misclassified by science as mammals, because the bible clearly teaches that they are birds?! It really is quite simple. Infallible Bible = bats are birds.

The way I see it, those folks who want the bible taught in science class should be exclaiming that there is now a debate about the classification of bats as mammals. In order for a full exploration of the various theories and lines of thought, our children should be exposed to both sides and allowed to make up their own minds as to the scientific validity of what makes a bird a bird and a mammal a mammal.

I rather suspect that even the most dogmatic fundamentalist would have to admit that bats are not birds, especially if caught unawares that there was a scripture which seems to indicate the opposite. This admission is the veritable foot in the door. If the bible calls bats birds, in what other way is the bible incorrect. Remember... the first scientists to posit that the Earth was round were persecuted by the Church for contradicting the words of Jesus Christ detailing that the Earth had four corners. It may be easy enough to say that Jesus was talking figuratively, but it would take a real stretch to look at the list of unkosher birds in Deuteronomy and read that list figuratively.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Another Stinker From A Federal Attorney

U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie from New Jersey is a Republican hack who can be counted upon to use his position for partisan political purposes. A prime example of this was when Christie launched a federal probe of then U.S. Representative Bob Menendez in September of 2006. At that time, Menendez was in a tight race for the Senate with Tom Kean Jr., which Menendez went on to win, despite the best efforts by Christie to tar him.

The latest example of mendacity by Christie comes as the result of a settlement in which Zimmer Holdings has agreed to pay for a company to monitor them in order to end a probe into possible kickbacks. The agency doing this monitoring was hand picked by Christie, and he chose the company run by former Attorney General John Ashcroft to oversee the practices of Zimmer. That's right... a U.S. Federal Attorney has handpicked his old boss's outfit to benefit from a prosecution.

To say that the terms of the contract are generous for Ashcroft's company would be a massive understatement. Ashcroft Group Consulting Services stands to make $52 million for 18 months of monitoring:
Disclosed in SEC filings, the arrangement calls for Zimmer Holdings of Indiana to pay Ashcroft Group Consulting Services an average monthly fee between $1.5 million and $2.9 million. The figure includes a flat payment of $750,000 to the firms "senior leadership group," individual legal and consulting services billed at up to $895 an hour, and as much as $250,000 a month for expenses including private airfare, lodging and meals.
There were a total of five companies involved with this settlement but Zimmer has gone public with the terms of their settlement in particular because, according to a company spokesperson: "it was our judgment that it was a large amount outside of our normal course of business." Zimmer has a point about the amounts seeming to be a bit out of whack. Usually these types of contracts are kept private, but the one example provided in the story seems to demonstrate that the fees being charged for this oversight are completely overblown:
Former SEC Chairman Richard Breeden, a monitor in several high-profile cases, reportedly billed Worldcom $300,000 a month to oversee the aftermath of what was then one of the largest corporate accounting scandals.
Just doing the math shows that the cost for monitoring the followup to one of the largest corporate accounting scandals in American history over the course of 18 months shows that they would pay $5.4 million. No wonder Zimmer started making noise about this contract... they didn't go into this expecting to be the personal financiers for Christies political payback party.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) has written a letter to Christie questioning this entire shady procedure, and is proposing legislation that would remove the ability of U.S. Attorneys to hand pick companies to monitor those accused of wrong doing. I'll be willing to bet that if we elect a Democratic President next year Rep. Pallones bill will see a sudden flood of Republican cosponsors, if you know what I mean.

After having made so much noise about kickbacks and other such shady financial dealings but then hand picking his old boss for this type of contract, maybe Christy should open another probe. Of himself!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When No News Is Huge News, & Vice Versa

One of the major political stories roiling the waters is Scott McClellan's assertion that he was sent forth to lie about the Valerie Plame Wilson affair at President Bush's behest (evidently). From the report in Politico:
“I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the seniormost aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby,” McClellan wrote.

“There was one problem. It was not true.”

McClellan then absolves himself and makes an inflammatory — and potentially lucrative for his publisher — charge.

“I had unknowingly passed along false information,” McClellan wrote.

“And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself."
I am just a bit mystified as to why this teaser of McClellan's book is such huge news. We already know McClellan was not telling the truth. So now McClellan is confirming what we already know, and it's a huge freaking deal... for what reason exactly?

Furthermore, many of the very people who were dutifully forwarding the lies from McClellan knew he (and by extension the entire administration for which McClellan was the spokesperson) was not telling the truth because they were the ones who had received the leaks. The truth has been out there from day one, and the administration relied upon the presses code of ethics in order to perpetrate the ruse... feeding them the Plame story on background while denying doing so from the podium of the Press Secretary.

Singling out the Plame affair as the major case for McClellan being sent forth to lie is laughable. McClellan raised the bar to all new heights for demonstrably lying with a straight face to the press so the Plame business is hardly the exception to the rule here.

The initial splash of the McClellan story is not really the big news that everyone seems to think it was from my perspective. Sure... it's another brick in the wall, another drop in the ocean that adds to the body of evidence that this administration lies as a matter of course when politically expedient. It is another iota of proof that the lefty blogosphere has been spot on correct. But as far as I'm concerned we already knew this and McClellan's admission is old news.

So what is the huge news that will be the non news from all this? From my perspective that would be McClellan's publisher following up by saying that McClellan did not intend to convey a perception that he thought the President knowingly told him to lie. From a Rawstory report on a CNN feed:
"I just got off the phone with the publisher of McClellan's new book, and he tells me that McClellan does not charge in the book that the president himself was involved in any kind of conspiracy to mislead the public," reported CNN correspondent Jessica Yellin. "But of course, in the publisher's words, 'Scott did go out to take bullets without the proper flak jacket on.'"

In a series of 2003 press conferences, the former top White House spokesman had maintained that neither then-advisor Karl Rove nor Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, had been involved in the leaking of Plame's identity as a CIA agent. Yellin pointed to a previous interview with Larry King Live, in which McClellan suggested that both he and the president had been mislead about the Plame affair.

"It was also what the president believed at the time based on assurances we were both given," McClellan had told King. "Knowing what I know today, I would have never said that back then...I said that those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. I did speak directly with them and I was careful about the way I phrased it at them time -- even though I believed what they had told me to be the truth."
McClellan's publisher is thus claiming that not only did the leakers lie to McClellan, but they lied to the President. If true, this is what should have been the huge news when McClellan was peddling the untruth, and if not then it should be big news now. The top circle of Presidential advisers all lying to the Commander in Chief about outing a CIA officer... under nearly any circumstance such activity would define treason.

Frankly, I don't believe the publisher now. Especially when we consider that the President decided to commute Scooter Libby's prison sentence. Try to imagine a scenario in which a high level administration official would expose an undercover CIA agent, lie to the President, and when it all comes to light continue in their job with a security clearance. Far from purging the administration after a cabal had outed an undercover officer and lied to the President about it, and seeing to it that the guilty were held to account, Bush made certain that the one man who faced jail time as a result of the affair was spared serving any time at all. That is not the action of a strong leader who was lied too... that is the President taking an active role in furthering the cover up.

ERROR, ERROR, Does... NotCompute **ztt..crackle**

This is a mail it in post about the shock of returning to regular life after nearly two weeks on vacation.

My definition of vacation is trying my best to emulate the examples of lethargy provided by my two cats. But I go an extra step by not being physically active, batting at floss or sparring with the other human in the house during the hour or two when I am stirred from passivity. Also, my work involves looking at a computer monitor all day, so another aspect of a successful vacation from my perspective is staying offline.

I'm not one of those happy folks who love their job and have to be forced to take time off... So this morning when I rolled out of bed, I faced the coming day with a sense of depression and angst. This may have been a self fullfilling prophecy, but the first day back at work has been just what I expected. *sigh* I have this logy, brain dead bewildered wish I were anywhere but here feeling. This must be what a robot that is about to fritz out must feel like... assuming there are robots who feel like anything at all!

I am really shocked at the difference when it comes to news gathering while staying offline. Being on vacation did not mean that I lost interest in the news. But staying off the computer led to me gathering information from daytime cable news. The focus of these channels these days is largely on the horserace for the Presidential nominations. I believe this dynamic favors the Republicans, who must be relieved that the focus is shifting from the disastrous Bush Presidency to election year horserace politics.

Another favor for Republicans when it comes to this coverage is that the Democrats have a real dogfight developing between their candidates. The Republican race isn't over by a long shot, but it appears to me that they are taking the road to the nomination by savaging Senator Clinton rather than each other. Which leads to Clinton taking it from all sides. If she manages to get the nomination after all this there can be no doubt that she is one tough cookie.

On the home front politically, I note a marked increase in support from my Libertarian conservative wife in favor of Barack Obama. My wife is actually considering registering as a democrat in order to be able to vote for him in the Oregon primary... which would really be a siesmic shift in her political life. Just on the most personal level I must say that this appeal by Senator Obama to someone who would not typically consider voting for a Democrat makes Obama look pretty strong. Plus it would be novel to find myself agreeing with my wife on a political matter which makes Obama even more appealing from my perspective.

That said, Senator Clinton is being taken on by every one else with a chance to win the nomination from either party. With that much fire being directed at her I actually find myself rooting for Clinton as the underdog despite her lead in the polls. It's like she's in a cage match with five or six opponents all focused on taking her down, and I think I would be satisfied by seeing her knock them out one by one and come out on top. But my domestic tranquility will be sorely tested if Senator Clinton gets the nomination... and I'm not looking forward to that.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Let Me Spell It Out Joe...

Joe Lieberman gave a speech yesterday. Typically I try to ignore Lieberman for fear of keeling over dead from an aneurysm as my blood pressure skyrockets.

Lieberman is just mystified at how it can be that anyone would conclude that the Kyle/Lieberman amendment would ever be read in such a way as to lead to the use of military force against Iran.
Lieberman: several left-wing blogs seized upon the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, offering wild conspiracy theories about how it could be used to authorize the use of military force against Iran.
These were absurd arguments. The text of our amendment contained nothing—nothing—that could be construed as a green light for an attack on Iran. To claim that it did was an act of delusion or deception.
So let me spell out the precise way that the Kyle Lieberman amendment could lead to hostilities with Iran. In case you have been on Mars the last few months, the Kyle Lieberman amendment designated certain units of the Iranian military as terrorist organizations.

The AUMF was passed immediately after 9/11 and authorized the President to use force against the terrorists who attacked us... "or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism". [My italics]

Just to give the reader an idea about how widely the net may be cast in determining who is harboring terrorists such as Al Qaeda, the President certified to the Congress that pursuing military force against Iraq: "is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." Of course we can prove that Iraq's involvement with 9/11 was precisely zilch, as admitted by the President himself on several occassions.

So I'm not so sure that perceiving the Congress' designation of a section of Irans military as a terrorist organization as a prelude to military action is really such a paranoid or deceptive take on the matter. If anything Liebermans own words, both in yesterdays speech and in other recent outbursts further raises the alarm rather than proving how wrong headed us liberal bloggers are. For example, there was Lieberman asking General Petraeus why it wouldn't be a good idea for American forces to pursue the Iranian Quds forces into Iranian territory. Or Lieberman telling CBS that America should bomb Iran if they didn't stop supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents... Even in yesterdays speech Lieberman seems to be frothing at the mouth for a go at Iran with rhetoric about Iran murdering American troops and Democrats being all wrong headed about their outlook on Iran.

I think the ones being deceptive about Liebermans outlook on whether or not America should be bombing Iran are not the liberal bloggers... but Joe Lieberman himself by feigning ignorance as to how the Kyle Lieberman amendment could ever be construed as justification to go to war with Iran.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

My Take On The Robertson/Giuliani Kerfuffle

Most of the opinions I've heard about the Pat Robertson endorsement of Rudy Giuliani have focused on how it can be that Giuliani would associate himself with a man who had once declared that it was America's fault that we were attacked on 9/11. This question is entirely valid, and one suspects that Giuliani would be hard pressed to give a coherent answer if some enterprising reporter were to put the question to him.

But I am more interested in what this endorsement says about Pat Robertson. I mean the entire world knows that Giuliani is a waffling, say anything to get the nomination, Pinocchio wannabe, but what is Robertson? Until this endorsement he was a reliably right wing reactionary Christianist who made the news every couple of months with some nutty pronouncement.

I find it particularly ironic that Robertson noted how "Giuliani stood tall as his city was rocked by the worst terrorist act of America's history." It is ironic because Robertson is endorsing a cross dressing, pro gay marriage, pro choice, thrice married, avowed social liberal... within seven years of agreeing that abortionists, gays, the ACLU, and liberalism in general were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

By Robertson's own words following 9/11, having a liberal heathen like Giuliani govern America should result in all sorts of catastrophe wrought upon the land by a wrathful God. Has Robertson decided to do his level best to bring about the destruction of America, or is he now saying it is ok to have pro choice, gay marriage promoting, marital cheating, liberals leading us?

It seems to me that not only does Giuliani have some splainin' to do, but so does Robertson.

DOD Pressure On Guantanamo Judge Is On The Record

There has been a steady stream of news flowing from the military officers who are playing their roles in the military tribunal system set up at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Today I saw a story by Reuters on the proceedings surrounding Omar Khadr which adds an entirely new twist to the plot from my perspective.
"The DOD people, they didn't like what I wrote," the judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, said at the hearing.


Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, questioned Brownback about his impartiality to preside over the case. He asked the judge if he recalled telling lawyers during an October 24 conference call that he had "taken a lot of heat" for dismissing the charges, which were later reinstated.

"I may well have said something like that," Brownback said.
The difference between Judge Brownbacks testimony and all the other stories recently detailing problems with the proceedings is that this is part of the record of the tribunal itself. All of the previous stories were based upon Congressional witness testimony, officer editorials, friend of the court filings and so on. Today's news has the Judge who is conducting the trials putting it in the record of the proceedings that he was pressured and criticized from the Pentagon because of a previous ruling in the Khadr affair.

If the Judge is supposed to be a fair and impartial adjudicator of these hearings, how can the DOD be putting the heat on him to reach conclusions they find satisfactory. This is yet another example of how this tribunal system is inherently biased and geared to obtain convictions whether or not the accused is actually guilty. If the Judge doesn't rule the way the DOD likes, they put the heat on the Judge and then send him back the case for reconsideration.

Well now it is part of the official record of the tribunals, and I believe that is a significant step. It is now a part of the record that the Judge overseeing the proceedings is being pressured to reach conclusions which the military hierarchy finds satisfactory, regardless of the Judges independent thought process. What the Judge has put on record is the very definition of the term kangaroo court.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bush: The Fiscally Responsible Drunken Sailor

In a historic first, the House has decisively overridden President Bush's veto of a water projects spending bill. The Senate is expected to follow suit, and this will be the first time that a veto by President Bush has been overridden by Congress.

The opening salvos in the coming budget wars came with the passage of SCHIP, which the President vetoed, which veto Congress could not override. The President claims SCHIP and the water projects bill are fiscally irresponsible due to increased spending.

I think the President is looking into the fog of history and trying to repeat it. Bill Clinton forced a budget showdown with the Gingrich led Republican Congress and won that battle. Bush would love nothing more than to shut down the Government in the name of fiscal conservatism because he is convinced he will win the showdown. Indeed, history normally shows that presumption to be true, and the weakened backbones displayed by the Congress hardly serves to inspire confidence in their ability to effectively fight back. But there is one major difference at play here which may wind up throwing a wrench into the works.

Even as he appeals for fiscal sanity, the President is demanding another $200 billion in order to carry on a widely disliked war in Iraq. The obvious tactic for Congressional leadersip is to simply point to that massive waste of money and compare it to the pittance they are calling for in order to better the lives of ordinary Americans on the domestic scene.

Gingrich did not have such a case when Clinton started vetoing those spending measures. In fact Gingrich was making the case for fiscal conservatism at that time, even as Bush purports to be making that case now. Bush is in a weaker position because of the manifest hypocricy on this issue as demonstrated while Republicans held the power of the purse, and his continued calls for funding of an unpopular war which is draining the budget at a far far greater clip than any spending programs proposed by the Democrats.

If the President is simply counting on his Republican allies in the House to blindly back him with each and every veto, the water projects veto over ride might provide a bit of a reality check. Most of the programs President Bush is threatening are very popular. The override of the water project veto may be the initial crack in the dam that signals a coming torrent of House Republicans, sensing an election year tidal wave of blue, and trying to disassociate themselves with the least popular President in the history of polling.

It is the President and his party who have spent like drunken sailors, and the President who insists on continuing the practice in Iraq. So, on the condition that Congressional Democrats are willing to actually take on the President, I say let him make a fool of himself by vetoing massively popular programs in the name of fiscal conservatism. Drunken sailors do not make particularly convincing economic advisors.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Conservative Authors Schooled On Laissez-faire Economics

The NY Times has an irony laced article on a lawsuit by several big name conservative authors against Regenery Publishing.

Regenery is an outfit which peddles Conservative authors exclusively. Evidently the authors are getting ripped off because Regenery takes these books and gives them to other Regnery outfits at steep discounts, causing the authors to take a bath in their profit margin. I just love the following quote by Richard Minitier, author of “Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush Is Winning the War on Terror.”:
Mr. Miniter said that meant that although he received about $4.25 a copy when his books sold in a bookstore or through an online retailer, he only earned about 10 cents a copy when his books sold through the Conservative Book Club or other Eagle-owned channels. “The difference between 10 cents and $4.25 is pretty large when you multiply it by 20,000 to 30,000 books,” Mr. Miniter said. “It suddenly occurred to us that Regnery is making collectively jillions of dollars off of us and paying us a pittance.” He added: “Why is Regnery acting like a Marxist cartoon of a capitalist company?”
It seems to me that Minitier has it precisely backwards. Regenery is trying to make the largest profit they can, by hook and by crook, for their company. Regenery is simply living by the philosophy taken by Minitier and the rest of his ilk whenever they expound on economics in general. The haves have more and the have nots keep having not. Minitier should consider himself blessed that he is being given a dime for each book Regenery launders through their conservative echo chamber... After all if Regenery were to follow the economic model supported by their authors, those authors would be given subsistence wages and their taxes increased in order to lower the taxes on Regenery's wealthy executive officers.

Of course I do not agree with the economic view taken by the modern day conservative, so I would like to applaud the effort by Minitier and his gang of starving authors to destroy the laissez faire economic model being forwarded by Regenery, by dragging their butts into Federal court! It is just amazing how quickly Conservatives turn their view of the Federal Government around when they are the ones having their pockets emptied or their bodies ruined by some corporation.

Why does this remind me of that lion of the right, Robert Bork... longtime proponent of tort reform in order to protect business interests, suing the Yale Club because he toppled over and bruised his leg while trying to step onto their dais in order to give a speech. He is suing them for one million dollars because he hit his noggin and suffered a "large hematoma" in his leg. That's right, a bump on the head and a bruise on the leg is worth one million bucks to Judge Bork, but he doesn't think you or I should be allowed to have our day in court to sue for that type of justice. Now I realize he claims to have had surgery and been in excruciating pain for months on end, but he is the freaking paragon of conservative judicial virtue whose entire thought process on his own type of law suit stands in direct contrast to his own law suit!

So let us raise our glasses and toast the group of starving conservative authors who recognize the worthiness of the Federal government in protecting their financial interests against their corporate overlords, Regenery. I wish them the best of luck in their endeavor, but I do pray that this gives them pause the next time they are thinking about writing some conservative hit piece on the economic interests of the little guy who is trying to get a fair shake out of the wealthy corporations.

Yet Another Reason American Torture Is A Bad Idea

We have reached a point with this administration that the State Department can not even take a coherent position on whether or not a foreign intelligence service would be justified to waterboard an American citizen.

To me, this is one for the "you have got to be freaking pulling my leg department". The top legal advisor to the State Department, John Bellinger, has declined to allow for the most rudimentary protection under international laws against torture for American citizens. I'm certain anyone reading this post is already fully aware of what the State Department is. But just in case this isn't registering... the top lawyer for America's diplomatic mission, the department tasked with representing American interests internationally, is actually not able to say that waterboarding Americans is torture.
[Professor of Law at University College London]Philippe Sands: Could you imagine any circumstances in which the use of water boarding on an American national by a foreign intelligence service could be justified?

[Senior Adviser on international law to the US Secretary of State] John Bellinger: One would have to apply the facts to the law, the law to the facts, to determine whether any technique, whatever it happened to be, would cause severe physical pain or suffering.

Philippe Sands: So you're willing to exclude any American going to the international criminal court under any circumstances, but you're not able to exclude the possibility of water boarding being used on a United States national by foreign intelligence service? I mean, that just strikes me as very curious.

John Bellinger: Well, I'm not willing to include it or exclude it,
Nicely done President Bush! In order to remain consistent in the face of this administrations disastrous policies our State Department is not even able to call for the most rudimentary protections against torture for Americans traveling abroad. This is a case example of one reason why the President's detainee torture program is such a freaking disaster for this nation.

Torturing detainees does not work, but the consequences that flow from allowing the practice go beyond the bad intelligence we get. When our nation is found to be doing it we lose the moral high ground by which we call upon other civilized peoples to exercise restraint with their prisoners, which may turn out to be Americans at some point in the future. Just what happens if we get into a shooting match with Iran, and they capture some of our people? You can not begin to imagine the outrage this nation would feel if we were witness to video of our soldiers being waterboarded under that circumstance. We have ceded the moral high ground from which we used to thunder about the Geneva Conventions and the universality of human rights.

So we have come to the point that our own State Department can not even be brought to defend the rights of Americans to not be waterboarded because of the backwards and disastrously wrong headed policy forwarded by the worst President in American history. Frankly, seeing the top legal mind in the State Department being brought to this point is an eye opener from my perspective. This really is outrageous...

Congress Should NOT Pass Another Law On Torture

I'm calling foul on a new effort to make another law which details which techniques may or may not be used by American interrogators.

This new effort is being represented as some sort of torture litmus test for the Congress. Will they or won't they pass a law specifically labeling waterboarding as torture? If they do will the President veto that law, and if he does can the Congress override the veto. Will they or won't they pass a law which, in effect, makes Mukasey's massive hedge on waterboarding moot. The fact is that when all is said and done, all of this is at best academic, and at worst a platform that may allow the legal foundation for American interrogators to torture at will, depending on what torturous techniques have not been specifically outlawed by Congress.

Waterboarding is already torture. One of the definitions of torture which the United States has legally accepted, by treaty and domestic law, are feigned executions. Waterboarding terrifies the victim by leading them to believe they will die by drowning. It is an extreme form of feigned execution, and thereby is already defined as torture by international treaty, and domestic law.

There is no need to pass a law explicitly delineating the various techniques which are or are not torture. Especially when the technique in question so obviously fits the definition of torture. In fact it is dangerous to take this approach because it gives the people who want to be able to torture detainees the right to try to legislatively defeat calling torturous techniques precisely what they are, and/or to cite precedent which allows techniques commonly accepted as torture to be used until such a point as Congress specifically outlaws the technique.

Congress is giving too much credence to the administration and torture apologists by even debating this. It would be positively catastrophic if political machinations somehow led to the defeat of the effort and a legal footing for the view that waterboarding is somehow not torture.

Besides exactly what was the purpose of the law which McCain caved on which the President signed with a signing statement declaring his belief that he need not abide by the law.

It's already illegal to torture detainees, and by even allowing the matter to be debated the Congress is needlessly giving the signal that some forms of torture may not be torture after all, depending on how this or that Congress critter votes, and then if they can over ride a Presidential veto... unless the President decides to sign the bill with a signing statement that affirms his right to torture detainees anyway.

Monday, November 05, 2007

America's Double Message On Torture

Joan Walsh over at Salon has video of George H.W. Bush breaking into tears while recalling the dignified treatment our soldiers gave to Iraqi combatants during Gulf War 1. The title of her post asks "Why is this man crying?".

America has come a long way since the halcyon days of President Bush the 1st, when our commitment to human rights and the dignity of war time captives was never in doubt. These days, the administration of Bush the 2nd is sending a double message to the world. This double message was succinctly delineated by the N.Y. Times: "In effect, officials want Al Qaeda to believe that the United States does torture, while convincing the rest of the world that it does not."

To be sure, there are many right wing torture apologists who would discount that conclusion simply because it can be read in the N.Y. Times. So here is a quote by the head of U.S. Intelligence Mike McConnel that should (but probably will not) persuade these doubters as to the truth of the double message being given by the United States:
"[T]his is a program where we capture someone known to be a terrorist, we need information that they possess, and it has saved countless lives. Because, because they believe these techniques might involve torture and they don’t understand them, they tend to speak to us, talk to us in very—a very candid way."
The fact that the leader of U.S. Intelligence is telling the world that it is good that Al Qaeda members think we will torture them tells us all we really need to know about the issue.

I've already written a post detailing how American efforts to make suspected Al Qaeda detainees believe they will be tortured is itself a form of psychological torture that unacceptably stains American honor. But the tape of Bush Senior breaking down when he recalls the treatment of Iraqi captives in Gulf 1 presents the perfect opportunity to explain another reason it may not be such a swell idea.

Who in their right minds would ever surrender to us if they are convinced that they will be tortured as a result? The reason we had miles long lines of surrendering Iraqi soldiers is because they knew they would be well treated when they fell into our hands. It's hard enough trying to capture Al Qaeda members when they have it ingrained into every fibre of their being that it is glorious to martyr themselves in battle with us. If they are not sufficiently determined to die before being captured because of that twisted martyrdom complex, they will be certain to fight us to the death out of fear of the torture that we hope they believe awaits them if they fall into our hands.

The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's who willingly gave themselves over to captivity would never have done so if we had actively tried to foster a belief in their ranks that they would be tortured if taken alive. The example provided by Bush 1 stands in stark contrast to the example of his son. I can not help but feel that the father knows what shame his sons endorsement of torture has brought to America, and that may well explain a small part of the anguish displayed by the ex President.

Friday, November 02, 2007

What Is Feinstein Smoking?

Charles Schumer and Diane Feinstein have announced that they will vote to confirm Mike Mukasey as Attorney General. Those votes will move the nomination to the floor of the Senate, and it is simply unimaginable that anything untoward like a filibuster will stop his nomination.

I expected Schumer to go to the dark side on this one because he was in a tricky spot. Schumer recommended Mukasey to the President so it would seem to be a bit underhanded to help defeat Mukasey. I suppose that is a lesson our leaders should learn... always find out the position on torture that will taken by the person you are recommending.

The part that has me shaking my head and wondering at the sorry state of American politics at this stage in our history (besides having to wonder about how a proposed nominee will feel about torturing detainees) is the following quote from Senator Diane Feinstein. In a letter explaining why she would support Mukasey she writes:
"Judge Mukasey’s answers to hundreds of questions, both in our confirmation hearing and in writing, were crisp and succinct, and demonstrated a strong, informed, and independent mind"
Mukasey may have been alot of things during his testimony, but "crisp, succinct, informed and independent"? Just which hearings did Feinstein attend?

Here is Mukasey, proving how informed he is: MUKASEY: "I don't know what's involved in the technique. If water-boarding is torture, torture is not constitutional."

Mike Mukasey must be the last person in the sentient universe who doesn't know what water boarding is. Seriously... this is the man who Feinstein just praised as being "informed". In fact I think there is a convincing case to be made that Mukasey perjured himself with that answer. For him to not know whats "involved in the technique" is completely unfathomable. In fact if what he claims is actually true, it shows that Mukasey is so completely out of touch that he should be rejected for his complete lack of awareness of current events.

As to Mukasey being independent... it is his lack of independence which landed his nomination in hot water in the first place. A truly independent candidate would have no trouble defining simulating the drowning of detainees as torture. But if the head of the Justice Department reaches that conclusion, suddenly there are a lot of administration figures including the President who are in legal jeopardy from our own legal system.

And post facto statutes which retroactively immunize our war criminals will not save the folks responsible for making American torture a feature in the war on terror. The Nuremberg trials mean something. 'I was only following orders' does not excuse our interrogators from war crimes, period. Are we to not believe that the German interrogators were not covered by domestic legalisms when they committed their crimes? Torture is freaking torture. International courts are not going to accept Americans immunizing themselves, nor should they.

I could fisk that atrocious Feinstein missive all day long, but I'm sick of thinking about her mendacity... Will a real Democrat PLEASE do the party a favor and run against her in her next primary election Feinstein runs in?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bush Throws A Hissy Fit At The Constitution.

Shocking as it may seem, someone evidently needs to give the President a primer on the Constitution. Specifically he needs to be instructed on the role of the President and the Senate regarding the process of nominating candidates to fill certain positions, like Attorney General. Check out what the President told the Heritage Foundation about a possible rejection by the Senate of Mike Mukasey for Attorney General:
If the Senate Judiciary Committee were to block Judge Mukasey on these grounds, they would send a new standard for confirmation that could not be met by any responsible nominee for attorney general. And that would guarantee that America would have no attorney general during this time of war.”
Wow... there can not be an Attorney General confirmed in time of war if Mukasey is not confirmed because he refuses to define waterboarding as torture? Let us see what instruction the Constitution gives in this regard.
[The President]shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law:
Odd... The Presidents assertion that the Senate MUST confirm Mukasey or not be given any alternative seems to be based upon some weird reading of the Constitution which no sane person could follow. There actually does not appear to be any standard specified in the Constitution by which Senators must or must not confirm an appointee. If the Senators decided en masse to vote against Mukasey because they do not like closely cropped graying hair on the next Attorney General, the Senators would be well within their Constitutional rights to reject him. They could, indeed maybe they should, reject Mukasey simply because he is George Bush's initial choice to be Attorney General.

It makes perfect sense that Senators would reject Mukasey if he can not accept be brought to define waterboarding as torture. If it were an American service member being subjected to the treatment we would certainly decry the treatment as torture. Mock executions are deemed to be psychological torture, and waterboarding goes far beyond placing a pistol to a detainees head and pulling the trigger.

By announcing that Mukasey must be confirmed or no other candidate can be, Bush has staked out a position that is his own little reality. He is the ultimate decider, no matter what the Constitution, which he swore to uphold, may say. Would anyone be surprised if, in the future, a legal memo turned up which gave some weird legalistic justification for this preposterous assertion by the President? Some flunky in the Justice Department very well may have already passed along the super secret classified legal opinion laying out the the dubious legal groundwork that in times of war the President has the ultimate authority to install any officer he sees fit in the office of his choosing.

Sorry Mr. President, but you don't get to determine what is or is not a reason for the Senate to reject a nominee. Well... not yet anyway.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]