2009-03-31

Infallible Policy!

Policy making at it's best!



Man, you gotta love the "infallible word of God" stuff!  In fact, it is "Infallible. Unchanging. Perfect." And God says there wont be any more floods that cover the entire earth - that the next global reset will be the return of Jesus.  Therefore, Man is incapable of destroying the earth via flood, and therefore we don't need to worry about Global Warming. Ipso Facto.

Of course, in order for this to be a defense of the planet against Science-Based-Inundation, there would have to be the scientific possibility of the scenario that would contradict God's literal word.  Punchline: there isn't enough water to cover the whole Earth.  Unless Global Warming will somehow create new water like Noah's Flood... in which case it would be God himself acting to break his Word.

Man.  Theology is confusing.

What Digby Said

Keeping It Quiet

by digby

Over the week-end, I wrote a bit about the latest torture revelations concerning Abu Zubayda and the fact that everything they got from him under "enhanced interrogations" turned out to be garbage. I mused that they didn't really care what the torture revealed, merely that they got lots of "metrics" that could show they were making progress in the GWOT with their macho tactics. Reader Sleon pointed me in the direction of this post by Bmaz at Emptywheel which adds another intriguing bit of speculation along the same lines:

Such is the clincher as to why the torture tapes had to be destroyed. It wasn't just that Bush/Cheney et. al wanted to keep evidence of their torture program secret, there was never any complete way to do that. But there was only one thing that could prove they tortured for nothing and got nothing - the tapes. Cheney and his coterie of fellow Torquemadas were fiends proud of their handiwork; if they had evidence that it worked, they would have kept it. They burn spies for fun, crow on television about their willingness to torture and what they have accomplished, do you really think for one second they wouldn't retain proof if they had it?

And let us not forget just who we are talking about here - it is the White House Principals group:

The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.

Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, Tenet and Ashcroft. Means, motive and opportunity. Who could have imagined?

This certainly explains why it was top White House lawyers including Gonzales, Addington, Bellinger and Miers, with "vigorous sentiment", assisted the CIA in the decision and process to destroy the torture tapes of abu-Zubaydah and others.

(Every time I am reminded of that principles group watching "choreographed" torture before signing off on it, I am shocked and appalled all over again. )

As to the question at hand, considering the fact that Cheney and Rummy spent their entire careers trying to correct what they considered the sins of the Nixon administration, Bmaz's speculation makes sense. After all, they believed that Nixon's catastrophic error was failing to destroy the ... tapes.

2009-03-30

Contracts Only Matter When they Belong to WS?

Isn't it encouraging to see so much criticism of Barack Obama from the Left?  I love seeing accountability, even for the supposed "Chosen One" we think of as our God.

The latest round of attacks on Obama from the Left is contained in this headline (In the context of the AIG Bonuses outrage):  Obama forces Wagoner Out..Contracts only matter when they belong to WS.

I beg to differ.

First, in the case of Rick Wagoner being forced out as CEO of GM, you're talking about one person.  A single person can be prevailed upon to behave a certain way for the good of the company, but getting 60 individuals to all agree to forgo their bonuses is an impossible task -  there will be intransigent outliers, if only for the purpose of sticking it to the government.  In any 60 people there's bound to be one Joe the Plumber, right?  So, if even one refuses to give up the bonus willingly, then you're in a situation requiring the abrogation of contracts.  Since they don't have the legal powers to do that, they don't try.  If you haven't noticed, Obama's a cautious guy.  The Administration does not attempt things they aren't very sure they're going to accomplish.

The alternative would be a name and shame technique, putting pressure on the individuals refusing to forgo the bonuses, but it would be seen as sicking violence on the poor Bankers.  The mood out there is a little ugly, after all.  It would be inappropriate for the government to direct it's power at individual citizens in this way. 

Furthermore, they could easily be co-opted by the Republican Opposition.  The Bankers are a smart, typically Republican demographic, and might well come up with the idea themselves.  If a few of them simply refused, they could make the President look impotent.  There could be a Joe the Plumber amongst them, as I said.  It would be a drag, and it wouldn't recover the money from the real assholes anyway without abrogation of the contracts.

That's why these are different situations.  The Left's criticism is unconvincing.

That said, I am a little nervous about Cognitive Regulatory Capture - the fact that our economic team (Summers and Geitner) comes from wall street predisposes them to wall street-centric solutions.  We need to be vigilant on this issue to make sure they are doing the people's work, and not Goldman's.

2009-03-29

Bush Tortured Abu Zubaida for No Reason

The crown jewel in the Bush Administration's case for the efficacy of torture was the case of Abu Zubaida.  It turns out, unsurprisingly, that the torture yielded no results
In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. President George W. Bush had publicly described him as "al-Qaeda's chief of operations," and other top officials called him a "trusted associate" of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. None of that was accurate, the new evidence showed.

Abu Zubaida was not even an official member of al-Qaeda, according to a portrait of the man that emerges from court documents and interviews with current and former intelligence, law enforcement and military sources. Rather, he was a "fixer" for radical Muslim ideologues, and he ended up working directly with al-Qaeda only after Sept. 11 -- and that was because the United States stood ready to invade Afghanistan.
Torture, once again, produced no results.

One official cites the obvious non-moral problem with torture:
Others in the U.S. government, including CIA officials, fear the consequences of taking a man into court who was waterboarded on largely false assumptions, because of the prospect of interrogation methods being revealed in detail and because of the chance of an acquittal that might set a legal precedent.
Of course this occurred to them.  But they were being driven by a dark, dark man, who thought we could simply hold people indefinitely with no regard to the opinion of mankind, or our own professed values.

2009-03-28

No International Vacations for the Bush Admin.

It looks like Spain might be getting ready to give the Bushies the Pinochet treatment:
A high-level Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, on whether they violated international law by providing a legalistic framework to justify the use of torture of American prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

The case was sent to the prosecutor's office for review by Baltasar Garzon, the crusading investigative judge who indicted the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The official said that it was "highly probable" that the case would go forward and could lead to arrest warrants.

No international vacations for any of the National Security "Principles" that approved torture.

2009-03-25

It's All Strategic



Hahahaha!  HA!

Fournier!

Remember Ron Fournier, the partisan that nearly took a Senior Advisor job in the McCain campaign, but instead decided to go be the DC Bureau Chief for the Associated Press?  You know, the objective wire service?  He's doing a bang-up job.  Here's Fournier take on last night's White House press conference.
What kind of politician brings a teleprompter to a news conference?

A careful one.

President Barack Obama took no chances in his second prime-time news conference, reading a prepared statement in which he took both sides of the AIG bonus brouhaha and asked an anxious nation for its patience. [...]

One of the few times he summoned raw emotion came after a reporter demanded to know why it took him so long to express outrage over the AIG executive bonuses.

"It took a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."

Even better, he likes to have it up on the teleprompter.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is presented as an "analysis" piece.  Just like his "analysis" of Clinton's convention speech was to count the number of times she used a variation on the pronoun "I."  The answer was in the teens.  You'd think, if that were interesting analysis, the same would be the case of McCain's speech - where he used the word "I" itself over 100 times.

And once again, we've got the AP parroting the Republican talking point of the week.  It's simply amazing that they're trying to make this stick.  They think they can paint the guy who writes with surpassing eloquence, went through 27 Democratic Debates, then another 3 with McCain, as someone who cannot think without the teleprompter doing it for him.  They make this case after Bush.

Astonishing.

Press Treats Obama Tougher

The Elite Press is a little miffed that Obama didn't call on them at the press conference, but they were impressed at the questions:
Breaking with tradition and using a prepared list, Obama did not recognize journalists with The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal or USA Today -- the last four of which were not picked at last month's news conference, either. Instead, he called on reporters for Ebony magazine, Stars and Stripes, Univision, and Agence France-Presse.

Obama's selection process last night did not result in softball inquiries.

Virtually every correspondent was granted a follow-up question, which was often more sharply worded than the first.
Followups - one of the best ways that you can hold a politician to account. After all, it's significantly harder to give a non-responsive answer when aggressive followups are allowed.  It looks like stonewalling, or incompetence.  

Notably, George W. Bush generally refused to allow followups. But at least he didn't use a teleprompter (quite) as much, right? What a brilliant intellect that GWB was.

2009-03-24

Militias Sharp Uptick

The great state of Missouri has noticed an uptick in militia activity, and they've released a report for the education of police officers on potential threats and how best to deal cautiously with suspected militia members.

It should go without saying, of course, that profiling isn't fair to the larger group being profiled. I know there are plenty of Alex Jones-listening, Ron Paul-Supporting Whiteys out there that are no threat to anyone. But according to people who should know we are seeing a marked uptick in militia activity in the great middle of the country, and some of those people are dangerous. Remember, prior to 9/11 the biggest terrorist attack in American history was perpetrated by these people.

For a third-party example, just look at the Palestinians. The peaceful parts of that population suffer from the profiling required by the actions of the extremist few.

I wonder how long Boortz will support profiling when it starts inconveniencing his listeners.

2009-03-19

Limbaugh Makes a Career of Lyinig

I'm glad Media Matters caught this for me.  I heard Limbaugh raging furiously on the air the other day, and this was the centerpiece of the segment:
LIMBAUGH: It's in the stimulus package that they get the bonuses. That's what they're now going to go in and try to change. "AIG stands for Arrogance, Incompetence, and Greed" -- yeah, and you people bailed them out. And let's remember one thing, folks, while we go forward: Not one Republican voted for this bailout. Remember way back in the fall, not one Republican voted for the TARP bailout? And this was why.

And let's never forget what we were told back then: If we didn't do this, the country was finished. If we didn't pass this law and bail out these banks, it was over. We didn't have a day to make this decision. We didn't have a half-day. We didn't have 24 hours. Not one Republican voted for it the first time around. This is why.
Of course, that's not close to true. 65 House Republicans voted for it the first time, and 91 did the second time.

2009-03-18

Obama Presidency a Success!

According to the guys at CNBC and the WSJ, that is, since NASDAQ is now above where it was when Obama became President:


What a stupid way to look at a Presidency.

2009-03-16

Shep Smith Hates Glenn Beck

Awwww. This is what I like to see.



Shep has always been my favorite Fox News personality. He's the only person on the network that actually seems to care about being fair.

2009-03-15

2009-03-13

Obama Needs a Teleprompter?

For those who say that Obama can only speak with a teleprompter, here's a link to him answering questions from the Business Forum held this week. These are technical economic questions from business leaders. He does more than fine without the teleprompter, and it's remarkable just how much the corporate class adores the guy.  They practically fawn.

Just ask yourself, how many of you could reliably make every point you wanted to when speaking publicly? When you're making an argument about consequential things, it's prudent to speak in a prepared manner - not just from the cuff.  Hence the teleprompter for speeches and extended remarks, and the no-teleprompter for questions.  Duh.

Finally, don't you think it's just a tad too rich for Republicans to complain about a President not having godlike English abilities? After eight years of Bush? Really?

Stewart Immolates CNBC, and Teaches Cramer

Wow. Stewart does the journalist's job again:



.



.



Wowza. It'll be interesting to see how Cramer deals with this. It might actually have taught him something - providing a more visceral connection with the perspective of the non-financial class.

2009-03-11

Right Winger Plans Dirty Bomb

During my lifetime all domestic terrorism in America has been committed by political conservatives.  I believe you have to go back to the Vietnam era to find examples of left-wing terrorism, and the exploits of the Weather Underground don't amount of the activities of a mastermind.  After all, Weather Underground killed mostly themselves, while Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolf did serious damage, destroying dozens of entire buildings and killing hundreds.

The modern tradition continues today with news of a right winger in Maine who got himself shot by his wife, who he had been abusing for years.  It turns out that when the police searched the house, they found industrial grade hydrogen peroxide - critical to the manufacture of homemade explosives - and various metal dusts used for amplifying the explosion.  More importantly, however, was the radioactive material he had stockpiled, and the extensive research he had on the more potent isotopes - Cesium 137, notably.  His wife explained that things had gotten a lot worse since the election of Obama, which made her husband "very, very angry."

Our very own homegrown dirty-bomber!  And this was the real thing, too, unlike Padilla.  This man had already assembled most of the components for the bomb, and was wealthy enough to get the last piece - the Cesium.  A single order from a medical imaging maintenance company and he'd be in ready to pull the trigger.  In fact, one of my old customers sells the things.  If you've got the money, the bomb isn't hard to pull off.

Now, the question becomes, "what's the deal with a dirty bomb?  what can it do?"  The answer, even with Cesium 137 as the payload, is "it can scare you."  You see, given the amount and potency of radioactive material in imagined dirty bombs, the resultant level of contamination just isn't big enough to kill people or even make them seriously ill.  Even with a large supply of dangerously radioactive material, the explosion disperses it exponentially with distance.  The resulting average dose would be less than 50 rem, which you would barely notice. The danger of a dirty bomb is the danger of the panic caused by it's use.  The public itself becomes the weapon.  This is why it was so shameful that the Bush Administration continued hyping the dirty bomb threat, making sure that in such event the public panic could be as feverish as possible.  

Way-to-go, Bushies.  Just one more thing they screwed up.