Reagan Prosecuted Waterboarding

If the Bush Lawyers had as their intention a good faith legal analysis of waterboarding and other EITs, then they would have found this:
George W. Bush’s Justice Department said subjecting a person to the near-drowning of waterboarding was not a crime and didn’t even cause pain, but Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department thought otherwise, prosecuting a Texas sheriff and three deputies for using the practice to get confessions.

Federal prosecutors secured a 10-year sentence against the sheriff and four years in prison for the deputies. But that 1983 case – which would seem to be directly on point for a legal analysis on waterboarding two decades later – was never mentioned in the four Bush administration opinions released last week.

"To take one example, there was a court-martial addressing the practice of waterboarding from 1903, a state court case from the Twenties, a series of prosecutions at the [post-World War II] Tokyo Tribunal (in many of which the death penalty was sought) and another court-martial in 1968," Horton said. "These precedents could have been revealed in just a few minutes of computerized research using the right search engines. It's hard to imagine that Yoo and Bybee didn't know them.


The failure to cite the earlier waterboarding case and a half-dozen other precedents that dealt with torture is reportedly one of the critical findings of a Justice Department watchdog report that legal sources say faults former Bush administration lawyers -- Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury -- for violating "professional standards."
Notice that Reagan's prosecution is just the last in a long line of historical legal precedents.  The fact that their legal examination of this issue didn't reveal these precedents goes a long way towards proving that the reviews were conducted in bad faith - that the White House told the DOJ lawyers what they wanted, and the DOJ produced.  This system is uncomfortably close to "if the President does it, then it is not illegal."

European Vacations

This alert was just recently filed by the AP:
MADRID (AP) — Spain's top investigative magistrate has opened an investigation into the Bush administration over alleged torture of terror suspects at the Guantanamo prison.

Baltasar Garzón's move on Wednesday is separate from a complaint by human rights lawyers that seeks charges against six specific Bush administration officials.

Judge Garzon's action, which is separate from the inquiry requested by human rights lawyers against six Bush Administration officials including John Yoo, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, and Douglas Feith, and is said to be premised upon the complaints of four individuals who claim to have been tortured while detained at Guantanamo, one of which is a Spanish citizen, along with two Brits and a Moroccan previously residing in Spain. All were accused of being members of al-Qaida in Spain, though all four were cleared
Whoa.  Remember, Reagan's Convention Against Torture establishes an universal jurisdiction - if the host country is unwilling or unable to investigate credible claims of torture, then any signatory in the world can begin an investigation, culminating in prosecution.  Perhaps this will increase pressure for us to police our own citizens, like a modern Democracy should.

Time to cancel those European Vacations, you loyal Bushies.


Torture Lies From the Past

Kudos to the NYTS for revisiting these lies:
In late 2007, there was the first crack of daylight into the government’s use of waterboarding during interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees. On Dec. 10, John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer who had participated in the capture of the suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in 2002, appeared on ABC News to say that while he considered waterboarding a form of torture, the technique worked and yielded results very quickly.

Mr. Zubaydah started to cooperate after being waterboarded for “probably 30, 35 seconds,” Mr. Kiriakou told the ABC reporter Brian Ross. “From that day on he answered every question.”

His claims — unverified at the time, but repeated by dozens of broadcasts, blogs and newspapers — have been sharply contradicted by a newly declassified Justice Department memo that said waterboarding had been used on Mr. Zubaydah “at least 83 times.”
Suck on that America!



If you didn't know this was going to happen above Manhattan and you were in a tall office building, what would be your first thought?

That's a pretty big unforced error, Louis Caldera.  We'll see if you keep your job as Director of the White House Military Office.  Apparently Obama was furious when he was informed.  This will be a nice test of accountability in the Obama era.

It was all for a "photo op," because apparently the White House Military Office has never heard of Photoshop.

UPDATE: After the review of the incident, Louis Caldera lost his job.  Score one for accountability.


CIA: Torture Didn't Stop Any Imminent Attacks

Torture did not stop any imminent attacks on America, so there goes that argument.
The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to recently declassified Justice Department memos.

That undercuts assertions by former vice president Dick Cheney and other former Bush administration officials that the use of harsh interrogation tactics including waterboarding, which is widely considered torture, was justified because it headed off terrorist attacks.

Remember, this is in keeping with the statements made recently by Robert Mueller, the Bush appointed, Republican Director of the FBI.  These illegal techniques did not stop any imminent attacks, and therefore the necessity of torture in the ticking timebomb scenario does not apply.


Pentagon Agency Called it Torture in 2002

Wow.  This is a bombshell.
The military agency that helped to devise harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as "torture" in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon's chief lawyer and warned that it would produce "unreliable information."

"The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel," says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency. Parts of the attachment, obtained in full by The Washington Post, were quoted in a Senate report on harsh interrogation released this week.
That's damning.  Once again, we have evidence that the Bush Administration knew what they were doing was illegal and produced unreliable information.  If you know that these techniques will produce unreliable information, and you then suggest using these techniques to discover a link between 9/11 and Iraq after the invasion, then what you are doing is using torture to procure false confessions.  You are no better than the North Koreans, or any of the other torturers history has seen.  

Evidence mounts for prosecutions.


Waiting for the Attack...

If you look at Al Qaeda's timing, a striking pattern emerges which makes perfect sense in light of their strategic goals.  Remember, bin Laden said:
"We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah," bin Laden said in the transcript.

He said the mujahedeen fighters did the same thing to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, "using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers."

"We, alongside the mujahedeen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat," bin Laden said.

He also said al Qaeda has found it "easy for us to provoke and bait this administration."
Al Qaeda thinks they won the Cold War, thank you very much!

In order to achieve these goals, they need reactionary, traumatized Presidents.  Therefore, they strike at the beginning of President's terms.  They were founded in 1990, and their first attempt to destroy the World Trade Center came in 1993, at the beginning of Clinton's term.  Clinton dealt with the pressure brilliantly - prosecuting and imprisoning those responsible.  Who knows what his reaction would have been if they had succeeded in bringing down the tower, however.

Bush, we all know, watched as 9/11 occurred 20% into his first term in office, and he did not handle it nearly so well.  He played right into bin Laden's hands, giving him the economically draining and Muslim-radicalizing war he wanted.

So, the question is, when is Obama's attack scheduled?  It'll come in the first year, if the pattern holds.

... Unless, of course, the terrorists see what I do in this young President.  I don't think he'll play into their hands the way our Cowboy President did, so they might be better served in waiting to attack in Q2-Q3 2012, thereby removing him from office in the elections.  If I were them, that's what I'd do.  Obama is never going to serve their strategic goals.


Gingrich the Obama Negation Machine

Here's Newt Gingrich, lying furiously:
You have Obama nominating Judge Hamilton, who said in her ruling that saying the words Jesus Christ in a prayer is a sign of inappropriate behavior, but saying Allah would be OK. You'll find most Republican senators voting against a judge who is confused about whether you can say Jesus Christ in a prayer, particularly one who is pro-Muslim being able to say Allah.
Tomasky does an excellent job documenting what actually happened:
Naturally, it's all a lie, but as I said, even I was shocked at how rancidly despicable a lie it was.
It's a great read.

It seems like Newt has taken this whole "bright lines between the parties" thing a little too much to heart.  He seems to be nothing more than a universal Obama-Negation machine.  If Obama is for it, Newt is against it, even if he was for it just 3 years ago.  His political persona has devolved into one of unthinking, reflexive opposition to a President that is governing with a substantial electoral and public approval mandate.  

I guess someone's gotta do it, huh?  It might as well be someone that will never run for President.

RedState Checkin

Here's an interestingly dumb story from Redstate:
LATimes: Obama’s New Muslim Appointment is Hope… for Egyptians?

I will begin this right at the top by saying that I don’t care a whit if the appointment of any American official brings hope to Egyptians. After all, an American official should be concerned with America’s interests not Egypt’s.
However, apparently the L.A. Times thinks that it is germane to U.S. interests that Egyptians are “rejoicing” that President Obama has appointed a female American Muslim to his administration. In, “Muslim woman’s appointment as Obama advisor draws cautious optimism” from April 22, Noha El-Hennawy is reporting from Cairo that Egyptians are happy with Obama’s purported outreach to Muslims.
Oh yes, I agree with Red State!  In a war against a decentralized, stateless enemy who relies on radicalizing Muslim youths to fill their ranks, there's absolutely no point in America making those Muslim youth's feel better about America.  Indeed, as RedState tells us, how Muslim youths feel about America isn't "germane to U.S. interests."

What a bunch of toolbags.


Zelikow the Good Guy

I am unaware of Philip Zelikow's broader history, but perhaps if I was better read this wouldn't come as a surprise.  Zelikow says that not only did he urge the Principles not to approve a torture program, but all known copies of his dissenting memo were collected and destroyed.
At the time, in 2005, I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn't entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable. My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views. They did more than that: The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department's archives.
The Bush Administration knew what they were doing was illegal, and they went about destroying evidence of that fact.

The Leader is the One Man that Cannot be Criticized

Chalk up another elected GOP official prostrating himself before Rush Limbaugh for daring to suggest Rush isn't the leader of the GOP:
Last week, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R) of Kansas was asked whether Rush Limbaugh was the "de facto leader of the GOP." Tiahrt rejected the idea out of hand, telling the Kansas City Star, "No, no, he's just an entertainer."

This is, of course, the one line elected Republican officials are not supposed to cross. Limbaugh is to be revered, not dismissed. It took a couple of days, but as Amanda Terkel noted, Tiahrt's office is now anxious to let everyone know how much the congressman loves the right-wing blowhard.

Asked about the episode and resulting Web buzz, Tiahrt spokesman Sam Sackett said Tiahrt was not speaking negatively about Limbaugh but was trying to defend him against the suggestion that Limbaugh could be blamed for the GOP's woes.

"The congressman believes Rush is a great leader of the conservative movement in America -- not a party leader responsible for election losses," Sackett told The Eagle editorial board. "Nothing the congressman said diminished the role Rush has played and continues to play in the conservative movement."

Steve Bennen helpfully provides us the growing list of of grovelling members of the GOP:
For those keeping score at home, this is reversal #5 for Republicans who've been critical of Limbaugh recently. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) groveled for Rush's forgiveness in late January, and Gov. Mark Sanford's (R-S.C.) office quickly backpedaled after the governor said, "Anyone who wants [President Obama] to fail is an idiot." RNC Chairman Michael Steele, of course, humiliated himself in early March, and a couple of weeks later, Jim Tedisco, the Republican candidate in the special election in New York's 20th, felt compelled to backpedal after saying Limbaugh is "meaningless" to him.
I can't think of anyone else in the GOP that can't be criticized... can you?

Obama on Accountability and the Rule of Law

It was just incredibly disapointing when Rahm Emanual,  Obama's Chief of Staff and virtual co-President, said that not only weren't we going to investigate those who carried out torture, but we would also leave the architects of the program uninvestigated.
On Sunday, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said on the ABC News program “This Week” that “those who devised policy” also “should not be prosecuted.” But administration officials said Monday that Mr. Emanuel had meant the officials who ordered the policies carried out, not the lawyers who provided the legal rationale.

And while Mr. Obama vowed not to prosecute C.I.A. officers for acting on legal advice, on Monday aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques.
That's bad.

It's going to be an interesting three years for those of us on the Constitutional Left.  We need to keep in mind that Obama is a strategist who plays long ball, and as such we have to be aware that there are more pressing priorities at the moment than accountability for the Bush Administration.  We've all seen the graphs comparing this downturn with historical recessions - the graphs where we're giving the Great Depression a run for its money in GDP and employment terms.  This is a legitimate global crisis, and it must be fully addressed before taking on anything that might cause partisan gridlock.  Heck, just passing a Stimulus Plan that made macroeconomic sense was a process rife with partisanship.  Imagine trying to get those three Senate votes after prosecuting George W. Bush as a war criminal?

The same applies to Don't Ask Don't Tell, by the way.  We have serious, huge legislation to pass, and then we can hit the partisan stuff.


My Sense of Humor

Needless personal blogging time:  I've loved Groucho since I was a little kid.

Those are some of his best one liners.  I love it.

Redirecting the TeaBaggers

Hey, Teabaggers... want to do something useful? Look through this nifty map of the Federal Budget and tell us what to cut!

Aside: isn't it funny that the Tax Protesters were nowhere to be found during the Bush Presidency?  And they main thing they're protesting - the "socialist" bailouts - were began under Bush!  Remember, you never heard that Bush was anything but a Conservative Lion until late 2006, when it was clear the Republicans were going to get obliterated in the midterm elections because of their lockstep ties to the former President.  What this says about the real motivation behind the protests is not pretty.

Teabagging Subverted

Interviews in TeaBag land:

Well done, buddy.


Beck the Secessionist

Beck, in his own words:
You can’t convince me that the Founding Fathers wouldn’t allow you to secede.

The Constitution is not a suicide pact, and if a state says: ‘I don’t want to go there, because that’s suicide, they have a right to back out. They have a right — people have a right to not commit economic suicide...

...Texas says go to hell, Washington, which by the way has been said before. I believe it was Davey Crocket...it’s about time that somebody says that again."
I think that this issue might be considered settled after the little thing called the Civil War.


Gingrich Bites it on the Pirates

Gingrich jumped the gun on this one, hoping for Black Hawk Down:
I just got off the phone with a military expert and former Army Ranger who supports Republicans and Dems, and he hammered Gingrich and conservative media figures for criticizing Obama, saying that the Commander-in-chief deserved "respect" while a sensitive operation was unfolding.

"I would hope that they’re feeling a little silly today," said the expert, Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for National Security Studies. "It’s bad form. You don’t make this a partisan issue until an operation has been assessed. It’s fair game ex post facto. But during the emergency, I think that our elected leaders deserve our respect."

Gingrich whacked away at Obama’s handling of the standoff on Twitter over the weekend, saying it made us "look weak." The Wall Street Journal editorial page, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck also targeted Obama.

Exum, who advised Obama during the campaign but who also supports Republicans, hinted that the criticism bordered on unpatriotic. "If Glenn Beck loves his country as much as he alleges, he should hold his tongue when elected leaders on the ground are dealing with a very difficult situation."
What a tool.

Beck Loves Vampires and Militias... and McVeigh?

If you've been watching Glenn Beck, then you know he's obsessed with Vampires sucking the blood of the innocent, by which he means the horrible atrocity that is a Government financed by tax revenue.  It's violent commentary - literally blood soaked.  If you think he's just weird enough to make it all up on his own, you can be forgiven, but it turns out to have a more storied pedigree:

There you see Operation Vampire Killer, where this rhetoric got it start.  It's proudly displayed next to the Militiaman's Handbook at a militia convention.  See if this sounds familiar:
We in America, Officers and private citizens alike, are fortunate that at this moment in our history we can still LAWFULLY EXTERMINATE these parasitic Global Blood Suckers by placing numerous "STAKES" made of words, paper, pen, and hard work through their hardened hearts.


Very soon, if we do not stop these world government proponents, and install in places of leadership honorable men and women, all military, national guardsmen and officers of the law will be used as the "enforcement arm" to guarantee a full complement of "volunteers" for these imperialists' "peaceful" socialist global society.
Beck talks about driving stakes through the hearts of the government vampires all the time.

This dovetails nicely with the reading McVeigh did before committing his heinous act of terrorism:
Mr. McVeigh's reading, which he pressed on his sister, Jennifer, among others, also included Spotlight, the newsletter of the anti-semitic Liberty Lobby, Patriot Report, a far-right Christian identity newsletter that would later declare the Oklahoma bombing a plot by "the real hate groups," namely the F.B.I. and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, to crack down on armed paramilitary groups, and a strange document titled "Operation Vampire Killer 2000."

Written by Jack McLamb, a former Phoenix police sergeant, it seeks to enlist police and military personnel against "the ongoing, elitist covert operation which has been installed in the American system with great stealth and cunning." It continues, "They, the globalists, have stated that the date of termination of the American way of life is the year 2000."
When the nuts amongst their followers take this rhetoric to its unavoidable conclusion, people like Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh and O'Reilly will scream bloody murder at the merest hint that they have some blame in the matter.  But clearly, they have created the climate for this violence.  They must take some responsibility.

Obama Supports Bush Habeas Revokation?

The NYT is reporting today that Obama will continue the Bush Administration's legal position on the rights afforded to detainees at Bagram Airforce base in Afghanistan.

Listen, I've said this before.  We're in a strange time.  A time when the problems with our form of government have been laid bare by the lawlessness of the Bush Administration.  They hired yes-men lawyers who told them exactly what they wanted to hear, thereby giving the color of law to their flagrant criminality.  From Torture to Wiretapping to Habeas Corpus, the Bush Administration was able to claim (and have their minions loudly repeat) that what they were doing was legal.  Although it wasn't really new ground, 9/11 made it seem like it was, and that was enough to muddle the field.

As perverse as it sounds, Obama needs to continue these policies.  Obviously, the clear law of the land wasn't enough to dissuade a President who seeks to lacerate the Constitution, so how then can we ensure they don't happen again?  Rulings from the Supreme Court, that's how.


RightWing Thinks US Military is Omnipotent

That's right, nothing is too difficult for those amazing men and women from the United States Armed Services!  RedState had this crazy stuff to say about what Obama should have done with the pirates:
On Friday, April 10, as the standoff reached the end of its third day, I called on President Obama to take action to free the American hostage from his Somali captors. I outlined three possible operational tactics that could be used to do so; number 1 was the following:


(1) 2 helos, 2 snipers each: pop the [pirates] in their heads, then drop a rescue swimmer to escort the hostage up to one of the choppers. This works best if the hostage is aware of what is happening and can help without getting in the way — say, by hopping overboard as the gunships near, to divert attention and get out of the line of fire.

(This was written before the USS Bainbridge tethered the life raft to its stern, an action which eliminated the need for helicopters.)
Really?  Apparently, there's no concern that four separate snipers would be able to put a single round each into the heads of the pirates from a moving helicopter.  Apparently, they could accomplish this simultaneously and without the pirates knowing they're coming (easy when approaching by helo), maintaining surprise so as to protect the hostage.  All of this is not only possible, it's so likely to succeed that the President was some kind of spineless weakling for not jumping at the opportunity to give the order.

Interestingly, even in this expert-level marksmanship competition featuring shots from helo, they're still using fully automatic weapons and they're lucky to put the rounds within 5 feet of their target.  I'm sure hitting an 8inch target is just a walk in the park for our military.

Rightwing Lying Furiously about Pirate Rescue

Man, they really must feel like they bet the farm on America's failure to resolve the pirate situation.
After taking fire from the Somali kidnappers again Saturday night, the on-scene commander decided he’d had enough. Keeping his authority to act in the case of a clear and present danger to the hostage’s life, and having heard nothing from Washington since yet another request to mount a rescue operation had been denied the day before, the Navy officer — unnamed in all media reports to date — decided the AK-47 one captor had leveled at Philips’ back was a threat to the hostage’s life, and ordered the NSWC team to take their shots.
Please note that this version of events has no links documenting it. Maybe that's because every source one might reference for such a thing says the opposite - that Obama himself gave the goahead for lethal force.

The delay was due to us running through the full range of options, and making sure that the rescue went as planned should we reach that point. That involved a large number of small moves to engineer the situation - tethering the lifeboat to the USS Bainbridge, for instance.  Obama is the king of the small move, made well in advance that cements his position.  He plays the long game, Republicans.  That really needs to sink in, or you'll get nowhere against him.

RedState Thinks Armed Forces Command Themselves?

Obama gave the order for violent escalation last Friday, and today everything was in place for the operation to go forward.
A senior US official tells me that President Barack Obama approved a recommendation by Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen to dispatch special forces to the US scene on Friday.

These special forces were authorized to take action "in extremis" against the Somali pirates holding Maersk Captain Richard Phillips, 53, hostage on a motorized lifeboat off the coast of Somalia.

A senior official tells me that when the fourth Somali pirate was on the Bainbridge ship, Phillips moved to side of the lifeboat to relieve himself.

At that point, U.S. special forces saw their opportunity and took other three pirates out.

Captain Phillips is now safe aboard a U.S. vessel.

It's "going to make a great movie," a U.S. official adds.
RedState is having none of it:
In the end, Captain Phillips wasn’t saved by the President, but by his own courageous plunge and the deadly professionalism of our men with guns. The President, you see, was saved by the Captain.
They spin a story of the President paralyzed with fear, unable to contemplate that most horrible option of using force.  Then, when the deed is done all they can muster is "Obama doesn't deserve credit!"  

Once again, this is an utter failure of expectations management by the GOP.  They have to learn that Obama is playing long ball here, and that by trying to react with maximum indignation within every newscycle they end up looking like craven, waffling idiots, unable to craft any sort of coherent message and clearly uninterested in the task of governing.

Will this sort of frantic attack on every front eventually result in Obama's approval ratings falling, or will it serve to help keep the GOP isolated to the Talk Radio extremes?  We'll see.


Some Old Treaty....

... on whether or not America is a Christian Nation:
The Treaty of Tripoli:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
There you have it.  


American Exceptionalism

Sigh. Obama is the man.

This is the sane view of American Exceptionalism: that America holds a special place in history as the first great Democracy, and further for fighting for people's freedoms across the world.  Finally, as an American, I think it's particularly great.  This view is in stark contrast to Rush Limbaugh's definition, which I am not making up: that America is the exception!  That the rules that apply to other countries to not apply to us!  Anything less is blaming America first!

What astounding arrogance in these Talk-Radio Republicans.

Riposte to "Obama is a Radical"

I need to get on Boortz and try this out:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Baracknophobia - Obey
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Well put, as always, Mr. Stewart. He is truly one of the indispensable men.


Republican Judges Love Gay Marriage

Via Andrew Sullivan we discover that all of the opinions legalizing gay marriage thus far have been authored by Republican-appointed justices. That's remarkable. Here's the list:
Massachusetts (Goodridge, 2003) Margaret Marshall, appointed by Chief Justice Gov. Weld (R) in 1996, elevated to Chief by Gov. Cellucci (R);

in 1999 California (In re Marriage Cases, 2008) Ronald George, Chief Justice appointed by Gov. Wilson (R) in 1991, elevated to Chief by Gov. Wilson (R);

in 1996 Connecticut (Kerrigan, 2008) Richard Palmer, Associate Justice appointed by Gov. Weicker (Ind.); in 1993 -- Note that Weicker was a Republican during his time in the House and Senate. He won the governorship as an independent.

And today, in Iowa (Varnum, 2009) Mark Cady, Associate Justice, appointed by Gov. Branstad (R) in 1998.
Those damned activist judges, eh?


Obama Love

Have you heard that Obama's teleprompter thinks for him?

I love this guy.

Obama's Successful Presidency

As a followup to the NASDAQ post, we now have the DOW above where Obama took office.  So therefore he's a successful President, and Wall Street approves of his policies.

I think that's what I've learned from Fox News and Talk Radio.

GOP Bad at Expectations Game

Steve Bennen write's up Obama at the G-20 so I don't have to.  In particular, note the phrases I bolded in the first paragraph:

The world leaders who assembled at the G20 reached an agreement to address the global economic crisis, but whether their plan has merit depends a bit on who you ask. On the one hand, the agreement "was more than what experts expected," and was arguably "remarkable given the discord that preceded Thursday's meeting." The LA Times said the end product "surprised many observers with its unusually substantive achievements." At the same time, the WSJ and NYTwere less impressed.

But how about President Obama's first turn on the global stage, just two months into his first term? He told reporters yesterday, "I think I did O.K." By some measures, Obama was selling himself short.

For example, there was a heated disagreement between France and China over tax havens and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. Obama personally intervened, took the opposing leaders aside, and brokered an agreement based on little more than a rhetorical shift. The process seemed a little silly, but it was the U.S. president's "first moment as a statesman."

TNR's John Judis said Obama's "performance at the G-20 has been flawless." TAP's Tim Fernholzadded, "After the G-20, we can say that President Barack Obama had a successful entrance onto the world stage." The WaPo's Steven Pearlstein concluded, "All in all, a pretty successful opening-night performance for President Obama on the international economic stage. He achieved most of what he wanted while allowing others to claim victory and allowing the United States to shed its Bush-era reputation for inflexibility and heavy-handedness. And by the standards of past summits, this one was full of accomplishment."

The Republicans suck at the expectations game.  It's like they've suddenly become bad at politics.

Can't Give the Queen what She Wants?

I just don't understand what gives the Fox/Talk Radio crowd the vapors these days.  They're hyperventilating now about the fact that the Obamas gave the Queen a video IPod, and the horrible breach of etiquette this represents.  It's funny, cuz I remember these same Republicans being appalled by this:

Wait, was it "appalled," or "never mentioned?" I can't remember.

Of course, this is made doubly ridiculous by the fact that the Queen requested the Video IPod. She had a previous generation IPod already, but she wanted the neat toy that could play video.  She should have gone for the Touch.

Update: DKos put together a video of the outrage, and a British spokesperson's succinct rebuttal.


Europe doesn't hate Obama?

I thought I had heard that Europe thinks Obama is taking America "to hell" with his stimulus plans and regulatory ideas?  Well, apparently not.  But I thought I heard that over and over again on talk radio and Fox News.  Do you think they didn't check their sources?  They wouldn't run with a story that wasn less than the truth just to make Obama look bad, would they?
Reporting from Los Angeles and London -- The G-20 leaders will pour at least $1 trillion into the global economy in an effort to stimulate recovery from a worldwide downturn and will push for greater regulation of the financial industry, officials said this morning.

In a televised news conference from London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the key elements of the plan, including an additional $500 billion for the International Monetary Fund, $250 billion in IMF Special Drawing Rights and $250 billion to boost trade.

The leaders of the major economies also pledged to work on such regulatory issues as pay and bonuses for executives and bringing financial instruments such as hedge funds into tighter government control. Many blame the new investment instruments, including derivatives and credit swaps, for the economic contraction around the world.

"This is the day that the world came together to fight back against the global recession," Brown told reporters.

"Our message today is clear and certain. We believe that in this new global age, our prosperity is indivisible,' he said. "We believe that growth, to be sustained, must be shared, and that trade must once again become an engine of growth. The old Washington consensus is over; today we have reached a new consensus."

"There are no quick fixes. But with the six pledges that we make today, we can shorten the recession and save jobs."
The six pledges may not have been everything Obama said he wanted, but it is excellent nonetheless.  And when you're dealing with someone like Obama, a cautious poker player, it's difficult to say that his "Ask" wasn't merely a strategic opening, leading to the outcome he originally desired.  A trillion dollars is no slouch, and the work to strengthen regulations is key to establishing a healthy period of real economic growth.

The Republicans really need to learn how to set expectations.  They've turned this trip from an impending disaster, where the EU rebukes Obama harshly, into a remarkable accomplishment, with Obama brokering deals and closing the breach between American and the rest of the world.

"Light Switch Tax" Lies

Unsurprisingly, the Republicans are lying about Cap and Trade when they say it will cost every family $3,128 per year.

It's a pattern they've followed before.  Simply take a study done by a Democratic policy advocate, misunderstand or willfully ignore the obvious preconditions for the study, then apply the study in a dishonest way to the current debate.  They did it first with the Stimulus Bill, claiming their package would create twice as many jobs for half the cost.  Of course, the study they referenced was regarding the efficacy of taxcuts in a time of economic expansion - the polar opposite of our current situation.  It goes beyond the normal political games of selective emphasis - it is dishonesty.

For Cap and Trade, they're citing researcher John Reilly's study.  Here's what he has to say about their take on his work:
"It's just wrong," said John Reilly, an energy, environmental and agricultural economist at M.I.T. and one of the authors of the report [cited by congressional Republicans]. "It's wrong in so many ways it's hard to begin." [...]

The tax might push the price of carbon-based fuels up a bit, but other results of a cap-and-trade program, such as increased conservation and more competition from other fuel sources, would put downward pressure on prices. Moreover, consumers would get some of the tax back from the government in some form.

The report did include an estimate of the net cost to individuals, called the "welfare" cost. It would be $30.89 per person in 2015, or $79 per family if you use the same average household size the Republicans used of 2.56 people.

The cost would grow over time as the program ramps up, but the average annual cost over time in today's dollars -- that is, the "average annual net present value cost" -- is still just $85 per person, Reilly said. That would be $215.05 per household.

A far cry from $3,128. And that isn't the only inaccuracy in the claim.
PolitiFact called it a Pants-on-Fire level of lying, a special honor.

Palin Replaced by Newt for Major GOP Dinner

Palin is trying to play it off as a scheduling conflict, but an anonymous GOP official trashed Palin to Fox News, of all places, insisting that the Governor's Office wasn't being truthful.

"She was a disaster," the source said. "We had confirmation."

Funny.  We all thought she was a disaster, too.

The GOP's Clown Budget

Perhaps you've seen this graph floating around.  It was produced by the House Republican Staff.  Interestingly, CBO budget projections only go out to 2019, which means the Republicans are "inferring" the data points after that.

Isn't it interesting how, shortly after they start inferring, the numbers for the Democrats start going crazy?  Convenient for those Republicans, that.

More hilariously, the GOP Budget is a GOP Budget, so it must include certain things.  First, there are the obligatory tax-cuts for the rich, hacking the top marginal rate from 35% to 25%.  Second, there is the across-the-board spending freeze, with Defense spending on a different board, of course.

Where it takes the fork to crazy town is that it makes the tax changes optional.  It would be up to individual taxpayers to decide if they wanted to use the Bush-era tax code, or the new GOP-Budget tax code with it's 10% lower rates.  This raises the question - which tax code should the GOP use to compute the revenue going forward?  The answer: use the Bush-era, higher marginal rates to calculate the tax revenue to the Feds!  Cuz obviously, it's the patriotic thing to pay more, right?  Isn't that the argument the Republicans made during the election?

But because we don't live in Bizzaro World, where Republicans just love paying taxes, we should get a sense of what the real world tax revenues would be with the 25% top marginal rate.  The answer: subtract $300 billion in federal revenue, resulting in structural deficits that never go below $800 billion a year by the Republicans' own numbers.  This is their fiscal discipline.

What clowns.  Is this any better than their "budget with no numbers" from last week?

2 Months in the Wilderness = Armed Revolution

The Republicans have been in the political wilderness for around two months, and they're already at the point where the rhetoric of violence and revolution imbues much of their communications and messaging. Given the near universality of the rhetoric, this shift may well have been a top-down, conscious decision by the party. As you'll see below, this strikes me as a poor political strategy for retaking the majority.

Just to name a few examples off the top of my head... A Republican Representative wants her constituents "armed and dangerous" (on the issues). There's talk of Texas seceding from the Union. Cable commentators talk about Government Vampires, and the wooden stakes they want driven through their chests. Talk Radio abounds with talk of Obama coming to get their guns, and the need to stand up and fight for your rights "to stop the government men". Rep. Bachman thinks of herself as a "foreign correspondent behind enemy lines." Their animating force is holding TeaParties to show their disaffection with the government. You may recall from U.S. history that the orginal Tea Party was a precursor to revolution. All of this is difficult to slot into the rubric of "Republicans Love America."

Here we have a particularly hilarious example from RedState (the right's largest blog), where they rage over the audacity of the Washington State government trying to pass a law to clean up the state's water. They write "At What Point do People Revolt?"
At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?

At some point soon, it will happen. It'll be over an innocuous issue. But the rage is building. [...]

Were I in Washington State, I'd be cleaning my gun right about now waiting to protect my property from the coming riots or the government apparatchiks coming to enforce nonsensical legislation.
Wow! That's even got violence explicitly directed against elected officials! Charming! And what is the heavy hand of government in this case? Clean Water regulations! That's right. The activists at RedState wants to beat legislators to death over phosphates in sink detergent, when those same phosphates have been gone from machine detergents for decades. I wonder, have any of them heard of ocean dead zones?  And should Obama start behaving like Bush (breaking laws, violating the Constitution, etc), how can they escalate their rhetoric appropriately?

Bear in mind that the editors are RedState are not marginal figures in the GOP. RedState interviewed both Bush and Cheney, after all.

This violent streak seems to be where the GOP is going. Of course, when one of their followers follows through, they'll have had absolutely nothing to do with it.

The Magnificent Mercy of Obama

Yay, let me sing the beatitudes:

Obama's Attorney General let Senator Stevens walk away from his felony convictions today because of prosecutorial misconduct.

The message?  Prosecutions will be conducted legally, or the prosecutors themselves will suffer far worse than a behind-closed-doors verbal beating.  These prosecutors, who had Stevens dead to rights, are now tarnished forever by the public knowledge that they let him get away because they failed to do their job legally.  Furthermore, the Alaskan judge in charge of the case of leaning towards an investigation of the DoJ lawyers.

Excellent.  I love seeing good precedents set.  The entire US Attorney apparatus will learn from this day.


Different Standard?

Here's a video of a liberal making the case that Obama has a different standard for the Auto Industry vs the Banking Industry.


Why the different standard?

First, AIG has had it's CEO replaced. So there's the same standard.

Furthermore, the Government doesn't have the authority to abrogate contracts - it has the secure the agreement of the parties to that contract, as I've talked about before.

It might get there, but this is not yet a situation where you can indict the Obama Administration as you could with the Bush Administration's TARP program.  It might get there, but not yet.

I Thought the GOP had Us "Right Where They Want Us"

As you may know, yesterday was the NY-20 Special Election to replace the Member that had been elevated to Clinton's old Senate seat. The selection of NY-20's Gilbrand raised some eyebrows since it is a conservative district, with a 70,000 voter advantage for the GOP. It would not be easy to retain the seat, and for those of us concerned with the efficacy of the majority, that didn't seem like the best idea. Not catastrophic either, mind you, since the size of the House majority is so much less important than in the Senate, but still disappointing. I imagined the GOP going all-in, spending money like crazy in an attempt to use a win to create a media narrative of changing momentum in the Republican's favor. It wouldn't have been terribly true, given the burgundy hue of the district, but when enough people are shouting things in lockstep it becomes what the media must talk about.

Well, the results are in. The GOP had us by 70,000+ voters, and doubled our spending, but the Democrat won*.

*The absentees have yet to be counted, and it's less than 100 votes separating him from his opponent. This could go either way, but the GOP narrative is dead.