Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, November 1, 2010 6:26 am

David Broder, go straight to Hell. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Filed under: Evil,Journalism — Lex @ 6:26 am
Tags: ,

Shorter Broder: We need another war so Americans can make more money.

No, really, go read it. That’s exactly what he says:

Here is where Obama is likely to prevail. With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.

I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.

Forget the laughable assertion that Washington Republicans will do anything besides oppose this president every step of the way on anything he might attempt to do, the man is arguing for war, which inevitably means the deaths of many innocent people, as an economic stimulus.

And whatever editorial gantlet Washington Post op-ed columns must run to get published apparently thought that was just fine. No one appears to have had the slightest moral qualm about this sentiment. No one appears to have thought, “Um, hey, are we sure we want to be advocating a war crime?”

Go to Hell, Broder. And The Washington Post should just die already.

 

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Friday, January 15, 2010 7:15 pm

Odds and ends for 1/15

Why Haiti is so poor: Because it’s an abused nation, David Brooks, you staggeringly stupid person.

The Fort Hood Shootings: DOD’s official report, out today. Haven’t had time to read it.

But Fox News is cracking down on inaccuracy! Really!: The author of a study that Fox claims proves we’re entering a “mini ice age” says, “I don’t know what to do. They just make these things up.”

Relatedly, global-warming denialism is becoming (surprise!) big business.

The Politico has a scoop! “GOP leaders have privately settled on a strategy to win back the House by putting the vast majority of their money and energy into attacking Democrats — and turning this election into a national referendum on the party in power.” Because Wow! They’ve never done that before! [headdesk]

“I want uninterrupted expertise.” Who cares what the public thinks?

For God’s sake, no one tell David Broder: The public thinks bipartisanship is less important than principles. Richard Burr gets this. Does Kay Hagan?

The National Center for Counterterrorism? Has serious problems.

Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Plan: The Pentagon is preparing for the likelihood that DADT will be repealed. Good. Whether they like it or not, Obama certainly campaigned on repeal, so they at least ought to be prepared.

If Joe Lieberman doesn’t like being called “untrustworthy,” maybe he should stop acting, you know, untrustworthy. Because otherwise, a blog not predisposed to liking Joe very much might throw an impromptu contest to see who can come up with the best synonym for “untrustworthy” (oh, so NSFW), and that would be simply awful.

“The costs of imprecision” are staggering and growing.

One of history’s biggest arguments, settled. (I win.) (h/t: Fred)

ZOMG! Real-life “Calvin & Hobbes” snowmen!

Reason No. 4,298 why I love FailBlog (h/t Jill, who had to be a student in sex-ed classes taught by her mom at both school AND church, which must be, like, a preadolescent’s worst nightmare):

Monday, December 21, 2009 10:40 pm

Odds and ends for 12/21

Let God sort ’em out: A new book makes both Bill Clinton and the FBI that went after him look bad.

Release the e-mails: There’s more to know about AIG before we let it off the taxpayers’ hook, and the taxpayers deserve to know it. (More interestting but depressing details here.)

Relatedly: How ’bout we claw back some of that taxpayer money that went through AIG to Goldman Sachs at 100 cents on the dollar, thankyouverymuch?? Goldman was pretty much the only bank in such dire straits at the time that didn’t end up settling for 10 to 13 cents on the dollar from AIG, and now it wants to take that tax money and pay it out in employee bonuses. Homey don’ play dat.

Another banking shock: What determines how suitable a bank is for a federal bailout? Size? Nature of its business? Try … wait for it … political ties to the Federal Reserve. Yup, and there’s gambling going on in this casino, too. So can we just audit the damn thing already?

Decade of (self-) deception: Farewell to the ’00s, in which we begged to be suckered and found no shortage of those eager to accommodate us, from “compassionate conservatism” and Enron to Goldman Sachs and Tiger Woods. One other parallel: None of the hucksters, besides maybe Ken Lay, has been held accountable.

Democrats throwing women under the bus. Again: Tbogg on Twitter, for the win: “Bart Stupak will not be happy until he has had a close personal relationship with more vaginas than Tiger Woods.”

Boulevard of broken dreams promises: Jon Walker walks us past the mileposts of broken Obama campaign promises that constitute the current Senate version of health-care reform.

He just can’t quit you: Jon Walker, who apparently has no commitments in life besides health care reform, offers 35 ways to fix the current Senate bill. I’d say it’s unlikely at best that more than one or two will happen, and quite possibly none of them will. But if nothing else, this is a good road map of the kind of crappy legislation that comes out of unified GOP opposition and an undemocratic Senate hidebound by the filibuster.

Speaking of the filibuster, here’s some interesting background on how its use has grown of late. Memo to the mainstream media: Guilt is not equitably distributable.

Ask and ye shall receive: LA Times blogger Andrew Malcolm wants a caption for this picture. OK, here’s mine: “Andrew Malcolm is such an idiot that I could grab his head and smash it into this table like this and the experience would actually make him smarter.”

Memo to Ceci Connolly: Defining being “smart” in Washington as “disagreeing with what two-thirds of the country wants” doesn’t make you look, well, smart.

Related: Time was, and not all that long ago, a David Broder column, whether you agreed with it or not, would be undergirded by some reporting. Now, not so much. (Besides which, on the substance, what appears to be surprising him is that Congressional Democrats are opposing something that Obama himself opposed. This is wrong, or surprising, or even news, how, exactly?)

John McCain fought Teh Stoopid and Teh Stoopid won: He goes on the teevee to claim, laughably, that Ted Kennedy wouldn’t have liked that health-care reform passed on a partisan vote. He crowns that particularly serving of Teh Stoopid topped with whipped Teh Stoopid with this maraschino Teh Stoopid: “There has never been a major reform accomplished in the history of this country that wasn’t bipartisan.” Uh, John, that’s because there has never before been a major reform that one party unanimously rejected purely on partisan grounds.

Top 10 reasons to kill the Senate health-care bill, from Firedoglake, with background links on each. I don’t know whether the bill should be killed, but I do know there are a lot of things about it I absolutely do not like. (One “bug,” starting the taxes before the benefits take effect, could be sold as a way of reducing the deficit. But I’m unsure of the exact math over the long haul, and whether you choose to look at that item as a bug or a feature, I don’t think it makes much difference in the big picture.)

How I would decide on whether or not to pass the health-care bill (Senate version), if I had a vote: Which saves more lives, passing it or killing it? And by killing it, I mean, “killing it,” not, “killing it and immediately passing some fantasy better version that in the real world may or may not ever happen within my lifetime.” Anyone with a documentable answer to this question is welcome to weigh in.

Conservative of the year: Human Events picks Dick Cheney, although, as more than one pundit has pointed out, the actual, substantial policy differences between Cheney and, say, Barack Obama on foreign-policy and civil-liberties issues are much less than meets the eye.

Kentucky legislator wants to prosecute mothers of alcohol- and drug-addicted newborns: Because treating addicts like criminals instead of people with health problems has done so much to reduce addiction over the years.

Gathering storm: The “shadow pool,” the nation’s pool of homes that haven’t yet gone on the market but are about to because of delinquency/foreclosure, has increased more than 50% in just one year, to about 1.7 million. A lot of those homes are or will be vacant, which spells trouble for their neighbors, too.

Some good news for a change: Obama signed the military appropriations bill, which is good because it contained Al Franken’s amendment barring contractors from forcing employees into arbitration when they get raped. Which, in turn, is good not only for those employees but also because it gives candidates who give a damn about rape victims, be they competing in the GOP primary or in the general election, a big ol’ hammer with which to hit the 40 current incumbent Republican senators over the head.

And more good news: The signed consolidated appropriations bill DIDN’T ban federal funding for needle-exchange programs, the first such bill since 1988. Now that a smidgen of common sense has crept into the War on Some Drugs, expect the end of the world before lunchtime tomorrow.

I don’t know who Drew Westen is, and I don’t know if he’s right. But I do know that his perceptions are remarkably similar to mine.

Thumbsucker: Long journalism pieces that raise lots of Big, Serious Questions — often without offering answers, sometimes because no answers can be found — are known in the journalism biz as “thumbsuckers.” In the era of dying print and shorter attention spans, thumbsuckers are a dying breed, in part because the form is attempted far more often than it is mastered. But here’s a good one, asking whether the GOP has any relevant ideas to contribute to discussion of some of the biggest issues that face us. (My short answer: Yes, but to find them you’ll have to listen to the party members who, right now, aren’t doing most of the talking the public hears.)

Quote of the day, by Jonathan Chait of The New Republic in the thumbsucker linked above: “If government intervention appears to be the answer, [Republicans] must change the question.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:42 pm

Odds and ends, Nov. 17

  • Our eyes are on Afghanistan, but the prize is energy-rich Uzbekistan. So they boil political opponents alive. Big freakin’ deal.
  • The Special Inspector General of the fed bank bailout program says we need to audit the Fed already. Fine minds agree. So let’s audit the Fed already.
  • Tim Geithner’s pissing away of taxpayer money earlier this month, to the benefit of — surprise!! — Goldman Sachs and AIG —  would’ve been grounds for dismissal, if not execution, in any country that wasn’t already a banana republic. Unfortunately, we’re all now singing the Chiquita song:

This, Mr. Geithner, is what moral hazard is all about. Thanks to your actions you have doomed the U.S.’s formerly free and efficient equity markets to the biggest capital market bubble in history, which, like any ponzi, has only two outcomes: it either keeps growing in perpetuity as greater fools crawl out of the woodwork to keep it growing, albeit at ever slower marginal rates (note, this did not work out too well for Madoff), or it eventually pops. And the longer it takes to pop, the greater the ultimate loss of value: one day Madoff’s business was worth $50 billion, the next day it was $0. And that is precisely the same fate that American capital markets will have at some point in the upcoming months or years. When future historians look back at what specific action caused the biggest crash in U.S. capital markets history, Mr. Geithner’s cataclysmally botched negotiation of the AIG counterparty bailout will undoubtedly be at the very top of the list. In the meantime, just like in the Madoff case where the trustee is trying hard to trace where any stolen money may have been transferred to, to see the fund flows in our ongoing “ponzi in progress”, look no further than the bank accounts of Goldman bankers as they receive their biggest ever bonus this year …

 

  • Relatedly, I’m a lot less bothered about Obama bowing to an Asian leader than I am about his bowing to Goldman Sachs.
  • Question of the day, from Michael Lind: Shouldn’t the government pledge allegiance to the people, rather than the other way around?
  • Nice punking of an anti-immigration crowd. Not-so-nice behavior of the cops on hand, who were shoving around nonviolent counterprotesters rather than the anti-immigration folks who started the fisticuffs.
  • Time to revoke David Broder’s membership in the Wise Old Mainstream Media Pundits’ Club: When you say it’s more important to do something, anything, now than to do the right thing, you’re reckless. When you say that about a decision over whether to start, or expand, a war of choice, you’re just batsh*t insane definitely not supporting the troops.
  • Faith may well complement competent psychiatric care, but it is no substitute, a fact that appears to have escaped the Department of Veterans Affairs. And this is just one facet, albeit a particularly annoying one, of the VA’s utter failure to cope competently with the mental-health problems of veterans of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. My senior senator, Richard Burr, ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a guy with a DSCC bulls-eye on his back this election year, could do himself a lot of political good, in addition to doing a lot of real-world good for a lot of deserving people, if he just rode this issue like a beast across the plains of Mongolia.
  • And speaking of Richard Burr, call the WAAAAmbulance. Apparently, Senate Republicans are concerned that TV commercials about them supporting government contractors who let their employees get gang-raped may engender bad feelings against … um, well, the 30 Senate Republicans who supported government contractors who let their employees get gang-raped. (Here’s the one on Burr:)

Friday, May 1, 2009 10:29 pm

Torture roundup of the week

I’ve long since grown used to well-paid, highly honored national pundits spewing absolute idiocy. But David Broder’s column last weekend on torture deserves a special fisking.

If ever there were a time for President Obama to trust his instincts and stick to his guns, that time is now, when he is being pressured to change his mind about closing the books on the “torture” policies of the past.

First, Dave, take the scare quotes off “torture.” Waterboarding. Is. Torture. It has been so ruled by American courts. The president says so. The attorney general says so. Apparently the only two people left who don’t believe it are Pat Buchanan and you, and is that really the kind of company you want to keep?

Obama, to his credit, has ended one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States.

He was right to do this.

Of course he was. But … ?

But he was just as right to declare that there should be no prosecution of those who carried out what had been the policy of the United States government. And he was right when he sent out his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to declare that the same amnesty should apply to the lawyers and bureaucrats who devised and justified the Bush administration practices.

So explain to me how it’s right to end a war crime but not hold anyone accountable for it. Go on. I’ll wait.

But now Obama is being lobbied by politicians and voters who want something more — the humiliation and/or punishment of those responsible for the policies of the past. They are looking for individual scalps — or, at least, careers and reputations.

Their argument is that without identifying and punishing the perpetrators, there can be no accountability — and therefore no deterrent lesson for future administrations. It is a plausible-sounding rationale, but it cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance.

Um, no, it actually cloaks an entirely worthy desire for accountability and deterrence. I don’t want vengeance; I want my country back.

Obama has opposed even the blandest form of investigation, a so-called truth commission, and has shown himself willing to confront this kind of populist anger. When the grass roots were stirred by the desire for vengeance against the AIG officers who received contractual bonuses from government bailout funds, Obama bought time by questioning the tactic. Quickly the patently unconstitutional 90 percent tax the House wanted to slap on those bonuses was forgotten.

The torture issue is much more serious, and Obama needs to take it on himself, as he started to do — not pass the buck to Attorney General Eric Holder, as he seemed to be suggesting in his later statements on the issue.

Leaving aside for the moment the ridiculous comparison of taxpayer-financed bonuses with war crimes, there are perfectly good political, legal and practical reasons to let the Justice Department do its job (not “pass the buck to Attorney General Eric Holder”) here. For one thing, the U.S. is required by law and treaty to investigate allegations of war crimes and, where appropriate, prosecute those responsible; Justice is the appropriate agency for those investigations. For another, political interference with the Justice Department is wrong whether it’s Karl Rove dialing up the firings of insufficiently pliable U.S. attorneys or Barack Obama killing a legally required criminal investigation.

Obama is being blamed by some for unleashing the furies with his decision to override the objections of past and current national intelligence officials and release four highly sensitive memos detailing the methods used on some “high-value” detainees.

Again, he was right to do so, because these policies were carried out in the name of the American people, and it is only just that we the people confront what we did. Squeamishness is not justified in this case.

Because these documents were legal opinions, not classified operational records, they should never have been kept from the public in the first place. And while I’m glad Broder thinks it appropriate that we “confront what we did” without “squeamishness,” he himself is full of Teh Sqeam:

But having vowed to end the practices, Obama should use all the influence of his office to stop the retroactive search for scapegoats.

I shouldn’t have to explain this to a Pulitzer winner, but “those responsible” are not “scapegoats.” Scapegoats are the ones who aren’t responsible but are being treated as if they are. That’s most definitely not what we’re looking for here.

The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places — the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department — by the proper officials.

Oh, there was something deliberate, all right, but it most certainly was not an “internally well-debated policy decision.” It was an effort to justify the unjustifiable, quite possibly retroactively. Moreover, as Philip Zelikow has written, copies of a dissenting opinion he wrote were seized and destroyed, an action that might well have constituted a criminal conspiracy. (And Zelikow wasn’t the only dissenter, as that last link makes clear; State’s William Howard Taft IV and the military’s senior JAG officials were warning as well that there was good reason to think these positions wouldn’t pass judicial muster. For one thing, they didn’t mention at all the U.S. history of prosecuting waterboarding as a war crime, an omission tantamount to legal malpractice.)

One administration later, a different group of individuals occupying the same offices has — thankfully — made the opposite decision. Do they now go back and investigate or indict their predecessors?

Did those predecessors commit crimes, particularly serious crimes? Then, yes, indeed, they now go back and investigate and indict their predecessors. It’s called the rule of law. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

That way, inevitably, lies endless political warfare. It would set the precedent for turning all future policy disagreements into political or criminal vendettas. That way lies untold bitterness — and injustice.

Geez, where to begin. First of all, we’ve had endless political warfare at least since the 1960s. Secondly, the problem here isn’t the criminalization of policy differences, it’s the politicization of what ought to be a painstaking but straightforward criminal investigation. Thirdly, seeking accountability is not pursuing a vendetta. Fourthly, we’ve been having bitterness in the political system since at least the McCarthy era, and it picked up quite a bit after 1994. And, fifthly, why, David, are you so certain that an attempt to hold people accountable for their behavior will lead to injustice? Have you no confidence in our criminal-justice system?

Suppose that Obama backs down and Holder or someone else starts hauling Bush administration lawyers and operatives into hearings and courtrooms.

And, given the wealth of evidence already on the public record, that would be bad because … ?

Suppose the investigators decide that the country does not want to see the former president and vice president in the dock. Then underlings pay the price while big shots go free.

What the hell does “what the country want to see” have to do with anything? If professional investigators find information sufficient to take to a grand jury, they’re bound to take it, and if that information is any good, the grand jury will indict, and then the judicial system will determine the merits, if any, of the charges. That’s what the law requires to happen, and leaving aside for the moment the question of how you decide whether or not the country wants to see the former president and vice president in the dock, what the hell does it MATTER what the country wants? The law is the law, and either no one is above it or it’s meaningless and we have anarchy.

But at some point, if he is at all a man of honor, George W. Bush would feel bound to say: That was my policy. I was the president. If you want to indict anyone for it, indict me. Is that where we want to go? I don’t think so. Obama can prevent it by sticking to his guns.

Please point to one example at any point in his life in which George W. Bush has actually behaved as if he understood the concept of personal responsibility. He’s been leaving messes for other people to clean up his entire adult life. Now that those messes involve this country’s blood, treasure, security and honor, all of a sudden David Broder thinks we as a country are too delicate a flower to seek accountability and live with its consequences.

David Broder: legally illiterate, morally obtuse, full of Fail. Kind of like his colleague Charles Krauthammer, whom yet another Postie, Dan Froomkin, schools.

And here’s a weird twist: Americans who are relatively more religiously observant are more likely to be OK with torture than those who aren’t. And evangelicals and Roman Catholics are more likely to be OK with torture than are mainline Protestants or the unaffiliated. So, we again must ask: Whom would Jesus torture?

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