Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:53 pm

Why am I not surprised?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:53 pm
Tags:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 11:52 am

American officials on a soul-killing mission

Funny, isn’t it, how an Obama administration official, Susan Brandon, appears to have ties to a longstanding, and probably illegal, program of mind-control research, called Project Artichoke, run by the CIA and the American Psychological Association. You will not be surprised to learn that Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, during the Ford years and perhaps later, were involved.

I am not a psychologist, but this program looks to this layman like the mind equivalent of Joseph Mengele’s research. And screw Godwin: If you don’t want to be called a Nazi, stop acting like one.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 5:39 am

More evidence that Dick Cheney was right

Dick Cheney recently said on a talk show that one of the best things he ever did as vice president was to tell Sen. Pat Leahy, on the Senate floor, to commit an anatomically improbable act.

Given Cheney’s record, the claim seems self-evidently true. Fortunately for Cheney’s reputation for honesty, we have additional evidence to support this claim: “A bunch of NY subway riders may have almost gotten killed last September 11 because Dick Cheney wanted to boost poll numbers in 2006 rather than let law enforcement work.”

Right after 9/11, a lot of fans of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney casually tossed around the word “treason” with respect to anyone who didn’t genuflect at everything they said. But it seems to me as if screwing the pooch on a terrorism investigation just to get yourself a bump in the polls, while perhaps not meeting the legal definition of treason, comes a lot closer to it than anything any honest critic of Bush/Cheney ever did, let alone said.

Saturday, February 13, 2010 10:49 pm

A dozen questions …

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 10:49 pm
Tags: ,

… that Dick Cheney should be asked tomorrow on ABC’s “This Week” but almost certainly won’t be, from HuffPo’s Jason Linkins.

I’ll add a 13th: On a federal pension, how can you afford all the Depends you must need?

Saturday, January 30, 2010 12:29 am

Odds and ends for 1/29

I’ve already called for impeaching Obama. Looks like we can now add Holder to the mix: A draft report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility that originally found that Bush officials Jay Bybee (now a federal judge) and John Yoo (now a “law” “professor” at Berkeley) committed professional misconduct (which would constitute grounds for impeaching Bybee), the final version was cleaned up to say they showed “poor judgment” only. Granted, fabricating a legal justification for torture out of whole cloth does show “poor judgment,” but it shows criminal intent as well.

Well, OK, it’s a first step: Pravda, of all places, reports that Francis A. Boyle, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champlain, Ill., has requested arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court in The Hague for the arrests of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Rice and Gonzalez for “crimes against humanity” under the Rome Statute, which established the court. For all I know this is an Eastern Hemisphere version of an Onion article, but, hey, a citizen can dream.

Well, this bites: More than 30% of Triad mortgages will be under water by 1Q2011, Deutsche Bank estimates.

Historians finally weigh in Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism.” Only two years after the fat, lying putz laughed his way to the bank. Thanks a ton, guys.

Banksters organize protest of their treatment … indoors, because it was too cold to go outside. Power to the people!

Bloomberg’s David Reilly asks a good question about this week’s bankster-related developments: Where’s the anger? (Besides Chez Blog on the Run, of course.)

Major-league media?: The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Malcolm keeps using the phrase “discretionary spending.” I do not think that phrase means what he thinks it means.

Every little bit helps: Somali “pirates” pledge aid to Haiti. (Somali pirates’ est. 2008 income: $150MM+).

Possibly the most entertaining appeals court ruling of the year, and it’s still only January: Gender discrimination in the workplace as manifested by rude language (Oh, so NSFW, by the ruling’s own standards).

What’s stopping the Senate from ramming through a public option in reconciliation? I’m just askin’, on account of 51 breathing senators are on records as supporting one. Seriously, Joe Lieberman can go to hell.

Party of fiscal responsibility, my butt: Every single Republican senator voted Thursday against a new pay-as-you-go rule. Every single Democratic senator voted for it. Remind me again, please, who the grownups are. Quoth commenter Chad N. Freude at Balloon Juice: “They are opposed to pay-as-you-go because they are opposed to go.”

Whoux Dat?; or, There’s a reason they call it the No Fun League: Because you can’t abbreviate No Brains League as NFL. No Frontal Lobe, maybe. (h/t: DivaGeek)

The U.S. economy shrank 2.4% in 2009, the worst calendar-year performance since 1946.

California Senate approves single-payer health-care system; the Governator vetoes it on the laughable grounds that the state “can’t afford it.” Dude, you pay either way, and with single payer, there’s an excellent chance you’d pay less.

Terrorist convicted: The jury deliberated only 37 minutes before finding Scott Roeder guilty of first-degree murder for shooting abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in the head at point-blank range. Roeder admitted the shooting and also testified that he considered only chopping off Tiller’s hands instead of killing him. What a great humanitarian. Memo to New York: If Wichita can try a terrorist, so can you. Memo to the Republicans: Americans are beyond tired of government by incontinence.

I’m probably the last person to find this out, but the free audio-editing program Audacity can record streaming audio from, apparently, any Web site. This makes me insanely happy.

So Obama got together with some Congressional Republicans today. And it’s John Cole of Balloon Juice, who, despite humerus- and-clavicle- and scapula-scraping surgery a couple of days ago, is flying without painkillers, For The Win: “If Mike Pence really is regarded as one of the deep thinkers for the GOP, I’m beginning to understand why they refused to admit Terri Schiavo was brain-dead.” Although the prez himself does nicely with the runner-up: “I would have implemented those ideas had I found a credible economist who agreed with them …”

Thursday, January 14, 2010 7:49 pm

Thought for the day

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 7:49 pm
Tags: ,

A strong society does not take its security policy directives from the least continent members of its populace.

UPDATE: But don’t take my word for it. Take theirs.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 8:49 pm

Odds and ends for 1/12

War crime: An independent Dutch commission finds that the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and therefore the Netherlands’ support of same, “had no sound mandate in international law.” Somewhere, Dick Cheney’s shriveled testicles shrivel a little more.

The SEC mans up. Oops, no, wait, not really: The Securities & Exchange Commission asks the court for permission to file additional charges against Bank of America for failing to disclose Merrill Lynch losses to BofA shareholders before a takeover vote. And yet it also says no individual(s) can be held legally responsible for the royal hosing those shareholders received. All the deceit and fraud somehow just … happened, I guess. Yet one more reason why corporations, legally speaking, shouldn’t be people.

Pecora for the new millennium: A list of questions the banksters should be asked tomorrow by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (also called the “New Pecora Commission,” after the panel that looked into the causes of the Depression), but almost certainly won’t be.

New Jersey legislature approves medical marijuana, and the gov says he’ll sign the bill within the week. The effects on “Jersey Shore” remain to be seen.

And speaking of “Jersey Shore,” watch out, “Jersey Shore,” there’s a new drinking game in town: Fox News hires Sarah Palin.

Anything that annoys the Financial Services Roundtable is probably a good idea: Obama considers taxing banks that got TARP money. It should happen … which means I’ll believe it when I see it.

“I am not a hero.”: The hell she says. Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who helped hide Anne Frank’s family and other Jews from the Nazis and later preserved Anne’s diary, is dead at 100.

He was not necessarily a hero, but he was one bad dude: Old-time Coney Island strongman Joe Rollino, who celebrated his 103rd birthday by bending a quarter with his teeth, is dead at 104. But only because he got hit by a minivan.

To see, or not to see: The Supreme Court supposedly will decide tomorrow whether to allow 1) closed-circuit broadcasting of the trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger (the gay-marriage lawsuit) in other courthouses in California and/or 2) allow video to be posted to YouTube. Here’s some factual and legal background (more here); both writers think the Supremes, who don’t want their own proceedings broadcast, see this as a slippery slope. I bet they’re right.

Quote of the day, from commenter mjvpi at Firedoglake: “Health care reform is giving me Tourette’s syndrome.”

Another quote of the day, from washunate at The Seminal: “… the past three decades have witnessed the slow and steady transfer of the wealth generated by labor’s productivity into the hands of a few select families of already great wealth. If anything can capture an image of the consequences of the Reagan-Bush era, it’s gotta be 225 million Americans in 1979 buying more vehicles than 308 million Americans in 2009.” Yup. In absolute numbers, almost 33% more. Heckuva job, Georgie.

Saturday, January 9, 2010 11:07 pm

Odds and ends for 1/9

Roger Ailes: drama queen. Dude, the Islamicist terrorists of the world are not out to get you because the Islamcist terrorists of the world, by and large, have no freakin’ idea who you are.

Charles Murray, shorter: Man, there are a lot of black people in Paris.

Dick Cheney sure looks funny with that second southern orifice, thoughtfully torn for him by Phoenix Woman at Firedoglake.

Because everything else they’ve touched has worked out so well: Blackwater is a contender for the contract to train the Afghan national police force — and wants a cool billion for the job.

Speaking of Afghanistan, we’re out of our depth there from an intelligence standpoint (witness the CIA deaths at Forward Operating Base Chapman), and the general who wrote the report with that conclusion leaked it because apparently his superiors were ignoring him. But the surge will make everything peachy!

Friday, January 8, 2010 11:26 pm

Odds and ends for 1/8

Wellnow. AIG, Tim Geithner and PricewaterhouseCoopers could all be in trouble. I don’t know much about PwC, but as far as the other two go, trouble couldn’t happen to a more deserving pair. Unfortunately for Democrats, AIG and Geithner are now their problem, as at least some recognize.

And regarding Geithner, etc., this Republican says “amen”: Says “washunate”: “If we [Democrats] don’t clean house, Republicans eventually will. … We are at the bizarre point now where situations that should be case studies for everything that’s wrong with the crony capitalism of the Reagan-Bush era are being turned into defend-the-ramparts or remember-the-Alamo entrenchment by Democratic leaders.”

NO MASterCard!: Consumer borrowing plunged by a seasonally adjusted all-time record $17.5 billion in Novemer.

Freemasonry unveiled!: And it’s not nearly as entertaining as Dan Brown would have us believe.

Evidence that Teh Sm4rt Kid2 aren’t going into journalism: Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter suggests that President Obama meet personally with Dick Cheney to tell him to STFU ask him to stop bad-mouthing administration terrorism policy. Pshyeah. The only reason Obama should meet personally with Dick Cheney is to personally clap him in irons and haul his war-criminal ass off The Hague. (“Clap him in irons.” I love that phrase. So pirate.)

Jackassery unveiled!: The manager and assistant manager of Maricopa County, Ariz., will testify before a federal grand jury against Joe Arpaio, the unrepentantly abusive, bigoted thug currently occupying the office of sheriff.

People ask me why I think private, for-profit health insurers are a mistake: This is one reason why.

As she has done in the past on Republican apologists for Plamegate, Marcy Wheeler is laying a hurting on the Obama administration’s main academic apologist for its health-care reform plan.

Another hold on Ben Bernanke, this one from Byron Dorgan, at least until Bernanke opens the Fed’s books. Good! So good, in fact, that Teddy Partridge thinks we should replace Geithner with Dorgan. More background on Dorgan here. Remember, Dorgan is not only the person who said it would take us less than a decade to regret repealing Glass-Stegall, he’s also the guy who was warning us of the dangers of “too big to fail” — in 1974.

Love’s Labors Lebowski’ed: Nance (actually, strictly speaking, some of Nance’s commenters) and others have been bugging me for years to see The Big Lebowski. And it’s not that I don’t want to, but I just haven’t had, or made, the opportunity. But it now appears that I’m going to have to rent it or something just so that I can fully enjoy this.

Another fight the Obama team appears likely to try to back down from: ‘Net neutrality. At some point, some presidential candidate is going to have to openly run against corporate lobbyists (and win by about 20 million popular votes, so that there’s no question about a mandate), or else there will never be the political will to put these weasels back in their cages.

Shorter Ellen Malcolm, departing head of the pro-choice lobbying group Emily’s List, as channeled by Jane Hamsher: “Every single person we elected [to Congress] is determined to vote for the biggest setback to abortion rights in my lifetime, and I don’t want to be here and eat s— for it from big donors when it happens.”

And, finally, yes, I’m probably going to have to watch this: (OK, Vimeo had a trailer for the new “A-Team” movie up today that looked really, really cool, but it has been taken down.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 10:49 pm

Odds and ends for 1/6

Wall Street vs. Main Street: Despite record profits and record bonuses on Wall Street, overall U.S. payroll withholdings and corporate tax payments in December were down 8.2% (to a multi-year low) and 61.5%, respectively, from December 2008. If you still need proof that the banksters are feasting on the rest of us, well, I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to accept at this point that the sky really is blue, not pink with purple polka-dots.

With sepsis, we can at least hope he suffered some: James von Brunn, the white supremacist who shot and killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington last June, died today in prison of congestive heart failure and sepsis. Saving the taxpayers the expense of a trial, appeals and execution, von Brunn’s death appears to have been the first considerate thing the 89-year-old ever did in his life.

No matter where in the U.S. you live, one Texas wingnut creationist is deciding which textbooks your kids will use in school. Maybe we should let ‘em secede; the national IQ would probably go up 30 points.

Speaking of wingnuts, Allen Quist is right. Just not in the way he thinks he is.

But … but … but … Democrats are dropping like flies! ABC said so!: As of today, more Republican than Democratic U.S. representatives, U.S. senators and governors are retiring than Democrats. But ABC says Democrats are dropping like flies. This is why I told my reporters not to use subjective terms when objective ones will do.

Speaking of the media, it’s only Jan. 6 and we’ve already had the best media criticism of the year, from commenter PeakVT at Balloon Juice, on why things like Travelgate and Filegate seem to get more media attention than, say, torture and other war crimes: “Republican scandals tend to involve the press corps. For instance, starting an unnecessary war under false pretenses was immensely helped by stenographers like [The New York Times' Judith] Miller. Democratic “scandals” are limited to Democratic politicians, which makes them a lot more fun for the press.”

I’ll believe it when it happens: According to one report, White House anonymice are claiming President Obama will re-nominate Dawn Johnsen to run (and, please God, clean up) the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Good news, if true.

I would watch this on pay-per-view: MSNBC’s liberal talk-show host Ed Schultz may run to succeed retiring N.D. Sen. Byron Dorgan. Republicans, who are confident of picking up the seat, think of Schultz as just another Al Franken, and they say that like it’s a bad thing.

Jogging bores me to tears, but I will read any jogging blog that regularly uses lines like this: “I’ve been needling my 67-year-old friend Jim to run the half-marathon with me just so I don’t come in last. What kind of friend exploits a slow-moving retiree? I’ll tell you what kind: the kind who doesn’t want to come in last. “

The legal group that worked hardest to create the modern system of capital punishment now says its efforts have been a failure. Given the risk at which it places innocent defendants, it’s hard to argue otherwise. (And yet I find a way, sort of.)

Quote of the day, via Maru:  “What happens if Rush dies in Hawaii? Will anyone believe the death certificate?”

Another Quote of the Day, from Paul Volcker to BusinessWeek, via Goddard Taegan’s Political Wire: “The American political process is about as broken as the financial system.”

And why not one more Quote of the Day, this one from Jason Linkins at HuffPo on the Apple iSlate and its ilk: “… the short-term ‘end of print’ apocalypse will not be felt by people clutching pricey panes of glass, but by a forgotten class of people who need quality journalism as a stopgap against a whole range of societal ills.”

And James Fallows, for the win: “That is the American tragedy of the early 21st century: a vital and self-renewing culture that attracts the world’s talent, and a governing system that increasingly looks like a joke.”

He says he’s only a sportswriter, but Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News says it all with remarkable economy: “Cheney used to be a much better liar than this.”

Cue the “Applachian Trail” jokes. And worse: U.S. Rep. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson, R-S.C., Tweets about hiking through Panthertown National Forest with an “expert hiker” who also happens to be a babelicious congressional intern. (Although I’ll grant that if he’s dumb enough to Tweet about it, he’s probably guilty of nothing more than bad judgment.)

When Guantanamo inmates get transferred to Illinois, will torture come with them? It’s entirely possible.

I’d just like to say that my friend Andy Duncan rules. Yes, he does. And we’re really looking forward to lunch with him and Sydney on Saturday.

Out of the box. WAY out: As America struggles with an Afghan insurgency and the Center for a New American Security prepares for its June convention, Spencer Ackermann proposes what would be a fascinating keynote program: Gen. David Petraeus … and Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap.

Geoffrey Chaucer, who hath a blog, now also hath a forthcoming book, “a solid volume the which ye kan underlyne and spille egg-salad upon and take yn to yower jacuzzi whanne the mood stryketh yow.” Huzzah!

Those of us who don’t work for the MSNM see this as a feature, not a bug: Time’s Mark Halperin whines, “… politically and personally, the First Couple and their top aides have shown no hankering for the Establishment seal of approval, nor have they accepted the glut of invitations to embassy parties and other tribal rituals of the political class.” That would be because they have a mess to clean up that you pretty much ignored for eight years, jackass.

Charmed life: Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only person known to have survived both U.S. atomic attacks on Japan, is dead at the age of 93.

Better the devil you know than the other devil you know: Sen. Christopher Dodd’s retirement is coming only because of the virtual certainty that he would be unseated in 2010 because of his coziness with banks. But his successor as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee will be even worse.

What part of “public” were you lying about?: C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb, bless him, reminds Congressional Dem leadership of their promise to have House/Senate reconciliation of health-care reform out in the open.

And yet I languish without, probably because of a relative lack of explosives: The demolition of Texas Stadium now has an official corporate sponsor.

Twitter through history. “Too soon? In the Twitter Era it is probably already too late.” And more.

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.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 11:33 pm

Odds and ends for 12/9

The seat’s hot and he ain’t even in it yet: Bank of America’s chief risk officer, Greg Curl, considered a leading candidate to succeed Ken Lewis as CEO, is under investigation by the New York attorney general for his role in what BofA shareholders were and weren’t told about the bank’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

Your incompetence. Let me show you it: Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker calls for the return of Glass-Steagall and tells the Wall Street Journal’s Future of Finance Initiative, a group of financiers and policy makers, “Your response [to the economic crisis], I can only say, is inadequate. You have not come anywhere close.”

Quote of the day, also from Volcker at this session: “I wish somebody would give me some shred of evidence linking financial innovation with a benefit to the economy.” For good measure, he said the best financial innovation of the past 25 years was the ATM. (Which actually was introduced earlier … but, hey, forget it, he’s rolling.)

Bonus quote of the day, from Gavin M. at Sadly, No!, characterizing hinky academic Stanley Fish: ” …oleoresinous of eye, exuding cheap 1970s tenure …”

Congressman Alan Grayson to Fed Chair Ben Bernanke: Dude, you’re screwing the taxpayers directly AND committing tax fraud!

Oh, snap!: Dick Cheney (laughably) claims trying terrorism suspects in New York will generate more terrorism and calls it treason, so Alan Grayson tells him to “STFU.” This will give Official Washington another case of the vapors, but when Cheney himself once told a senator on the Senate floor to “go [have sex with] yourself,” he really has no room to whine and neither does anyone else.

Crying poor: AIG’s general counsel is leaving because she can’t make it on $500,000 a year. Given her track record of driving companies into ditches, I’m sure she’ll be snapped up in no time. And, yes, I’m being snarky — twelve digits’ worth of my tax money going into AIG in one year entitles me — but, no, I’m not being snarky about her getting snapped up in no time.

“Extreme victimisation,” but not in the way he thinks: Britain slaps a 50% tax on bankers’ bonuses. Will the U.S. follow suit?

Memo to Howard Kurtz: There’s a reason we call you Howie the Putz. And you’re soaking in it.

Well, yeah, if, by “socialism,” he means “a scary word that conservative wankers scream to try to scare people”: Charles Krauthammer calls environmentalism “the new socialism.”

Well, the federal government can just rock *me* to sleep tonight: The TSA posts some of its most sensitive security information on the Internet. But let’s talk about White House party crashers. Or Tiger Woods.

Sauce for the goose other gander: Paul Wolfowitz lost his job for trying to line up a job for his girlfriend. Will Max Baucus?

Zero tolerance for zero tolerance: Confronted with indisputable evidence of an on-screen error, Fox News decides to abandon its zero-tolerance policy for on-screen errors.

Sarah Palin, Woman of the Year?: Pollak says it could happen.

Sunday, November 29, 2009 9:36 pm

Odds and ends for 11/29

  • Policy misprescription: Switzerland has voted to ban construction of minarets. No good can come of this. In terms of confusing symptom with illness, it’s sort of like a doctor voting to ban coughing. And the Swiss are going to catch it both from the civil-libertarian community and from Muslims and their friends. There’s a real and growing problem here, but this ain’t the way you fix it.
  • I’ve got your stigma right here, pal: The National Review’s John J. Miller may be the world’s stupidest person with a keyboard.
  • Kinda hard to blame the guy who wasn’t in the room: I’m eagerly awaiting an explanation of how Dubai’s economic problems are the liberals’ fault.
  • Born in the ’50s: Somebody’s got a blacklist.
  • Economics 101: Some deficits are worse than others.
  • Memo to Obama: Keep on screwing your base over and see how you like Congressional Republicans with subpoena power.
  • Screwing the pooch: Gen. Tommy Franks and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld let Osama bin Laden get away at Tora Bora in 2001, a Senate report says. I think this is news only insofar as Franks has been claiming he didn’t even know whether bin Laden was at Tora Bora, but facts matter.
  • Not that it will make a lot of difference to the fact-averse, but MIT economists say Obama’s health-care plan actually will save money. Memo to Mitch McConnell: Bite me.
  • Memo to pundits: Having a clear position on issues does not automatically equate to having a beneficial position on those issues. WashPost’s David Broder and now Newsweek’s Jon Meacham somehow achieved their exalted status without having learned this.
  • Shocker: Lobbyists are lobbying to be able to keep on lobbying.
  • Shorter Devin’s Advocate: The movie version of Stephenie Meyer’s “Breaking Dawn” must be directed by David Cronenburg. (I heartily concur.) (NSFW) (h/t: Mel)

Thursday, October 22, 2009 8:18 pm

Gen. Paul Eaton (Ret.), FTW

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 8:18 pm
Tags: ,

Not for the first time, former Vice President Dick Cheney criticized the Obama administration’s handling of Afghanistan this week, saying, “President Obama now seems afraid to make a decision, and unable to provide his commander on the ground with the troops he needs to complete his mission.”

Which prompted retired Gen. Paul Eaton, a senior adviser to the National Security Network who oversaw the training of the Iraqi Army in 2003-04, to unload the verbal equivalent of a shotgun blast to the face, and not with birdshot, either:

The record is clear: Dick Cheney and the Bush administration were incompetent war fighters. They ignored Afghanistan for 7 years with a crude approach to counter-insurgency warfare best illustrated by: 1. Deny it. 2. Ignore it. 3. Bomb it. While our intelligence agencies called the region the greatest threat to America, the Bush White House under-resourced our military efforts, shifted attention to Iraq, and failed to bring to justice the masterminds of September 11.

The only time Cheney and his cabal of foreign policy ‘experts’ have anything to say is when they feel compelled to protect this failed legacy. While President Obama is tasked with cleaning up the considerable mess they left behind, they continue to defend torture or rewrite a legacy of indifference on Afghanistan. Simply put, Mr. Cheney sees history throughout extremely myopic and partisan eyes.

And like a shotgun blast to the face, that’s gonna leave a mark.

Monday, September 14, 2009 8:15 pm

Taking off the gloves

Torture is a bad idea, but don’t just take my word for it. Two former senior Marines — one a commandant, the other a head of Central Command, the military’s designation for the part of the world that includes the Middle East — come down hard on torture in general and Dick Cheney’s defense of it in particular:

In the fear that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Americans were told that defeating Al Qaeda would require us to “take off the gloves.” As a former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and a retired commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command, we knew that was a recipe for disaster.

But we never imagined that we would feel duty-bound to publicly denounce a vice president of the United States, a man who has served our country for many years. In light of the irresponsible statements recently made by former Vice President Dick Cheney, however, we feel we must repudiate his dangerous ideas — and his scare tactics. …

The Bush administration had already degraded the rules of war by authorizing techniques that violated the Geneva Conventions and shocked the conscience of the world. Now Cheney has publicly condoned the abuse that went beyond even those weakened standards, leading us down a slippery slope of lawlessness. Rules about the humane treatment of prisoners exist precisely to deter those in the field from taking matters into their own hands. They protect our nation’s honor.

To argue that honorable conduct is only required against an honorable enemy degrades the Americans who must carry out the orders. As military professionals, we know that complex situational ethics cannot be applied during the stress of combat. The rules must be firm and absolute; if torture is broached as a possibility, it will become a reality. Moral equivocation about abuse at the top of the chain of command travels through the ranks at warp speed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 8:53 pm

Investigating torture

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:53 pm
Tags: , , , ,

At long last, Attorney General Eric Holder has decided to appoint a prosecutor to determine whether roughly a dozen previously closed cases in which CIA employees or contractors may have broken the law should be reopened.

That’s the good news. But the Washington Post also says:

[Career Justice Department prosecutor John] Durham’s mandate, the sources added, will be relatively narrow: to look at whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of current and former CIA personnel who may have broken the law in their dealings with detainees.

And that’s the bad news. Because we didn’t abuse and torture prisoners, threaten to kill their children and carry out mock executions, in a vacuum. The individuals responsible did what they did because they received direction from the highest levels of government and fraudulent assurances from John Yoo and Henry Bybee that what they were doing didn’t somehow violate U.S. law, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and other laws.

(Durham, by the way, is the same guy who’s investigating the disappearance of CIA videotapes of interrogation sessions.)

There was, in other words, a conspiracy that, according to a boatload of information already in the public record, extended all the way up to the President of the United States. And conspiracy to torture is punishable by the same sentence (except for the death penalty in cases in which the victim died) as the crime of torture itself.

Mr. Durham needs to conduct a fair and full investigation, following the evidence where it might lead (including, if need be, the administrations preceding and following George W. Bush’s), letting himself be guided by the fact that no one can be above the law if our country is to survive.

* * *

Relatedly, censored versions have been released of the CIA reports that former Vice President Dick Cheney claimed would prove that torture had been justified because it prevented terrorism. (Those documents are here.) I’ve scanned them, and my immediate reaction is that despite what Cheney claims, they don’t prove anything either way. Oh, they say that the fruits of interrogation in general were certainly helpful, but not all the helpful interrogation involved torture or was in any other way illegal. Perhaps the uncensored versions would shed more light one way or the other. I don’t know.

UPDATE: Although Cheney’s defenders insist the documents imply that torture worked, former Homeland Security adviser Frances Frago Townsend concedes that though that might indeed be the case, the documents — which, remember, Cheney said would prove torture worked — don’t actually say that.

Monday, June 22, 2009 8:18 pm

Insult to injury

It’s bad enough that the Obama Justice Department is echoing the Bush administration’s position that records of an FBI interview with then-Vice President Dick Cheney about the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity as an undercover CIA agent should remain private.

Yes, that’s bad enough.

But the Obama folks have gone the Bush folks one better: the Jon Stewart argument:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge said Thursday that he wants to look at notes from the FBI’s interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney during the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA operative.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s decision to review the documents followed arguments by Obama administration lawyers that sounded much like the reasons the Bush administration provided for keeping Cheney’s interview from the public.

Justice Department lawyers told the judge that future presidents and vice presidents may not cooperate with criminal investigations if they know what they say could become available to their political opponents and late-night comics who would ridicule them.

“If we become a fact-finder for political enemies, they aren’t going to cooperate,” Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Smith said during a 90-minute hearing. “I don’t want a future vice president to say, `I’m not going to cooperate with you because I don’t want to be fodder for ‘The Daily Show.’”

One, the Obama folks shouldn’t be taking this position at all. Two, if they’re going to take it, they at least ought to base the position on substantive factual or legal grounds. I don’t think any actually exist, but, c’mon, guys, at least make the effort. “Jon Stewart might make fun of me” just doesn’t cut it. (To say nothing of the fact that by the time someone has gotten to be vice president, Jon Stewart probably has already made fun of him/her.)

Pop quiz, kids: Jeffrey Smith’s argument shows:

a) the Obama Justice Department is stupid.
b) the Obama Justice Department thinks you are stupid.
c) both.

And relatedly, the Supreme Court today refused to hear Valerie Plame’s lawsuit against Cheney and other Bush-era officials over her outing.

Friday, May 29, 2009 9:43 pm

Another torture roundup

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 9:43 pm
Tags: , , ,

President Obama recently changed his mind and decided he wouldn’t publicly release photos of abuse of detainees held by the U.S. He gave two bluntly contradictory reasons: 1) that they were just more of the same; and yet 2) they might inflame people in Iraq/Afghanistan against our troops.

Well, here’s what Britain’s Telegraph is reporting:

Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which Barack Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, it has emerged.

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He has now confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

The graphic nature of some of the images may explain the US President’s attempts to block the release of an estimated 2,000 photographs from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan despite an earlier promise to allow them to be published.

Maj Gen Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President’s decision, adding: “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.”

If Taguba is telling the truth, then that’s not exactly “more of the same.”

Here’s the thing: Those pictures are going to be made public whether the president wants them to be or not. An appeals court already has ordered the administration to turn them over to the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued for them, on the grounds that there’s no legal basis for withholding them. And there really isn’t; only the grossest judicial activism will keep the Supremes from upholding the appeals court, if they even hear the government’s appeal at all. Better that the administration release them now and get out ahead of the story.

Unfortunately, that’ll be a little difficult inasmuch as Obama has said that everyone involved in the activities depicted in the photos already has been investigated and prosecuted. We’ve seen no evidence that that is true.

Also recently, former vice president Dick Cheney insisted in a speech that the CIA has documents that, if released, would show that interrogation techniques he approved 1) were not torture and 2) saved many innocent lives. (Ex-president Bush said pretty much the same thing in a speech Thursday night.) Now, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is calling Cheney a liar, saying that Cheney “bore false witness.”:

“I do so as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which recently completed an 18-month investigation into the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and produced a 200-page bipartisan report, which gives the lie to Mr. Cheney’s claims,” said Levin [Thursday night]. “I do so because if the abusive interrogation techniques that he champions, the face of which were the pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib, if they are once more seen as representative of America, our security will be severely set back.” …

Regarding Cheney’s claim that classified documents will prove his case — documents that Levin himself is also privy to — Levin said: “But those classified documents say nothing about the numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques. I hope that the documents are declassified, so that people can judge for themselves what is fact, and what is fiction.”

Hey, Cheney could be telling the truth. We won’t know until the documents are released. Let’s do it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009 9:41 pm

Cheney’s ring of killers??

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh is now saying, although he hasn’t published this anywhere yet, that we have an “executive assassination ring” that reported directly to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, outside the military chain of command (at the top of which, you’ll recall from Civics 101, sits the president).

I have no way of knowing whether this is true. And the facts that Hersh 1) hasn’t published anything about this (yet) and may be as much as two years from doing so; and 2) appears to be saying he let slip more than he intended, are big red flags.

But if it is true, it’s got all sorts of constitutional, legal and practical ramifications, irrespective of the moral question of whether the people of the United States ought to be in the assassination business. (For the record, if we whacked Osama bin Laden I surely wouldn’t cry, although I would prefer he get due process in a legitimate court. I also believe that any great power, once seized, will be abused.)

Hersh also mentions what he believes were illegal domestic CIA surveillance activities not heretofore brought to light. Again, I have no idea whether this is true.

Emptywheel offers some commentary and commenter discussion here.

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