Thursday, April 30, 2009
Now this is how the story is being framed.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden says he's advising his own family to stay off commercial airlines and even subways because of the new swine flu.
Biden said Thursday if one person sneezes on a confined aircraft, "it goes all the way through the aircraft." Going beyond official advice from the federal government, Biden said of his family's personal precautions: "That's me."
Now this is the framing even on liberal and progressive blogs and I for one am calling BULLSHIT. What VP Biden said was unquestionably reasonable in the context of advice he was giving to his family on how to avoid getting infected with swine flu and with the caveat he included that he was advocating not taking public transportation if you have an alternate means to get around. I don't think the WHO has raised the threat level to 5 out of 6 just for shits and giggles and in light of that how can it be wrong to say you are telling your family to avoid public transportation where the likelihood of contracting swine flu is much higher? I know I for one wouldn't be advising any family members of mine to take a flight or get on a subway right now. Its a shame that now every time Joe Biden says something that should be common sense for most folks the media rushes to call it a gaffe. I realize the White House made him walk back the statement but that says more about our chattering classes than it does about Joe Biden.
Ezra Klein has a post up similarly dismissing this "gaffe".
But here's the thing: Biden may be right to induce a bit of panic. The United States Travel Association won't think so. It's their profit stream on the line, after all. But epidemiologists are probably quietly relieved by the Vice President's comments.
Last night, I spent some time with Arin Dutta's "The Effectiveness of Policies to Control a Human Influenza Pandemic: A Literature Review." The overview was prepared for the World Bank. In it, Dutta argues that the key variable in determining the spread of an infection is the "base reproduction rate," defined as the number of secondary infections produced by a primary infection. In other words, if one person has the flu, then on average, the base reproduction rate measures how many people will catch the flu from him. Lowering that rate is the key to pandemic response. And lowering that rate requires things like "forcing or urging people to limit contacts, encouraging hand washing or other personal hygiene, or promoting the use of facemasks." Some of it sounds trivial. But it matters. If the reproduction rate falls beneath 1, "the epidemic usually dies out."
Which is why the absolute best case is that Joe Biden did something that's so effective that he looks really stupid. If people actually reduce social contact and cut down on air travel and stay home in response to a single cough, then it's much likelier that swine flu will quickly die out. If it does, we'll all feel a bit foolish over having taken those precautions and late night comics will make fun of Joe Biden and everyone will move on. If we don't, and R jumps up, then we could be dealing with a full blown pandemic and Biden's warning will come to be seen as, if anything, insufficiently alarmist.
This is much ado about nothing and I am dissappointed that some on the liberal and progressive side are getting sucked into playing up this story.
Now that we know Condi had a central role in approving of torture I really hope she gets shunned by the academic community and at some point has to face public questioning over the issue.
Jake Tapper tries to get President Obama to admit that the Bush Administration sanctioned torture which would then cause a feeding frenzy over the issue but Obama doesn't fall into the trap.
Question: Thank you, Mr. President. You've said in the past that waterboarding, in your opinion, is torture. Torture is a violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. Do you believe that the previous administration sanctioned torture?
Obama: What I've said -- and I will repeat -- is that waterboarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe that it is torture. I don't think that's just my opinion; that's the opinion of many who've examined the topic. And that's why I put an end to these practices.
I am absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do, not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.
I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "We don't torture," when the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat.
And then the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking short-cuts, over time, that corrodes what's -- what's best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.
Mark Knoller tries to carry water for Dick Cheney but President Obama ain't having it.
Question: Thank you, sir. Let me follow up, if I may, on Jake's question. Did you read the documents recently referred to by former Vice President Cheney and others saying that the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" not only protected the nation but saved lives?
And if part of the United States were under imminent threat, could you envision yourself ever authorizing the use of those enhanced interrogation techniques?
Obama: I have read the documents. Now they have not been officially declassified and released. And so I don't want to go to the details of them. But here's what I can tell you, that the public reports and the public justifications for these techniques, which is that we got information from these individuals that were subjected to these techniques, doesn't answer the core question.
Which is, could we have gotten that same information without resorting to these techniques? And it doesn't answer the broader question, are we safer as a consequence of having used these techniques?
Chip Reid asks about Arlen Specter switching parties but President Obama is able to transition in his answer to talking about how bipartisanship should be defined between himself and the GOP. I think his point about compromise was huge because its something that's hardly ever taken into account on cable news.
Question: Thank you, Mr. President. On Senator Specter's switch to the Democratic Party, you said you were thrilled; I guess nobody should be surprised about that.
But how big a deal is this, really? Some Republicans say it is huge. They believe it's a game-changer. They say that, if you get the 60 votes in the Senate, that you will be able to ride roughshod over any opposition and that we're on the verge of, as one Republican put it, "one-party rule."
Do you see it that way? And, also, what do you think his switch says about the state of the Republican Party?
Obama: Well, first of all, I think very highly of Arlen Specter. I think he's got a record of legislative accomplishment that is as good as any member of the Senate.
And I think he's always had a strong independent streak. I think that was true when he was a Republican; I think that will be true when he's a Democrat.
He was very blunt in saying I couldn't count on him to march lockstep on every single issue. And so he's going to still have strong opinions, as many Democrats in the Senate do.
I've been there. It turns out, all the senators have very strong opinions. And I don't think that's going to change.
I do think that having Arlen Specter in the Democratic caucus will liberate him to cooperate on critical issues, like health care, like infrastructure and job creation, areas where his inclinations were to work with us, but he was feeling pressure not to.
And I think the vote on the recovery act was a classic example. Ultimately, he thought that was the right thing to do. And he was fiercely berated within his own party at the time for having taken what I consider to be a very sensible step. So -- so I think it's, overall, positive.
Now, I am under no illusions that suddenly I'm going to have a rubber-stamp Senate. I've got Democrats who don't agree with me on everything, and that's how it should be.
Congress is a co-equal branch of government. Every senator who's there, whether I agree with them or disagree with them, I think truly believes that they are doing their absolute best to represent their constituencies.
And we've got regional differences, and we've got some parts of the country that are affected differently by certain policies. And those have to be respected, and there's going to have to be compromise and give-and-take on all of these issues.
I do think that, to my Republican friends, I want them to realize that me reaching out to them has been genuine. I can't sort of define bipartisanship as simply being willing to accept certain theories of theirs that we tried for eight years and didn't work and the American people voted to change.
But there are a whole host of areas where we can work together. And I've said this to people like Mitch McConnell. I said, look, on health care reform, you may not agree with me that I -- we should have a public plan. That may be philosophically just too much for you to swallow.
On the other hand, there are some areas like reducing the costs of medical malpractice insurance where you do agree with me. If I'm taking some of your ideas and giving you credit for good ideas, the fact that you didn't get 100 percent can't be a reason every single time to oppose my position.
And if that is how bipartisanship is defined, a situation in which basically, wherever there are philosophical differences, I have to simply go along with ideas that have been rejected by the American people in a historic election, you know, we're probably not going to make progress.
If, on the other hand, the definition is that we're open to each other's ideas, there are going to be differences, the majority will probably be determinative when it comes to resolving just hard, core differences that we can't resolve, but there is a whole host of other areas where we can work together, then I think we can make progress.
Ed Henry asks a classic Republican talking point question on abortion. President Obama turns the talking point on its head.
Question: Thank you, Mr. President. In a couple of weeks, you're going to be giving the commencement at Notre Dame. And, as you know, this has caused a lot of controversy among Catholics who are opposed to your position on abortion.
As a candidate, you vowed that one of the very things you wanted to do was sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which, as you know, would eliminate federal, state and local restrictions on abortion. And at that it was above -- quote, "above my pay grade."
Now that you've been president for 100 days, obviously, your pay grade is a little higher than when you were a senator.
Do you still hope that Congress quickly sends you the Freedom of Choice Act so you can sign it?
Obama: You know, the -- my view on -- on abortion, I think, has been very consistent. I think abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue.
I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they -- if they suggest -- and I don't want to create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations. I think, look, this is an issue that people have to wrestle with and families and individual women have to wrestle with.
The reason I'm pro-choice is because I don't think women take that -- that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day. And I think they are in a better position to make these decisions ultimately than members of Congress or a president of the United States, in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their doctors, with their clergy.
So -- so that has been my consistent position. The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is I would like to reduce the number of unwanted presidencies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion, or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again.
And so I've got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp, to see if we can arrive at some consensus on that.
Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that's -- that's where I'm going to focus.
BET gets a question. How's that for change? LOL
Question: Thank you, Mr. President.
As the entire nation tries to climb out of this deep recession, in communities of color, the circumstances are far worse. The black unemployment rate, as you know, is in the double digits. And in New York City, for example, the black unemployment rate for men is near 50 percent.
My question to you tonight is given this unique and desperate circumstance, what specific policies can you point to that will target these communities and what's the timetable for us to see tangible results?
Obama: Well, keep in mind that every step we're taking is designed to help all people. But, folks who are most vulnerable are most likely to be helped because they need the most help.
So when we passed the Recovery Act, for example, and we put in place provisions that would extend unemployment insurance or allow you to keep your health insurance even if you've lost your job, that probably disproportionately impacted those communities that had lost their jobs. And unfortunately, the African-American community and the Latino community are probably overrepresented in those ranks.
When we put in place additional dollars for community health centers to ensure that people are still getting the help that they need, or we expand health insurance to millions more children through the Children's Health Insurance Program, again, those probably disproportionately impact African-American and Latino families simply because they're the ones who are most vulnerable. They have got higher rates of uninsured in their communities.
So my general approach is that if the economy is strong, that will lift all boats as long as it is also supported by, for example, strategies around college affordability and job training, tax cuts for working families as opposed to the wealthiest that level the playing field and ensure bottom-up economic growth.
And I'm confident that that will help the African-American community live out the American dream at the same time that it's helping communities all across the country.
I give Michael Scherer a hard time on a regular basis over at Swampland but I believe he had the question of the night. The question he asked about States Secrets is a major issue on progressive and liberal blogs and other media but you hardly ever hear the right talking about it so really this was just about the only question in the whole press conference which came from almost a purely left wing orientation. President Obama's answer probably didn't end the issue for civil libertarians but he at least made the case that he hasn't changed his mind about the need to reform the states secrets issue and that he is working to do that.
Question: Thank you, Mr. President. During the campaign, you criticized President Bush's use of the state secrets privilege, but U.S. attorneys have continued to argue the Bush position in three cases in court. How exactly does your view of state secrets differ from President Bush's? And do you believe presidents should be able to derail entire lawsuits about warrantless wiretapping or rendition if classified information is involved?
Obama: I actually think that the state secret doctrine should be modified. I think right now it's overbroad.
But keep in mind what happens, is we come in to office. We're in for a week, and suddenly we've got a court filing that's coming up. And so we don't have the time to effectively think through, what exactly should an overarching reform of that doctrine take? We've got to respond to the immediate case in front of us.
There -- I think it is appropriate to say that there are going to be cases in which national security interests are genuinely at stake and that you can't litigate without revealing covert activities or classified information that would genuinely compromise our safety.
But searching for ways to redact, to carve out certain cases, to see what can be done so that a judge in chambers can review information without it being in open court, you know, there should be some additional tools so that it's not such a blunt instrument.
And we're interested in pursuing that. I know that Eric Holder and Greg Craig, my White House counsel, and others are working on that as we speak.
- I think one of the major things that President Obama did was take the opportunity to swat down wingnut memes in the course of answering the questions. He addressed the "pro abortionist" meme, the "socialist" meme, the "he's doing too much" meme, and the "torture made us safe" meme. I think its important to push back on these false cannards just as he did during the campaign season so that reasonable people who watch FoxNews will hear him say out of his own mouth that the stuff they have heard and read in emails aren't true.
- Its nothing new but just seeing President Obama answer each question thoughtfully and have a well informed answer to every question is just so impressive to me. It shows that he is on top of everything and that inspires confidence.
- Even when he was clearly being baited by Jake Tapper, Chuck Todd and Ed Henry, President Obama stayed calm and didn't allow himself to show any emotion. Could you imagine John McCain trying to answer those questions?
- I still can't believe Fox though it was a good idea not to carry the presser.
- I expect that his approval numbers will get a bump for the next few weeks or so.
Now soon after Specter's announcement several high profile Republicans came out to slam the move and dispute his characterization of the party. According to them he was just running from the fight and Toomey was a mainstream candidate who could win not only the primary but also the general election. There was all kinds of fantasy based happy talk saying that Specter leaving the party was a great development for the GOP. This was supposedly the first step in the resurgence of the party they said.
Well it seems like since those proclamations some lightbulbs have come on with other people in the Republican party and they are starting to see the truth of Specter's words.
Still stunned by Arlen Specter's party switch, Republican senators are pessimistic about the chances for conservative GOP hopeful Pat Toomey in the Pennsylvania Senate race.
"I don't think there is anybody in the world who believes he can get elected senator there," said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Asked if the NRSC would back Toomey, Hatch said, "I don't think so" and that the party should look for "someone who can win there."
Now think about what Hatch is saying here. He is saying that a guy who is up 20 pts over Specter in a Republican primary has absolutely no chance in hell of beating Specter in a general election. That is about as close to an admission that the party is now dominated by the fringe of not only the GOP but also the fringe of Pennsylvania in general as you will probably ever see. But that is the state of the Republican party today and as Olympia Snowe pointed out in her op-ed Pennsylvania is just a microcosm of what is going on in that party nationwide. And what makes it worse is that some leaders in the Republican party seem to think this is a good thing.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Shorter Byron York, "If only there weren't any black people in America..."
Definitely check out the comments section where we have such gems as this
Uncle Joe's Patriotic Taxpayer
Apr 29, 2009
The majority of blacks pay no income tax. Why wouldn't they favor Obama's tax and spend policies? For them it is only spending.
Stay classy GOP.
When you have to lie about a murder victim of a hate crime just to try to score political points there aren't any words to describe just how low you have sunk. North Carolina Congresswoman Virginia Foxx isn't worthy to be a member of any elected office. It is my sincere hope that one of her colleagues in Congress moves to censure her and whichever Democrat decides to run against her next year will have my full and I mean FULL support.
Now, I've got to say that -- that some of the people in Washington have been surprised. They said, "Boy, he's so ambitious. He's been trying to do so much."
Now, maybe they're not accustomed to this, but there's no mystery to what we've done. The priorities that we've acted upon were the things that we said we'd do during the campaign.
I mean, it's not -- it's not like anybody should be surprised. The policies we proposed were plans we talking about for two years, in places like this all across the country with ordinary Americans. The changes that we've made are the changes we promised. That's what you should expect from a president.
You may not always agree with me, but if you take a look at what I said I was going to do when I was running for office and you now look at what we are in the middle of doing, we're doing what we said we'd do.
Now thats gangsta!
A battle over control of the party's purse strings has erupted at the troubled Republican National Committee, with defenders of Chairman Michael S. Steele accusing dissident RNC members of trying to "embarrass and neuter" the party's new leader.
Randy Pullen, the RNC's elected treasurer, former RNC General Counsel David Norcross and three other former top RNC officers have presented Mr. Steele with a resolution, calling for a new set of checks and balances on the chairman's power to dole out money.
The powers include new controls on awarding contracts and spending money on outside legal and other services.
Mr. Steele could not be reached, and a spokesman for the RNC chairman declined to comment on the move.
The resolution prompted a top Steele supporter to issue a scathing attack against Mr. Pullen and his allies after they had asked Mr. Steele to support the "good governance" resolution at a special meeting of the full national committee set for next month. The party spent about $300 million in last year's elections.
"I urge you to reject this hostile attempt to embarrass and neuter the chairman of the RNC," Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus wrote in an e-mail to the 168-member national committee.
Mr. Pullen and his allies need signatures from RNC members from 16 states to force the resolution to the floor for a vote by the full party committee at the May 20 special meeting.
"This resolution is an attempt to usurp the chairman's authority in a completely unprecedented and historic manner," Mr. Priebus wrote to the other party chairmen and national committee members from the 50 states and five U.S. territories.
Mr. Priebus, who heads the transition team for the newly elected chairman, also urged the resolution's sponsors "to stop playing political games and begin thinking about what they can do to help our party move forward as we face the elections of 2009 and 2010."
Now I don't agree with Michael Steele on pretty much anything, however what they are trying to do to him here is just wrong. Why after all these years are they trying to rules now when Steele is Chairman? And they wonder why people believe the GOP is racist.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The only problem is that the last U.S. outbreak of swine flu did not begin under Carter. Rather, it began in February of 1976, when Republican Gerald Ford was president.
I just want to take time out to thank Pat Toomey for doing so much to help run the Republican Party right off the rails!
This morning the New York Times published an article that should be the lede on every cable news station as well as the headline of every major mainstream media outlet that runs a story about the torture program enanacted under the Bush Administration. The story details the abject failure of our mainstream media to scratch below the surface of a story to see whether its fact or fiction when its the hot story of the moment. It also shows how a supposed "whistleblower" can actually be a vehicle to promote propaganda for the people they are supposedly blowing the whistle on. And it also explains exactly why many Americans have now settled into the narrative that torture helped to save lives and is "no big deal". Its because thats the story we were spoonfed by the media outlets and it was the story the CIA planted through one of their agents, the "whistle blower" John Kiriakou:
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.”
Some critics say that the now-discredited information shared by Mr. Kiriakou and other sources heightened the public perception of waterboarding as an effective interrogation technique. “I think it was sanitized by the way it was described” in press accounts, said John Sifton, a former lawyer for Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group.
During the heated debate in 2007 over the use of waterboarding and other techniques, Mr. Kiriakou’s comments quickly ricocheted around the media. But lost in much of the coverage was the fact that Mr. Kiriakou had no firsthand knowledge of the waterboarding: He was not actually in the secret prison in Thailand where Mr. Zubaydah had been interrogated but in the C.I.A. headquarters in Northern Virginia. He learned about it only by reading accounts from the field.
I would think it wouldn't have been very hard to at least find out that Kiriakou wasn't even involved in Zubaydah's interrogation but the problem is I doubt if anybody in the media actually asked.
Still, he told ABC that the actions had “disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.” A video of the interview was no longer on ABC's website.
“It works, is the bottom line,” Rush Limbaugh exclaimed on his radio show the next day. “Thirty to 35 seconds, and it works.”
Mr. Kiriakou subsequently granted interviews to The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and other media organizations. A CNN anchor called him “the man of the hour.”
We of course know now that Kiriakou was obviously talking out of his ass. So the question is what gave him any credibility on the issue with so many media sources other than his status as a supposed "whistle blower". Shouldn't it have been some what of a clue that he was there for propaganda and not blowing the whistle when he so zealously defended the waterboarding and, while acknowledging that it was torture, minimalizing the supposed actual harm it had done and maximizing the supposed benefits? I mean I would think that even the world's biggest idiot would ask themselves why someone would be blowing the whistle on a program that its obvious they believed was both important and useful. Maybe I could understand if Kiriakou at least attempted to sell this as something other than propaganda, but he was pretty straight forward about what he was doing but yet and still our media pushed his story out there like it was truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
His ABC interview came at an especially delicate juncture in the debate over the use of torture. Weeks earlier, the nomination of Michael Mukasey as attorney general was nearly derailed by his refusal to comment on the legality of waterboarding, and one day later, the C.I.A. director testified about the destruction of interrogation videotapes. Mr. Kiriakou told MSNBC that he was willing to talk in part because he thought the C.I.A. had “gotten a bum rap on waterboarding.”
At the time, Mr. Kiriakou appeared to lend credibility to the prior press reports that quoted anonymous former government employees who had implied that waterboarding was used sparingly. In late 2007, Mr. Ross began pursuing Mr. Kiriakou for an interview, “leaning on him pretty hard,” he recounted.
On Dec. 10, in the subsequent interview, Mr. Kiriakou told Mr. Ross that he believed the waterboarding was necessary in the months after the 9/11 attacks. “At the time I was so angry,” he told Mr. Ross. “I wanted so much to help disrupt future attacks on the United States that I felt it was the only thing we could do.”
Mr. Kiriakou was the only on-the-record source cited by ABC. In the televised portion of the interview, Mr. Ross did not ask Mr. Kiriakou specifically about what kind of reports he was privy to or how long he had access to the information. “It didn’t even occur to me that they’d keep doing” the waterboarding, Mr. Ross said last week. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
He added, “I didn’t give enough credit to the fiendishness of the C.I.A.”
Such WEAKSAUCE from Brian Ross. It wasn't the fiendishness of the CIA that was the problem, it was the fecklessness of Brian Ross and the rest of the members of the media who couldn't be bothered to actually check the guy's story before running their "exclusives". And predicibly the usual suspects picked up the story and carried water for the Bush administration.
In the days after Mr. Kiriakou’s media blitz, his claims were repeated by an array of other outlets. For instance, the Fox News anchor Chris Wallace cited the 35 seconds claim to ask a congressman whether the interrogation program was “really so bad.”
Months later the claims continued to be amplified; the National Review editor Jonah Goldberg used Mr. Kiriakou’s assertions in a column last year to argue that the waterboarding was “right and certainly defensible.”
And now, knowing everything that we know now about just how full of shit Kiriakou was back then what do you think the response is from the people who brought him to us in the first place?
Mr. Ross, who received a George Polk Award for a series on interrogation, expressed no regret about the Kiriakou interview and praised him for speaking publicly. He said ABC was preparing a story that would address the previous reporting.
“Kiriakou stepped up and helped shine some light on what has happening,” Mr. Ross said. “It wasn’t the huge spotlight that was needed, but it was some light.”
Yeah you read that right. Even though Kiriakou's story was basically made up from whole cloth to cover the CIA's ass and just about every single part of it has now been debunked Brian Ross still has nothing but praise for him. If this doesn't make you angry about the state of the media in this country I don't know what will. And bigger than any personal outrage is the fact that because people like Ross advanced this bogus story over a year and a half ago, there are men and women who authorized and ordered torture in the Bush Administration who will likely never face the justice they deserve. This preemptive perversion of the facts is without a doubt the reason for the disconnect in the polling that you see nowadays and honestly I don't know how you unring that bell. But what I do know is that both Kiriakou and Ross should have to answer for pushing this propaganda out there and be held to account. Helping to insure that people aren't prosecuted for breaking the law isn't something Ross should get an award for, its something that should earn him a pink slip.
Monday, April 27, 2009
In fact, what Abu Zubaydah disclosed to the CIA during this period was that the fact that KSM was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks and that his code name was “Muktar” — something Zubaydah thought we already knew, but in fact we did not. Intelligence officials had been trying for months to figure out who “Muktar” was. This information provided by Zubaydah was a critical piece of the puzzle that allowed them to pursue and eventually capture KSM. This fact, in and of itself, discredits the premise of the Post story — to suggest that the capture of KSM was not information that “foiled plots” to attack America is absurd on the face of it.
Now first of all lets get something straight. Marc Thiessen is not some expert on national security. Marc Thiessen is nothing more than a speech writer. By trade he was the spin doctor for the Bush Administration. Why the mainstream media is giving this guy any credibility on this issue is beyond me because he doesn't deserve any. But lets get to why its dangerous to allow propaganda into legitimate policy discussions. First and foremost its because propaganda is usually built on false premises and lies. Such is the case with Theissens's post as we find from this Newsweek story on Ali Soufan, the actual FBI interrogator who was intimately involved in evidence gathering on al Qaeda post 9-11.
But Soufan had poured through the bureau's intelligence files and stunned Abu Zubaydah when he called him "Hani"—the nickname that his mother used for him. Soufan also showed him photos of a number of terror suspects who were high on the bureau's priority list. Abu Zubaydah looked at one of them and said, "That's Mukhtar."
Now it was Soufan who was stunned. The FBI had been trying to determine the identity of a mysterious "Mukhtar," whom bin Laden kept referring to on a tape he made after 9/11. Now Soufan knew: Mukhtar was the man in the photo, terror fugitive Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and, as Abu Zubaydah blurted out, " the one behind 9/11."
Not only was it NOT the CIA that Zubaydah revealed that Khalid Sheik Muhammed was "Mukhtar", it also wasn't the result of any torture techniques committed BY the CIA. Rather normal FBI interrogation techniques lead to perhaps the biggest break in the case of trying to find the mastermind behind 9-11.
The rest of the Newsweek piece is full of other important revelations and its definitely worth the full read. But for now I just want to say that it is totally irresponsible for the MSM to continue allowing Thiessen to take part in the public debate over whether or not we should investigate the torture of enemy detainees. He has now shown that either he lacks the knowledge to be credible on the issue or, more nefariously, is willing to lie about the facts in order to sway public opinion his way. Whichever is the case what is apparent is that his words are not to be trusted and I really hope that his microphone is taken away from him.
Some other useful excerpts from the Newsweek piece:
The agent, Ali Soufan, was known as one of the bureau's top experts on Al Qaeda. He also had a reputation as a shrewd interrogator who could work fluently in both English and Arabic. Soufan yelled at one CIA contractor and told him that what he was doing was wrong, ineffective and an affront to American values. At one point, Soufan discovered a dark wooden "confinement box" that the contractor had built for Abu Zubaydah. It looked, Soufan recalls, "like a coffin." The mercurial agent erupted in anger, got on a secure phone line and called Pasquale D'Amuro, then the FBI assistant director for counterterrorism. "I swear to God," he shouted, "I'm going to arrest these guys!"
D'Amuro and other officials were alarmed at what they heard from Soufan. They fretted about the political consequences of abusive interrogations and the Washington blowback they thought was inevitable, say two high-ranking FBI sources who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. According to a later Justice Department inspector general's report, D'Amuro warned FBI Director Bob Mueller that such activities would eventually be investigated. "Someday, people are going to be sitting in front of green felt tables having to testify about all of this," D'Amuro said, according to one of the sources.
Mueller ordered Soufan and a second FBI agent home. He then directed that bureau personnel no longer participate in CIA interrogations. In the corridors of the White House, Justice Department and U.S. intelligence agencies, heated debates ensued. Three months later, on Aug. 1, 2002, Justice lawyers issued a chilling memo blessing everything the CIA contractors had proposed—including waterboarding, or simulated drowning, a ghoulish technique that was administered to Abu Zubaydah 83 times.
As the sessions continued, Soufan engaged Abu Zubaydah in long discussions about his world view, which included a tinge of socialism. After Abu Zubaydah railed one day about the influence of American imperialist corporations, he asked Soufan to get him a Coca-Cola—a request that prompted the two of them to laugh. Soon enough, Abu Zubaydah offered up more information—about the bizarre plans of a jihadist from Puerto Rico to set off a "dirty bomb" inside the country. This information led to Padilla's arrest in Chicago by the FBI in early May.
But the tenor of the Abu Zubaydah interrogations changed a few days later, when a CIA contractor showed up. Although Soufan declined to identify the contractor by name, other sources (and media accounts) identify him as James Mitchell, a former Air Force psychologist who had worked on the U.S. military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training—a program to teach officers how to resist the abusive interrogation methods used by Chinese communists during the Korean War. Within days of his arrival, Mitchell—an architect of the CIA interrogation program—took charge of the questioning of Abu Zubaydah. He directed that Abu Zubaydah be ordered to answer questions or face a gradual increase in aggressive techniques. One day Soufan entered Abu Zubadyah's room and saw that he had been stripped naked; he covered him with a towel.
The confrontations began. "I asked [the contractor] if he'd ever interrogated anyone, and he said no," Soufan says. But that didn't matter, the contractor shot back: "Science is science. This is a behavioral issue." The contractor suggested Soufan was the inexperienced one. "He told me he's a psychologist and he knows how the human mind works." Mitchell told NEWSWEEK, "I would love to tell my story." But then he added, "I have signed a nondisclosure agreement that will not even allow me to correct false allegations."
The tipping point came when, after a few weeks, Soufan saw the coffinlike box that Mitchell had constructed. Soufan refuses to say what he was told the box was for. But other sources who heard accounts of the confrontation say the idea was to stage a "mock burial." (A CIA spokesman says, "The CIA's high-value-detainee program did not include mock burials. That wasn't done.") When an incensed Soufan told his superior what was happening, the response was quick: D'Amuro told him to leave the scene of the interrogations. Then, a few days later, he was told, "Come on home." Now the debate Soufan began in Thailand has come home, too. If given the opportunity, he may again play a starring role
When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year's emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.
Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse -- with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.
But former White House political czar Karl Rove and key congressional Republicans -- led by Maine Senator Susan Collins -- aggressively attacked the notion that there was a connection between pandemic preparation and economic recovery.
Now, as the World Health Organization says a deadly swine flu outbreak that apparently began in Mexico but has spread to the United States has the potential to develop into a pandemic, Obey's attempt to secure the money seems eerily prescient.
And his partisan attacks on his efforts seem not just creepy, but dangerous.
Rove specifically complained that Obey's proposal included "$462 million for the Centers for Disease Control, and $900 million for pandemic flu preparations."
This was wrong, the political operative charged, because the health care sector added jobs in 2008.
As bizarre as that criticism may sound -- especially now -- Rove's argument was picked up by House and Senate Republicans, who made it an essential message in their attacks on the legislation. Even as Rove and his compatriots argued that a stimulus bill should include initiatives designed to shore-up and maintain any recovery, they consistently, and loudly, objected to spending money to address the potentially devastating economic impact of a major public health emergency.
The attack on pandemic preparation became so central to the GOP strategies that AP reported in February: "Republicans, meanwhile, plan to push for broader and deeper tax cuts, to trim major spending provisions that support Democrats' longer-term policy goals, and to try to knock out what they consider questionable spending items, such as $870 million to combat the flu and $400 million to slow the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases."
Famously, Maine Senator Collins, the supposedly moderate Republican who demanded cuts in health care spending in exchange for her support of a watered-down version of the stimulus, fumed about the pandemic funding: "Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill No, we should not."
Even now, Collins continues to use her official website to highlight the fact that she led the fight to strip the pandemic preparedness money out of the Senate's version of the stimulus measure.
The Republicans essentially succeeded. The Senate version of the stimulus plan included no money whatsoever for pandemic preparedness. In the conference committee that reconciled the House and Senate plans, Obey and his allies succeeded in securing $50 million for improving information systems at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
But state and local governments, and the emergency services that would necessarily be on the frontlines in any effort to contain a pandemic, got nothing.
Did Rove, Collins and their compatriots want a pandemic?
Of course not.
They were just playing politics, in the exceptionally narrow and irresponsible manner that characterized the Republican response to the stimulus debate – and that, because of Democratic compromises in the Senate, dumbed down the plan President Obama ultimately signed.
No serious player in Washington has been unaware of the fears with regard to a flu pandemic. They have been well-publicized and well-discussed. Even Collins admitted as she objected to the House allocation for preparedness: "I think that everybody in the room is concerned about a pandemic flu."
Gread fucking job there GOP and mainstream media. In the name of political gamesmanship you have put the country in peril. I wonder how many media outlets will actually point out what happened earlier this year. Of course they will probably be more concerned with looking forward instead of looking back for retribution.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee’s memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) “Downing Street memo,” in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” A month after Bybee’s memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on “Meet the Press,” hyping both Saddam’s W.M.D.s and the “number of contacts over the years” between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.
But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus “intelligence” from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.
Last week Bush-Cheney defenders, true to form, dismissed the Senate Armed Services Committee report as “partisan.” But as the committee chairman, Carl Levin, told me, the report received unanimous support from its members — John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman included.
Levin also emphasized the report’s accounts of military lawyers who dissented from White House doctrine — only to be disregarded. The Bush administration was “driven,” Levin said. By what? “They’d say it was to get more information. But they were desperate to find a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.”
Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to “protect” us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from “another 9/11,” torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House’s illegality.
Levin suggests — and I agree — that as additional fact-finding plays out, it’s time for the Justice Department to enlist a panel of two or three apolitical outsiders, perhaps retired federal judges, “to review the mass of material” we already have. The fundamental truth is there, as it long has been. The panel can recommend a legal path that will insure accountability for this wholesale betrayal of American values.
President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won’t vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
"It feels great to be home," Murphy said. "With the exception of Rush Limbaugh who is trying to make this into a race issue. It's disgusting."
"The president did the right thing. It's a war. It's about good versus evil. And what you (Limbaugh) said is evil, that is hate speech. I won't tolerate it," Murphy said.
Now will the wingnuts side with a guy who they were calling a hero just a few weeks ago, or will they side with that asshat Rush Limbaugh?
Yes, its a rhetorical question.
I should also point out that after handing out a Hardball award to John McCain Tweety made the remark that McCain should have won the Presidency in 2000. I used to try to take up for Matthews but now I think he has just lost his damn mind.
In a meeting with House Republicans at the White House Thursday, President Obama reminded the minority that the last time he reached out to them, they reacted with zero votes -- twice -- for his stimulus package. And then he reminded them again. And again. And again.
A GOP source familiar with the meeting said that the president was extremely sensitive -- even "thin-skinned" -- to the fact that the stimulus bill received no GOP votes in the House. He continually brought it up throughout the meeting.
Obama also offered payback for that goose egg. A major overhaul of the health care system, he told the Republican leadership, would be done using a legislative process known as reconciliation, meaning that the GOP won't be able to filibuster it.
Congress has until October 15 to pass health care or student lending reform under the normal process. If it doesn't, reconciliation can be used to eliminate the 60-vote requirement.
Democratic aides said that Obama made clear to the GOP leadership that he would continue to work in a bipartisan way, but that they didn't have veto power over health care policy. GOP aides, however, said that Obama was pretty clear that reconciliation would be used. "From what was told me, it sounded more like he would
That's right, healthcare WILL happen this year and if the Congressional Republicans decide not to come to the table to help then they will get runover with budget reconcilliation all but insuring that it will pass whether the GOP votes for it or not. If the Republicans want to model themselves after the Taliban its high time President Obama started treating them like the Taliban.
But President Obama didn't just put the GOP on notice, he also sent the same message to ConservaDems in his own party, specifically Ben Nelson, when it comes to reforming student loans. Budget reconcilliation will be used there as well if no compromise can be found. President Obama is moving to get shit done, and thats change I can believe in!
WASHINGTON — 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.
"It is difficult to quantify with confidence and precision the effectiveness of the program," Steven G. Bradbury, then the Justice Department's principal deputy assistant attorney general, wrote in a May 30, 2005, memo to CIA General Counsel John Rizzo, one of four released last week by the Obama administration.
"As the IG Report notes, it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks. And because the CIA has used enhanced techniques sparingly, 'there is limited data on which to assess their individual effectiveness'," Bradbury wrote, quoting the IG report.
The Bradbury memos that cite the inspector general's report reveal that officials at CIA headquarters insisted on the repeated waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, the first prisoner to undergo the technique, even after the interrogators on the scene sought to discontinue the technique.
"According to the IG Report, the CIA, at least initially, could not always distinguish detainees who had information but were successfully resisting interrogation from those who did not actually have information," Bradbury wrote in his May 30, 2005, memo. "On at least one occasion, this may have resulted in what might be deemed in retrospect to have been the unnecessary use of enhanced techniques.
"On that occasion," Bradbury continued, "although the on-scene interrogation team judged Zubaydah to be compliant, elements within CIA Headquarters still believed he was withholding information . . . . At the direction of CIA headquarters, interrogators therefore used the waterboard one more time on Zubaydah."
Bradbury wrote that CIA headquarters dispatched officials to observe that waterboarding session. After that session, "these officials reported that enhanced techniques were no longer needed," Bradbury wrote, citing the IG report.
Quoting from the IG report, Bradbury wrote, "The waterboard technique . . . was different from the technique described in the DOJ opinion and used in the SERE training . . . At the SERE school . . . the subject's airflow is disrupted by the firm application of a damp cloth over the air passages; the interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth in a controlled manner. By contrast, the Agency interrogator . . . applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee's mouth and nose."
Bradbury said the inspector general reported: "OMS contends that the expertise of the SERE psychologist/interrogators on the waterboard was probably misrepresented at the time, as the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant."
After the medical services office became involved in the possible use of waterboarding — a step that didn't occur until after the inspector general's report was issued, according to the memos — the technique wasn't used again.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Congresswoman Bachmann talks about people being searched at the airport for being a veteran, being pro life, or being a gun owner then questions another persons sanity. Total lack of self awareness.
And Al Gore let them have it today while testifying on climate change before Congress.
Now I just hope that he is on Morning Joe sometime soon to bust Joe Scarborough in the mouth with the facts.
Bonus clip of O'Donnell tearing Liz Cheney a new one yesterday after her ridiculous interview on MSNBC.
One of those present said that when asked, the CIA officers acknowledged that some foreign intelligence agencies had refused, for example, to share information about the location of terrorism suspects for fear of becoming implicated in any eventual torture of those suspects. Sources said that Jones shared these concerns and that, as a former military officer, he worried that any use of harsh interrogations by the United States could make it more likely that American soldiers in captivity would be subjected to similar tactics.
I don't know how much more evidence we need to realize this was in fact torture. When other governments decline to help us because they don't want to be associated with torture, what else is there to say?
If conservatives don't want to be seen as bitter people who cling to their guns and religion and anti-immigrant sentiments, they should stop being bitter and clinging to their guns, religion and anti-immigrant sentiments.
It's been a week now, and I still don't know what those "tea bag" protests were about. I saw signs protesting abortion, illegal immigrants, the bank bailout and that gay guy who's going to win "American Idol." But it wasn't tax day that made them crazy; it was election day. Because that's when Republicans became what they fear most: a minority.
The conservative base is absolutely apoplectic because, because ... well, nobody knows. They're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore. Even though they're not quite sure what "it" is. But they know they're fed up with "it," and that "it" has got to stop.
Here are the big issues for normal people: the war, the economy, the environment, mending fences with our enemies and allies, and the rule of law.
And here's the list of Republican obsessions since President Obama took office: that his birth certificate is supposedly fake, he uses a teleprompter too much, he bowed to a Saudi guy, Europeans like him, he gives inappropriate gifts, his wife shamelessly flaunts her upper arms, and he shook hands with Hugo Chavez and slipped him the nuclear launch codes.
Do these sound like the concerns of a healthy, vibrant political party?
Look, I get it, "real America." After an eight-year run of controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling like a rejected husband. You've come home to find your things out on the front lawn -- or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn. You're not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you want to call it a whore and key its car.
That's what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him -- obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will.
But it's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new. And it's a black guy.
The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib.
And if today's conservatives are insulted by this, because they feel they're better than the people who have the microphone in their party, then I say to them what I would say to moderate Muslims: Denounce your radicals. To paraphrase George W. Bush, either you're with them or you're embarrassed by them.
The thing that you people out of power have to remember is that the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public.
Definitely worth the full read.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Republican state party leaders are rebelling against new Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele for failing to dub President Obama and the Democrats as "socialists." And the rebels insist that the label matters.
Even though Mr. Steele has called his Democratic adversaries "collectivists," at least 16 state leaders say the term lacks the pejorative punch needed to sway public opinion and want all 168 members of the Republican National Committee to debate and vote on it.
It is the first time in memory that a sitting national leader of the Republican Party has faced a public challenge over his ideological leadership by conservative members of his own national committee.
Mr. Bopp, a constitutional law lawyer and hero to conservatives for arguing a Supreme Court challenge to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, said he had presented Mr. Steele with a petition bearing the signatures of RNC members from 16 states - the number needed under RNC rules to convene an extraordinary meeting of the full committee next month.
Mr. Steele has twice rejected requests by Mr. Bopp, who leads two conservative caucuses within the RNC, to call the special meeting.
The petition calls for open debate at the extraordinary meeting on three conservative resolutions that for the first time directly involve the RNC in policy and ideology.
"In just a few months, the goal of the Obama administration has become clear and obvious - to restructure American society along socialist ideals," Mr. Bopp said in summarizing the first resolution. The resolution's chief sponsor is Washington state RNC member Jeff Kent, and it calls on the Democrats to be "truthful and honest with the American people by renaming themselves the Democrat Socialist Party."
"Just as President Reagan's identification of the Soviet Union as the 'evil empire' galvanized opposition to communism, we hope that the accurate depiction of the Democrats as a Socialist Party will galvanize opposition to their march to socialism," Mr. Bopp wrote in his e-mail.
Mr. Steele previously offered to issue a joint statement with signers of the resolution, but they turned down his offer and insisted on a debate and vote by the full RNC membership - a state party chairman and a national committeeman and national committeewoman from all 50 states and five territories.
Oregon RNC member Solomon Yue, a founder of a conservative caucus among RNC members, said, "We must refocus the public's attention to the Democrat Party's stampede to socialism and we must make our socialist president's every legislative victory so costly that he will lose the war in 2010 and 2012."
Publicly, Mr. Steele has shied away from using the socialist line.
"We don't see this president so much as a socialist as we see him as a collectivist," he told Fox News. "When you strip away this idea that the individual matters, for this concept of the collective - all of us pulling together and working towards some governmental goal - that's what I'm more concerned about."
But in an April 6 memo to RNC members, Mr. Steele said that "Democrats are indeed marching America toward European-style socialism, and I will continue to criticize their dangerous policies in that regard - but I believe these proposed resolutions will accomplish little than to give the media and our opponents the opportunities to mischaracterize Republicans."
I have no words.