Sunday, May 31, 2009

Will the Mainstream Media Stick Their Heads In The Sand Again.

News has just come in that George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions in Kansas, was murdered today as he headed into church.

WICHITA - George Tiller, the Wichita doctor who became a national lightning rod in the debate over abortion, was shot to death this morning as he walked into church services.

Tiller, 67, was shot just after 10 a.m. at Reformation Lutheran Church at 7601 E. 13th, where he was a member of the congregation. Witnesses and a police source confirmed Tiller was the victim.

No information has been released about whether a suspect is in custody.

Homicide detectives and Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston have arrived at the church.

Members of the congregation who were inside the sanctuary at the time of the shooting were being kept inside the church by police, and those arriving were being ushered into the parking lot. Witnesses are being transported downtown for interviews and other members of the congregation are slowly being released from inside the sanctuary.

Tiller has long been a focal point of protest by abortion opponents because his clinic, Women's Health Care Services at 5701 E. Kellogg, is one of the few in the country where late-term abortions are performed.

Protesters blockaded Tiller's clinic during Operation Rescue's "Summer of Mercy" protests during the summer of 1991, and Tiller was shot by Rachelle Shannon at his clinic in 1993.

Now for some odd reason when a situation like this happens and its obvious that a right wing extremist was involved the mainstream media decides to leave that little bit of information out. They never seem to want to make the connection between extreme elements on the right wing of the country and domestic terrorism no matter how obvious it is. You saw it with the right wing cop killer in Pittsburgh and you saw it with the right wing cop killer in Florida. While the local coverage had tons of information about the perpetrators right wing extremist pasts the national mainstream media tended to avoid that subject all together.

And in the meantime people continue to lose their lives to these assholes.

....Said The Racist White Man.

I just had to chuckle when I saw this Jeff Sessions, talk about how sensitive we have to be about race when it comes to Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor this morning on Meet The Press.

Just to refresh your memory.

On its own, the case might not have been enough to stain Sessions with the taint of racism, but there was more. Senate Democrats tracked down a career Justice Department employee named J. Gerald Hebert, who testified, albeit reluctantly, that in a conversation between the two men Sessions had labeled the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU ) "un-American" and "Communist-inspired." Hebert said Sessions had claimed these groups "forced civil rights down the throats of people." In his confirmation hearings, Sessions sealed his own fate by saying such groups could be construed as "un-American" when "they involve themselves in promoting un-American positions" in foreign policy. Hebert testified that the young lawyer tended to "pop off" on such topics regularly, noting that Sessions had called a white civil rights lawyer a "disgrace to his race" for litigating voting rights cases. Sessions acknowledged making many of the statements attributed to him but claimed that most of the time he had been joking, saying he was sometimes "loose with [his] tongue." He further admitted to calling the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a "piece of intrusive legislation," a phrase he stood behind even in his confirmation hearings

One can only wonder why the king of "gotcha" moments when it comes to Democrats, David Gregory, didn't bring up Senator Sessions own racist past during the discussion today. Hmmmm....

It Had To Be Said

I don't have much to add to this Frank Rich op ed in the New York Times other than I am glad to see a journalist take on his colleagues for once. Definitely worth the full read but here is an excerpt.

The déjà vu in the news media was more chilling. Rather than vet the substance of Cheney’s fulmination, talking heads instead hyped the split-screen “dueling speeches” gimmick of the back-to-back Obama-Cheney scheduling. Time magazine’s political Web site Photoshopped Cheney and Obama’s faces atop prize fighters’ bodies.

Most of the punditocracy scored the fight on a curve, setting up a false equivalence between the men’s ideas. Cheney’s pugnacious certitude edged out Obama’s law-professor nuance. “On policy grounds, you’ve got a real legitimate fight here,” David Gregory
insisted on “Meet the Press” as he regurgitated the former vice president’s argument (“You can’t compromise on these matters”) and questioned whether the president could “really bring” his brand of pragmatism “to the issue of the war on terror.”

One New York Daily News columnist
summed up Cheney’s supposed TKO this way: “The key to Cheney’s powerful performance: facts, facts, facts.” But the facts, as usual, were wrong.

At the McClatchy newspapers’ Washington bureau, the reporters Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel
detailed 10 whoppers. With selective quotations, Cheney falsified the views of the director of national intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, on the supposed intelligence value of waterboarding. Equally bogus was Cheney’s boast that his administration had “moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and their sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks.” In truth, the Bush administration had lost Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, not least because it started diverting huge assets to Iraq before accomplishing the mission of vanquishing Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. That decision makes us less safe to this very minute.

You can find
a link to the complete Landay-Strobel accounting of Cheney’s errors in the online version of this column. The failure of much of the press to match their effort has a troubling historical antecedent. These are the same two journalists who, reporting for what was then Knight Ridder, uncovered much of the deceit in the Bush-Cheney case for the Iraq war in the crucial weeks before Congress gave the invasion the green light.

On Sept. 6, 2002, Landay and Strobel
reported that there was no known new intelligence indicating that “the Iraqis have made significant advances in their nuclear, biological or chemical weapons programs.” It was two days later that The Times ran its now notorious front-page account of Saddam Hussein’s “quest for thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes.” In the months that followed, as the Bush White House kept beating the drum for Saddam’s imminent mushroom clouds to little challenge from most news organizations, Landay and Strobel reported on the “lack of hard evidence” of Iraqi weapons and the infighting among intelligence agencies. Their scoops were largely ignored by the big papers and networks as America hurtled toward fiasco.

Another reporter who was ahead of the pack in unmasking Bush-Cheney propaganda is the author Ron Suskind. In his 2006 book on the American intelligence matrix, “
The One Percent Doctrine,” Suskind wrote about a fully operational and potentially catastrophic post-9/11 Qaeda assault on America that actually was aborted in the Bush years: a hydrogen cyanide attack planned for the New York City subways. It was halted 45 days before zero hour — but not because we stopped it. Al-Zawahri had called it off.

When Bush and Cheney learned of the cancellation later on from conventional intelligence, they were baffled as to why. The answer: Al-Zawahri had decided that a rush-hour New York subway attack was not enough of an encore to top 9/11. Al Qaeda’s “special event” strategy, Suskind wrote, requires the creation of “an upward arc of rising and terrible expectation” that is “multiplied by time passing.” The event that fits that bill after 9/11 must involve some kind of nuclear weapon.

“What are the lessons of this period?” Suskind asked when we spoke last week. “If you draw the wrong lessons, you end up embracing the wrong answers.” They are certainly not the lessons cited by Cheney. Waterboarding hasn’t and isn’t going to save us from anything. The ticking time-bomb debate rekindled by Cheney’s speech may be entertaining on “24” or cable-news food fights, but is a detour from the actual perils before the country. “What we’re dealing with is a patient foe who thinks in decades while we tend to think more in news cycles,” Suskind said. “We have to try to wrestle this fear-based debate into something resembling a reality-based discussion.”

The reality is that while the Bush administration was bogged down in Iraq and being played by Pervez Musharraf, the likelihood of Qaeda gaining access to nuclear weapons in a Taliban-saturated Pakistan was increasing by the day. We know that in the month before 9/11, bin Laden and al-Zawahri met with the Pakistani nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. That was the real link between 9/11 and nuclear terror that the Bush administration let metastasize while it squandered American resources on a fictional link between 9/11 and a “nuclear” Saddam.

And where are we now? On the eve of Obama’s inauguration, David Sanger
reported in The Times that military and nuclear experts agree that if “a real-life crisis” breaks out in Pakistan “it is unlikely that anyone would be able to assure an American president, with confidence, that he knew where all of Pakistan’s weapons were — or that none were in the hands of Islamic extremists.”

Pakistan is the time bomb. But with a push from Cheney, abetted by
too many Democrats and too many compliant journalists, we have been distracted into drawing the wrong lessons, embracing the wrong answers. We are even wasting time worrying that detainees might escape from tomb-sized concrete cells in Colorado.

What we need to be doing instead, as Suskind put it, is to “build the thing we don’t have — human intelligence. We need people who are cooperating with us, who step up and help, and who won’t turn away when they see things happening. Hearts and minds — which we’ve botched — must be corrected and corrected quickly. That’s what wins the battle, not going medieval.” It’s not for nothing, after all, that
Powell, Gen. David Petraeus and Robert Gates, the secretary of defense — among other military minds — agree with Obama, not Cheney, about torture and Gitmo.

The harrowing truth remains unchanged from what it was before Cheney emerged from his bunker to set Washington atwitter. The Bush administration did not make us safer either before or after 9/11. Obama is not making us less safe. If there’s another terrorist attack, it will be because the mess the Bush administration ignored in Pakistan and Afghanistan spun beyond anyone’s control well before Americans could throw the bums out.

Taken along with the op ed from Richard Clarke in the Washington Post and it should very apparent to everyone that our mainstream media needs to take a good long hard look at itself and then make some major changes.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thorough And Timely

President Obama selling Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor in his weekly YouTube address.

Holla His Name And Witness Game Official, Its So Sick

Let me just say that I have been calling for pundits to invoke the name Richard Clarke for weeks now whenever Dick Cheney or his daughter Liz decide to make one of their many appearances on Tee Vee. The reason being is that they keep trying to promote some Orwellian revisionist history about 9-11 whereby "nobody knew who attacked us". They use that propaganda to try to make their case for why torture was sanctioned for use on suspected terrorists at GITMO. But you see quite a while back Mr Clarke wrote a book laying out just how much was known about al qaeda before the attacks and just how hard he had been pressing the Bush Administration to take the attackc to Bin Ladin long before they struck on that fateful day in September of 2001. I even sent a tweet to Carlos Watson before his interview with Liz Cheney they other day yet asking him to press her about Mr Clarke's warnings should she bring that weaksauce again. Unfortunately it was all for naught and he declined to push her on the issue.

Well as the saying goes, if you want something done right you have to do it yourself and thankfully now Richard Clarke has spoken out in an op ed in the Washington Post. And the man goes hard!

"Unless you were there, in a position of responsibility after September 11, you cannot possibly imagine the dilemmas that you faced in trying to protect Americans," Condoleezza Rice said last month as she admonished a Stanford University student who questioned the Bush-era interrogation program. And in his May 21 speech on national security, Dick Cheney called the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, a "defining" experience that "caused everyone to take a serious second look" at the threats to America. Critics of the administration have become more intense as memories of the attacks have faded, he argued. "Part of our responsibility, as we saw it," Cheney said, "was not to forget the terrible harm that had been done to America."

I remember that morning, too. Shortly after the second World Trade Center tower was hit, I burst in on Rice (then the president's national security adviser) and Cheney in the vice president's office and remember glimpsing horror on his face. Once in the bomb shelter, Cheney assembled his team while the crisis managers on the National Security Council staff coordinated the government response by video conference from the Situation Room. Many of us thought that we might not leave the White House alive. I remember the next day, too, when smoke still rose from the Pentagon as I sat in my office in the White House compound, a gas mask on my desk. The streets of Washington were empty, except for the armored vehicles, and the skies were clear, except for the F-15s on patrol. Every scene from those days is seared into my memory. I understand how it was a defining moment for Cheney, as it was for so many Americans.

Yet listening to Cheney and Rice, it seems that they want to be excused for the measures they authorized after the attacks on the grounds that 9/11 was traumatic. "If you were there in a position of authority and watched Americans drop out of eighty-story buildings because these murderous tyrants went after innocent people," Rice said in her recent comments, "then you were determined to do anything that you could that was legal to prevent that from happening again."

I have little sympathy for this argument. Yes, we went for days with little sleep, and we all assumed that more attacks were coming. But the decisions that Bush officials made in the following months and years -- on Iraq, on detentions, on interrogations, on wiretapping -- were not appropriate. Careful analysis could have replaced the impulse to break all the rules, even more so because the Sept. 11 attacks, though horrifying, should not have surprised senior officials. Cheney's admission that 9/11 caused him to reassess the threats to the nation only underscores how, for months, top officials had ignored warnings from the CIA and the NSC staff that urgent action was needed to preempt a major al-Qaeda attack.

Thus, when Bush's inner circle first really came to grips with the threat of terrorism, they did so in a state of shock -- a bad state in which to develop a coherent response.
Fearful of new attacks, they authorized the most extreme measures available, without assessing whether they were really a good idea.

Richard Clarke makes the point here that I believe every mainstream media pundit has failed to make. And that is that had the members of the Bush Administration been paying attention to what their own national security team was telling them we would have either been able to prevent 9-11 or at the least been a helluva lot more prepared for it when it actually happened. Now that is just a fact and has nothing to do with partisan politics. Its impossible to buy the argument that Cheney et al didn't have a clue who al qaeda was in the days after 9-11 when we all know that President Clinton attempted to kill Bin Ladin shortly before leaving office. And if they really didn't know about al qaeda then the only possible explanation for that is that they simply weren't listening.

But Mr. Clarke makes another point that I haven't seen expressed or explored either in the mainstream media. And that is that the Bush Administration having not listened to their national security team before 9-11 and then being caught in a state of shock, never asked around about what techniques were most efficient at extracting information. Instead of bringing in the best interrogators from all of our intelligence services and asking their opinion, they just assumed that torture worked and embarked on an effort to legally justify it.

On detention, the Bush team leaped to the assumption that U.S. courts and prisons would not work. Before the terrorist attacks, the U.S. counterterrorism program of the 1990s had arrested al-Qaeda terrorists and others around the world and had a 100 percent conviction rate in the U.S. justice system. Yet the American system was abandoned, again as part of a pattern of immediately adopting the most extreme response available. Camps were established around the world, notably in Guantanamo Bay, where prisoners were held without being charged or tried. They became symbols of American overreach, held up as proof that al-Qaeda's anti-American propaganda was right.

Similarly, with regard to interrogation, administration officials conducted no meaningful professional analysis of which techniques worked and which did not. The FBI, which had successfully questioned al-Qaeda terrorists, was effectively excluded from interrogations. Instead, there was the immediate and unwarranted assumption that extreme measures -- such as waterboarding one detainee 183 times -- would be the most effective.

You haven't heard Dick Cheney speak one word on how he decided that torture or his euphemistic Enhanced Interrogation Techniques were chosen to be used on detainees other than the process by which they were deemed legal. Where are the memos on meetings inside the Bush Administration to discuss what techniques were most efficient? Why haven't any of Cheney's most ferverent defenders ever brought up any such discussions that might have happened? We saw in the release of the OLC memo page after page of studies that were falsely presented as evidence that the torture techniques that were chosen didn't cause long term damage, but where are any other studies that the Bush Administration comissioned to determine why those techniques would work any better than say presenting a detainee with sugar free cookies?

We don't hear about it because they probably don't exist.

However out of all of these misguided discussions cable news stations engage in every single day about whether torture was effective or not, nobody questions how the Bush Administration came to the conclusion that they were most effective BEFOREHAND.

I would like to think that perhaps after people read Mr. Clarke's column tomorrow that this will end up being a part of the discussion but as anybody who reads my blog regularly knows I don't have a lot of faith in our mainstream media these days. So if they won't do it then its up to us as private citizens. The next time you are around any friends or family members who believe that you "do what you have to do" when it comes to preventing attacks, press them on the point about how Cheney determined that torture was most effective. Write letters to the editors of your local paper asking them the same question. Send emails to cable news anchors and ask them to ask any pro torturists who come on the show to answer that question. I know we sometimes feel like there is not a lot we can do to press for accountability from the people who ordered torture, but these are little things we CAN do to try to at least shape public opinion on the subect. If enough people start demanding accountability then President Obama and his administration will be forced to give it to us. We can not put this ugly chapter behind us as a nation until we do a little looking backward to hold peoples' feet to the fire.

Those Who Cast Stones Had Better Be Prepared To Duck

One of the many unintended consequences of the right wing's sexist and racist attacks on Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor is the increased scrutiny of Supreme Court justices who have previously been confirmed. White men who were confirmed by a great majority and whom have been held up by the right wingers as having performed admirably after assuming their positions. Its funny what skeletons you find lurking in peoples' closets once you actually go looking for them.

Today Charles Blow compares the "she is a racist" attack on Judge Sotomayor over words she said in a speech in 2001, to some of the words and acts of former and current Supreme Court justices.

Now let’s look at a couple of the men who have ascended to the bench.

First, there’s former Chief Justice William Rehnquist. When the Supreme Court was considering Brown v. Board of Education, Rehnquist was a law clerk for Justice Robert Jackson. Rehnquist
wrote Jackson a memo in which he defended separate-but-equal policies, saying, “I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by my ‘liberal’ colleagues, but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.”

Furthermore, Rehnquist had been a Republican ballot protectionist in Phoenix when he was younger. As the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen correctly noted in 1986: Rehnquist “helped challenge the voting qualifications of Arizona blacks and Hispanics. He was entitled to do so. But even if he did not personally harass potential voters, as witnesses allege, he clearly was a brass-knuckle partisan, someone who would deny the ballot to fellow citizens for trivial political reasons — and who made his selection on the basis of race or ethnicity.”

Then there’s John Roberts, who replaced Rehnquist as the chief justice in 2005. That year, Newsday reported that Roberts had
made racist and sexist jokes in memos that he wrote while working in the Reagan White House. And, The New York Review of Books published a scolding article in 2005 making the case that during the same period that he was making those jokes, Roberts marshaled a crusader’s zeal in his efforts to roll back the civil rights gains of the 1960s and ’70s — everything from voting rights to women’s rights. The article began, “The most intriguing question about John Roberts is what led him as a young person whose success in life was virtually assured by family wealth and academic achievement to enlist in a political campaign designed to deny opportunities for success to those who lack his advantages.”

Gingrich tweeted that “a white man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw.” Make up your own minds about where Rehnquist’s and Roberts’s words and actions should fall on the racism spectrum, but both were overwhelmingly confirmed.

Until someone can produce proof of words and actions on the part of Sotomayor that even approach the scale of Rehnquist’s and Roberts’s, all I see is men throwing skeleton bones from class closets.

Some how I bet neither Judge Rehnquist nor Judge Roberts appreciate having their bigotted pasts revisted. I am not in the habit of giving wingnuts advice however you might want to quit while you're behind. Right now all you face is losing some Hispanic votes, but if you continue down this path you may well remove all legitimacy of the Republican party itself. Your call.

Friday, May 29, 2009

They Are Who I Thought They Were

A couple of days ago the Daily Telegraph put out a report supposedly suggesting that the pictures President Obama kept from being released in connection with abuse at Abu Grhaib included instances of rape and other forms of sexual assault. The main selling point for the authenticity of the story was that they quoted a retired General Antonio Taguba as saying he had seen the pictures himself in the course of investigating abuses at the prison. Now because of the Telegraph's shady credibility in my opinion, I decided to hold back on weighing in. I figured I would wait to make sure what they were saying was actually credible before I flew into some kind of misguided rant. Yesterday Mike Scherer of Time Magazine pushed back on the story a little, but lets face it, nobody really respects the guy. Besides that he hadn't talked to Taguba to see whether he confirmed or denied the story. Well finally today Salon writer Mark Benjamin reached Gen. Taguba for comment and he debunked the story.

May 30, 2009 Retired Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba denied reports that he has seen the prisoner-abuse photos that President Obama is fighting to keep secret, in an exclusive interview with Salon Friday night.

On Thursday an article in the Daily Telegraph reported that Taguba, the lead investigator into Abu Ghraib abuse, had seen images Obama wanted suppressed, and supported the president's decision to fight their release. The paper quoted Taguba as saying, "These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency."

But Taguba says he wasn't talking about the 44 photographs that are the subject of an ongoing ACLU lawsuit that Obama is fighting.

"The photographs in that lawsuit, I have not seen," Taguba told Salon Friday night. The actual quote in the Telegraph was accurate, Taguba said -- but he was referring to the hundreds of images he reviewed as an investigator of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq -- not the photos of abuse that Obama is seeking to suppress.

Now that still doesn't mean President Obama was right to oppose releasing the pictures but there just isn't any there there.

I Like It

Senator Chris Dodd who is facing an uphill battle in his reelection campaign released his first ad today. I think its pretty much what you will some from most incumbent Democrats, if they are smart that is, as it plays up praise President Obama gave to Dodd over his efforts on the credit card bill which was recently signed into law. This isn't astro physics folks. You have a very popular President making historic moves that are beneficial for the majority of Americans. It should be a no brainer to hug him in every campaign ad you can put up. But we all know that Democrats don't always use a lot of common sense. Still, I think this ad will be very effective for Chris Dodd. If he is smart he will come up with about 10 more just like it.

Gen Petraeus: "We Ought To Live Our Values"

Still waiting for someone in the MSM to ask Liz or Dick Cheney if they are calling General David Petraeus a liar.

I won't hold my breath.

Sucker MCs

Just remember this is not a parody.

The Wingnutosphere Bill O'Reilly Freakout.

Not a lot to say here other than its hilarious to me that for years people like Michelle Malkin have gone on Bill O's show and been perfectly happy with him smearing dailykos and other liberal and progressive websites based on comments made on blog postings but who are apoplectic now that he dare do the same thing to them.

Fainting couch, aisle one.

That's what happens when you have a conditional moral compass.

I Guess "The Use Of Sugar Free Cookies Saved Lives" Just Didn't Sound Tough Enough

Crossposted at Attackerman

I think one of the problems with the torture debate that people normally don't correct is that the premise that torture works better or quicker than traditional interrogation techniques is a lie. Proponents of torture, or their useful euphemism EITs, frequently invoke the ticking time bomb scenario as a situation when we should be allowed to do "whatever it takes" to get the information from terrorists in our custody to avert a disaster. And usually, unfortunately, people don't push back on that notion other than maybe to point out that "ticking time bombs" rarely if ever exists. But the point should be made that if anything what you really want SHOULD there be a ticking time bomb scenario is a process that yields accurate information quickly from detainees and that process is the traditional method of interrogation.

I really think people who are pushing for accountability for our government ordering torture, should get intimately aquainted with former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan's testimony before the Senate a couple of weeks ago.

At that time he said:

In addition the harsh techniques only serves to reinforce what the detainee has been prepared to expect if captured. This gives him a greater sense of control and predictability about his experience, and strengthens his will to resist.

A second major problem with this technique is that evidence gained from it is unreliable. There is no way to know whether the detainee is being truthful, or just speaking to either mitigate his discomfort or to deliberately provide false information. As the interrogator isn't an expert on the detainee or the subject matter, nor has he spent time going over the details of the case, the interrogator cannot easily know if the detainee is telling the truth. This unfortunately has happened and we have had problems ranging from agents chasing false leads to the disastrous case of Ibn Sheikh al-Libby who gave false information on Iraq, al Qaeda, and WMD.

A third major problem with this technique is that it is slow. It takes place over a long period of time, for example preventing the detainee from sleeping for 180 hours as the memos detail, or waterboarding 183 times in the case of KSM. When we have an alleged "ticking timebomb" scenario and need to get information quickly, we can't afford to wait that long.

So in a ticking time bomb scenario what you really is the antithesis of EITs/torture unless you want to wait several days with something like sleep deprivation, or risk getting bad information from stuff like waterboarding. But very often we just either cede the argument to the "tough guys" instead of pressing the case that even IF we were facing a time sensitive threat, torture would be the wrong move.

Now Ali Soufan has added even more ammunition for the people, like myself, who believe in the rule of law and also believe that we can't justify torture. In an interview with Time magazine he reveals how he was able to obtain information from the detainee who was closest to Osama bin Ladin.

Was it walling?


A couple face slaps?



Hell no.

So how did he pull vital information from Abu Jandal?

Some muthafuckin sugar free cookies, thats how.

The most successful interrogation of an Al-Qaeda operative by U.S. officials required no sleep deprivation, no slapping or "walling" and no waterboarding. All it took to soften up Abu Jandal, who had been closer to Osama bin Laden than any other terrorist ever captured, was a handful of sugar-free cookies.

Abu Jandal had been in a Yemeni prison for nearly a year when Ali Soufan of the FBI and Robert McFadden of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrived to interrogate him in the week after 9/11. Although there was already evidence that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, American authorities needed conclusive proof, not least to satisfy skeptics like Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, whose support was essential for any action against the terrorist organization. U.S. intelligence agencies also needed a better understanding of al-Qaeda's structure and leadership. Abu Jandal was the perfect source: the Yemeni who grew up in Saudi Arabia had been bin Laden's chief bodyguard, trusted not only to protect him but also to put a bullet in his head rather than let him be captured.

Abu Jandal's guards were so intimidated by him, they wore masks to hide their identities and begged visitors not to refer to them by name in his presence.
He had no intention of cooperating with the Americans; at their first meetings, he refused even to look at them and ranted about the evils of the West. Far from confirming al-Qaeda's involvement in 9/11, he insisted the attacks had been orchestrated by Israel's Mossad. While Abu Jandal was venting his spleen, Soufan noticed that he didn't touch any of the cookies that had been served with tea: "He was a diabetic and couldn't eat anything with sugar in it." At their next meeting, the Americans brought him some sugar-free cookies, a gesture that took the edge off Abu Jandal's angry demeanor. "We had showed him respect, and we had done this nice thing for him," Soufan recalls. "So he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures."

It took more questioning, and some interrogators' sleight of hand, before the Yemeni gave up a wealth of information about al-Qaeda — including the identities of seven of the 9/11 bombers —
but the cookies were the turning point. "After that, he could no longer think of us as evil Americans," Soufan says. "Now he was thinking of us as human beings."


To get Abu Jandal's cooperation, Soufan and McFadden laid a trap. After palliating his rage with the sugar-free cookies, they got him to identify a number of al-Qaeda members from an album of photographs, including Mohamed Atta and six other 9/11 hijackers. Next they showed him a local newspaper headline that claimed (erroneously) that more than 200 Yemenis had been killed in the World Trade Center. Abu Jandal agreed that this was a terrible crime and said no Muslim could be behind the attacks. Then Soufan dropped the bombshell: some of the men Abu Jandal had identified in the album had been among the hijackers. Without realizing it, the Yemeni prisoner had admitted that al-Qaeda had been responsible for 9/11: For all his resistance, he had given the Americans what they wanted. "He was broken, completely shattered," Soufan says. From that moment on, Abu Jandal was completely cooperative, giving Soufan and McFadden reams of information — names and descriptions of scores of al-Qaeda operatives, details of training and tactics.

Now I realize that breaking a detainee with sugar free cookies doesn't lend itself to great sound bites or political ads. But evidently it works well with helping keep our country safe and bringing terrorists to justice.

Better yet it contrasts with torture in such a way to make the claims of people like Dick Cheney absolutely laughable.

So can our mainstream media folks please drop the pretense that the pro torture crowd has a leg to stand on? This debate has been over for a very long time we are just waiting for the YOU to catch up.

And hopefully, at some point, our Justice Department will follow suit.

Two White Men, One Microphone

Bill Bennett and Fred Barnes put their pea brains together and decided that Judge Sonia Sotomayor, valedictorian of her senior class in high school, summa cum laude graduate of Princeton, winner of an award for highest academic achievement as an undergraduate, member of Yale Law review while getting her law degree, and the most professionally accomplished judges to be nominated to the Supreme Court in the last 30 years, MUST have been helped "tremendously" by affirmative action along the way. Because you know, us brown people could NEVER do it all on our own through hard work and perseverance. Nor could we reach the top of our profession without a handout rather than just on our own merit.

Such is the way some white men view any minority who achieves anything of note in this country not having to do with playing a sport.

Is this REALLY who you want as the face of your party, Republicans?

When Will Someone At MSNBC Push Back On Liz Cheney?

Crossposted at Attackerman

Yesterday MSNBC gave Liz Cheney a platform to deceive yet again.

Now interestingly enough Carlos Watson asked for questions to ask Liz Cheney before she came on for the interview. I myself submitted probably 10 good questions to ask her. Nothing over the top, just straight forward questions that she probably would have a hard time answering and which would expose her as being there purely for propaganda purposes. Several other people endorsed many of the questions. Sadly maybe at the most one of my questions were used. Not only that he allowed Liz Cheney to make up shit out of whole cloth. Like for instance when she said that Bush saying torture saved lives meant thats exactly what happened. Or when she claimed DNI Dennis Blair said that torture saved lives which he didn't.

Maybe the most frustrating thing was that Carlos Watson used the "some people say" device when interviewing her instead of being specific. The President of the United States says she is wrong. The Director of the FBI says she is wrong. The FBI interrogator who extracted the most useful information from Abu Zubaydah says she is wrong. But Watson seemed content with generalities allowing her to frame it as if just partisan politicos were the ones who were saying she was wrong.

Watson also refused to say that waterboarding is "illegal" using that word, or that the CIA may have "broken the law", instead using the weaksauce euphemism "crossed the line". What the hell does "crossed the line" mean? And what in the hell is so hard about being honest about what is at stake here?

Well now Greg Sargent is reporting that the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Carl Levin, has now come out and said that Liz Cheney and her daddy Dick are both full of shit.

Levin’s comments are highly newsworthy because they give us the most detailed picture yet of what’s in the documents Cheney wants. You can watch Levin’s speech right here at TPM. This is what Levin said about the documents:

Mr. Cheney has also claimed that the release of classified documents would prove his view that the techniques worked. But those classified documents say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of the abusive techniques. I hope that the documents are declassified so that people can judge for themselves what is fact and what is fiction.

If this is true, it’s big. A Senator who has seen the documents Cheney claims will prove that torture saved lives says that those docs contain absolutely nothing about whether the torture techniques were actually responsible for yielding any valuable intelligence.

Networks such as MSNBC have given literally hours of airtime to Cheney and his daughter Liz to claim endlessly that these docs will prove Cheney’s torture assertions. These claims have gone almost entirely unchallenged, due to the classified nature of the documents. You’d think that a contrary claim from a well-respected Senator who has also seen the docs would merit a few passing mentions, too.

Yeah you would think that but for some reason I doubt it will happen. For whatever reason MSNBC has decided to allow Liz Cheney to come on their show and have free reign. I don't know if the edict has been handed down from on high, but its pretty evident that either no anchor has been allowed to really press her on specifics or every anchor who has interviewed her is woefully inept. I happen to have a pretty high opinion of Carlos Watson so I am going to go with the former. But the question is when will people start holding MSNBC accountable for absolutely failing their audience by giving these softball interviews? I can't think of one credible reason for them continuing to have a blatant propagandist come on their network and spew misinformation. Can you?

Like it or not Liz Cheney can move public opinion on this issue. That means that every time she is allowed on MSNBC they are basically helping to push against accountability for torture. That is not only morally wrong but also irresponsible. We should demand better.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Newsflash, We Don't Want You Either

So the New York Times' Caucus Blog comes up with this quote from President Obama's fundraiser purporting to be him acknowledging some Prop 8 protestors he saw on the way in.

“One of them said, “Obama keep your promise,’ ” the president said. “I thought that’s fair. I don’t know which promise he was talking about.”

Which lead Andrew Sullivan, normally an Obama fanboy, to post this.

But since he asked, how about an end to the HIV ban, an end to the military ban and a federal recognition of full civil equality for gay married couples? Three clear promises. After this quip, by the way, the NYT reports:

The people in the audience – who paid $30,400 per couple to attend – laughed as they ate a dinner of roasted tenderloin, grilled organic chicken and sun choke rosemary mashed potatoes.

And then I remember why I'm not a Democrat.

This seems to be a recurring theme where Sullivan takes up for President Obama on all things except for issues related to gay rights. So I guess its not all that suprising.

But the funny thing about that is Sully fashions himself a journalist. But I would think a real journalist might try to actually track down, ya know, footage of the actual quote.

"One of them started to chant, “Obama keep your promise,’ ” the president said. “I thought that’s fair. I don’t know which promise he was talking about. But I thought to myself, you know, I like that."

So in a situation where President Obama is in fact welcoming accountability, rather than cracking jokes on gays in California as the Caucus Blog tried to portray him as having done, Sully has decided that this is why he isn't a Democrat.

Well from his fucking overreaction I say we don't want your fickle ass anyway.

Major Garrett Has To Hate His Job

When your bosses at FoxNews send you out to the slaughter with nothing but a few quotes from the wingnutosphere about a wacky conspiracy theory which carries the stamp of approval from Michelle Malkin, you can't be looking forward to your time in front of the camera. But Major Garrett has to do what he has to do so he soldiered on today. Robert Gibbs smacks him down with just the appropriate amount of dismissiveness IMHO.

It Couldn't Have Been Me Part 2

A few months ago a video emerged of an asshole cop pulling over an NFL player and his family in front of a hospital and preventing him from seeing his mother in law one last time before she passed. I honestly can't decide if that situation or what I am about to share with you is worse.

So you are a state trooper and you decide to pull over an ambulance for not yielding to you. Ok maybe I can understand that right up until the point where its apparent that said ambulance is transporting someone who needs medical attention. Not only do you not do the right thing and let them go on their way though, you find the time to choke the black paramedic after not laying a finger on the white paramedic. Got damn I hope they shit can these assholes.

Thank God for camera phones.

The Strength Of Soft Power

I am not enough of a wonk on foreign policy to opine with any certainty on what North Korea's nuclear tests and short range missle tests from last weak mean for our national security. But I think the story coming out since the tests have overlooked a critical issue, the fruits of a new era of diplomacy ushered in by President Obama are starting to be revealed.

Forbes magazine ran an article entitled "Is Obama Another Jimmy Carter".

The Boston Globe ran a story that included this quote.

The Obama administration "came into office hopeful that an outreached hand would yield better results," said Michael J. Green, former senior Asia adviser to President George W. Bush. "They are now in a much more sober and realist mood. [North Korea's leaders] mean it when they say they want to establish themselves as a nuclear weapons state."

Peter Wehner, NeoCon supreme had this to say in Commentary:

President Obama now has an opportunity to put his vaunted diplomatic skills to work. We have “turned the page” on the past. President Obama can now negotiate to his heart’s content. He can now meet individually and without precondition with Kim Jong Il and other dictators, as he promised he would. He can do all the careful preparation he needs and let North Korea know exactly where America stands. After all, they will no longer have the excuse of American intransigence. And then we will see if the North Korean leader will bend to Obama’s will and personal charm. The early returns aren’t terribly encouraging.

They just don't seem to get it.

Diplomacy is about the people you are negotiating with, no doubt. But its also about the people on the outside looking in and taking note of how you handle different countries in different situations.

When America is seen as a fair dealer we gain the support of all of our traditional allies and pick up the support of strategic alliances , when America is seen as a bully we lose that major advantage. Reaching out to North Korea and Iran is as much about convincing China and Russia to get on board as it is about pushing those actors to change their ways. And in the situation with North Korea it would seem that the early returns show that this reemergence of soft power through diplomacy is starting to work.

Here is an excerpt of an article from "The Hill" which quotes National Security Advisor Jim Jones extensively:

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, in his first speech on the administration’s approach to national security, said that the “imminent threat” posed by North Korea is that of the proliferation of nuclear technologies to other countries and terrorist organizations.

North Korea still has “a long way” to “weaponize” and work on the delivery of its nuclear missiles before they pose a threat to U.S. security, Jones said in a discussion hosted by the Atlantic Council.

“Nothing that the North Koreans did surprised us,” Jones said. “We knew that they were going to do this, they said so, so no reason not to believe them.”

But the Obama administration is in a tough position with regards to North Korea and in the coming weeks administration officials will try to reach a “global consensus” on how to handle North Korea, Jones indicated. Two key players on the issue, Russia and China, both showed a much harder line against North Korea’s most recent nuclear tests.

One of the crucial conclusions drawn after North Korea’s tests early this week is that there is a growing consensus that states such as North Korea “should not be permitted” to have those nuclear capabilities, Jones said. North Korea’s nuclear ambitions will be on the list of discussion for Obama’s visit to Russia in July, Jones said.

Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry this week said the country “resolutely opposes” North Korea’s nuclear test. China agreed with the U.S., Japan and Russia to work toward a U.N. resolution censuring North Korea for its nuclear test and missile launches.

As far as I can discern there are no good or easy options when it comes to dealing with North Korea. However having China starting to pressure Kim Jong Il to step back in line is a great step in the right direction. With our military committed to wars in two foreign lands we are stretched pretty thin as it is. What we do not need right now is another major military engagement where we end up bearing the overwhelming majority of the load. By showing the willingness to reach out to North Korea in good faith, the Obama Administration has made that a lot less likely. Now you see not only China but also Russia willing to seriously condemn North Korea for their actions as well as also having a willingness to put some actions behind those words. When the UN Security Council passes a resolution laying down sanctions against North Korea that have real teeth, thats when you will see the true power of President Obama's plan to use diplomacy.

As strong as our military is, we can't handle every problem all on our own. We are going to need some help going forward not only in the war on terror but also to contain rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. That is going to be one of the keys to our having a strong national defense and protecting the homeland. So far I would have to say that the approach the Obama administration is taking is moving us in the right direction.

Deep Thought

Has Nancy Pelosi resigned her Speakership yet?

And A Conspiracy In Every Pot

The wingnut blogosphere has been flogging their latest conspiracy theory this week. This time the meme is the Chrysler dealerships that were chosen to be closed in their Bankruptcy deal were "targeted" because the owners were big Republican donors. Seriously. Now you would think it would be common sense that most auto dealers would donate and vote Republican if for no other reason than to oppose any green energy legislation that would, in their mind, be bad for business. But common sense is not common with wingnuts. Thankfully Nate Silver crunches the numbers to kill this ignorance dead in its tracks.

Overall, 88 percent of the contributions from car dealers went to Republican candidates and just 12 percent to Democratic candidates. By comparison, the list of dealers on Doug Ross's list (which I haven't vetted, but I assume is fine) gave 92 percent of their money to Republicans -- not really a significant difference.

There's no conspiracy here, folks -- just some bad math.

It shouldn't be any surprise, by the way, that car dealers tend to vote -- and donate -- Republican. They are usually male, they are usually older (you don't own an auto dealership in your 20s), and they have obvious reasons to be pro-business, pro-tax cut, anti-green energy and anti-labor. Car dealerships need quite a bit of space and will tend to be located in suburban or rural areas. I can't think of too many other occupations that are more natural fits for the Republican Party. Unfortunately, while we are still a nation of drivers, we are not a nation of dealers.

Now of course this won't deter the wingnuts from continuing to repeat this lie. They are after all perpetual victims don't you know. But at least now there is a real statistical analysis to throw back at them when they come with the bullshit.

Rachel Debunks Another Sotomayor Smear.

The wingnutosphere and Fox News have been eating up a Washington Times article claiming that Judge Sonia Sotomayor had a "high" rate of reversal of her her opinions at an appeals court judge. This has proven to be demonstrably false yet they continue to repeat it as they do every other lie made up by wingnuts, hoping that if enough people hear it then it will become the truth. But Rachel Maddow did an excellent job of thoroughly debunking the smear last night on her show. She even used visual aides to make sure even the wingnuttiest among us could understand.

Fran Tarkenton Gives Brett Favre The Limbaugh Treatment

Fran Tarkenton, who was by far the most exciting quarterback in the history of the Minnesota Vikings and a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, evidently isn't too keen on the idea of the team bringing in Brett Favre. Now as far as I know Tarkenton is generally seen as a good guy, but he is definitely old school and I think a lot of what he said in that interview has to do with the fact that he thinks the NFL has taken a turn for the worse when it comes to the way they now put players on pedestals. I also think that loyalty is a big thing for him and he isn't happy at all about the perception that is definitely out there that Favre only wants to play for Minnesota to try to stick it to Green Bay, a team that he led into battle for 16 seasons. Still I don't think anyone saw this coming.

Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, appearing on 790 The Zone in Atlanta, said “it’s all about” Favre when discussing the subject and also had some interesting comments about NFL owners in general. Tarkenton, a resident of the Atlanta area, didn’t need any encouragement to go after Favre and was especially critical of how the future Hall of Fame QB has treated the Packers after playing 16 seasons in Green Bay.

“I think it’s despicable. What he put the Packers through last year was not good,” said Tarkenton, who played for the Vikings from 1961-66 and again from 1972-78. ”Here’s an organization that was loyal to him for 17, 18 years, provided stability of organization, provided players. It just wasn’t about Brett Favre. In this day and time, we have glorified the Brett Favre’s of the world so much, they think it’s about them. He goes to New York and bombs. He’s 39 years old. How would you like Ray Nitschke in his last year [playing for] the Vikings, or I retire, and go play for the Packers? I kind of hope it happens, so he can fail.”

Tarkenton might have been a little strong in his assessment of Favre’s play with the New York Jets last season. The Jets, who acquired Favre’s rights from the Packers during training camp, were 8-3 at one point but finished by losing four of their last five games and missed the playoffs. Favre retired for a second time after the season in part because of a partially torn biceps in his throwing arm that continues to bother him.

It’s interesting that Tarkenton feels so strongly about how Favre dealt with the Packers because when the Vikings traded Tarkenton to the New York Giants after the 1966 season he wasn’t on exactly good terms with the franchise. Clearly he sees this as a completely different situation.

“He told the Packers [after 2008 that], ‘I’m retiring,’” Tarkenton said. “They’ve got to move on. They’ve got to go through their offseason plan, their workouts, they go with the other quarterback [Aaron Rodgers], who is a good player, and then [Favre] comes back and says, ‘I think I want to play.’ … You build your team in the offseason. Everybody knows that. It’s about team. It’s not about Brett Favre. So he goes and runs up to the Jets, doesn’t even dress in the locker room with the players. Has a separate facility. Playing quarterback is about the relationships you have with your coaches, with your players, with your trainers, with your managers. How can you do that if you show up on gameday and you haven’t put the time in. And now he’s trying to do it again in Minnesota. And if Minnesota bites, God bless them.”

Asked what more the Packers could have done last year, Tarkenton said: “They did everything, but you get into a position, and I understand he’s been glorified so much. He’s been a great player, there’s no question about it, but it’s all about him. It is supposed to be all about your team. If you’re going to be the quarterback of your team, you need to be there in the offseason workouts in March and April. Peyton Manning’s there. Tom Brady’s there.”

Tarkenton was known for his scrambling when he played the game and Favre always has been considered a gunslinger.

“I think he has been a great flamboyant quarterback, but he has made more stupid plays than any great quarterback that I’ve ever seen,” Tarkenton said. “Look at his final game in a Packers uniform [the NFC title game in the 2007 season]. He blew that game against the Giants. He’s playing against Eli Manning, I love Eli Manning, but he’s still not a great quarterback. He’s not Peyton yet, or Tom Brady. He’s just a guy. And [the Packers] are playing at home, and they’re in a tight situation, they went to overtime and [Favre] throws the interception that allows [the Giants] to come back and win the game.

OUCH. Now the truth is absolutely everything Tarkenton said is pretty much spot on. But you just don't expect to see a Hall of Famer go all in like that on a guy who is almost assured his own spot in the Hall. I don't know if there is anything more to the story between Tarkenton and Favre but I can tell you the the criticism has got to sting. It will be interesting to see how Favre is recieved should the Vikings go ahead and pull the trigger.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sam Alito Had Empathy, Oh Noes!

I would be remiss if I didn't link to this Glenzilla post exposing the hypocrisy of the attacks from the right on Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

With regard to that last point -- how completely different is the reaction to Sam Alito and Sonia Sotomayor -- just consider this exchange that took place at the beginning of Alito's confirmation hearing (h/t sysprog):

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Judge Samuel Alito's Nomination to the Supreme Court

U.S. SENATOR TOM COBURN (R-OK): Can you comment just about Sam Alito, and what he cares about, and let us see a little bit of your heart and what's important to you in life?
ALITO: Senator, I tried to in my opening statement, I tried to provide a little picture of who I am as a human being and how my background and my experiences have shaped me and brought me to this point.

ALITO: I don't come from an affluent background or a privileged background. My parents were both quite poor when they were growing up.

And I know about their experiences and I didn't experience those things. I don't take credit for anything that they did or anything that they overcame.

But I think that children learn a lot from their parents and they learn from what the parents say. But I think they learn a lot more from what the parents do and from what they take from the stories of their parents lives.

And that's why I went into that in my opening statement. Because when a case comes before me involving, let's say, someone who is an immigrant -- and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases -- I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't that long ago when they were in that position.

And so it's my job to apply the law. It's not my job to change the law or to bend the law to achieve any result.

But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, "You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country."

When I have cases involving children, I can't help but think of my own children and think about my children being treated in the way that children may be treated in the case that's before me.

And that goes down the line. When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.

I wonder how long before wingnuts start calling for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to be impeached.

North Korea Is Tripping And I Haven't Got a Clue

North Korea is acting a fool right now and honestly I don't know what to make of it. And here is my blogging philosphy, I know what I don't know. Therefore when there is something important going on but I don't really have a good grasp of it instead of trying to bluff and bluster my way through it in a post I will either decline to speak on it, or I will look to link to someone who is a lot more informed on the issue and present their take on it. Thank fully today former NSA Dr Zbignew Brzizenski was on Morning Joe and he laid out the situation we find ourselves in with North Korea as few probably could.

That wasn't exactly encouraging news but at least he explained where we are at and what the options are. Hopefully that will give us at least enough information to be somewhat informed on the issue.

Somebody Has Been Reading The Polling

Looks like Colin Powell made Dick Cheney BOW DOWN

I bet Cheney picks his fights a little better next time.

Arlen Better Get His Weight Up

Looks like Joe Sestak is coming for the crown.

And uhmm CNN next time give TPM the respect they are due, assholes.

Just Keep Digging

In a remarkable example of journalism today Monica Novotny totally PWNED Curt Levey of the "Committee For Justice" wingnut think tank. I am not sure but I believe she was quite pissed with the sexist attacks he launched against Judge Sotomayor. I have a feeling that as more white male Republicans repeat these attacks, more female cable anchors will be ripping them a new one on national Tee Vee.

I Think I Might Agree With Tom Coburn (For Once)

The Hill has a story today about a letter Senator Tom Coborn sent to Attorney General Eric Holder questioning the continued funding of the National Defense Intelligence Center. The NDIC happens to be located in Congressman John Murtha's district and as such many people think its yet another pet projects of his that he uses to bring jobs and money home to his district in Pennsylvania. Now of course this could be seen as a partisan attack since you are pitting a conservative Republican in Senator Coburn against a Democrat in Congressman Murtha. And the word boondoggle is thrown out there kind of haphazardly by Senator Coburn to describe the NDIC. But having read the article and reading the Senator Coburn's report on the NDIC I have to say that without having any more information I am leaning towards agreeing with him.

Coburn sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder late last week reiterating charges that the center in Johnstown, Pa., previously known as the National Defense Intelligence Center (NDIC) is a duplicative boondoggle and asking for the explanation behind a recently proposed name change.

“I am concerned about both the costs and the motivation of this proposed name change,” Coburn wrote.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice (DoJ) said only that Holder’s office is reviewing the letter and will respond “appropriately.”

Murtha spokesman Matthew Mazonkey said his boss had nothing to do with the center’s name change, proposed in Obama’s budget, and noted that NDIC officials aren’t even sure it will happen.

Republicans and the Bush administration spent the last four years trying to eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in Murtha-directed funding to the center. President Bush and Republicans in Congress labeled it a “Clinton-era pork-barrel boondoggle” that exists only as a jobs program in Murtha’s district, where it is located.

The GOP critics are suspicious that the name change, which was mentioned briefly in a recently released DoJ Budget and Performance Summary, is a way to obscure the funding from additional public scrutiny.

Two years ago, an effort to strip money for the center from an intelligence bill sparked a nasty floor fight between Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Murtha, who subsequently apologized publicly for threatening Rogers’s earmarks in retaliation.

Despite the very public fight, Murtha and Democrats on Capitol Hill have managed to keep funds flowing to the center. President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal 2010 would provide it $44 million, place it under the DoJ’s umbrella and change its name to the DoJ’s Center for Strategic Intelligence (CSI).

To Coburn, the additional funding and proposed name change stand in stark contrast to findings in an oversight report titled “Justice Denied: Waste & Mismanagement at the Department of Justice,” which he commissioned last year.

The report found that throughout the last 15 years, NDIC’s purpose has frequently changed and duplicated the operations of 19 other government agencies and that “its data was not very useful to the other drug control agencies.”

Coburn’s letter also quotes two former officials at the center criticizing its work and mission.

“A former center director, Mike Horn, confessed, ‘I recognized that a lot of reports were God-awful, poorly written, poorly researched, and, in some cases, wrong,’ ” Coburn wrote. “Jim Milford, a former NDIC deputy, admitted, ‘I’ve never come to terms with the justification for the NDIC,’ and “ ‘the bottom line is that we had to actually search for a mission.’ ”

Coburn wants to know how much it will cost to change the name of the center, which he argued would require new signs and identification cards for the center’s 239 employees, new letterhead and the “rebranding” of all its documents and publications.

Here is the truth, we as Democrats have to stop overlooking Congressman Murtha's trangressions if we ever want to be able to not be seen as hypocrites. Murtha seems to be doing his dead level best to ruin the Democratic brand for everyone at this point. While just about everyone else acknowledges that its time to reign in spending this guy is out bragging about how many earmarks he sends home. It only takes one shady Democrat to tar the whole party. I think its about time folks walked away from Murtha and tried to ease him on up out of office. No matter what kind of leadership positions he holds he is starting to become too much of a distraction for the party at a time when we are trying to claim the high moral ground. Shipping tens of millions of dollars into a boondoggle in his district year after year just serves to play up the caricature of "tax and spend" liberals. Something is going to have to give soon because no one man is bigger than the party.

Keep Em Talking

The usual suspect are upholding their end of the bargain by spewing racist and sexist attacks at Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Now the question is will the mainstream media ask establishment Republicans if they agree with Limbaugh or Dobbs or Buchanan or Coulter. Stay tuned.

Even More Context Needed

Cross posted at Attackerman

Ta Nehisi Coates has a post up about Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor and one of the supposed controversial statements that she made in a speech she gave in 2001 to some students at the University of Californa Berkley School of Law. Here is an excerpt:

Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

I think we can immediately dispense with the crazies who think this statement should disqualify Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. It's worth noting that William Rehnquist once endorsed segregation, and yet rose to be Chief Justice of the court.

That said, I think Sotomayor's statement is quite wrong. I understand the basis of it, laid out pretty well
by Kerry Howley over at Hit & Run. The idea is that Latinos have a dual experience that whites don't have and that, all things being equal, they'll be able to pull from that experience and see things that whites don't. The problem with this reasoning is it implicitly accepts the logic (made for years by white racists) that there is something essential and unifying running through all white people, everywhere. But White--as we know it--is a word so big that, as a descriptor of experience, it almost doesn't exist.

Indeed, it's claims are preposterous. It seeks to lump the miner in Eastern Kentucky, the Upper West Side Jew, the yuppie in Seattle, the Irish Catholic in South Boston, the hipster in Brooklyn, the Cuban-American in Florida, or even the Mexican-American in California all together, and erase the richness of their experience, by marking the bag "White." This is a lie--and another example of how a frame invented (and for decades endorsed) by whites is, at the end of the day, bad for whites. White racism, in this country, was invented to erase the humanity and individuality of blacks. But for it to work it must, necessarily, erase the humanity of whites, too.

Sotomayor, unwittingly, buys into that logic by conjuring the strawman of "a white male." But, in the context that she's discussing, no such person exists. What is true of the straight Polish-American in Chicago, may not be true for the white gay dude working in D.C. I'm not even convinced that what is true for the white dude in West Texas, is true for the white dude in Austin--or that what's true of the white dude in Austin, is true of other white dudes in Austin. There's just too much variation among people to make such a broad statement about millions of people.

After having reread the speech I have to say that this is one of the rare times that I totally disagree with Coates. My disagreement really isn't on the substance of his argument per se, but on the premiss of the argument itself. Here is my response as published in a comment on his blog:

I actually think even more context is needed and a focus on the words Judge Sotomayor actually said.

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

What I believe Sotomayor to be saying here isn't about painting with a broad brush that encompasses "all white men". I believe she is making a point about white men who do not have a lot of experience dealing with women and minorities on a personal level. To me the key to understanding what she is saying is when she points out that there is no universal standard for what "wise" is or isn't. Many people consider a person who is wise to denote academic achievments alone. I believe that in the totality of her speech she is making the case that wisdom also comes from personal experience. She made the case pretty clearly earlier in the speech that there have been studies that show that women and minorities as judges rule differently than their white male counterparts on the whole. And even in what I quoted she points out that all male courts did not vote against sexual or racial discrimination until 1972 yet they were seen as "wise men".

Now for me its hard to see how anyone can say that this is an absolutist statement especially when she makes allowances that it isn't. Let me quote it again to reiterate.

I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable.

What she is saying is that on the other hand there are also many "wise white men" who do NOT have the capacity for understanding the values and needs of minorities and women for a variety of reasons that she lays out, that a woman who is also minority and has had a wealth of experience with other minorities and women wouldn't be hindered by when judging cases.

And if the problem ISN'T that she is pigeon holing every white man then are we REALLY going to argue against decades of precedent that shows that white men have on the Supreme Court have in fact affirmed that discrimination based on race or sex or sexuality was in fact perfectly fine under the constitution?

Does The Word "Waterboarding" Give The Impression Its "Fun"

I doubt it. However that was a point that Erich "Mancow" Muller seemed to be making last night on "Countdown With Keith Olbermann". Its of course telling that every single layman who has been waterboarded confirms that its torture. Watching them get waterboarded seems to confirm to any reasonable person that its torture. But maybe there is some perception out there that "sprinkling water" on someone is not a big deal. I don't know but I do know that its been labled torture for centuries and we have prosecuted and put to death soldiers from other countries who did it to our people. Maybe it IS just a matter of messaging but I don't think it can reasonably be argued by anyone anymore that waterboarding isn't torture.

Notice that according to Mancow Sean Hannity called him and reiterated his belief that waterboarding isn't torture. Funny if he is that confident that it isn't why won't he allow himself to be waterboarded?

Rhetorical question of course.

Deep Thought

How long will it take the media to point out to racists like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan and their followers like Joe Scarborough and Mike Barnicle that there were actually Hispanic plantiffs in the Ricci case along with white plantiffs?

Kinda hard for Judge Sotomayor to be a reverse racist against people of her own race, no?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pat Buchanan Is STILL A Racist Asshole

I know I am stating the obvious but still. To call a woman of Sonia Sotomayor's accomplishment an affirmative action nominee is disgusting even by Buchanan's low standard. When will MSNBC put that old bastard out to pasture and spare the rest of us his perpetually bigoted wankery?