The AP’s Spin, Abusing State’s Secret Claims

The AP’s fishy economic story

The AP doesn’t have a Ron Fournier by-line, but it has some right leaning Fournier, FACT CHECK: Obama disowns deficit he helped shape. Obama liked most Democrats and Republican leaders like Rep.John Boehner and Mitch McConnell voted for TARP. How is an accurate despiction of the facts to say Obama’s single vote is responsible for the deficit. A vote made on the Bush administartion’s claim that the sky was falling. Even the basic premise is wrong. Bush’s tax cuts and spending made up the vast majority of the debt that Obama did in fact inherit along with an economy that most economists agree lost $3 trilion dollars in value. Obama did not vote for that, it was a result of piss poor economic management by Bush and Republicans, including that trillion dollar debacle called Iraq.

Myth 1:  Tax cuts “pay for themselves.”

“You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase.”  —  President Bush, February 8, 2006

“You have to pay for these tax cuts twice under these pay-go rules if you apply them, because these tax cuts pay for themselves.”  — Senator Judd Gregg, then Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, March 9, 2006
Reality:  A study by the President’s own Treasury Department confirmed the common-sense view shared by economists across the political spectrum:  cutting taxes decreases revenues.

Proponents of tax cuts often claim that “dynamic scoring” — that is, considering tax cuts’ economic effects when calculating their costs — would substantially lower the estimated cost of tax reductions, or even shrink it to zero.  The argument is that tax cuts dramatically boost economic growth, which in turn boosts revenues by enough to offset the revenue loss from the tax cuts.

Myth 3: The economy has grown strongly over the past several years because of the tax cuts.

“The main reason for our growing economy is that we cut taxes and left more money in the hands of families and workers and small business owners.”  — President Bush, November 4, 2006
Reality:  The 2001-2007 economic expansion was sub-par overall, and job and wage growth were anemic.

Members of the Administration routinely tout statistics regarding recent economic growth, then credit the President’s tax cuts with what they portray as a stellar economic performance.  But as a general rule, it is difficult or impossible to infer the effect of a given tax cut from looking at a few years of economic data, simply because so many factors other than tax policy influence the economy.  What the data do show clearly is that, despite major tax cuts in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006, the economy’s performance between 2001 and 2007 was from stellar.

Growth rates of GDP, investment, and other key economic indicators during the 2001-2007 expansion were below the average for other post-World War II economic expansions

Did the AP’s selective and spun fact checkhecking present the alternative. The plan we would have if Republicans had their budget. No. Its a very easy plan to follow. Rep. Paul Ryan Concedes GOP Alternative Budget Would Increase The Deficit ‘A Lot’

As ThinkProgress previously noted, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) also stumbled and refused to offer a number when questioned by MSNBC about the deficit under the GOP plan.

Citizens for Tax Justice analyzed the income tax provisions of the GOP alternative budget and concluded that they would cost $300 billion more annually than the President’s income tax plans.

Is Obama perhaps over hyping the benefits of his budget. Maybe, maybe not. he is, like all politicians putting out his numbers based on a best case scenario. many analysts think Obama should rise taxes to some crazy level, like you know, taxes under Saint Ronnie Reagan, but he is obviously resistant to doing that. A year or two down the road reality may dictate that he has no choice if he really wants to make substantial progress against the deficit. But Republicans will whine, perpetually in short memory mode, that Reagan sized taxes will kill the economy.

One excerpt from the pity the wealthy GOP tax plan,

The richest one percent of taxpayers would pay $100,000 less, on average, under the House GOP plan than they would under the President’s plan.

The median income Americans will take a lifetime of labor to earn what the GOP thinks is a burden to multi-millionaires, whose wealth is totally dependent on the work provided by the median wage earner. No wonder the tea smoking parties attract mostly uninformed crazies.

From TPM, Obama: State’s Secrets Privilege Too Broad.

Scherer asked the President to reconcile that contradiction. And Obama’s answer was…a bit disingenuous. “I actually think that the state secrets doctrine should be modified,” he said. “I think right now it’s overbroad.”

So why has he been hiding behind its breadth? “We’re in for a week, and suddenly we’ve got a court filing that’s coming up…and we don’t have the time to think up what an overarching form that doctrine should take.”

But it’s hard to square that with what the administration’s actually done. DOJ lawyers haven’t asked the courts for more time, or to withhold key pieces of information.

If President Obama had taken the position that they had a lot on their plate and had asked the courts for more time as they made more supporting appointments at the DOJ and OLC one could understand. The president has not done that. he has jumped in full throttle to invoke states secrets in every case that Bush had. If Obama is having second thoughts we’ll find out how sincere he is if he supports Leahy, Specter, Feingold, Kennedy Introduce State Secrets Legislation

Leahy said, “The State Secrets Protection Act will help guide the courts to balance the government’s interests in secrecy with accountability and the rights of citizens to seek judicial redress.  The bill does not restrict the Government’s ability to assert the privilege in appropriate cases.  In light of the pending cases where this privilege has been invoked, involving issues including torture, rendition and warrantless wiretapping, we can ill-afford to delay consideration of this important legislation.  I hope all Senators will join us in supporting this bill.”

Specter said, “While national security must be protected, there must also be meaningful oversight by the courts and Congress to ensure the Executive branch does not misuse the privilege,” Senator Specter said.  “This bipartisan legislation provides guidance to the federal courts in handling assertions of the privilege.  It is designed to protect state secrets from disclosure, while preventing misuse of the privilege and enabling litigants to achieve justice in court, regardless of which party occupies the White House.”

Politicians are politicians. If they have a power, even though well intentioned, they can be counted on to abuse that power. It is time for the executive to take a step back on executive power and Congress and the courts to take more their rightful powers back. If Obama was sincere about acting rashly so far on state secrets claims then hopefully we’ll see some genuine support for the Leahy plan.

More Blue Rain Drops wallpaper

Fox’s Henneberg repeats right-wing myth that hate crimes bill could gag ministers

However, the assertion that the legislation would allow individuals or groups to “be prosecuted for their religious beliefs” is false: Section 8 of the bill states that “Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the Constitution,” and the First Amendment to the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (emphasis added). Indeed, the House Judiciary Committee’s report on the legislation states that the purpose of Section 8 of the bill is “to lay to rest concerns raised in the 110th Congress mark-up of the legislation, and repeated since then, that religious speech or expression by clergy could form the basis of a prosecution. … Nothing in this legislation would prohibit the constitutionally protected expression of one’s religious beliefs.”

If an operation was available that made it pssible to cut out the looney conspiract theories from a hard Right conservatives mind, they might half way reasonable to deal with.

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Sea Coast wallpaper, Black and White Coastal City wallpaper

Sea Coast Rocky Shore wallpaper

Black and White city by the sea wallpaper

Pulitzer prize winning Politifact has the good, the bad and the marginally ugly of president Obama’s first hundred days, First 100 Days: Obama’s Promises Broken and First 100 Days: Obama’s Promises Kept. Promises do have away of being forgotten or compromised. Sometimes the reasons are legitimate due to changing circumstances and then sometimes for political expediency – the speedy passage of the Recovery Act for example. We’ve had worse, but Obama has room for improvement.

Barack Obama and the Politics of Expectation – by Benjamin Ramm

A politics of expectation requires a polis of expectation – that is, some consensus about what would constitute a successful tenure in government. Voters tend to select their candidate on grounds of temperament, judgment and ideological affiliation, although only a small portion of the electorate weighs all three, at least equally. Nonetheless, Obama is in a position to claim as a mandate consent on a whole range of legislative issues which, had they been put to the vote individually, might not have garnered comparable support. How the president treats this capital – whether he hoards it, spreads it, seeks to make interest on it – tells us how he prospects the challenges ahead, and how he will deal with the (inevitable) dissonance.

There is a passivity about the whole notion of expectation; it suggests consideration of an action outside of our volition, and places the onus squarely on the expected. Obama anticipated this reflex when he initiated his campaign:

Too many times, after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own.
That is why this campaign can’t only be about me. It must be about us – it must be about what we can do together. (Declaration of Candidacy, Springfield, Illinois, 10th February 2007)

Such an appeal not only devolves expectation away from the president – a canny political manoeuvre – but emphasises that any real change begins (and, for liberals, ultimately ends) in the empowerment of the individual citizen, in the realisation of his or her agency, and in their ability to make informed choices for their families and communities. It is, in other words, about the fostering of response-ability. “We need to usher in a new era of responsibility”, Obama remarked in a crucial speech on Father’s Day 2008, in which he formulated an implicit contract of commitment between the individual and the state:

If fathers are doing their part; if they’re taking their responsibilities seriously to be there for their children, and set high expectations for them, and instill in them a sense of excellence and empathy, then our government should meet them halfway. ( Obama’s Father’s Day address, Chicago, Illinois, 15th June 2008)

The act of example is key here, in the sphere of the family as in the conduct of government, and citizens have a duty to challenge those who have “abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men” (“what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child – it’s the courage to raise one”). This call to “shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear” echoes the approach of two great transformative Democratic presidents, F.D.R. and J.F.K., and derives from the convictions Obama formed during his years as a community organiser, when half the battle was getting residents to attend and be attentive. If Obama’s politics are anything, they are anti-passive, and contrary to the claims made by the McCain-Palin campaign, are conceived in distinction to the centralised welfarism that shirks from sharing power.

One of many reasons to find rightwing accusations of Obama as a an extremists, occupying the far right and the far left of the political spectrum simultaneously,  or “The One” said with spittle flying between clinched teeth, is Obama’s campaign and subsequent presidential emphasis on the millennium version of think nationally, act locally. Form a foundation for a community, a city, a state that is built on the continuity of progressive ideals. That said there are issues that are simply far outside the power of communities to act. He has not carried his share of meeting us half way on the abuses of government power. Is not just the torture issue, but domestic spying without warrants and the manipulated intelligence the Bushies used to take us into a counter productive war. The netroots and others can keep the pressure on, but President Obama, despite the whining and crying from the Right, is giving the notion of reasonable accommodation a bad name. If he can stand up for some kind of health-care reform and send out surrogates to defend his economic plan, he can fight for the rule of law. No one has to have a crystal ball to know that Bush Part II is lurking in the presidential future. Obama’s resistance to giving up unchecked presidential powers and hold those that acted with malicious lawlessness to account is simply holding the door open for the next Cheney.

Geithner, as Member and Overseer, Forged Ties to Finance Club. Very long article that most people will not dig through. I came away thinking that Geithner is not evil, he is just not one to stray too far from the herd. Looking at his staff, again, not evil, they could be much worse, but where is the Krugman or Stiglitz mentored school. Geithner is not Greenspan, but he is not Galbraith either. Here again, Obama is a centrist, but for some reason Treasury is slightly right of center. The recovery plan is like someone shopped around for the best deal and went with the plan that seems to cost more then one that could work better and costs a little less.

To revisit Porter Goss, another genflecting Bushie that lacks the humility to admit he’s a meathead and have enough honor to retreat from the public realm,

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as “waterboarding” were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

Its almost like a law of physic that whenever a Conservative is outraged, in this case “slack-jawed”, its a signal flare indicating a huge lie is in construction, Torture Used to Try to Link Saddam with 9/11

When I testified last year before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties about Bush interrogation policies, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz) stated that former CIA Director Michael Hayden had confirmed that the Bush administration only waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashirit for one minute each. I told Franks I didn’t believe that. Sure enough, one of the newly released torture memos reveals that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. One of Stephen Bradbury’s 2005 memos asserted that “enhanced techniques” on Zubaydah yielded the identification of Mohammed and an alleged radioactive bomb plot by Jose Padilla. But FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, who interrogated Zubaydah from March to June 2002, wrote in the New York Times that Zubaydah produced that information under traditional interrogation methods, before the harsh techniques were ever used.

Why, then, the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush’s illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to a newly released report of the Senate Armed Services Committee. That link was never established.

The Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that Condoleezza Rice approved waterboarding on July 17, 2002 “subject to a determination of legality by the OLC.” She got it two weeks later from Bybee and John Yoo. Rice, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and George Tenet reassured the CIA in spring 2003 that the abusive methods were legal.

Franks has been in Congress for three terms. While not on the House Intelligence Committtee, he is on the Armed Services Committee, the Judicary Committee and the Anti-terrorism caucus. He gets around. While not part of the gang of four he is obviously ready to reguritate Hayden’s blatant lie about the use of waterborading and KSM. Should we be slack jawed at the either the willful ignorance of Frank or his propelling a rightwing myth.

It seems unlikely that Speaker Pelosi knew all the details of the methods used since they involved repeated torture to get at information that would have been political dynamite for Pelosi and Democrats to use in the 2004 election cycle.

Napolitano’s Right-Wing Mea Culpa

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano apologized Friday to a prominent veterans’ group for a report her office put out earlier this month, warning about the threat of “right wing extremists.”

[  ]…The American Legion took issue with those comments and the Legion’s National Commander David Rehbein wrote a letter to Secretary Napolitano condemning the report.

Why is Napolitano apologizing for a report, the substantial part of which was started under the Bush administration and included finding by three branches of the military,

The FBI documents show the bureau was working with investigators inside the nation’s uniformed services “in an effort to identify those current or former soldiers who pose a domestic terrorism threat.” The other agencies working with the FBI are the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division, the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

And why apologize to the American legion who is far from being a non-partisan organization. The last eight years they have shown a strong affinity for the neocon agenda.

Porter Goss and The Right Give Lessons In Betraying Our Nation’s Values

Former rabid Right Republican representative and Bush appointee to head the CIA Porter Goss ala former Bush speech writer Marc A. Thiessen writes an Op-ed in the WaPO that plays fast and lose with the truth, Security Before Politics

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as “waterboarding” were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

Memories of convenience combined with shrill false outrage are either part and parcel of the conservative mindset or one swears to adopt them as personality traits at the initiation ceremony. Pelosi: Bush Administration Never Briefed Congress On Waterboarding

Pelosi told reporters that the administration officials only told her and those in a classified briefing in the fall of 2002 that they believed they had the legal authority to do so, based on Office of Legal Counsel memos which have recently been released by the Obama administration.

“In that or any other briefing…we were not, and I repeat, were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation techniques were used,” said Pelosi. “What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel…opinions that they could be used, but not that they would.”

Seeing that Goss along with the rest of the torture supporting chorus is against any former  investigations and special prosecutors  looking into who did what and when, and what they thought their legal justifications were, Speaker Pelosi’s call for prosecutions where appropriate, the math is simple enough. Goss and Mathiessen seem to have something to hide, while Democratic leadership does not – more on this angle from Emptywheel – The Bush Administration Did Not Give Legally-Required Prior Notification to Congress. If what an increasing number of Bushies say is true – Cheney, Therissen, Goss – then they should want hearings and investigations to prove they were right and their critics wrong. Yet they would prefer that they fight the issue out in the media, hoping to score enough propaganda points that they win some wave of popular sentiment without any real burden of proof. CIA reportedly declined to closely evaluate harsh interrogations

But officials said the document did not assess the quality of those reports. It also did not attempt to determine which methods were yielding the best information, or explore whether the agency’s understanding of Al Qaeda would have suffered significantly without the use of coercive techniques.

“Certainly you got additional considerable volume of reporting when you started up with anything enhanced,” the U.S. intelligence official said. “But nobody went back to say exactly what were the conditions under which we learned that which was the most useful.”

In fact, Helgerson’s (CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson)team had steered away from that question by design, the official said, hoping that agency leaders would turn to interrogation experts for a thorough study on which methods were working and which should be discarded.

How can one say that Congress was “fully” informed when the CIA had to undertake an investigation of its own techniques. Then having done some investigating steer away from questions regarding the consequences of torture, its effectiveness or whether the information elicited was only obtainable through torture. Politicizing the CIA and questions of national security is something that Goss should know something about, forcing one to suspect his latest editorial contains more projections then fact, 2004- Porter Goss’ purge at the CIA will ensure the agency is full of Bush yes men — but it will seriously damage U.S. intelligence. The first thing Goss did was appoint an unqualified political crony one of his executive directors.

…on Sept. 24, he named Kostiw, his chief staffer on terrorism, as his executive director, Langley’s third in command. The prospect of Kostiw, a partisan GOP Hill staffer, effectively running day-to-day affairs at the CIA was too much for some of his prospective employees to take, however.

Goss is now accusing critics of Bush era law breaking as partisan hacks, yet like so many Bush appointments Goss himself was a political hack, known for his loyalty to Bush rather then his expertise at intelligence management. That went prominently on display with his hiring of meat shoplifter Kostiw.

Into this den of anxiety stepped Goss, hardly a reassuring figure. Though Goss is a former CIA case officer himself (“a hundred years ago,” sniffs a former official), it didn’t exactly endear him to the agency when he shed his reputation for relative bipartisanship and professionalism to write opinion articles accusing John Kerry and other Senate Democrats of slashing intelligence funding while he chaired the House Intelligence Committee. (Never mind that Goss himself cosponsored a 1995 deficit-reduction measure that entailed firing 20 percent of CIA personnel over five years.)

Even more vexing to CIA veterans was Goss’ willingness as a congressman to demean the agency if it meant protecting Bush. Though Langley had successfully prevailed on the Justice Department to investigate an administration leak of the identity of undercover operative Valerie Plame — a potentially criminal act aimed at discrediting Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, who had exposed Bush’s duplicity about supposed Iraqi attempts at acquiring nuclear material from Niger — Goss dismissed the entire scandal as “wild and unsubstantiated allegations.” He tastefully told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in October 2003, “Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I’ll have an investigation.”

Given Goss’s unhinged past behavior and record of poor judgment, his current assertion in the WaPO Op-ed is both surreal and ironic,

Unfortunately, much of the damage to our capabilities has already been done. It is certainly not trust that is fostered when intelligence officers are told one day “I have your back” only to learn a day later that a knife is being held to it. After the events of this week, morale at the CIA has been shaken to its foundation.

Goss did plenty of back stabbing when he was CIA director, now he is suddenly concerned about morale. Bush’s CIA chief abruptly resigns under a shadow of alleged ties to a corrupt congressman and leaves a spy agency in chaos.

“Porter Goss was such an absolute disaster for the agency and our national security that his departure comes not a day too soon.” Daalder, now at the Brookings Institution, castigated Goss for creating “a climate of fear and intimidation at the CIA that produced a reluctance to take risks, which is the last thing you want in an intelligence agency.”

[  ]…There is no obvious connection between Goss and Cunningham, aside from their having served together in the House for 13 years. But the real mystery is how Foggo became the CIA’s executive director, the official in charge of day-to-day operations at the entire agency: He was a midlevel field officer with a procurement background when Goss appointed him in 2004

Goss’s departure also points to his latest assertion that he fully informed Congress of his activities,

Goss’ final accomplishment as CIA director — such as it was — was forcing out of her job a highly respected veteran intelligence officer, Mary McCarthy, for the purported leaking of classified information about secret CIA prisons abroad. McCarthy has denied being the leaker — and her more obvious offenses were serving in the Clinton administration and donating $2,000 to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. “Goss and company were just looking for someone to fire to prove that they were serious about leak investigation,” Beers said. “And they could portray her as political.”

Why would such leaks even matter if having black sites to carry out torture was supposedly so well known to Congress. 2005- White House Has Tightly Restricted Oversight of C.I.A. Detentions

Some Democratic members of Congress say the restrictions are impeding effective oversight of the secret program, which is run by the Central Intelligence Agency and is believed to involve the detention of about three dozen senior Qaeda leaders at secret sites around the world.

“If we’re going to do our jobs, we have to be informed,” Mr. Holt said in an interview. “The two members of Congress who sometimes get briefed on these things have enough to do. It’s too much to expect them to do oversight on things they can’t talk about to anyone else, including other members.”

Four years ago there was some debate, at least from non-Bushies, about the lack of intelligence information and oversight. Now Goss thinks that everyone should simply take his word. One assumes we should do that because Goss, Republicans and the Bush White House had such a stellar record of honesty.

To date, Congress has not opened any inquiry or held hearings on the C.I.A.’s detention program, despite indications that agency personnel were involved in abuses of some prisoners. That record is in contrast to the public scrutiny that the Congressional armed services committees have imposed on the military’s involvement in interrogation and detention, including the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The restrictions also appear to have had the effect of limiting public discussion about the C.I.A.’s detention program.

Goss countered at the time that Congress had been thoroughly briefed. Obviously what thoroughly briefed means to Goss is a matter of interpretation that remains to this  day. There is the wildest possibility that Goss is correct. That being the case he should welcome the release of any evidence that lends credence to his argument in addition to the appointment of a special prosecutor. One that will, if Goss is correct in his version of events, vindicate Goss. Torture planning began in 2001, Senate report reveals

Not to worry, the president explained. “The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively, and determined them to be lawful.”

But that’s not how it happened. Staff reporting to Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., pored over 200,000 pages of documents and interviewed more than 70 people. After months going through the declassification process, their report is a stunningly frank tick-tock of the development of torture policy under the Bush administration. The sequence of events shows the early genesis of torture and also exposes repeated, vivid warnings — falling on deaf ears — that torture is a clumsy, wrongheaded and ineffective way to gather intelligence.

The report details how abusive interrogations began. “In December 2001,” the report says, “the DOD General Counsel’s office contacted the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for information about detainee ‘exploitation.'”

[  ]…In July 2002, a JPRA memo to the Pentagon included the warning that “the reliability and accuracy of this information is in doubt” if garnered from physical or psychological duress. “In other words,” the agency warned, “a subject in extreme pain may provide an answer, any answer, or many answers in order to get the pain to stop.”

The torture apologists at the National Review have always sounded like a bad Mad Magazine parody, they’re just getting worse. Obama Administration’s Assault on the American Warrior Commences

The target audience now includes the American Warrior. The Obama administration has abdicated the Warrior’s defense, refusing to appeal the 2nd Circuit’s decision that more photos should be released from investigations of the detention of enemy fighters from the battlefield. The Obama administration has sided with the ACLU and abandoned our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. This cannot stand.

Brace yourselves for the Obama administration’s full on assault on the American psyche…

Real warriors do not torture. Those that do are longer warriors they are war criminals. They are criminals whether they do it to us or we do it to them, Waterboarding Used to Be a Crime

As a result of such accounts, a number of Japanese prison-camp officers and guards were convicted of torture that clearly violated the laws of war. They were not the only defendants convicted in such cases. As far back as the U.S. occupation of the Philippines after the 1898 Spanish-American War, U.S. soldiers were court-martialed for using the “water cure” to question Filipino guerrillas.

More recently, waterboarding cases have appeared in U.S. district courts. One was a civil action brought by several Filipinos seeking damages against the estate of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. The plaintiffs claimed they had been subjected to torture, including water torture. The court awarded $766 million in damages, noting in its findings that “the plaintiffs experienced human rights violations including, but not limited to . . . the water cure, where a cloth was placed over the detainee’s mouth and nose, and water producing a drowning sensation.”

In 1983, federal prosecutors charged a Texas sheriff and three of his deputies with violating prisoners’ civil rights by forcing confessions. The complaint alleged that the officers conspired to “subject prisoners to a suffocating water torture ordeal in order to coerce confessions. This generally included the placement of a towel over the nose and mouth of the prisoner and the pouring of water in the towel until the prisoner began to move, jerk, or otherwise indicate that he was suffocating and/or drowning.”

The four defendants were convicted, and the sheriff was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The sentence for the sheriff did not undermine U.S. law enforcement. It was not an insult to every sheriff or police officer. It sent a clear message about morality and the law. Make no mistake, National Review, among others is making the hang them first ask questions later defense. If Americans stand up for values and the rule of law, the terrorists would have or will kill us as we sleep. This has been their response about war, justice and morality for as long as there has been a right-wing movement. The military and some some genuine Republicans have thought for over a hundred years that torture is unamerican, Retired Judge Advocates General Write To Leahy Condemning Waterboarding

In connection with those hearings the sitting Judge Advocates General of the military services were asked to submit written responses to a series of questions regarding “the use of a wet towel and dripping water to induce the misperception of drowning (i.e., waterboarding) . . .” Major General Scott Black, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General, Major General Jack Rives, U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General, Rear Admiral Bruce MacDonald, U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General, and Brigadier Gen. Kevin Sandkuhler, Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, unanimously and unambiguously agreed that such conduct is inhumane and illegal and would constitute a violation of international law, to include Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

We agree with our active duty colleagues. This is a critically important issue – but it is not, and never has been, a complex issue, and even to suggest otherwise does a terrible disservice to this nation. All U.S. Government agencies and personnel, and not just America’s military forces, must abide by both the spirit and letter of the controlling provisions of international law. Cruelty and torture – no less than wanton killing – is neither justified nor legal in any circumstance. It is essential to be clear, specific and unambiguous about this fact – as in fact we have been throughout America’s history, at least until the last few years. Abu Ghraib and other notorious examples of detainee abuse have been the product, at least in part, of a self-serving and destructive disregard for the well- established legal principles applicable to this issue. This must end.

The Rule of Law is fundamental to our existence as a civilized nation. The Rule of Law is not a goal which we merely aspire to achieve; it is the floor below which we must not sink. For the Rule of Law to function effectively, however, it must provide actual rules that can be followed. In this instance, the relevant rule – the law – has long been clear: Waterboarding detainees amounts to illegal torture in all circumstances. To suggest otherwise – or even to give credence to such a suggestion – represents both an affront to the law and to the core values of our nation.

The National Reveiw, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and a gutter full of other rightwingers have decided to continue the crusade against the “core values of our nation”, once again disgracing our flag as they wrap their garbage in it.

Winslow Homer: Children on the Beach, Sponge Fishing Nassau

Children on the Beach by Winslow Homer. Water color, 1881. As far as I am able to find out, currently in a private collection.

Sponge Fishing Nassau by Winslow Homer. Watercolor, 1885.

Interesting piece on an exhibition that included Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper. Great American Artists: Art Institute features work of Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper in two exhibits at one time. Hopper’s use of light and color was influenced by Homer.

Black and White seascape wallpaper

Frank Rich’s The Banality of Bush White House Evil

We’ve learned much, much more about America and torture in the past five years. But as Mark Danner recently wrote in The New York Review of Books, for all the revelations, one essential fact remains unchanged: “By no later than the summer of 2004, the American people had before them the basic narrative of how the elected and appointed officials of their government decided to torture prisoners and how they went about it.” When the Obama administration said it declassified four new torture memos 10 days ago in part because their contents were already largely public, it was right.

Yet we still shrink from the hardest truths and the bigger picture: that torture was a premeditated policy approved at our government’s highest levels; that it was carried out in scenarios that had no resemblance to “24”; that psychologists and physicians were enlisted as collaborators in inflicting pain; and that, in the assessment of reliable sources like the F.B.I. director Robert Mueller, it did not help disrupt any terrorist attacks.

Since torture apologists keep repeating the inanity that the release of those four new legal memos about toture have opened up some pandora’s box of national security issues, its thus worth repeating that the only thing new were slightly more details about the bizarre legal reasoning behind the justification for breaking well establshed law to torture. Scott Horton has a video of   Keith Olbermann who points out among other incidents, the U.S. prosecuted the Japanese for giving troops the “water cure”. I’m not fond of the exceptionalism argument, maybe because it is invoked so often, but in so many cases over multiple conflicts we have prosecuted those that have committed war crimes.

Republican Clown Posse and Obama Continues to Dance Around Important Issues of Law

Mad clowns without a clue

RNC Members Want To Escalate The Name Calling. In which, seriously, a group of Republicans are meeting to “rename” the Democratic Party. Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the Democratic party started out calling the party the Democratic Republican Party. The name was shortened to The Democratic Party at a national convention in 1844. As far as I know the Right-wing party has no legal authority to rename any political party. Though should Republicans insist on playing silly games it might have some unintended consequences. The Democratic Party is enjoying a solid majority party identification among voters and most independent voters lean Democrat on the issues. As Democratic programs start to have a positive affect on the economy and foreign policy, much of the public would then start to associate positive attributes, thanks to rightwing Republicans, to socialism. I would prefer that we maintain some form of free market economy or like most Americans a social safety net capitalism that includes looking out for vulnerable Americans with food stamps, Medicare, workman’s comp, etc. President Obama is up to his neck in status quo conservative economic advisors.

On the other hand, maybe President Obama and Democratic leadership will get tired of the insane clown posse biting their ankles. Democrats realizing that the crazy never rest no matter how hard Dems try to be bipartisan, might get fed up enough to teach the clowns a lesson in humility, Obama Resisting Push for Interrogation Panel

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and other top Senate Democrats endorsed Mr. Obama’s view on Thursday, telling reporters at a news conference at the Capitol that they preferred to wait for the results of an investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee expected late this year..

[  ]…Ms. Pelosi, however, renewed her call for an independent panel to investigate the waterboarding and other harsh techniques approved by the Bush administration, a position shared by many of the more liberal Democrats in the House.

“I have always been for a truth commission, because I think this is very important,” Ms. Pelosi said.

Besides, ironically the president, who would be against the truth coming out. Easy question, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader. Boehner was against releasing any torture memos. Now that they have been released and for some reason seem to embarrass Republicans who have made no secret of their fondness for torture and law breaking, Boehner wants more torture related materials released, but only those materials, if there are such things, that show how violating the law was good for America. Some sweat probably dripped into Boehner’s jack boots when President Obama made no assurances that any other released documentation would not validate Boehner and the Right’s claim that torture contains twelve different essential vitamins that build healthy minds and bodies,

The president did not foreclose the release of more documents, officials briefed on the session said. But Mr. Obama suggested to Mr. Boehner that the additional information would not be definitive on the value of the information obtained from the detainees, they said.

Although a full-scale independent inquiry now appears unlikely anytime soon, the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding and other techniques that critics say crossed the line into torture could still be examined by a variety of Congressional panels in addition to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Right, absent facts, is relying on this recent report of public opinion to continue the cover up the criminal activities of the Bush era, 58% Say Release of CIA Memos Endangers National Security

Fifty-eight percent (58%) believe the Obama administration’s recent release of CIA memos about the harsh interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects endangers the national security of the United States. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 28% believe the release of the memos helps America’s image abroad.

I wonder how long those figures would stand if the American public knew how many Americans were killed, maimed or crippled because of the abuse at Abu Ghraib and in Afghanistan.Cover-Up of Abu Ghraib Torture Puts Troops at Risk. It would also help to get America back on its traditional moral course if President Obama would show a little more initiative on the issue, rather then thinking he can some how heal the country by leaving  an open wound.

We already know that Conservatives are not only willing, but anxious to tell the most blatant lies about thier immorality and violations of long established law, Fox News figures pick up tenuous claim that harsh interrogations thwarted L.A. plot

Neil Cavuto, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Catherine Herridge joined other Fox News figures in advancing Marc Thiessen’s claim that the use of harsh interrogations techniques on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed “stopped an attack on the Library Tower.” But the Bush administration has said that the attack was thwarted more than a year before Mohammed was captured.

A topic that I covered in more detail in this post. The rightie noise machine and elected pols are lying about toture never occuring, then lying about when it happened and its effectiveness, that should signal to those wavering moderates in Congress that while Republicans would be more shrill then ever should we have add a  truth commision and a special prosecutor to their things to whine about list, Republicans cannot win this battle on the facts.

update: The release of the torture memos, then the playing down a truth commission and now deciding to release torture photos sends a real mixed signal to the public, Obama Administration to Release Detainee Abuse Photos; Former CIA Official Says Former Colleagues ‘Don’t Believe They Have Cover Anymore’

In a letter from the Justice Department to a federal judge yesterday, the Obama administration announced that the Pentagon would turn over to the American Civil Liberties Union 44 photographs showing detainee abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq during the Bush administration.

The photographs are part of a 2003 Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU for all information relating to the treatment of detainees — the same battle that led, last week, to President Obama’s decision to release memos from the Bush Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel providing legal justifications for harsh interrogation methods that human rights groups call torture.

Courts had ruled against the Bush administration’s attempts to keep the photographs from public view. ACLU attorney Amrit Singh tells ABC News that “the fact that the Obama administration opted not to seek further review is a sign that it is committed to more transparency.”

Not that Bush has not been already, but I wonder if Obama’s plan is to punish the Bush administration, release by release, using the court of public opinion. Thus saving himself the political battle that would go with more formal proceedings.

Torture, Republicans and National Security Party Games

Republican party games

Hannity Offers To Be Waterboarded For Charity (By Charles Grodin!). Chuck should have stipulated that the waterboarding be under real world conditions. It stops when the waterboarders decide to stop, not when Hannity’s mascara starts to run.

Should Joe Scarborough be congradulated for apparently working without a script. If he was working from a script, his producers might have given some actual facts before the craziness was verbalized,

Scarborough: And you know, David, there are people I have great respect for that believe that waterboarding is torture and what makes this issue, and I would actually like to have a public debate about waterboarding. What makes waterboarding such a complicated issue is that it was in fact the most effective technique that led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed by its use on prisoners before Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured and then it led to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed revealing some of al Qaeda’s greatest secrets afterward through waterboarding.

Former F.B.I. supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005 Ali Soufan writes in My Tortured Decision

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.

Scarborough must be suffering from some kind of mental disconnect. In order to have an honest debate, both sides have to be honest. To date there is no evidence that information gathered from any detainees, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed(KSM). The FBI does not believe that torture per se produced any singular actionable results that could not have been obtained through methods outlined in guides like the Military Field manual,

The second-guessing of the C.I.A.’s methods inside the government began long before Mr. Obama’s election. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the government agency with the greatest knowledge of Al Qaeda in 2001, chose not to participate in the C.I.A. interrogation program after agents became uneasy about the earliest use of harsh methods in 2002 on Abu Zubaydah, a long-sought terrorist facilitator.

In an interview with Vanity Fair last year, the F.B.I. director since 2001, Robert S. Mueller III, was asked whether any attacks had been disrupted because of intelligence obtained through the coercive methods. “I don’t believe that has been the case,” Mr. Mueller said. (A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, John Miller, said on Tuesday, “The quote is accurate.”)

The question as to whether torture works or has produced actionable intelligence has always been a red-herring. Once the torture is done it is relatively easy to claim you had no choice or that in your defense, it saved lives. You cannot turn back the clock and try again using the methods that worked for Mr. Soufan. Matthew Ygleias notes how torture wrecks havoc on any checks and balances in the legal system, in addition to putting those that use such tactics in the position of trying to cover their tracks. The start of the troture begin before the tortured legal reasonong of the Bybee/Bradley memos from the OLC and the decision to toture was not motivated by pure as the driven snow thoughts in the vain of some mediocre spy program to save thousands from a ticking time bomb. Torture was used as a form of pressure on detainees to confess to connections between al-Qaida , Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link

“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

“There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.

Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies.”

Why is the Right, ranging from Cheney to Joe Scarborough and Hannity pushing back so hard on the torture emeos and the possibility of a special prosecutor. National security and Iraq and is their legacy. Scarborough has already run out the predictable fringe Right response. Investigating the criminal acts and cover up of those acts by administration officals and lawyers is to “criminalize political differences”. A few thosand Americans have been killed in a trillion dollar war by an administration that acted more in the their poltical interests then the interests of the country. The politicalization of America’s common good was trashed by Joe’s friends. If Bush, Cheney, Bybee, Yoo and the rest are held accountable it will be because they mixed in a pinch of national security to justify their purely political acts. If President Obama should back down because he is afraid these guys won’t like him anymore. In a bizarre way Karl Rove maks the case in his latest hachtacular column for the WSJ ( notice that even out of power the Right still has more voices on more prime media soapboxes then Democrats) “Great leaders aren’t defined by consensus”. Ignoring the last few weeks of Republicans claiming that Obama has not been bipartisan enough, Karl is right in general, not the specifics, Obama should not seek consensus on doing the right thing. he should speed along the appointment of a special prosecutor. The we can most assuredly read Karls’ column about the sudden importance of consensus.

Denver Skyline wallpaper

Denver Skyline wallpaper

Warren County to Obama: Keep your ‘filthy money’

“I’ll let Warren County go broke before taking any of Obama’s filthy money,” Commissioner Mike Kilburn said.

ODOT spokesman Scott Varner said the money was specifically for transit improvements in rural areas to improve transportation for disabled people, seniors and others needing access to health care and educational opportunities.

“I’m tired of paying for people who don’t have,” Kilburn said. “As Reagan said, ‘Government is not the answer, it’s the problem.'”

If these was about some honest difference of opinion on spending priorities or general fiscal policy Kilburn would have a record of cosistancy when it comes to rejecting federal funds. The  “Obama’s filthy money” tells the tale. Kilborn was happy to take federal money when it was Bush’s filthy money. He ranted about getting federal funds for a fence to keep out illegal aliens.

Cheney’s Enormous Tea Bags: Now He’s Worried about Deficits

In 2002, when Dick Cheney was putting together plans for another round of tax cuts for the wealthy, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill tried to dissuade him, noting that in less than a year the administration had already turned the $400 billion Clinton surplus into a $158 billion deficit.
“I worry that we’re seeing a situation or this administration not only committing us the huge deficits for the future, but is also redefining that relationship between government, on the one hand, and the private sector on the other.”
– Cheney

Cheney’s reply would become infamous. “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter,” he said, according to O’Neill’s account of the exchange.

Reagan went off the deep end, slashing taxes without any reduction in spending. Seeing that the federal budget was tanking, he changed course and ended up increasing taxes. Not to credit Reagan, Democrats in Congress and a few Republicans capable of basic math pointed out to Ronnie that his legacy would be badly damaged if he left the economy in shambles. Cheney and Bush took Reagan’s course and said damn the consequences. Now Cheney is out of office and his administration’s legacy is the worse economic crisis in 80 years. Cheney and Company having burned down the barn, thinks it is irresponsible to rebuild it,

CHENEY: [In] the course here of trying to fix the downturn in the economy, that admittedly a lot of people are concerned about, we need to address — although we have had downturns before — I worry that we’re seeing a situation or this administration not only committing us the huge deficits for the future, but is also redefining that relationship between government, on the one hand, and the private sector on the other.

And I think we have to be very, very cautious. I think we’ve gone beyond what reasonably we could expect by way of intrusion into the private sector.

Its nice to see an man of Cheney’s year suddenly have an epiphany about governance, including the realization to be cautious and prudent in one’s judgments. Too bad that, besides being blatantly dishonest, he did not govern that way when he had the chance.