August 26, 2007
Spare Me the Ravers, But...
By Deborah Newell Tornello a.k.a. litbrit
Damn. Just...damn. Go read this (I've linked to Common Dreams,
since the source article in Britain's The Independent seems to be, er, not available; the article was first published in The Independent, now with a working link):
My final argument - a clincher, in my view - is that the Bush administration has screwed up everything - militarily, politically diplomatically - it has tried to do in the Middle East; so how on earth could it successfully bring off the international crimes against humanity in the United States on 11 September 2001?
Well, I still hold to that view. Any military which can claim - as the Americans did two days ago - that al-Qa’ida is on the run is not capable of carrying out anything on the scale of 9/11. “We disrupted al-Qa’ida, causing them to run,” Colonel David Sutherland said of the preposterously code-named “Operation Lightning Hammer” in Iraq’s Diyala province. “Their fear of facing our forces proves the terrorists know there is no safe haven for them.” And more of the same, all of it untrue.
Within hours, al-Qa’ida attacked Baquba in battalion strength and slaughtered all the local sheikhs who had thrown in their hand with the Americans. It reminds me of Vietnam, the war which George Bush watched from the skies over Texas - which may account for why he this week mixed up the end of the Vietnam war with the genocide in a different country called Cambodia, whose population was eventually rescued by the same Vietnamese whom Mr Bush’s more courageous colleagues had been fighting all along.
But - here we go. I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11. It’s not just the obvious non sequiturs: where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon? Why have the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania) been muzzled? Why did flight 93’s debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field? Again, I’m not talking about the crazed “research” of David Icke’s Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster - which should send any sane man back to reading the telephone directory.
I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers - whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C - would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower - the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon [sic] Brothers Building) - which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering - very definitely not in the “raver” bracket - are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be “fraudulent or deceptive”.
Journalistically, there were many odd things about 9/11.
August 25, 2007
What is to be done?
By Kathy G.
What are we going to do about these people?
By “these people” I mean the Bush administration. How are we as a nation going to come to terms with the crimes and abuses of this President and his cronies? You know, the illegal (by international standards) war they started. The torture. The spying on political enemies. The unlawful detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The lying to Congress. The criminal negligence during Katrina. The outing of an undercover intelligence agent for petty political revenge. The politically motivated firings of
state attorneys general U.S. attorneys. The clearly unconstitutional claims of executive power. The corrupt deals with war profiteer contractors in Iraq. And on and on and on, the whole sickening mess.
One thing I feel certain we ought to do is to impeach this assclown ASAP. I see no political downside to that one whatsoever.
But beyond that, I’m stuck. Bush, Cheney et al. certainly ought to have their sorry asses hauled before an international tribunal and be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. But sadly -- na ga ha pen.
And have there ever been a President and Vice President more deserving of impeachment? But that probably won’t happen either, and I’m not sure it would even be politically productive. If successful, it would remove Bush and Cheney from office, which of course would be a blessing. But even impeachment and conviction would not necessarily establish a clear standard as to what are and are not acceptable actions by the chief executive. And what if, as seems likely, the effort to impeach failed?
I’m agnostic about the impeachment question (except for impeaching Gonzales, which to me is a no-brainer), but I believe it’s vital for the health of our democracy that Bush and company be held accountable in some meaningful way. Otherwise their behavior in office will set a horrible new precedent – “defining deviancy down” is the phrase, I believe. And next time out those sons of bitches will push the boundaries even further.
We’ve seen it happen in our lifetime. Every two-term Republican President we’ve had from Nixon on has provoked a constitutional crisis: Watergate, Iran-contra, and now the Bush scandals. We seem to have learned nothing from any of these crises – except that the Republicans have learned to be a lot smarter about covering up their crimes. Worse, you see the same people who were discredited in previous Republican criminal regimes coming back again and again. Karl Rove, for example, got his start as a teenage dirty trickster during the Nixon administration. Even people like John Poindexter and Elliot Abrams, who were convicted of crimes connected to the Iran-contra scandal, came back to serve in high-level positions in the Bush administration!
That is seriously fucked up. And I’m sickened by the idea of these bastards once again getting away with it. It reminds me of the lines from that great Watergate-era Bob Dylan song, “Hurricane” – “All the criminals in their coats and their ties / Are free to drink martinis, and watch the sun rise.” Jesus, what a bitter and depressing image. But you just know it’s going to happen.
And the Democrats, unfortunately, are not helping things. They haven’t exactly been profiles in courage on this issue, and that’s putting it mildly. I haven’t heard a single major Democratic presidential candidate even acknowledge that the Bush regime has provoked a constitutional crisis and that we need to find a way to resolve it. They seem as if they just desperately want this problem to disappear.
There is, however, an alternative to head-in-the-sand denial on the one hand, and impeachment on the other. In a post from a few weeks back that did not get nearly the attention it deserved, Mark Schmitt made a novel suggestion as to how we should deal with this mess: transitional justice, a process that would be modeled on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal. He explains:
A post-Bush Truth Commission would have as its goal to discover as much as possible about the full range of conduct during the recent period, not only violations of law but other practices that had the effect of impeding democracy, and making recommendations about preventing them in the future, which might include everything from constitutional amendment to changes in oversight to suggestions for the press. The idea would be to find the boundaries within which democracy can work – lines which should not be crossed. The commission would not be empowered to indict anybody, but should be delegated subpoena power (this is legally complicated) along with a limited power to grant immunity to witnesses, as well as a complete commitment of cooperation from the next administration.
As they say, read the whole thing.
What do you all think? I’d be especially interested in hearing from anyone who has knowledge of or experience with transitional justice processes. What are the strengths and weaknesses of such a system? Would it be a good fit for the crimes and abuses of the Bush administration? What would the obstacles be to setting up such a commission and making sure it would be effective?
I’m dead serious about this. This is one of the most important conversations that those of us who care about the future of our democracy could be having.
January 23, 2007
I Was Wrong
Alright, unpleasant post to write, but I was wrong: The Bush administration's health plan is a trap. I'd counsel Democrats to oppose it, but that'll hardly be necessary. The surprising outcome would be if they even notice it. And this comes, I hasten to underscore, from someone who was willing, eager even, to give the Bush administration a chance, to believe the Democratic majority had spurred them towards more pragmatic, constructive policy-making. Fool me once...
What the early reports either didn't make clear or didn't know was that the plan's changes to health care deductibility don't set limits, they're creating, instead, a standard deduction of $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 for families. My initial understanding was that those were caps: Above them, you couldn't deduct anything further. Below them, you simply deducted what you spent. That was incorrect. Instead, everyone will get precisely those deductions no matter what they spend. If you're 23 and your health care costs $2,000 a year, you still deduct $7,500, pocketing the difference. It would, in that situation, be economically foolish of you to purchase high quality, comprehensive coverage. And that goes all the way up the line. The intent here is clear: To incentivize the purchase of low-quality, high-deductible care, particularly among the healthy, young, and/or rich. To degrade the risk pool, and encourage HSAs. To reduce coverage, costs, and health security.
It's almost laughably wrongheaded, and won't survive an instant in Congress. Pete Stark, chair of the House Health Subcommittee, has already dismissed the idea of hearings. Other Democrats, I expect, will react much the same. Bush is responding to America's fears of high health costs, inadequate coverage, and increased risks with a proposal that promises to further weaken their coverage, heighten their risk and, when they get sick, increase their costs. It's a wonder he's even bothering. As for me, I made the mistake of extending good-faith to an administration that, time and again, has proven it deserves none. The optimist in me has been grounded for a week, and won't get dessert for two.
Also at Tapped
May 13, 2006
New Day, New Poll
Yesterday, lots of my fellow bloggers were getting nervous about the Washington Post poll that showed 63-35 support for the NSA spying program. Today's a happier day, with a poll out from Newsweek that has Americans opposing the program 53-41. Americans' minds still aren't made up on this issue, and while I'm concerned by the fact that the Republican sound-bite ("We need this to save your life from terrorists!") is much more easily transmitted by the media than our arguments, nobody should rely too heavily on yesterday's numbers.
Another result from the poll (copied by Atrios), shows John Edwards' favorability rating towering over the other Democrats. His 49% favorables and 24% unfavorables put him at +25, while Hillary stands at +11, Dean at -3, Gore at +6, Ted Kennedy at -2, and Kerry at +9.
March 12, 2006
Spying is Juicy, Legality is Dry
I agreed with Nicholas when he said that the warrantless wiretapping scandal isn't the thing to run on, and I think the headline of this article -- "Feingold Wants Bush Censured for Spying" -- shows part of the reason why. The word "warrant" doesn't appear once in the entire text of the article, and the legal issues driving the case for censure are largely obscured.
The real problem isn't just that Bush was eavesdropping. Most people don't mind eavesdropping, if you follow the law and get a warrant. The real problem is that Bush was eavesdropping without following the law and getting a warrant. Illegal behavior of this kind is something that most people oppose. But since spying is much juicier than mere matters of legality, the media will pitch the debate as one about spying.
Perhaps a legal case for impeachment could be built out of the warrantless wiretapping scandal. But especially given the media coverage we're likely to get, other things are far more likely to move public opinion.
February 13, 2006
Who's Leaking Now?
January 07, 2006
Let's Talk About Watergate
The mainstream Democratic position -- and my position -- on the NSA scandal is that wiretapping people reasonably suspected of terrorism is a good thing, but that (1) There needs to be oversight so that the President isn't misusing his power and (2) Bush broke the law in not going through the super-easy FISA court that can even give a retroactive warrant. So if one of our readers happens to be charged with brewing up the official list of Democratic talking points, let me ask you to make some explicit or implicit mention of Watergate. I'm guessing that "We want Bush to wiretap terrorists too -- we just want somebody to make sure he isn't bugging our headquarters" will seem reasonable to ordinary folks. After all, a recent and reviled Republican president did try something like that. It allows us to segue into how easy we made the oversight procedures and how Bush didn't follow them anyway, and it would do wonders in clearing up an issue where confusion (as exemplified in the awful poll question from a week ago) is rampant. It also sets us up pretty nicely in case he did send the spies to snoop on some Democrats.
October 20, 2005
Tax and Spend Republicans
As the Carpetbagger notes, the tax plan floated by Bush's reform commission isn't getting half the fire from Democrats that it's getting from Republicans. It's like a level of Contra over there. And not one of those early, wimpy levels, we're talking scattershots and screen slowdown and epileptic seizures from all the tiny balls of death darting across the screen.
We've yet to see what the official document says, and we've no idea what Bush's ultimate recommendations will be, but assuming the President remains in the neighborhood of his commission's report, we're looking at a crack-up that splits right down the center of the conservative coalition. Taxes are the lifeblood of modern conservatism, this is Howard Jarvis stuff. You can't have apostasy there. And post-Miers, if Bush tries, the disappointment and head-shaking sadness we're seeing from Kristol and Frum will give way to a primal scream and war paint from the more, uh, energetic members of the conservative coalition.
Mystery Pollster, today, argued that Bush's numbers really can't fall further till his base deserts him. On Miers, that wasn't happening. But Miers is an elite issue, a disappointment in the upper echelons of the Republican punditocracy -- the base has remained fairly trusting on her. But if the President tells them he's about to take their health and home deductions and the antitax coalition tells them they're getting screwed, that'll change real quick.
Generally, when you need your base, you pander to them. Whether it's incidental or intentional, Bush seems to have gone in the other direction. That's making for better policy, to be sure, but it's putting the Republican coalition in real danger. It's like having my cake and eating it too.
October 15, 2005
The Impulse Towards Hackery
Daniel Gross on the hunt for the next Fed chairman:
the biggest danger for Bush is not that the next Fed chairman will be lax when it comes to fighting inflation. It's that he will use his Congressional testimony or his public speeches to speak honestly about the implications of the fiscal policy, to note that the pledges to reduce deficits and make tax cuts permanent are mutually exclusive, or to argue that the stock market can't magically cure Social Security's long-term imbalance.
Thus considered, it behooves Bush to choose the candidate least likely to speak out. Someone who, when push comes to shove, will go with partisan instincts over academic leanings and whose willingness to speak truth to power goes only so far.
If you're Bush, you need someone who has a first-rate economic mind but the soul of a political hack. You need someone who was intimately involved in the selling of the fiscal policy in the first place and who will go to great lengths to defend it. You need someone who can argue in a textbook that deficits influence interest rates and then argue as a White House adviser that they don't—and still maintain an academic reputation. You need someone who campaigned hard for you in 2004. In other words, you need the guy Chris Suellentrop dubbed a "first-rate economist, tax-cut champion, presidential Yes Man." President Bush, you need Glenn Hubbard.
September 22, 2005
Some days, you look at our government run by plutocrats, our media populated by faux-centrist hacks, and our agencies led by college-era cronies of campaign contributors and liberalism really does look dead. And then, some days you hear the President's animatronic press secretary justifying union-busting on grounds of affirmative action and you realize, no, it's not dead, it just went to a Republican kegger and ended up really, really, cracked out:
MR. McCLELLAN: The Davis-Bacon. Well, what --
Q Which is a wage cut.
MR. McCLELLAN: We suspended that act for the reasons that we stated previously. This will open up access to more business -- small businesses, including women-owned and minority-owned businesses. It cuts through the red tape and helps us move forward quickly to address the needs of the people in the region and to provide substantial savings. We're talking about savings here in terms of spending. That's an important part of that, too.
Q But how does lowering people's wages help with rebuilding the economy?
Q Was it a good idea?
MR. McCLELLAN: We actually talked about this last week. You might want to look back. Claude Allen briefed on this and talked about our position on this and why this was another important area to cut through some of the red tape that prevents us from moving forward as quickly as possible. And it opens it up to more people, so that women-owned and minority-owned businesses can participate more fully in that, as well.
What this country needs is the suspension and eventual repeal of all laws that impede affirmative action in federal contracting! So glad the Bush administration, after filing contrary brief in the Michigan cases, has flipped their position. I guess when you end up on the right side, being against the policy before being for it is no great crime.