HOME



Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405



Twitter:
@digby56
@DavidOAtkins

emails:
Digby:
digbysez at gmail
David:
isnospoon at gmail
Dennis:
satniteflix at gmail








Infomania

Salon
Buzzflash
Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Slate
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic
Common Dreams
AmericanPoliticsJournal
Smirking Chimp
CJR Daily
consortium news

Blog-o-rama

Eschaton
BagNewsNotes
Daily Kos
Political Animal
Driftglass
Firedoglake
Taylor Marsh
Spocko's Brain
Talk Left
Suburban Guerrilla
Scoobie Davis
Echidne
Electrolite
Americablog
Tom Tomorrow
Left Coaster
Angry Bear
oilprice.com
Seeing the Forest
Cathie From Canada
Frontier River Guides
Brad DeLong
The Sideshow
Liberal Oasis
BartCop
Juan Cole
Rising Hegemon
alicublog
Unqualified Offerings
Alas, A Blog
RogerAiles
Lean Left
Oliver Willis
skippy the bush kangaroo
uggabugga
Crooked Timber
discourse.net
Amygdala
the talking dog
David E's Fablog
The Agonist


Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008 08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008 09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008 10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008 12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009 01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009 06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009 07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009 08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009 09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009 10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009 11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009 12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010 01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010 02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010 03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010 04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010 05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010 06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010 07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010 08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010 09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010 10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010 11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010 12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011 01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011 02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011 03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011 04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011 05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011 06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011 07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011 08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011 09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011 10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011 11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011 12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012 01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012 02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012 03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012 04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012 05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012 06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012 07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012 08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012 09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012 10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012 11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012 12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013 01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013 02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013 03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013 04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013 05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013 06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013 07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013 08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013 09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013 10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013 11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013 12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014 01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014 02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014 03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014 04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014 05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014 06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014 07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014


 

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Hullabaloo


Saturday, May 31, 2014

 
Saturday Night at the Movies



SIFF-ting through cinema: Wrap party!

By Dennis Hartley



The 40th Seattle International Film Festival is entering its final week, so this will be my wrap-up report. Hopefully, some of these will be coming soon to a theater near you…




















Lucky Them- This wry, bittersweet road movie/romantic comedy from Seattle-based director Megan Griffiths benefits greatly from the pairing of Toni Collette and Thomas Haden Church, playing a rock journalist and first-time documentarian (respectively). They team up to search for a celebrated local singer-songwriter who mysteriously disappeared. What they find may not be what they were initially seeking. It reminded me of the 1998 UK rock 'n' roll comedy Still Crazy. And for dessert, there's a surprise cameo!


(Presentation dates have already past)






Abuse of Weakness- In this semi-autobiographical drama from writer-director Catherine Breillat, Isabelle Huppert plays a director who becomes partially paralyzed after a stroke. As she's recovering, she brainstorms her next project. She is transfixed by (an allegedly) reformed con man (Kool Shen) appearing on a TV chat show. She decides he will star in her movie. The charismatic hustler happily ingratiates himself into Huppert's life...with less than noble intentions. A psychological thriller recalling the films of Claude Chabrol.


(Plays June 5 and 8)





Blind Dates - Is there a level of humor below "deadpan"? If so, I'd say that this film from Georgian director Levan Koguashvili has it in spades. A minimalist meditation on the state of modern love in Tbilisi (in case you'd been wondering), the story focuses on the romantic travails of a sad sack Everyman named Sandro (Andro Sakhvarelidze), a 40-ish schoolteacher who still lives with his parents. Sandro and his best bud (Archil Kikodze) spend their spare time arranging double dates via singles websites, with underwhelming results. Then it happens...Sandro meets his dream woman (Ia Sukhitashvili). There's a mutual attraction, but one catch. Her husband's getting out of jail...very soon. This is one of those films that sneaks up on you; archly funny, and surprisingly poetic. Here's a gauge: if you're a huge fan of Jim Jarmusch (or his idol, Aki Kaurismaki), you'll love this.


(Plays June 4 and 8)





African Metropolis- This omnibus of six short multi-genre stories provides a showcase for the talents of a half dozen emerging African filmmakers. The only connecting thread between the shorts is that each one is set against a modern urban backdrop (in the cities of Abidjan, Cairo, Dakar, Johannesburg, Lagos, and Nairobi). The collection is somewhat hit and miss; for me it was an even 50/50 split, with half of the vignettes not really going anywhere. The most absorbing piece is called To Repel Ghosts, by Ivory Coast filmmaker Philippe Lacote. It's a haunting, impressionistic speculation based on a 1988 visit to Abidjan made by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, shortly before his untimely death at age 27.


(Plays June 3 and 4)

















This May Be the Last Time- Did you know that the eponymous Rolling Stones song shares the same roots with a venerable Native-American tribal hymn, that is still sung in Seminole and Muscogee churches to this day? While that's far from the main thrust of Sterlin Harjo's documentary, it's but one of its surprises. This is really two films in one. On a very personal level (similar in tone to a 2013 SIFF documentary selection, Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell), Harjo investigates a family story concerning the disappearance of his Oklahoman Seminole grandfather in 1962. After a perfunctory search by local authorities turned up nothing, tribal members pooled their resources and continued to look. Some members of the search party kept up spirits by singing traditional Seminole and Muscogee hymns...which inform the second level of Harjo's film. Through interviews with tribal members and ethnomusicologists, he traces the roots of this unique genre, connecting the dots between the hymns, African-American spirituals, Scottish and Appalachian music. It is both a revelatory history lesson, and a moving personal journey.


(Plays June 1)




The Stunt Man- “How tall was King Kong?” That’s the $64,000 question, posed several times by Eli Cross (Peter O’Toole), the larger-than-life director of the film-within-the-film in Richard Rush’s 1980 drama. Once you discover that King Kong was but “3 foot, six inches tall”, it becomes clear that the fictional director’s query is actually code for a much bigger question: “What is reality?” That is the question to ponder as you take this wild ride through the Dream Factory. Because from the moment our protagonist, a fugitive on the run from the cops (Steve Railsback) tumbles ass over teakettle onto Mr. Cross’s set, where he is in the midst of filming an art-house flavored WW I action adventure, his (and the audience’s) concept of what is real and what isn’t becomes hazy, to say the least. O’Toole chews major scenery, ably supported by a cast that includes Barbara Hershey and Allen Garfield. Despite lukewarm critical reception upon original release, it's now considered a classic. There's a unique Seattle tie-in; a legendary 43-week run at the Guild 45th Theatre is credited for cementing the film’s cult status (and for reviving O'Toole's then-flagging career). This is a movie for people who love the movies.


(Plays June 1; director Richard Rush is scheduled to attend)



The Pawnbroker- SIFF has secured a newly-struck print for the 50th anniversary of this Sidney Lumet film. Rod Steiger delivers a searing performance as a Holocaust survivor, suffering from (what we now know as) PTSD. Hostile, paranoid and insular, Steiger’s character is a walking powder keg, needled daily not only by haunting memories of the concentration camp, but by the fear and dread permeating the tough, crime-ridden NYC neighborhood where his pawnshop is located. When he finally comes face-to-face with the darkest parts of his soul, and the inevitable breakdown ensues, it’s expressed in a literal “silent scream” that is arguably the most astonishing moment in Steiger’s impressive canon of work. Morton S. Fine and David Friedkin adapted their screenplay from Edward Lewis Wallant’s novel. Lumet's intense character study is a prime example of the move toward “social realism” in American film that flourished in the early 1960s.


(Plays June 3)


Previous posts with related themes:








 
QOTD: Adam Corolla

by digby

Via Raw Story:

In an interview with The Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein, comedian Adam Carolla dismissed criticism of rich Americas like Donald Trump, stating that the rich are, “better than poor people. They just are.”

“They’re better than poor people. They just are,” Carolla replied. “I’ve hung around with plenty of poor people, now I’ve hung out with rich people. They work harder, generally. More focused. The folks I grew up with, the poor people I grew up with, fairly lethargic, did a lot of complaining, they smoked a little too much, drank a little too much, blamed everyone but themselves a little too much.”

He explained that there are no rich people who have inherited their wealth because none of his rich friends were born that way:

“A lot of them had the advantage of growing up with a family that was intact, that would let them go off and do things that would, later on, enable them to become wealthy,” he explained.

Carolla also pointed out that the rich give “a hell of a lot more to charity.”

Turning to his own charitable contributions, Carolla admitted that he could give more but concluded, “I do the ultimate charity — I pay a shitload in taxes.”

He's always been a voice of the bros, ever since that vacuous piece of garbage "The Man Show." But I think he performs a valuable service, nonetheless. Whenever you worry that your instincts are wrong about what these wingnuts really think he's one of the guys who'll get you right.

.


 
Big media Atkins

by digby

ICYMI: David Atkins is now one of the regular week-end bloggers over at the Washington Monthly blog Political Animal.  He'll still be contributing his stylings here, but now he's got a new venue with a different audience.

Huzzah for David!


.
 
The murder of Dr Tiller

by digby

... was five years ago today:

Sunday, May 31, 2009


They Cannot Know

by digby


I just want to give a rousing "shove it" to all the right wingers who have absolutely no sympathy for women and their loved ones who are faced with the horrible prospect of a life threatening delivery of a fetus that is destined for an extremely short, brutal, painful life. These strangers have decided that they have a right to dictate what people must do in the most gut wrenching, complicated situations with which any human being can be confronted. Who do these people think they are?

I've heard a lot of people saying recently that the abortion debate has changed because now that people can see the cute little baby inside the woman's body with the ultrasound we feel the humanity of it. Perhaps that's true. But that same technology also allows us to see the heartbreaking, doomed baby in the third trimester and we know that it will put the mother's life and health at risk to carry that pregnancy to term. For all the joy that the ultrasound brings to the happily expectant parent, nothing could be worse that the horrifying news that a late term ultrasound shows a fatal birth defect. This technology goes both ways.

From Talk Left, we have a testimonial from someone who went through this:
In 1994 my wife and I found out that she was pregnant. The pregnancy was difficult and unusually uncomfortable but her doctor repeatedly told her things were fine. Sometime early in the 8th month my wife, an RN who at the time was working in an infertility clinic asked the Dr. she was working for what he thought of her discomfort. He examined her and said that he couldn’t be certain but thought that she might be having twins. We were thrilled and couldn’t wait to get a new sonogram that hopefully would confirm his thoughts. Two days later our joy was turned to unspeakable sadness when the new sonogram showed conjoined twins. Conjoined twins alone is not what was so difficult but the way they were joined meant that at best only one child would survive the surgery to separate them and the survivor would more than likely live a brief and painful life filled with surgery and organ transplants. We were advised that our options were to deliver into the world a child who’s life would be filled with horrible pain and suffering or fly out to Wichita Kansas and to terminate the pregnancy under the direction of Dr. George Tiller.
We made an informed decision to go to Kansas. One can only imagine the pain borne by a woman who happily carries a child for 8 months only to find out near the end of term that the children were not to be and that she had to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy and go against everything she had been taught to believe was right. This was what my wife had to do. Dr. Tiller is a true American hero. The nightmare of our decision and the aftermath was only made bearable by the warmth and compassion of Dr. Tiller and his remarkable staff. Dr. Tiller understood that this decision was the most difficult thing that a woman could ever decide and he took the time to educate us and guide us along with the other two couples who at the time were being forced to make the same decision after discovering that they too were carrying children impacted by horrible fetal anomalies. I could describe in great detail the procedures and the pain and suffering that everyone is subjected to in these situations. However, that is not the point of the post. We can all imagine that this is not something that we would wish on anyone. The point is that the pain and suffering were only mitigated by the compassion and competence of Dr. George Tiller and his staff. We are all diminished today for a host of reasons but most of all because a man of great compassion and courage has been lost to the world.
People always act like this issue is simple. But pregnancy is one situation in life that falls across all kinds of moral, emotional and rational lines, calling into question the autonomy of the very body in which we live and lifelong commitments made in the heat of the moment --- painful choices and primitive imperatives in the most basic human drive we have. Whether it's the idea that women should be "punished" with pregnancy for failing to use birth control, to the idea that adoption is a simple and painless alternative, to the insistence that women who carry a child for seven or eight months must be forced to give birth when the child has no chance at life to the spectacle of the Octamom, the fact is that there is no broad brush answer that can be applied to all these different circumstances. Certainly, the crude instrument of the law isn't the answer (as even the anti-choicers tacitly admit when they refuse to consider the women who have abortions murderers and instead focus on the doctors.)

Indeed, the murder of Dr Tiller in a demented defense of a "culture of life" should be all it takes for everyone to see that this is not the simple, straightforward issue they'd like to believe it is. And once you recognize that it's a unique circumstance in which the moral boundaries are blurry and indistinct, the only possible course is to trust the person with the most knowledge of the circumstances, the symbiotic relationship to the fetus and greatest immediate stake in the outcome --- the woman.


.


The following are Youtubes of the Rachel Maddow documentary about Tiller and his killing:
















.



 
The kicks just keep getting harder to find

by digby



Just goes to show, they really are living out their 60s dreams in the twilight of their lives:








 
I happen to have Daniel Ellsberg right here ...

by digby

John Kerry's accusations of "cowardice" and fatuous admonitions for Edward Snowden to "man up" the other day were rather depressing considering how such schoolyard taunts of effeminacy were used against him in 2004. But his use of Daniel Ellsberg as an example of the "good whistleblower" needs to be examined more closely. And who better to do it than ... Daniel Ellsberg:

On the Today show and CBS, Kerry complimented me again – and said Snowden "should man up and come back to the United States" to face charges. But John Kerry is wrong, because that's not the measure of patriotism when it comes to whistleblowing, for me or Snowden, who is facing the same criminal charges I did for exposing the Pentagon Papers.

As Snowden told Brian Williams on NBC later that night and Snowden's lawyer told me the next morning, he would have no chance whatsoever to come home and make his case – in public or in court.

Snowden would come back home to a jail cell – and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. His legal adviser, Ben Wizner, told me that he estimates Snowden's chance of being allowed out on bail as zero. (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment).

More importantly, the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. Legal scholars have strongly argued that the US supreme court – which has never yet addressed the constitutionality of applying the Espionage Act to leaks to the American public – should find the use of it overbroad and unconstitutional in the absence of a public interest defense. The Espionage Act, as applied to whistleblowers, violates the First Amendment, is what they're saying.

As I know from my own case, even Snowden's own testimony on the stand would be gagged by government objections and the (arguably unconstitutional) nature of his charges. That was my own experience in court, as the first American to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act – or any other statute – for giving information to the American people.

I had looked forward to offering a fuller account in my trial than I had given previously to any journalist – any Glenn Greenwald or Brian Williams of my time – as to the considerations that led me to copy and distribute thousands of pages of top-secret documents. I had saved many details until I could present them on the stand, under oath, just as a young John Kerry had delivered his strongest lines in sworn testimony.

But when I finally heard my lawyer ask the prearranged question in direct examination – Why did you copy the Pentagon Papers? – I was silenced before I could begin to answer. The government prosecutor objected – irrelevant – and the judge sustained. My lawyer, exasperated, said he "had never heard of a case where a defendant was not permitted to tell the jury why he did what he did." The judge responded: well, you're hearing one now.

And so it has been with every subsequent whistleblower under indictment, and so it would be if Edward Snowden was on trial in an American courtroom now.

Indeed, in recent years, the silencing effect of the Espionage Act has only become worse. The other NSA whistleblower prosecuted, Thomas Drake, was barred from uttering the words "whistleblowing" and "overclassification" in his trial. (Thankfully, the Justice Department's case fell apart one day before it was to begin). In the recent case of the State Department contractor Stephen Kim, the presiding judge ruled the prosecution "need not show that the information he allegedly leaked could damage US national security or benefit a foreign power, even potentially."

We saw this entire scenario play out last summer in the trial of Chelsea Manning. The military judge in that case did not let Manning or her lawyer argue her intent, the lack of damage to the US, overclassification of the cables or the benefits of the leaks ... until she was already found guilty.

Without reform to the Espionage Act that lets a court hear a public interest defense – or a challenge to the appropriateness of government secrecy in each particular case – Snowden and future Snowdens can and will only be able to "make their case" from outside the United States.

I think people may need to review the Ellsberg case to get an idea of how it was he eluded jail time. It wasn't because he "manned up." It was because of government misconduct, which included the break-in at his psychiatrist's office:

Due to the gross governmental misconduct and illegal evidence gathering, and the defense by Leonard Boudin and Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, Judge Byrne dismissed all charges against Ellsberg and Russo on May 11, 1973 after the government claimed it had lost records of wiretapping against Ellsberg. Byrne ruled: "The totality of the circumstances of this case which I have only briefly sketched offend a sense of justice. The bizarre events have incurably infected the prosecution of this case.

I think you can see the irony here, can't you? It was "losing the records" of illegal wiretapping that freed Ellsberg...

Suffice to say that it wasn't that the courts declared Ellsberg a patriot, as John Kerry seems to imply. It was the abuse of power of the US Government, which was so flagrant and appalling that the court had no choice but to let him go. That strikes me as useful history when considering why Edward Snowden would opt not to fall on his sword so that Big John Kerry and the bros wouldn't call him a wimp. That, along with the more recent history that Ellsberg relays in his piece above, shows that it's not simply a matter of "facing the music" as everyone seems to say. What they want him to do is allow the government to put him in jail without the ability to defend himself --- over a story that is already public. That means it's purely a means to "make an example" of him. But he's not a martyr, he's a whistleblower, and he has no obligation to throw himself on the pyre so the government can soothe its defenders by burning the witch.

The government could do something in between if it chose. It could allow him to find permanent asylum in another country like Bolivia, which would deny him his home but not his freedom. Truly that ought to be enough of a human sacrifice for this deed which everyone acknowledges has resulted in a much-needed examination and pullback of a surveillance program run amock.

.







 
The best thing you'll read on Ukraine

by David Atkins

You can always count on American pundits to be narcissistic to the point of solipsism when it comes to foreign policy. Everything is always about America. Whatever is happening anywhere in the world is always about America--and when it's not, it's always painted in terms of good vs. evil.

As most progressives know, the world is much more complicated than that, and not everyone is as obsessed with the United States as Americans are.

In that light, Gary Brecher's superb analysis at Pando of the situation in Ukraine is a breath of fresh air. It's a moderately long, very good read that is impossible to effectively summarize here, but below is a taste:

What’s happening in Eastern Ukraine is very simple, rational, and straightforward.

Russia has what it wanted—Crimea, a Russian-majority peninsula with better beaches than the rest of Russia put together, a Russian majority, and a geography so eminently defensible that all you have to do is look at it on a map and it screams “Secede!

What’s going on in Eastern Ukraine, a very different Russian-majority region, is a sideshow, as far as Putin and his schemers are concerned. This sideshow has two audiences. The first, as Mark Ames explained in his article, “Sorry, America, Ukraine Isn’t All about You,” is a domestic one, Russia’s “silent majority. “ As Ames explained, Putin has used the violence to keep that silent majority in an angry, nationalist mood.

...

The other audience is Putin’s colleagues in power—in Kyiv, Brussels, and Washington. Russia has already managed to shift the focus of international attention from Crimea, which Russia really wanted and now possesses, to Eastern Ukraine. Crimea has become a classic “fait accompli,” the goal of this kind of old-school Great Power game.

Ukraine has been forced to give up any pressure on Crimea, whether military or political, in order to put out the ethnic Russian insurgency in the East. This is a real, grassroots ethnic uprising, born out of long-standing resentment of Ukrainian attempts to enforce a vindictive, petty form of Ukrainian nationalism, full of sentimentality about the wide grasslands and little Ukrainian-speaking villages, on Eastern Ukraine, which is urban, Russian, and industrial.
After Crimea showed, or seemed to show, how easy it was to secede from this vindictive Ukrainian regime and rejoin Russia, ethnic Russians in Donetsk, Sloviansk and other Eastern cities naturally attempted to duplicate the quick, easy separation Crimea accomplished.

...

And yet ethnic Russians, both in Putin’s constituency in Russia, and among ethnic Russian communities shut out of the Russian Federation, like the cities of Eastern Ukraine, continue to be willing to give their lives for Russia. Their grievances, their love for Russia, and their courage are real, not the creation of SpetzNaz or security-service infiltration as jingoistic American journalists like Eli Lake keep claiming.

But those noble qualities, and the lives of the people who hold them, are just expendable assets—straw dogs—to cold-eyed practitioners of Great-Power politics like Putin. They’re fighting at this moment to form a Russian secessionist republic in Eastern Ukraine, but the odds they’ll meet anything but betrayal from Moscow are very dim.

Does Putin really want to annex Eastern Ukraine? It’s not clear to me that he does. It’s very clear that the Russian state wanted Crimea, and was willing to risk war for it. It’s not so clear that Moscow will risk war for Eastern Ukraine, which does have valuable resources and major industrial installations, but lacks Crimea’s easily-sealed entry points.

The alternatives here, for Moscow, are not either outright annexation or total disengagement. It’s naïve to think that Moscow has to say a simple yes or no to the militias fighting in Russia’s name in Donetsk and Sloviansk. The history of Great-Power politics shows that in many cases, it’s much more useful to leave a disputed, ethnically-mixed area festering, giving your proxies there just enough weaponry, money, and moral support to keep them bleeding the occupying enemy.

Kashmir is the classic example in the contemporary world. Does Pakistan really want to take Kashmir, with its hopelessly messy, complex, bloody feuds, into Pakistan proper? Officially, yes; and in the minds of the millions of Pakistani nationalists, of course it does. But for the ISI, the intelligence agents who run the country, it’s much more useful to have Kashmir as a goad, an irritant, a reliable source of nationalist rage and suicide volunteers, than it would be to march in and try to govern the place.

So, despite the valid grievances of the Eastern Ukrainian Russian community, despite all the nationalist rage Putin is stirring up among nationalists in Russia proper, the Russian government may let Eastern Ukraine’s Russian militias be ground down by troops, tanks, and aircraft from Kyiv.

Not wiped out—that would be a waste of potentially useful proxies. But decimated, occupied, and humiliated. A population in that condition is as useful to a Great Power as Kashmir’s Muslims are to Pakistan.
Brecher goes on to point out that the United States did exactly the same thing to the Kurds and the Shia in Iraq when we encouraged them to rebel against Saddam Hussein, then watched in feigned helplessness as Saddam slaughtered the rebels who reasonably believed we would come to their aid.

This is how world politics actually works. The problem today is that as the world becomes increasingly connected and as our problems become global in scope, this sort of coldhearted gamesmanship is increasingly dangerous to everyone.

At a certain point the world is going to realize that nation-states cannot continue playing these sorts of games with people's lives in pursuit of "national interests." We are going to need a post-Westphalian system sooner rather than alter. Both conservative and left-libertarian pundits who imagine that only one side or one country is to blame for most of the world's ills, and who worship nation-state borders as if they were sacred lines not to be infringed by another nation-state (except for America, in neoconservative fantasyland) as a matter of near ritual impurity, are increasingly anachronistic, irrelevant, and actually damaging to the interests of long-suffering peoples worldwide.


.

Friday, May 30, 2014

 
Common Sense on guns

by digby

This interview by Harold Pollack with noted expert on gun laws and criminology Philip Cook is worth reading in full. This excerpt gets to something I think is very salient:

P: Mass shootings by disturbed individuals comprise a very small fraction of American gun homicides. Is there a danger that such horrific incidents might be misleading as a guide to preventing more common forms of gun homicide?

PC: Mass shootings galvanize public attention to the problem of gun violence, and serve as horrific reminders that no one is entirely safe from this scourge. Too often, though, the media accounts are focused on the question of what could have been done to prevent the last mass shooting, and provide no perspective on the chronic problems of gun violence – the half million assaults and robberies, the 11,000 gun homicides, and the 20,000 gun suicides that occur each year. Even if there is no easy answer to the question of what could be done about Elliott Rodger, there are a variety of promising actions that would be helpful in reducing gun misuse.

HP: If you could propose one or two policies to reduce gun homicide and that have some prospect of making it through Congress, what would you emphasize?

PC: Tough question. Congress is simply not a promising venue for action against gun violence, not these days. There has been some hopeful talk about a bipartisan deal around mental health and guns, but don’t hold your breath. Even federal action to reduce violence (regardless of weapon type) seems unlikely to be forthcoming, but there is a somewhat better chance there: I would suggest expanded financial support for local police departments through the COPS program, and an increase in the federal alcohol excise tax rates, for starters.

I suspect that the “action” in the near future, as it has been during the last year, will be in the state legislatures.

HP: What would you like to see states do, even in areas that go beyond what Congress is likely or able to do at the federal level?

PC: In the “laboratory of the states,” we can hope to learn from systematic analysis of innovations. For recent examples, almost half the states have adopted Stand Your Ground laws, and two studies by economists found similar conclusions: the effect has been to increase the homicide rate, with no reduction in assault, robbery or rape. An analysis of Missouri’s repeal of their universal background check system in 2007 demonstrated quite convincingly that it resulted in a [14 percent] jump in gun homicides (with no change in non-gun homicides). We are still awaiting an analysis of California’s requirement that pistols be designed to stamp a serial number on the shell casing, so that police investigators can link shootings to particular guns.
The general direction that makes sense to me is adoption of regulations and law enforcement tactics that have the effect of making guns a liability to criminals. Guns should be readily traced to their owners. The police and courts should work together to deter illicit carrying of guns, and crimes committed with guns should be viewed as more serious than similar crimes with knives. Gang members should understand that if any of their members misuse a gun, they will all pay a legal price (as in Boston’s Operation Ceasefire beginning in 1996).

I’m also sold on the potential of smart guns to make gun-owning households safer. The German firm Armatix has developed a gun that uses RFID technology to unlock a gun (similar to the keys for unlocking cars). Only when the gun is near a special wristwatch can it be fired. This is one of many methods for “personalizing” a gun and reducing the chance of an unauthorized use – say, by other household members (young children, teenagers thinking of suicide) or burglars.

The NRA is against all those things, of course. Even smart guns, which I cannot imagine a principles reason to oppose other than a belief that guns cannot be regulated in way at all. Which means you are much freer to shoot guns than you are speak in this country.

And ponder this lovely comment for a moment:

"Guns are mostly for hunting down politicians who would actively seek to take your freedoms and liberty away from you. Google 'Hitler, Mao, Kim Jung Il, Castro, Stalin' just for starters."

I guess he doesn't realize that there are people in the world who might interpret that to mean his good friends Sarah Palin and John McCain might be fair game too.

I do like the fact that he honestly says that guns are "mostly" for hunting down politicians. Makes it very clear that the "protecting the family" and "deer-hunting" arguments are bogus. These guys think of themselves as revolutionaries. Good to know.

.
 
Maybe we should focus more on who has guns than on who has drugs

by David Atkins

It turns out that not only did the police not actually watch the Isla Vista shooter's misogynistic video rant, they didn't bother to search the database to see if he had bought guns:

With the toughest gun-control regulations in the country, California has a unique, centralized database of gun purchases that law enforcement can easily search. It offers precious intelligence about a suspect or other people officers may encounter when responding to a call.

But this rare advantage wasn’t enough to help authorities head off the May 23 rampage in Santa Barbara that claimed six victims.

Before a half-dozen sheriff’s deputies knocked on Elliot Rodger’s door last month in response to concerns raised by his mother about his well-being, they could have checked the database and discovered he had bought three 9mm semiautomatic handguns. Several law enforcement officials and legal experts on gun policy said this might have given deputies greater insight into Rodger’s intentions and his capability for doing harm.

The deputies did not check the database. They left his apartment after finding him to be “shy, timid, polite and well-spoken,” in the words of Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. The deputies saw no evidence that Rodger was an immediate threat to others or to himself.

“I cringed when I learned they didn’t run for guns,” said Emeryville Police Chief Ken James, who is chairman of the California Police Chiefs Association’s firearms committee.
I understand that police have a difficult job with lots of paperwork and not enough time. But maybe that's because they focus on the wrong things.

Police make more arrests for drug violations--mostly possession--than for any other crime. That is a wildly misplaced priority.

I'm much more worried about the disturbed guy with a gun than about the dude next door with a bowl. I'm pretty most most people would agree with that. Law enforcement might want to take note.


.
 
Measles are not fun

by digby

This is concerning:


The consensus is that it is happening as a result of people failing to vaccinate their kids.

This is a bad idea. Aside from the fact that vaccines require herd immunity to be effective, so your "individual choice" to expose your kids to disease also means you're choosing for others, parents should know that these are not fun diseases. I know because I had them. I had measles, mumps, chicken pox and German measles, the latter of which was very serious. They were all miserable. I was a healthy kid and came though with no ill effects, but one of my neighbors wasn't so lucky when her kid came home with German measles when she was pregnant.

I guess I find this to be another piece of the war on science in which people are mistaking vaccination for a scientific "advance" like pesticides which later turned out to be deadly. Yes, there can be side effects from vaccines. That's always been the case. Life has risks. But the risk from disease has always been much greater. And the near eradication of so many of these diseases just in my lifetime has been a tremendous boon to mankind.

Skepticism is good, but this one's been tested and proven over many years and the suspicions just don't add up.

.
 
The War at Home

by digby

From the "if you build it, they will use it" files:
A 19-month-old boy is fighting for his life after a SWAT team threw a stun grenade into his crib during an overnight home raid, the toddler's family says.

Police were looking for Wanis Thometheva, who sold methamphetamine to an undercover officer Tuesday evening, police said.

But when the team raided his Georgia home, the Phonesavanh family was inside — not Thometheva.
The horror of this is almost too much to bear. A poor little 19 year baby may die and will surely be severely impacted if he lives because an explosive device was thrown into his crib, next to his head. It's hard to see how this could be seen as anything less than manslaughter.

But I think we have to ask ourselves why in the world the police felt it necessary to stage a military style raid on any home, much less fail to do the due diligence to find out who lived there, over a sale of illegal drugs. This wasn't terrorism. It wasn't a gang selling automatic weapons out of the back yard. It wasn't the home of a suspected kidnapper holding someone for ransom. It wasn't anything that one could construe as an immediate danger to the public requiring such aggressive military tactics.  And yet, the police do this all over the country and they are constantly making mistakes, misidentifying the occupants or the residence, wounding and sometimes killing people.

Why do they do this?  Because of the militarization of our police forces which are in the business of buying more and more military-style gear and assuming more and more military tactics and strategies. And inevitably, they have also assumed the posture of an occupying army.

I don't suppose that Eisenhower saw this as one of the dangers of the Military Industrial Complex, but it is one. The government spends trillions on combat gear and military training somebody's going to use it. There are only so many land wars they can get away with fighting. So police agencies are fighting the "war on drugs" here at home and the enemy is the American public.

.


.
 
Anyone Seen Miley Cyrus and Edward Snowden in the Same Room at the Same Time? 

by tristero

Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times:
 I miss Barbara Walters already.
Brian Williams of NBC News did a good job of letting Edward J. Snowden say what he wanted to say. Someone a little nosier would surely have pressed the exiled National Security Agency leaker on what he held back.

Is he being followed? Where does he live? Is he alone? Is he learning Russian? Who pays his bills, and do Russian women consider him a catch? 
You gotta be fucking kidding me.

But wait, maybe what she wrote really is high snark 'n sarcasm. Let's read on:
Mr. Snowden spoke lucidly, without remorse or emotion, expressing himself politely and calmly, without an “um” or a “like.” He was so fluent it almost seemed acquired – like Eliza Doolittle, of whom Zoltan Karpathy said in “My Fair Lady, “Her English is too good, he said/which clearly indicates that she is foreign.” 
There was a tinge of superiority to his tone, telling Mr. Williams when his questions were “fair” and answering others as impersonally as possible. At the end, Mr. Williams finally addressed Mr. Snowden’s private life, asking what it was like to move from Hawaii to Moscow. “You know, it’s — it is — a major cultural gap,” Mr. Snowden said coolly, flicking his hand like a wine connoisseur evaluating a vintage. “ And it requires adjustment…”
He nevertheless was a far better ambassador for himself than Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who published his secrets and is a frequent spokesman for Mr. Snowden’s cause on television, where he mostly comes across as smug and unreasonable. Mr. Snowden, a high school dropout and a fugitive living in an authoritarian country, seems much more pleasant and even-keeled.
You gotta be fucking kidding me. My Fair Lady? Let's take this real slow:

Snowden is not a celebrity - unless he really is Miley Cyrus, which I'll go out on a limb here and say I think is pretty unlikely. Nor aside from his treatment at the hands of his government should Snowden be of much interest (except to family and friends) when compared to the incredible documents he revealed. Ditto Greenwald.

The NSA - that's an incredible story. Let's not forget it.

.
 
The WSJ opinion page is fit to be tied as Governor Walker tries to save himself

by digby

My Salon piece today is about the Wisconsin Great White Hope and his legal problems, which are tying him into a pretzel. I briefly recap the case if you need a refresher and then take up the latest:
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been on a crusade about this case, casting it as an attack on free speech, stretching even the new elastic meaning of campaign finance laws to the limit. And until a couple of days ago, they and their allies were reveling in their recent victories in the courts. The investigation had been most recently turned on its head by a friend of the Koch brothers and a Federalist Society judge by the name of Rudolph Randa who halted the investigation, calling it a “partisan witch hunt.” The Wall Street Journal inanely trumpeted the headline: “Wisconsin Civil-Rights March”
Score another one for free political speech. On Tuesday, Federal District Judge Rudolph Randa soundly rejected a motion to dismiss a federal civil-rights lawsuit against Wisconsin prosecutors who are investigating the political activities of conservative groups (but not liberals).
And then they broke into a rousing rendition of “We shall overcome.” The affiliated big money right-wing groups like Club for Growth and American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity were undoubtedly very pleased at that outcome. And they were also undoubtedly very pleased with one Scott Walker who was standing up nicely to the pressure and getting their backs when they had so generously padded his campaign coffers. That’s how it’s supposed to work. And then the bottom fell out:
Read on. Poor Scott's in quite the bind. He's either got to placate his big money donors or save himself...

.
 
Your daily Grayson

by digby

Congressman Grayson does the work of legislating. In fact, he's been called the most effective member of congress. I know that annoys some people, since he's also a strong rhetorical progressive advocate. Here's an amendment he got passed through a Republican congress today:

H.R. 4660 An amendment, offered by Mr. Grayson, to prohibit the use of funds to compel a journalist or a reporter to testify about information or sources that the journalist or reporter states in a motion to quash the subpoena that he has obtained as a journalist or reporter and that he regards as confidential.

It's the little things, people. Congress has the power of the purse and this is how you use it.


.



 
The fact that the housing market is overinflated and broken dawns on some British officials

by David Atkins

The world is slowly waking up to what it has wrought in the housing market. Here's the latest from Britain:

Rising house prices will see the British middle classes disappear within 30 years, leaving behind a tiny elite and a huge proletariat, a Government adviser has warned.

David Boyle, a fellow of the New Economics Foundation think tank, said that for many young people today owning their own home was a pipe dream.

Speaking at the Hay Festival in Wales, he envisaged a Britain made up of a “tiny elite and a huge sprawling proletariat” who have no chance of “clawing their way out of a hand-to-mouth existence”, The Telegraph reported.

Mr Boyle, who sits on the Liberal Democrats’ federal policy committee, predicted that the average house price by 2045 would stand at £1.2 million, meaning that only the fortunate few would be able to purchase property.

And he said that the traditional middle classes would have to work multiple jobs - with scarcely any leisure time – just to be able to pay rent.

“The really scary thing is if in the next 30 years house prices rise as much as they have done in the last 30 years then the average house in Britain will cost £1.2 million,” he said.

“We cheered the rise of property prices not realising that it would destroy, if not our own lives, but the lives of our children.

“The place where this is heading is a strange society with a tiny elite and a long struggling, straggling line which is the rest of us, a new proletariat, who will be in hock to Landlord PLC.

“We won’t own our own homes, we won’t be able to afford it.
Right now this guy is just another voice crying out in the wilderness. But there are more and more of them every day.

It's almost as if quintupling the cost of housing and feeding the Wall Street machine to continue overinflating assets might be a bad idea for future generations. Apparently that didn't actually occur to very many people until recently.


.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

 
Get over it

by digby

This is why Ailes is paying Howard Kurtz the big bucks:

My take is this: Let's say Hillary's people are right and that the press is petty, sensationalist, often unfair and sometimes mean to women? Deal with it. It's like complaining about bad weather. Every candidate has to cope with an adversarial media, and Democrats usually get a break at least on social issues.

He left out the most important part of that quote. It's supposed to be "deal with it, bitches", amirite?

Women have to put up with being treated like second class citizens and endure specific, disgusting, demeaning sexist insults because that's just how the world works. Hey, they get breaks in other ways --- they're hardly ever caught with their pants down in a whorehouse for instance. And they tend not to get stalked on twitter for showing off their boners. So, it's not as if they aren't cut plenty of slack.

Does everyone remember when Howard Kurtz insisted he wasn't a right wing shill? Good times.

.
 
QOTD: Richard Clarke

by digby

Sounds about right:


"I think things that they authorized probably fall within the area of war crimes. Whether that would be productive or not, I think, is a discussion we could all have. But we have established procedures now with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where people who take actions as serving presidents or prime ministers of countries have been indicted and have been tried.

So the precedent is there to do that sort of thing. And I think we need to ask ourselves whether or not it would be useful to do that in the case of members of the Bush administration. It’s clear that things that the Bush administration did -- in my mind, at least, it’s clear that some of the things they did were war crimes."

.
 
2014 won't be a replay of 2010

by David Atkins

The eye-opening graph of the day comes from Aaron Blake at the Washington Post:



Note the dramatic decline in the conservative advantage on issues, particularly economic ones, since 2010. Now, I'm a little curious as to how these questions are operationalized, since I have a difficult time believing that conservatives actually hold an advantage on social issues at all.

Still, even if there is some bias in the construction of the graph, there's no questioning the marked trend in toward progressives since 2010. As Aaron notes:

hat's now within the margin of error, and it comes just four years after they had a 17-point advantage.
They also lead by 21 points on economic issues — down from 36 points in 2010 and tied for the lowest advantage of this century.

As in 2010, the GOP is approaching a midterm in which it hopes to make huge gains. This chart suggests their underlying philosophy is hardly as strong an asset as it was back then. And indeed, it's weaker than it has been at any point since Bill Clinton's presidency.

The GOP's shoddy brand is perhaps the Democrats' best hope for limited losses in 2014. The waning advantages of the conservative ideology should help in that effort, too.
It also means that something is going on, culturally, to make economic progressivism far more attractive to the electorate at a rapid pace. Democratic politicians should take advantage of that.


.
 
Stupid and shameless

by digby

Can we #cancelRedskins?




.
 
Chicks need not apply

by digby

This is why I'm still a bit skeptical that America is going to elect a woman as President:

What folks haven't tuned into, though, is how polarizing a Clinton candidacy would be between men and women.

Witness the new Washington Post poll, which shows Clinton remains popular and would of course be a strong contender to keep the presidency in Democratic hands.
What it also shows, though, is that her candidacy could split the genders in a way we haven't seen in decades -- at the very least.

It's a given in politics today that men will vote more Republican, while women will vote more Democratic. That has consistently been the case for a long, long time. But with Clinton at the top of the ticket, that pronounced split could turn into a chasm.
The Post poll shows that women say they would support Clinton by a striking 61-33 percent. Men, though, say they would back her by a far smaller count of 49-46 percent -- within the margin of error. That's a 25-point gap between Clinton's margin among women and among men...

What's perhaps most striking among the new numbers is that the difference lies almost completely among white voters. Non-white men and women are pretty similar when it comes to the former secretary of state, but while 58 percent of white women back Clinton, 54 percent of white men oppose her.

Many GOP women won't vote for her in the end. And if the GOP can find someone to entice enough of the Democratic white bros over to them (Christie your comeback awaits) she could have a problem.

But the GOP field is so terrible that she will probably win anyway. And for the purposes of breaking the glass ceiling that would be good --- until some woman smashes the damned thing into tiny shards, female leadership is not going to be seen as "normal" in American politics. At least not by a whole lot of men.

.


 
Dick Cheney's Triumph

by digby

Conor Friedersdorf takes a look at the George Packer review of Greenwald's book and (among other things) makes this point:
In this era, when you think of ideologues who verge on rejecting politics, take absolutist positions, and operate in a sealed-off environment, do you think of the ideology that gave birth to the Iraq War, torture, classified law, indefinite detention, kill lists, and secret warrantless wiretapping? Do you think of Dick Cheney, David Addington, John Yoo, John Brennan, and James Clapper? I do.
I do too. Most people I know do as well. Or at least they used to.

And if you watched the Frontline documentary "The United States of Secrets" you would know that the programs Edward Snowden revealed were all started and approved by Dick Cheney and David Addington. Here's a little excerpt which takes up the story after a recap of what had happened in the 1970s when it was revealed that the NSA had been secretly spying on Americans:
NARRATOR: Caught and restricted by Congress, the domestic spying apparatus went dark for more than 20 years. It was against the law to turn the NSA on Americans.

RYAN LIZZA, The New Yorker: If you were an NSA analyst, this sort of legal regime was drilled into your head to the point where a lot of people said it’s made the rules too restrictive, and it’s hampered the NSA’s ability to detect terrorist plots.

NARRATOR: Some at the agency thought the NSA had been overly cautious and believed the 9/11 attacks could have been stopped.

EDWARD LOOMIS, NSA Cryptologist, 1964-01: I do believe it could have been prevented with revisions to the way we were permitted to operate before 9/11, revisions that I tried to get the general counsel to embrace and wouldn’t — and couldn’t. I tried to get them to make adjustments to how we were operating, how we were permitted to operate, and they wouldn’t do it! I felt this ever since it occurred, that over 3,000 people’s lives were lost. And it’s just a weight that I have been having trouble bearing! It’s— I’m sorry, I— [weeps]

NEWSCASTER: The toughest week for America since Japan bombed Pearl Harbor 60 years ago.

NARRATOR: All over Washington, there was a growing demand to stop the next attack.

ALBERTO GONZALES: We have to remember that, you know, we’d had— we had had terrorists living in this country for a number of months and we didn’t know about it. What else didn’t we know? And so there was a great deal of concern about the fact that— that we not only could not connect the dots, we could not collect the dots.

NARRATOR: At the CIA, director George Tenet was under pressure from the vice president.

JAMES BAMFORD, Author, The Shadow Factory: The director had a meeting with Vice President Cheney and his top aide, David Addington, and he was asked, “What can be done? What can be done that isn’t being done?”

DICK CHENEY, Vice president of the United States: 9/11 made necessary a shift of policy—

BARTON GELLMAN: Cheney says, in effect, to Tenet, “Make me a shopping list. Tell me what you want to do that we’re not letting you do yet.”

NARRATOR: Tenet, whose own agency was designing covert operations against al Qaeda, called General Hayden.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: George calls me and says, “Mike, any more you can do?” I said, “George, no, not within my authorities, not within my current authorities.” And he paused and said, “That’s not actually the question I asked you. Is there anything more you could do?” I said, “I’ll get back to you.”

NARRATOR: Hayden got the message. At NSA headquarters, he spread the word— “Take the gloves off. Bring me an aggressive plan.”

EDWARD LOOMIS, NSA Cryptologist, 1964-01 : And they asked me, “Is there anything that we had that could have prevented 9/11?”

NARRATOR: Loomis told them what he believed was necessary— begin monitoring foreign Internet traffic going through the United States.

ED LOOMIS: The U.S. Internet hubs handle so much of the worldwide Internet traffic. So I said, “Let us allow collection between U.S. and foreign, foreign to U.S. against the terrorism problem.”

NARRATOR: But others in the agency were proposing much more aggressive data collection.

PETER BAKER: What they proposed to do is create a whole new surveillance program without warrants, trapping all sorts of information, taking advantage of the fact that modern communication trunk lines tend to come through the United States.

BARTON GELLMAN: The idea of this program was you’re looking for unknown conspirators, and the way they devised to do that was to look at everybody.

NARRATOR: It was the outline of something Hayden could take to the vice president. He headed to Washington to propose the idea.

NEWSCASTER: —one of the worst days in American history—

NARRATOR: It would be his first meeting in the Oval Office.

NEWSCASTER: —economy as a whole. There was a massive sell-off on Wall Street today.

ANDREW CARD, White House Chief of Staff, 2001-06: Prior to 9/11, I don’t think I knew General Hayden. I probably knew his name. I doubt that the president knew his name.

JAMES BAMFORD: It’s a very big change for the director of NSA to suddenly have all this attention from senior officials in the White House, and so forth. And I’m sure it had a major impact on Hayden.

NARRATOR: The president had been briefed. He put his arm around General Hayden, called him his childhood nickname, “Mikey.”

MICHAEL HAYDEN: I walk in to see the president. It’s the president and the vice president in the room. Almost certainly, Condi was there as the national security adviser. Andy Card would have been there.

BARTON GELLMAN: Cheney suggests the question and George Bush asks it. “What would you like to do that you can’t already do that would help prevent another 9/11?”

NARRATOR: Hayden outlined “the program.” It would gather data on the phone calls and Internet traffic of hundreds of millions of Americans, then search it for suspicious connections. But he was worried about whether it was legal.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: And the first thing he says to me is, “Mike, I understand your concerns, but there are some things we’re going to have to do. And I think I have the authority to authorize you to do things that you’ve outlined.”

BARTON GELLMAN: The president says, “Go. I want you to go develop a program, come back to me. We’ve got the lawyers working on it. But you have my order, we’re going to do this.”

NARRATOR: Hayden left the White House knowing that “the program” was bound to be controversial.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: No president had authorized it prior to this time.

PETER BAKER: And Michael Hayden goes home after briefing the president and the vice president about his ideas for expanding surveillance and takes a walk with his wife.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: And she said, “What’s on your mind? I said, “Well, we’re going to go do something here.” And I didn’t get into any details. “We’re going to do something. One day, it’s going to be public. And when it gets public, it’s going to be very controversial. And the people doing it are going to be swept into this thing.” And she said, “Uh-huh. Is it the right thing to do?” “Yeah, I think so.” She said, “OK, we’ll deal with that when it comes.”

NARRATOR: On October 4th, in a secret signing with Cheney, the president Officially authorized “the program.”

BARTON GELLMAN: That order is written by David Addington, the vice president’s lawyer. It’s not written by the president’s lawyer. And this is not only unusual, but probably unique in the history of major U.S. intelligence operations, is written by the vice president’s lawyer and stored in his own safe.

NARRATOR: Addington worked out of a small office next to the White House in the old Executive Office building.

PETER BAKER: This order is one of the most closely kept secrets of the Bush/Cheney administration for four years. It’s kept so secret that many people involved in national security inside the White House and the government don’t know about it.

NARRATOR: Addington personally hand carried a copy of the secret document out to Fort Meade.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: He said, “I’m coming out. I’ll be there in about 30 minutes”— hand carried. This was very closely guarded that we were doing this. And he comes onto the campus at Fort Meade, up to the top deck, and hands me the order.

NARRATOR: Now General Hayden wanted the sign-off of his top lawyer, Robert Deitz.

ROBERT DEITZ, NSA General Counsel, 1998-06: I think he was concerned and wanted my view of whether this program was, was lawful. I spent a sleepless night pondering the legality of it. This was a very hard call. It was a very hard call.

BARTON GELLMAN: The NSA has a general counsel and about 100 lawyers. And they were told, “The president has signed it, it’s been certified as lawful, and once all the signatures are there, that’s it, we salute, we say, OK, it’s lawful. We’re going to go ahead.”

ROBERT DEITZ: In the intel world, if a president says to you, “I need this in order to keep the American people safe,” you need to try to figure out where that line is constitutionally and march right up to it.

NARRATOR: Two other NSA lawyers would also sign off on the program.

VITO POTENZA, NSA Dep. General Counsel, 1993-06: We came to the conclusion independently, but consistently, that there was no doubt in our mind that it was a legitimate use of the president’s Article 2 authority.

NARRATOR: General Hayden had heard exactly what he needed— Article 2, the president’s authority as commander-in-chief.

MICHAEL HAYDEN: I have my three good friends here, who’ve, you know, been my guardian angels of these things since I became director, saying, “This is good.”

NARRATOR: Now the massive collection of data could begin.

BARTON GELLMAN: Who’s e-mailing whom? Who’s texting whom? Who’s doing Skype calls with whom? They’re collecting a lot of information, a lot of content of phone calls. They’re actually recording the voices— not for all of our calls, but for a lot of U.S. telephone calls. And they were doing this under an authority that had never existed before.

The story continues to reveal that it was this program that caused the big Ashcroft-in-the-hospital scene. Half the DOJ, including the FBI director, were threatening to resign over the notion that the president had the authority to authorize this in secret. So what did they do? The went searching for a compliant FISA judge to authorize it so they could pretend that the 4th Amendment was being followed and they found one. Eventually, they ended up legalizing much of it through congress which might as well have been a bunch of kindergartners for how well they understood what they were doing. And still that wasn't enough. The NSA continued to abuse the statutes, enlarge its capabilities and operate illegally, which is what Snowden's documents have revealed.

And it wasn't just Snowden and a bunch of ACLU gadflies who were concerned. As much as government stooges insist that Snowden could have just "gone through channels" keep in mind that in recent years even Senators Udall and Wyden and Heinrich all tried to raise the alarms around this and were unsuccessful.

Just as the other long held dreams of those neocons --- like the invasion of Iraq ---  were opportunistically rationalized by the 9/11 attacks, "The Program" was hatched in the offices of Dick Cheney and David Addington and approved at various stages by compliant lawyers and judges. They knew they could get away with doing this and they knew that once this power was given to the NSA it would be very, very difficult to take it back.

In fact, that's one of the underappreciated legacies of the Bush administration --- they went too far over and over again. And they paid a political price in the short run. But in the end, their policies became normalized to the point that they now have Democrats and liberal journalists defending them.

Cheney must be laughing himself silly. What a triumph.



Update: More on Addington from Dan Froomkin
.
 
The culture war ain't over yet

by digby

Well, I suppose it's how you define "culture war." I wrote a piece for salon this morning about the news from Gallup that the country has become much more liberal on social issues, to the point where the conservative advantage has shrunk to only four points. (This does not include women's rights, of course --- that needle hasn't moved much in decades.)
However, it’s worthwhile to take a closer look at how this trend may play itself out politically. One would expect that Democrats, being the allegedly liberal party, will reap the benefits of this greater tolerance on social issues. And the nascent force in the GOP, the libertarians, might also expect to gain some political salience within the party if certain professional pols decide there is some electoral advantage to adopting a less hardcore approach. (The Christian right, which makes up a much larger percentage of Republican voters, may have something to say about that.)

In fact, this trend toward “liberalism” should inexorably lead toward more liberal politics. But again, one has to wonder how the word is defined. If it’s defined strictly as a movement for social progress, then things are looking up for liberals. But if you define it more broadly in terms of economic justice then it may not be quite so clear. Take a look at that first graph again and you’ll see that the other line is economic issues, which also shows a shrinkage from the high of a 34-point advantage in 2010 down to a “mere” 21-point advantage today, so I wouldn’t start kissing random nurses in Times Square just yet …
I go on to discuss what should be an obvious fact, but isn't: that liberals' advantage on these social issues is just as likely to be used to obscure the Democrats' centrist and conservative economic policies --- much of it driven by the Big Money that now dominates politics. Read on ...


.



Search Digby!