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Sunday, December 21, 2014

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Why we still fight

by digby

Since it's Holiday Fundraising time it seems like a good day to revisit a post I wrote a few years back about what blogging is and why I do it. Some of it is outdated now --- things have moved on, politics have changed in many ways. But my underlying philosophy still holds:

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Why I Fight 
by digby 

I have not had time to really get into Jonathan Chait's cover story in this weeks New Republic but I will write something more about it soon. In the meantime, I did find these paragraphs intriguing in light of something else I read this morning:
...because they convey facts and opinions about the news to their readers, bloggers associated with the netroots are often mistaken for journalists. That is, as reporter Garance Franke-Ruta (who covers the blogs) has put it, a "category error." This was thrown into stark relief earlier this year, when John Edwards hired Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, two bloggers who were prominent in the netroots. The pair quickly came under enough fire for past controversial blog posts--Marcotte, for example, had speculated, "What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?"--that the Edwards campaign decided to cut them loose. Before it announced the decision, however, Marcotte and McEwan's allies lobbied heavily on their behalf. The liberal online magazine Salon reported the firings, but the Edwards camp hunkered down and refused to release a public statement while it decided on a course of action, then denied the firings to Salon the following day. Liberal bloggers in close contact with the campaign remained resolutely cryptic about what they knew. "The bloggers closed ranks around the Edwards campaign, some even claiming that Salon had gotten the story wrong," Salon's Joan Walsh later reported. To Walsh and other journalists, the relevant metric is true versus untrue. To an activist, the relevant metric is politically helpful versus politically unhelpful.

There is a term for this sort of political discourse: propaganda. The word has a bad odor, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. Propaganda is often true, and it can be deployed on behalf of a worthy cause (say, the fight against Nazism in World War II). Still, propaganda should not be confused with intellectual inquiry. Propagandists do not follow their logic wherever it may lead them; they are not interested in originality. Propaganda is an attempt to marshal arguments in order to create a specific real-world result--to win a political war.
The word propaganda is a loaded term in modern American parlance and he must know that. I don't actually think that advocacy journalism (or activist blogging) is dishonest, which is what Chait is suggesting, however vaguely. Lying or making up facts is unacceptable for people of integrity just as it is for a defense lawyer arguing for her client in a court of law, or a great political debate --- which is a much less provocative way to discuss blogging and netroots activism. I wish that Chait had provided at least one example of propaganda among the netroots besides the very vague story of Marcotte and McEwen. That is such an inside baseball process story that even if it were true, it wouldn't actually illustrate the propagandistic nature of blogging.

Liberal bloggers advocate for their political causes, people, party, ideas, etc and they make the best argument they can. The people who read us, the politicians, the electorate (to the extent that any of these arguments flow out of the sphere into the mainstream) are the judges. That is not propaganda as we understand it in 2007. I would say it's not even PR or advertising, both of which suggest some sort of message coordination of which I have also seen little evidence. The blogosphere/netroots is more of an organism that thrives on an extended 24/7 conversation and nobody knows yet how ideas are actually honed and disseminated. But the ones that come out of this seem to me to be mostly in the finest traditions of democratic and parliamentary debate, satire and humor and plain old political strategy, even if we are "vituperative" and "foul-mouthed" about it. There is very little, if any, "messaging" as we think of it in political terms. I'm not sure what Chait thinks he knows about the way we operate, but it's very, very ad hoc and viral. It's the internets not the Comintern.

Which brings me to the other thing I read today, just after glancing at the Chait article:
Hugh Hewitt: [Lawrence Wright] said absolutely, it is not the case it’s a strategic disaster. While there may be more jihadis in Iraq than there were before, it’s not like our intervention in Iraq created them, and he went on to characterize their camps in Mali, their camps in Gaza…

Michael Isikoff: Right.

HH: Their Waziristan…that they are manufacturing…they were manufactured for a decade in Afghanistan.

MI: Right.

HH: And now, they’re coming to al Anbar Province, because that’s where they can kill the great Satan. And so we’re not manufacturing them, we’re gathering them in one place…

MI: Right.

HH: And they’re surging against us. That’s a different spin. I’m not saying it’s the facts on the ground, either.

HH: ...And Michael Isikoff, what do you see, if the Democrats have their way, what do you see happening there in five years?

MI: I mean, look. If any of us could foresee the future, and knew what Iraq was going to look like down the road, we’d be better off than anybody else in Washington.

HH: But we have to guess, right? We always have to guess.

MI: We have to guess. We have to guess. I mean, we know that a lot of bad guesses were made by this administration in the invasion.

HH: Again, that’s spin.

MI: No, no, no, no, no, no. We know that.

HH: Give me a specific.

MI: They did not…a specific?

HH: Of a bad guess.

MI: Did they anticipate the sectarian warfare that was going to take place?

HH: No. Okay…

MI: Did they tell the country that there’s a high risk that we’re going to be enmeshed in a civil war in Iraq, in which thousands of Americans…

HH: Civil war is itself a spin, though.

MI: Well, what do you call it?

HH: That is a characterization…I call it an insurrection, I call it an al Qaeda surge, I call it bad militias in Baghdad.

MI: Well…

HH: But a civil war, where you’ve got Sunni and Shia…actually, the one thing Petraeus has also said…

MI: Fighting each other. Fighting each other. That’s…

HH: There are lots of definitions. It’s spin.

MI: The central argument [for war in Iraq] was weapons of mass destruction.

HH: That was Colin Powell. Again, that’s spin. Michael Isikoff, that’s spin.

I would challenge anyone to find a prominent liberal blogger as disingenuous or as bizarrely unresponsive as Hugh Hewitt is in that conversation. We joke about being the "reality based community" on the left, but it's literally true, certainly by comparison to that nonsense. The right wing denial of objective reality and the willingness to simply assert their own view that facts are liberal spin and conservative spin is factual is one of the biggest challenges the progressive movement (and the nation) faces. It has bred a cynicism and confusion that is going to be very difficult to turn around.

I didn't start blogging to deny reality or create another narrative out of whole cloth. (The bloggy jargon about "framing" and "narratives and "memes" are btw, contra Chait, just shorthand for "making a good argument", "telling our side of the story" and "ideas." They are not nefarious revolutionary propaganda terms designed to mislead.) I started blogging for the opposite reason. What I saw was a political establishment enmeshed in an extremely disorienting up-is-downism, perpetuated by a right wing machine that had used sophisticated marketing techniques, propaganda and plain old lies to completely distort our common perceptions of reality --- as Hewitt so perfectly demonstrates. Right about the time that Republicans started impeaching presidents for minor sexual indiscretions and dishonestly manipulating every lever of power they had to attain the presidency I knew politics had gone insane, not me. (And I think my judgment has been pretty well vindicated if I do say so myself.)

I try to see the world as clearly as I can because to do otherwise is to lose one's mind. I'm sure I succumb to group think from time to time and avoid writing about things I find difficult to discuss or about which I feel I have no particular insight.  I don't pretend to be entirely objective but I try to be a clear eyed person who calls it as I see it. I honestly can't understand how we can survive as a culture if we can't find a way to get past this "everything is spin" idea that Hewitt is promoting. It's the right that pushed that into the discourse and it's the netroots that are trying to unravel it and get back to some sort of common understanding of what constitutes reality.

More than anything I am interested in combating this epistemological relativism that has entered the body politic; things like the irrational dismissal of science or the insistence that cutting taxes produces more revenue or any of a thousand other assaults on reality. I can't help but be slightly insulted that my participation in the netroots movement is even being compared to such demagoguery and deviousness. I do not think we are the same animals and if the netroots become that I will no longer be a part of it.

I'm a liberal and proud of it and I think the world will be a better place if liberal policies have a greater voice and influence in the discourse. I  help Democrats since they are the only vehicle for progressive and liberal politics in our system. But more than that I want to have a culture where liberal ideas are honestly represented and rightwing lies and manipulation are seriously challenged. I do not believe that you can leave that up to some disinterested, objective seekers of truth because they proved over the course of a couple of decades that they were much too weak and gullible to challenge the conservative onslaught. So I and many others stepped up. Waiting for everyone to "see the truth" just wasn't working out (which Chait admits in his article.)

Overall, the piece is insightful in some respects and I don't mean to pick it apart. But none of this happened in a vacuum, and Chait rather scrupulously avoids delving too deeply into the rightwing's strategic mendacity. And without that you can't really understand what brought us to this place and what motivates us to move ahead. Rather than wanting to become a competing propaganda organ, I think most of us actually want to reintroduce the idea of honest political debate because we believe we will win on the merits. (Why else have the Republicans found it necessary to lie, cheat and steal to the degree they have?) The first step in doing that is to dismantle their propaganda, which is what we are doing. No one that I know of has ever suggested that we create our own.

Since that time many mainstream liberals have joined that fight against the right wing and some of them are brilliantly calling out the right wing every day. Sometimes I feel as if I'm reading liberal blog posts from 2006 when I read the op-ed pages or columns in mainstream magazines these days. And I'm glad of it! Welcome to the fray. But they were behind the curve. The much maligned bloggers were on to the right wing a long time ago. The mainstream media too ...

(And if you look closely you can see that the same forces are still behind the curve today.)

If this is the sort of thing you value in your political diet, I'd appreciate it if you could throw a little something into the kitty so that we can keep going:


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Daddy, may I? #forcedchildbirthedition

by digby

How much do you want to bet this fellow is a big believer in property rights? Well, except for the right of a woman to own her own body:
A Missouri lawmaker who filed a bill requiring women seeking abortions to obtain notarized consent from the man who impregnated them defended the measure in an interview with 41 Action News on Thursday.

“It took two to come together and create a child, and right now the way it is the woman gets the full say and the father gets no say, and I think that that needs to change,” Brattin said. “With the women’s movement for equal rights, well it’s swung so far we have now taken away the man’s right and the say in their child’s life.” He added, “It’s a child’s life that’s taken. The woman’s life is not altered.”

Brattin’s bill includes an exception for victims of “legitimate rape” who report the crime to the police.

“Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it,” Brattin told Mother Jones earlier this month. “So you couldn’t just go and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was raped,’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape… I’m just saying if there was a legitimate rape, you’re going to make a police report, just as if you were robbed.”

And "you have to prove it." I'm not sure how, but if I had to guess this would probably be the way:

The Sodomized Virgin Exception

South Dakota:

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother's life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

See? It just has to be brutalized and sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it to the point at which a woman's life would be threatened if she carried it to term, that's all. If it falls short of that, she could ask for permission from the man who impregnated her to have an abortion.  And maybe, if she asks very, very nicely, he'll say yes. Otherwise her body belongs to him for the duration.  But then it already did, didn't it?

So the "I was only following orders" defense now officially confers immunity on CIA

by digby

Unbelievable. Here's another one:
A panel investigating the Central Intelligence Agency’s search of a computer network used by staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who were looking into the C.I.A.’s use of torture will recommend against punishing anyone involved in the episode, according to current and former government officials.

The panel will make that recommendation after the five C.I.A. officials who were singled out by the agency’s inspector general this year for improperly ordering and carrying out the computer searches staunchly defended their actions, saying that they were lawful and in some cases done at the behest of John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director.

While effectively rejecting the most significant conclusions of the inspector general’s report, the panel, appointed by Mr. Brennan and composed of three C.I.A. officers and two members from outside the agency, is still expected to criticize agency missteps that contributed to the fight with Congress.

But its decision not to recommend anyone for disciplinary action is likely to anger members of the Intelligence Committee, who have accused the C.I.A. of trampling on the independence of Congress and interfering with its investigation of agency wrongdoing. The computer searches occurred late last year while the committee was finishing an excoriating report on the agency’s detention and interrogation program.

This episode seems to made the Senate more angry than anything else in this entire episode. (Authoritarian behavior is always worse when it happens to you...) One wonders if they'll find the fortitude to address this with some legislation or if they will just let it pass and in the process give up the last shred of institutional integrity.

If the CIA can get away with spying on members of the US Senate for this, what makes anyone believe they won't spy on other politicians for other reasons? Why shouldn't they? They can just say it was legal and that someone told them to do it and it's no harm no foul.

It sure makes it easy to see why the political class is so blindly supportive of the intelligence community isn't it?

It's our annual holiday fundraiser. If you have a few dollars to spare to help keep Hullabaloo going, I'd be very grateful for the support --- digby

Merry Christmas, punk

by digby

That a little cruder than the Glenn Beck version I wrote about a while back, but it's the same basic theme. Apparently, Santa Claus is much too soft and effeminate for Real Americans. So they're rewriting him as a badass:

You may or may not have heard that Beck has a book and movie empire. It’s called the American Dream Labs and they’re devoted to faith-based stories for the whole family. They currently have two projects in development. One is called “The Revolutionary” and it seems to be shrouded in secrecy. Knowing Beck’s love of thrillers it’s possible that’s a sequel to his blockbuster bestseller “The Overton Window.” We can only hope that it will feature the exciting action and scintillating dialogue like “I’ve got some rules, too, and rule number one is, don’t tease the panther” from that earlier masterpiece. On the other hand, it’s always possible that he’s rewriting the story of George Washington revealing for the first time that he was actually the direct descendant of Jesus Christ and Cleopatra. We’ll just have to wait and see.

The other project is called “The Immortal” and Beck has been giving out some tantalizing clues about it in recent days. He says he was inspired by the fact that kids love Santa Claus and he doesn’t want to burst their bubble but basically the jolly old elf is nothing but a scam artist who is ruining the real meaning of Christmas. So he wrote a new story about Kris Kringle — as an action hero who serves as a sort of ninja bodyguard for a young Jesus Christ. Seriously. Here is what he said on his show earlier this week:

My Santa, the Immortal is a very different guy. He starts out right before the birth of Christ, and he is up in the mountains. And he is a warrior. He has lost his wife, and he’s a sad individual. And he’s got a son who loves dearly, and he lives up in the mountains, and he hunts for food.

But what’s interesting about him is he’s also good with his hands, and the way he hunts is completely different. He actually goes up in the mountains, and he makes these giant puppets that he actually gets inside. And he is trying to kill these wild boars by being inside one of these puppets, if you will, of a boar. And he roots around as the boars come in. That way he’s close enough to kill them.

And he takes his son and leaves him in his sledge up on the mountaintop and tells him to be careful. You know, he has taught him to be smart and wise, but as Agios, the main character, comes down, and he is hunting for these wild boar, he hears a scream up by the sledge, and the wolves have come and dragged his boy away.

And what ensues is a violent, bloody encounter with the wolves as Santa Claus stabs and slashes the animal in retribution for what they’ve done to his son. Let’s just say that no visions of sugar plums will be dancing in your kid’s head after Daddy reads this story on the night before Christmas. In fact, he’ll never sleep again.

Beck has done a little trailer for the story, which, as you might imagine, looks like it’s going to be just a little bit different than “It’s a Wonderful Life”:

This is how Beck explained that weird thing:
That’s Santa? Yes, because what does a man do when he’s in that position where he has no hope, no resurrection, nothing? What does he do? He goes on an amazing journey as a hunter, as a gatherer. He eventually is hired by three wise men because he can negotiate, because nobody is going to rip them off, and he knows how to get the very best gifts. And so he negotiates with gold, frankincense, and myrrh and then has to go protect that gold, frankincense, and myrrh and then through a series of events is left there to protect the Christ child, never interacting, just watching.

He doesn’t know who he is, and he goes darker and darker in his whole life as he watches this boy grow, but he’s always touched by him, but he doesn’t realize it until the Sermon on the Mount. As this now 75-year-old man who has spent 30 years just following this little boy, as he’s listening to the Sermon on the Mount, he finally breaks. He knows who he is, and he falls to his knees, and he says Lord, let me serve him. Let me protect him. Let me point the way towards him until his mission is finished.

And that's why he carries an Automatic Rifle today.

Merry Christmas, punk.

It's our annual holiday fundraiser. If you have a few dollars to spare to help keep Hullabaloo going, I'd be very grateful for the support --- digby

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Many thanks

by digby

Thanks so much for your contributions to the annual holiday fundraiser so far. I'm always so touched by your generosity and your kind thoughts. In fact, it's one of the reason I do this at this time of year --- it never fails to make me feel the spirit of the season.

I thought I would re-run this piece by Glenn Greenwald  in the Guardian before he broke the biggest story of the decade and moved on to create his new media company First Look. I think it explains what this humble blog is all about:
Ever since I began political writing, I've relied on annual reader donations to enable me to do the journalism I want to do: first when I wrote at my own Blogspot page and then at Salon. Far and away, that has been the primary factor enabling me to remain independent - to be unconstrained in what I can say and do - because it means I'm ultimately accountable to my readers, who don't have an agenda other than demanding that I write what I actually think, that the work I produce be unconstrained by institutional orthodoxies and without fear of negative reaction from anyone... 
For that reason, when I moved my blog from Salon to the Guardian, the Guardian and I agreed that I would continue to rely in part on reader support. Having this be part of the arrangement, rather than exclusively relying on the Guardian paying to publish the column, was vital to me. It's the model I really I believe in.

It is an indispensable factor in my independence. It enables me to work far more effectively by having the resources I need and to spend my time only on the work which I actually believe can have an impact. 
It keeps my readers invested in the work I do and keeps me accountable to them. And it's what enables me to know that I'll be able to continue focusing on the issues and advancing the perspectives which I think are vital regardless of who that might alienate. I've spent all of this week extensively traveling and working continuously on what will be a huge story: something made possible by being at the Guardian but also by my ability to devote all of my time and efforts to projects like this one.

--- Glenn Greenwald, June 2013
I'm quite sure I won't be breaking any huge stories like the NSA revelations. But your support helps me to stay independent and do the thing we do here, which is call it like we see it. And I'm so very grateful for that.

Whistling towards Dixie

by Tom Sullivan

A week ago I wrote about a suspected lynching under investigation along the coast in North Carolina. Eerie stuff. Up here in the mountains, we've got this Scot-Irish thing happening that defines local attitudes (the kind of thing Sara Robinson has written about for years). But things are hardly static. Inmigration is changing the South. In the wake of Michael Tomasky's recent "dump Dixie" column, Chris Kromm at the Institute for Southern Studies counters with why that's a bad idea.

Southern clout is expected to grow with population, he writes. "Southern states are projected to gain another five Congressional seats and Electoral College votes in 2020. Ignoring the South just isn't an option if Democrats want to be relevant in national politics."

And the South is not Democrats' biggest problem. Democrats' Senate candidates may have lost by an average of 18 points in the South, but they lost by an average of 26 points in the Great Plains. "But for some reason," Kromm writes, "we're never treated to post-Election Day screeds from Northern pundits about the Great Plains being a cesspool of 'prejudice' and 'resentment.'"

Thirdly, "Nearly half of all African Americans in the country live in 13 Southern states." And that population is growing, a "two-decade trend of return migration of blacks to the South." Those people are a large chunk Democrats' base voters. Abandoning them is to cut off one's nose to spite the face. And besides those, Kromm writes, "Southern states also have among the fastest-growing Latino and Asian communities. The South ranks at the top for both migration from other states and immigration from abroad. The number of counties in the South that are majority people of color is projected to double within a generation."

But demography is not enough. The left may gloat over the point spread by which women favor Democrats over Republicans, but when Democrats are losing white, working-class voters by 30 points in off-years when young voters generally stay home, the result is 2014.

Undoing that (and the redistricting post 2010) will not be quick or easy. The NC Supreme Court just yesterday upheld the GOP's 2011 redistricting maps. Because of a computer glitch on Election Night 2008, our local Board of Elections had trouble uploading vote totals to Raleigh. Barack Obama had already won, but John McCain still led in North Carolina by 3,000 votes. The only county left to report with any votes in it was ours. A colleague fresh from the Board downtown slid up to me at the watch party and slipped a printout into my hands: 17,000 votes net for Obama. We'd won every race in the county. In 2014, when Democrats everywhere else across the South lost ground, we gained it here.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Baby please come home (for the last time)

by digby

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars notes that tonight is the last time Darlene Love will be singing Christmas (baby please come home) on Letterman.

I'll miss it ...

It's annual holiday fundraiser time. Your support is very much appreciated.

Don't fool with Mother Nature

by digby

Good lord. Why in the world are we even thinking of fracking? The following summarizes the various considerations that went into New York's official ban on the practice this week:
Respiratory health: The report cites the dangers of methane emissions from natural gas drilling in Texas and Pennsylvania, which have been linked to asthma and other breathing issues. Another study found that 39 percent of residents in southern Pennsylvania who lived within one kilometer of a fracking site developed upper-respiratory problems compared with 18 percent of those who lived more than two kilometers away.

Drinking water: Shallow methane-migration underground could seep into drinking water, one study found, contaminating wells. Another found brine from deep shale formations in groundwater aquifers. The report also refers to a study of fracking communities in the Appalachian Plateau where they found methane in 82 percent of drinking water samples, and that concentrations of the chemical were six times higher in homes close to natural gas wells. Ethane was 23 times higher in homes close to fracking sites as well.

Seismic activity: The report cites studies from Ohio and Oklahoma that explain how fracking can trigger earthquakes. Another found that fracking near Preese Hall in the United Kingdom resulted in a 2.3 magnitude earthquake as well as 1.5 magnitude earthquake.

Climate change: Excess methane can be released into the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming. One study predicts that fracking in New York State would contribute between 7 percent and 28 percent of the volatile organic compound emissions, and between 6 percent and 18 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions in the region by 2020.

Soil contamination: One analysis of a natural gas site found elevated levels of radioactive waste in the soil, potentially the result of surface spills.

The community: The report refers to problems such as noise and odor pollution, citing a case in Pennsylvania where gas harvesting was linked to huge increases in automobile accidents and heavy truck crashes.

Health complaints: Residents near active fracking sites reported having symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, nosebleeds, and headaches according to studies. A study in rural Colorado which examined 124,842 births between 1996 and 2009 found that those who lived closest to natural gas development sites had a 30 percent increase in congenital heart conditions. The group of births closest to development sites also had a 100-percent increased chance of developing neural tube defects.

Why in world is anyone in favor of this besides oil company executives and terrorists?

I don't know how much of that is going to be scientifically valid over time but if even 25% of it is, it makes little sense to just continue doing this willy-nilly.

Whenever I read about this I can't help but recall this little bit of history:
In the 1910s and 1920s the southern Plains was "the last frontier of agriculture" according to the government, when rising wheat prices, a war in Europe, a series of unusually wet years, and generous federal farm policies created a land boom – the Great Plow-Up that turned 5.2 million acres of thick native grassland into wheat fields. Newcomers rushed in and towns sprang up overnight.

As the nation sank into the Depression and wheat prices plummeted from $2 a bushel to 40 cents, farmers responded by tearing up even more prairie sod in hopes of harvesting bumper crops. When prices fell even further, the "suitcase farmers" who had moved in for quick profits simply abandoned their fields. Huge swaths of eight states, from the Dakotas to Texas and New Mexico, where native grasses had evolved over thousands of years to create a delicate equilibrium with the wild weather swings of the Plains, now lay naked and exposed.

Then the drought began. It would last eight straight years. Dust storms, at first considered freaks of nature, became commonplace. Static charges in the air shorted-out automobiles on the road; men avoided shaking hands for fear of shocks that could knock a person to the ground. Huge drifts of dirt buried pastures and barnyards, piled up in front of homesteaders' doors, came in through window cracks and sifted down from ceilings. 
Some 850 million tons of topsoil blew away in 1935 alone. "Unless something is done," a government report predicted, "the western plains will be as arid as the Arabian desert."

That was the Dust Bowl, obviously.

Scientists knew this would happen and they warned farmers but it did no good. And we know why.
We want it now – and if it makes money now it's a good idea. But if the things we're doing are going to mess up the future it wasn't a good idea. Don't deal on the moment. Take the long-term look at things. It's important that we do the right thing by the soil and the climate. History, is of value only if you learn from it.

Wayne Lewis, Dust Bowl survivor
Yeah, well, good luck with that.

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And yet they insist that America never executed an innocent person

by digby

A little story in passing from the New York Times:
Seventy years after he was executed in South Carolina, George Stinney’s conviction was vacated by a state judge Wednesday on the grounds that he had not received a fair trial.

Stinney, a 14-year-old black boy, was arrested in March 1944 for the murder of two white girls in Clarendon County, S.C. In less than three months, he was tried, convicted and put to death.He was the youngest person to be executed in the U.S. in the 20th century. Reports from the execution chamber said he was so small that the jolt of electricity knocked the mask from his face.

In a 28-page order, Judge Carmen T. Mullen — who heard testimony on the case in January — did not rule on the merits of the murder charges against Stinney, but found that there were “fundamental, constitutional violations of due process” across the board.

Indeed, nothing about Stinney’s case came close to meeting basic constitutional requirements.

He was arrested without a warrant and questioned without a lawyer.

The lawyer eventually appointed to defend him was a tax commissioner who had never before represented a criminal defendant.

The only evidence against him was the word of the local police chief who said he had confessed.

Stinney’s entire capital trial lasted three hours. His lawyer neither cross-examined the prosecution’s witnesses nor called any witnesses for the defense.

The jury — all white in a county that was almost three-quarters black — convicted and condemned him in 10 minutes. There were no appeals.

Judge Mullen found fault on all of these counts. Regarding the confession, she wrote, “it is highly likely that the Defendant was coerced into confessing to the crimes due to the power differential between his position as a fourteen-year-old black male apprehended and questioned by white, uniformed law enforcement in a small, segregated mill town in South Carolina.”

She also found that Stinney’s constitutional rights were violated by a lawyer who was the “essence” of ineffectiveness, and by the empaneling of an all-white jury.

The story shows that since then the Supreme Court has expanded constitutional protections for criminal defendants, perhaps most importantly for a case like this, the banning of executions of people who were minors when the crime was committed.

Which happened all the way back in 2005!

The article points out the stark fact that African Americans make up a third of death row convicts and that "a black defendant convicted of killing a white person is still nearly 10 times as likely to be sentenced to death as a white defendant convicted of killing a black person."

But surely there's nothing to see there folks. Our system can't make mistakes today, it's that good. If we execute a person you can bet they committed the crime.

Just like this poor, poor kid...

For all of our great faith in the American system we sure are cavalier about that whole innocent and guilty thing. Just ask Dick Cheney --- he figures as long as few guilty ones get punished too it's all good.

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It's that time again --- Holiday Fundraiser at Hullabaloo!

by digby

It's been quite a year here at the old Hullabaloo homestead. Many good things have come my way and I'm so grateful for them.  Last spring I was surprised and thrilled to learn that I had won the Sidney Hillman prize for opinion and analysis, something this old country blogger never expected in her wildest dreams. After all, I've just been scribbling away on this humble site, pretty much writing whatever comes into my head.  It's a very rare privilege indeed to have been acknowledged for that work and I couldn't have been more elated by the honor.

Blogging is its own form of writing --- an ongoing stream of consciousness conversation that lasts, in my case, for years. On good blogs, some posts always stand alone as essays but I think it's the evolution of ideas and observations that take place over time that makes a blog stay alive and meaningful. That's how it works for me anyway. It was extremely gratifying to be rewarded for writing in this new form.

And aside from the ongoing privilege of howling about everything from Chris Matthews to torture here in my own place, if you've visited Salon.com in the past few months you've noticed my name as a contributor there. They were kind enough to offer me the opportunity to post some of my writing and I'm very grateful for the privilege. Salon was one of the first online sites I ever visited and it's been a mainstay of the liberal side of the political and cultural internet for decades. It's good fit and I'm enjoying it a lot.

This year has also seen some new faces at Hullabaloo which makes me very happy.  In addition to my long time contributors Dennis Hartley, tristero and David Atkins I've been happy to add Tom Sullivan, Gaius Publius and Spocko to the roster as well as welcome back my old friend Batoccio on occasion. These writers are all bloggers from way back whose writing and activism I've admired. It makes me very happy to be able to provide a platform for their ideas and I'm thankful for their contributions.

Those of you who've stuck by me through thick and thin all these years can also take a little bow. None of this would have happened without you helping to support me these past few years with your donations. Each holiday season I come to you with my request to keep this site going and you always come through.

I'm asking you to do it again this year.

For all the opportunities and honors I've had this past year, it's this site that sustains me intellectually and spiritually --- and financially. It's what makes everything else possible and therefore, nothing I do supersedes my commitment to blogging.  I may be a dinosaur, but I'm determined to survive with my dinosaur cred intact. (And everything old may just be new again --- the Washington Post referred to this blog as "old-school chic" just the other day!)

So, once again I'm asking for your support. If you think the kind of independent blogging I do is something that still has value and you think that people like me, Atrios, Marcy Wheeler, John Amato, Howie Klein  and others still contribute value to our political dialog, please consider dropping a few bucks in the kitty so Hullabaloo can keep going for another year.

You can make a one time contribution via paypal or by credit card. You can buy a monthly subscription too.  Or you can send your donation via snail mail to this address:

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

Happy Hollandaise everyone! And thanks again for your past support. It means the world to me.



The sanctimonious hypocrisy is almost too much to bear #Cuba

by digby

I wrote a post over at Salon yesterday about the insane hypocrisy of all these critics of Cuba's human rights policies while defending American human rights abuses ... in Cuba!
Marco Rubio:
The Cuban people — like all those oppressed around the world — they look to America to stand up for these rights, to live up to our commitment to the God-given right of every person, to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
These were very stirring words to be sure. But you have to wonder if any of these people have the slightest bit of self-awareness. Do they have any idea how hollow their words sound when just a week ago they were condemning our own government for releasing a report that documented America’s own human rights abuses? It’s absolutely true that the most notorious prison camp on the planet is in Cuba — but it’s run by the U.S. government. Guantánamo Bay is still open for business and its practices are still condemned the world over for its mistreatment of prisoners. And Ted Cruz’s lugubrious hand-wringing over the Cuban government holding people without due process would certainly be a lot more convincing if Americans hadn’t been holding innocent people for years in Cuba with no hope of ever leaving.

The layers of hypocrisy and inconsistency and immorality in American society run so deep at this point that we might just as well speak gibberish and call it English. It's hard enough to hear anyone go about talking up American exceptionalism and touting out moral authority as the shining city on a hill, but to have the utter chutzpah to call out another country's human rights abuses when we have been committing torture in that country is just too much.

Just stop, I beg you. Admit that we are the world's only superpower and we'll do whatever we think is necessary by any means necessary and we don't give a damn what anyone thinks of us. Bring it. That's who we are now, and everyone in the world knows it except for the American people who believe that if we do it must also be "good."

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Teaching and Table-Waiting 

by tristero

Brittany Bronson, in the New York Times:
On the first day of the fall semester, I left campus from an afternoon of teaching anxious college freshmen and headed to my second job, serving at a chain restaurant off Las Vegas Boulevard. The switch from my professional attire to a white dress shirt, black apron and tie reflected the separation I attempt to maintain between my two jobs. Naturally, sitting at the first table in my section was one of my new students, dining with her parents… 
... my part-time work in the Vegas service industry has produced three times more income than my university teaching. (I’ve passed up the health benefits that come with full-time teaching, a luxury foreign to the majority of adjuncts at other universities, to make time for my blue-collar work.)
In short:

You wait tables? You're gonna need at least a second job.

You teach college? You're gonna need at least a second job.

You trick poor suckers into investing in elaborate Ponzi schemes like subprime mortgages? You spend the rest of your life complaining about the decline in service at private jetports.

Trickle down, indeed. With a big emphasis on trickle.

And a bigger emphasis on staying down.

BTW, Bronson's article was a terrific read. I hope she writes more.

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Why what we saw was totally not torture

by Tom Sullivan

All the news about the CIA torture program reminded me of those batches of FBI emails the ACLU obtained through FOIA requests. The ones Sen. Dick Durbin held up and described to colleagues like this:

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."
After about ten days of epic, right-wing hissy fit, a tearful Durbin apologized to the U.S. Senate. After the release of the SCCI report, doesn't he feel like an idiot?

(I have this image in my head of Bill Frist accepting Durbin's apology, walking solemnly back to his office, closing the door, and doubling over laughing. The Art of the Hissy Fit is simply alpha dog behavior — showing who's boss by barking loudly in the other dog's face until he rolls over on his back and pees in the air. This is called winning. Torture serves a similar function, doesn't it?)
A May 22, 2004 FBI email described techniques used at Guantanamo Bay that agents on site found disturbing. Although the techniques listed seem not as harsh as those used by the CIA or at Abu Ghraib, the FBI still considered them torture, and said so. Basically, Special Agents were pointedly NOT reporting to superiors that what they'd seen were crimes.

The EC [Electronic Communication] states that "if an FBI employee knows or suspects non-FBI personnel has abused or is abusing or is mistreating a detainee, the FBI employee must report the incident."
See, they write, what we saw would be a crime we'd have to report except we're really not reporting that because the interrogators have an Executive Order from President Bush that makes the illegal techniques legal, therefore by definition not "abuse" and our bureau people are totally NOT involved in any of it. At all.

The agents made sure to repeat "Executive Order" ten times in two pages so no one could miss it. The White House later claimed no such order existed and the FBI and the Pentagon said the directive originated with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

An earlier email from December 5, 2003 suggested that DOD interrogators at GITMO were impersonating FBI agents to their prisoners.
The e-mail concludes "If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [sic] the 'FBI' interrogators. The FBI will [sic] left holding the bag before the public."
The document also says that no "intelligence of a threat neutralization nature" was garnered by the "FBI" interrogation, and that the FBI's Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) believes that the Defense Department's actions have destroyed any chance of prosecuting the detainee. The e-mail's author writes that he or she is documenting the incident "in order to protect the FBI."

But to protect the FBI from what? Digby linked to a Pew poll the other day showing lots of public support for the use of torture. A Washington Post-ABC News poll produced similarly grim results.
No wonder former vice president Dick Cheney feels he can brag about torturing people on TV with impunity. Because in America our convictions are a mile wide and an inch deep. We are better at boasting about them than sticking to them.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stevie we hardly knew ye

by digby

I haven't had the opportunity to see the last episode of The Colbert Report yet because I'm on the West Coast (and all you east coasters are ruining everything as usual by running your east coast mouths on twitter!) But I have been enjoying all the tributes  and remembrances over the past few days.

Still, this is the best thing he ever did, the most stellar, surreal put down of the Village anyone anywhere has ever done.  And he went directly into the belly of the beast and did it right to their faces. They didn't know what hit them:

Remember, this was 2006, when the press was still in full swoon over Bush and barely waking up to the fact that the war in Iraq was a big fat loser and that they had been so far in the tank for the Republicans for years that they'd grown gills. Those of us who followed the media closely were at a point of near despair. And then came this moment of pure comeuppance. It was beautiful.

I didn't see it live.  I saw it the next morning on C-SPAN.  My husband and I and my brother and sister in law who were visiting sprang from our chairs and stood in front of the TV for the entire thing, cheering, laughing and even dancing. It was one of the best moments of the decade and I will never forget it.

Politics is going to be a lot less fun now. Colbert always gets it and then gives it back in a whole new way. I've often looked to him for assurance that I'm on the right track --- that the political lunacy I see around me isn't a product of my own delusions.  So I will miss conservative "Stephen"  --- he was a touchstone to sanity.  But normal Stephen will be back with a new thing that I'm sure will be vastly entertaining and intelligent.  He's just that good.

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The torture queen and the black muslim plot

by digby

Jane Mayer reports on this story about the CIA's Torture Queen, a woman who was not only responsible for much of the epic cock-up of 9/11 but virtually every sick thing the CIA has done since then. She's reportedly the model for the lead character in Zero Dark Thirty, except she evidently really got off on the torture. She's been promoted, naturally.

It's a fascinating story and well worth reading but I just wanted to highlight this:
As NBC recounts, this egregious chapter was apparently only the first in a long tale, in which the same C.I.A. official became a driving force in the use of waterboarding and other sadistic interrogation techniques that were later described by President Obama as “torture.” She personally partook in the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, at a black site in Poland. According to the Senate report, she sent a bubbly cable back to C.I.A. headquarters in 2003, anticipating the pain they planned to inflict on K.S.M. in an attempt to get him to confirm a report from another detainee, about a plot to use African-American Muslims training in Afghanistan for future terrorist attacks. “i love the Black American Muslim at AQ camps in Afghanuistan (sic). … Mukie (K.S.M.) is going to be hatin’ life on this one,” she wrote, according to the report. But, as NBC notes, she misconstrued the intelligence gathered from the other detainee. Somehow, the C.I.A. mistakenly believed that African-American Muslim terrorists were already in the United States. The intelligence officials evidently pressed K.S.M. so hard to confirm this, under such physical duress, that he eventually did, even though it was false—leading U.S. officials on a wild-goose chase for black Muslim Al Qaeda operatives in Montana. According to the report, the same woman oversaw the extraction of this false lead, as well as the months-long rendition and gruesome interrogation of another detainee whose detention was a case of mistaken identity. Later, in 2007, she accompanied then C.I.A. director Michael Hayden to brief Congress, where she insisted forcefully that the torture program had been a tremendous and indispensable success.

This is a war criminal, full stop. And she's being rewarded for it by the US Government.

I have to say that I've always been surprised that the right wingers didn't glom onto the black Muslim, Nation of Islam thing to bring their visceral hatred for both African Americans into the war on terror. In fact, I've considered a sign of a certain maturity that they didn't do it --- it would have been easy to concoct some connections and could have been extremely destructive.

Apparently some people tried but they were in the CIA, thank goodness. And the CIA are such royal fuck-ups they couldn't manage to get it done. Silver linings ...

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Doctors without boundaries

by digby

In the course of writing about the torture regime, I came across some previous work I did in real time on the subject that are relevant again.

The idea that after all this time they are still convinced of their rectitude --- and that a majority of the public is behind them is mind-boggling. I thought the one below from 2009 was as chilling today as it was when I wrote it.  I'll never get used to the fact that we are unrepentant torturers.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Professional Courtesy

by digby

In reading the Bybee torture memo, you see that he refers constantly to the "professionals" and the medical personnel who oversaw the interrogations. He uses the fact that American military personnel who had undergone SERE training had suffered little lasting damage due to their training in these techniques. (No metion of the logical conclusion that American military personnel knew that the people who were inflicting the torture were only doing it for demonstration purposes and therefore had a completely different psychological reaction.)

Names have been redacted and much of the advice Bybee relies upon is not revealed with any specificity. But rely on it he does, through the entire opinion. Indeed, when you read this classic CIA CYA memo, you get the clear feeling that Bybee was trying to cover his own ass by constantly referring to these "experts" who stipulated that Zubaydah was in good health (despite the fact that the man had almost died of gunshot wounds just a few months before), was completely in control (except for being a schizophrenic) and was handling his interrogation with equanimity (by compulsively masturbating.)

One has to assume that at least some of the CIA personnel the Obama administration promised not to prosecute today were among those to whom Bybee refers. So who are they?

There is actually quite a bit of information out there about how this whole thing happened so it's not hard to figure it out. First, it's important to recall that the Zubaydah case was special for a number of reasons, the most important of which was that it spelled the end of the battle between the FBI and the CIA as to how to properly interrogate Al Qaeda prisoners. The FBI believed that that the best way to get actionable info from these people was to use approved interrogation techniques (which in Zubaydah's case was quite effective.) But the CIA objected, insisting that he knew more than he was saying and that only by using torture could they get it out of him.

Jane Meyer published many of the details about the people involved and the program they used several years ago in the New Yorker:

The C.I.A. program’s first important detainee was Abu Zubaydah, a top Al Qaeda operative, who was captured by Pakistani forces in March of 2002. Lacking in-house specialists on interrogation, the agency hired a group of outside contractors, who implemented a regime of techniques that one well-informed former adviser to the American intelligence community described as “a ‘Clockwork Orange’ kind of approach.” The experts were retired military psychologists, and their backgrounds were in training Special Forces soldiers how to survive torture, should they ever be captured by enemy states. The program, known as SERE—an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape—was created at the end of the Korean War. It subjected trainees to simulated torture, including waterboarding (simulated drowning), sleep deprivation, isolation, exposure to temperature extremes, enclosure in tiny spaces, bombardment with agonizing sounds, and religious and sexual humiliation. The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.”

The use of psychologists was also considered a way for C.I.A. officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture. The former adviser to the intelligence community said, “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have Ph.D.s who have these theories.’ ” He said that, inside the C.I.A., where a number of scientists work, there was strong internal opposition to the new techniques. “Behavioral scientists said, ‘Don’t even think about this!’ They thought officers could be prosecuted.”

Nevertheless, the SERE experts’ theories were apparently put into practice with Zubaydah’s interrogation. Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he was not only waterboarded, as has been previously reported; he was also kept for a prolonged period in a cage, known as a “dog box,” which was so small that he could not stand. According to an eyewitness, one psychologist advising on the treatment of Zubaydah, James Mitchell, argued that he needed to be reduced to a state of “learned helplessness.” (Mitchell disputes this characterization.)

Steve Kleinman, a reserve Air Force colonel and an experienced interrogator who has known Mitchell professionally for years, said that “learned helplessness was his whole paradigm.” Mitchell, he said, “draws a diagram showing what he says is the whole cycle. It starts with isolation. Then they eliminate the prisoners’ ability to forecast the future—when their next meal is, when they can go to the bathroom. It creates dread and dependency. It was the K.G.B. model. But the K.G.B. used it to get people who had turned against the state to confess falsely. The K.G.B. wasn’t after intelligence.”

As the C.I.A. captured and interrogated other Al Qaeda figures, it established a protocol of psychological coercion. The program tied together many strands of the agency’s secret history of Cold War-era experiments in behavioral science. (In June, the C.I.A. declassified long-held secret documents known as the Family Jewels, which shed light on C.I.A. drug experiments on rats and monkeys, and on the infamous case of Frank R. Olson, an agency employee who leaped to his death from a hotel window in 1953, nine days after he was unwittingly drugged with LSD.) The C.I.A.’s most useful research focussed on the surprisingly powerful effects of psychological manipulations, such as extreme sensory deprivation. According to Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, who has written a history of the C.I.A.’s experiments in coercing subjects, the agency learned that “if subjects are confined without light, odors, sound, or any fixed references of time and place, very deep breakdowns can be provoked.”

Agency scientists found that in just a few hours some subjects suspended in water tanks—or confined in isolated rooms wearing blacked-out goggles and earmuffs—regressed to semi-psychotic states. Moreover, McCoy said, detainees become so desperate for human interaction that “they bond with the interrogator like a father, or like a drowning man having a lifesaver thrown at him. If you deprive people of all their senses, they’ll turn to you like their daddy.” McCoy added that “after the Cold War we put away those tools. There was bipartisan reform. We backed away from those dark days. Then, under the pressure of the war on terror, they didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”

The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. “It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,” an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. “At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”

Mayer names the two senior psychologists involved in the reverse engineering of the SERE program in her book The Dark Side: James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen whom she described as ”good looking, clean-cut, polite Mormons.”

KGB torture techniques are what the Bybee memo legalized --- at the behest of retired CIA "psychologists." And they recommended it over the objections of trained FBI interrogators and behavioral scientists in the CIA itself. Those were the experts he relied upon to assure him that Zubaydah was a seasoned terrorist warrior who could only be "broken" by using torture. He ignored plenty of others who said otherwise.

We know now that the information that was gleaned from Zubaydah under torture was completely useless. That's what that torture program is designed to do, after all -- elicit false confessions. And it cost this country millions and millions of dollars and uselessly scared the hell out of people:

Ron Susskind, who also wrote extensively about Zubaydah in The One Percent Solution and wrote this in TIME Magazine when Zubaydah was transferred to Guantanamo:
What is widely known inside the Administration is that once we caught our first decent-size fish--Abu Zubaydah, in March 2002--we used him as an experiment in righteous brutality that in the end produced very little. His interrogation, according to those overseeing it, yielded little from threats and torture. He named countless targets inside the U.S. to stop the pain, all of them immaterial. Indeed, think back to the sudden slew of alerts in the spring and summer of 2002 about attacks on apartment buildings, banks, shopping malls and, of course, nuclear plants. What little of value he did tell us came largely from a more sophisticated approach, using his religious belief in predestination to convince him he miraculously survived his arrest (he was shot three times and nursed to health by U.S. doctors) for a reason: to help the other side. It's that strange conviction that generated the few, modest disclosures of use to the U.S. Complicating matters is that Zubaydah was more a facilitator--a glorified al-Qaeda travel agent--than the operational master the Administration trumpeted him as. Also, he suffers from multiple personalities. His diary, which the government refuses to release, is written in three voices over 10 years and is filled with page after page of quotidian nonsense about housekeeping, food and types of tea.
So, it's not just a matter of morality, although this program was so immoral and depraved as to be nearly unbelievable. It was also excessively counterproductive in almost every way, to the point where I'm convinced that the US can probably never get its reputation back and will be seen as a brutal, threatening giant among many people around the world who never thought that before.

When Bybee was searching for legal justifications to do what the CIA wanted to do (and probably Cheney and the rest as well) here's what the man at the top was saying when he was being briefed about the torture of Zubaydah:

"I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports.

James Risen described this scene in his book State of War:
Risen makes much of an anecdote he heard from one of his trusty White House sources about a conversation in 2002 between then-CIA director George Tenet and George Bush after the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan, a known and high-ranking al Qaeda operative. Tenet was briefing Bush on the matter, explaining that not much intelligence had been pulled from Zubaydah in the early stages because he had been put on pain medication to deal with the injuries he sustained during capture. Bush asked Tenet: "Who authorized putting him on pain medication?" Risen speculates whether Bush was "implicitly encouraging" Tenet to order the harsh treatment of a prisoner "without the paper trail that would have come from a written presidential authorization." Risen writes, "If so, this episode offers the most direct link yet between Bush and the harsh treatment of prisoners by both the CIA and the U.S. military."
Risen does say that sources close to Tenet have challenged this account, but spends pages after writing about the significance of Zubaydah's interrogation as "the critical precedent for the future handling of prisoners both in the global war on terror and in the war in Iraq." Risen writes, "The harsh interrogation methods the CIA used on Zubaydah prompted the first wide-ranging and legal policy review establishing the procedures to be followed in the detention of future detainees. 'Abu Zubaydah's capture triggered everything,' explained a CIA source." Risen describes a turf war process that eventually had the CIA in charge of all the high-profile al Qaeda prisoners.

And everyone else at the top knew exactly what they were doing too. Mark Danner's recent mind-blowing story on the Red Cross report backed up this earlier bombshell:

Shortly after Abu Zubaydah was captured, according to ABC News, CIA officers "briefed high-level officials in the National Security Council's Principals Committee," including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Attorney General John Ashcroft, who "then signed off on the [interrogation] plan." At the time, the spring and summer of 2002, the administration was devising what some referred to as a "golden shield" from the Justice Department -— the legal rationale that was embodied in the infamous "torture memorandum," written by John Yoo and signed by Jay Bybee in August 2002... Still, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet regularly brought directly to the attention of the highest officials of the government specific procedures to be used on specific detainees —- "whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subject to simulated drowning" -- in order to seek reassurance that they were legal. According to the ABC report, the briefings of principals were so detailed and frequent that "some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed." At one such meeting, John Ashcroft, then attorney general, reportedly demanded of his colleagues, "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

They are all war criminals, from the nice looking Mormon sadists who call themselves doctors, to the twisted bureaucrats in the Justice Department who call themselves lawyers, to the top leadership of the Bush administration who sat there and watched choreographed torture sessions in the White House and have the utter gall to call themselves human. They all knew that what they were doing was repulsive and immoral. That's why went to such lengths to ensure that all of it was approved with all the is dotted and all the ts crossed all the way to the very top and back down again. They all implicated each other.

Apparently, they assumed that nobody would ever prosecute even one of these very important, upstanding members of their professions for horrific crimes such as these because if onw went down they would all go down. And apparently they were right.

Update: Oh, and let's be sure to add Steven Bradbury to the list. He's just as much of a sadistic madman as Bybee, Yoo and the rest of them --- and his opinions were in effect until he left office three months ago. More on his memos tomorrow. Warning: they will make you sick. 

And no reflection or retribution is not the answer. Prosecution is the answer. If these aren't criminal acts, nothing is. It's the stuff of nightmares.

Update: Apparently we are being disrespectful of the military to try war criminals because it's exactly the same as calling average Vietnam War Vets baby killers. At least according to our new Director of National Intelligence. William Calley was a hero I guess. 

Oh, and while it may seem terrible and disturbing to read these things in the bright light of 2009, we need to remember that our country went crazy after 9/11. All the way up until May of 2005, when the Bradbury memos were written. 

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