Magicians use misdirection to pull off most of their tricks. While you’re watching the hand they’re waving, the other hand is hiding the goodies. American news media used to pride itself on seeing through the distractions to the truth underneath, but that was in the days before Richard Viguerie, Roger Ailes, and the rest of the AEI-inspired right wing noise machine showed everybody how much ordinary people hate anybody who fucks with their precious illusions, and how much more money news media outlets could make if they tossed Truth down the disposal and concentrated instead on feeding into the fantasy.
Now, after 30 years of corporate media whose idea of professionalism is healthy quarterly increases to the bottom line by refusing to challenge the illusions of their “audience” or make them uncomfortable in any way, we have a news media so degenerate that when a conscience-stricken NSA nerd blows the whistle on the largest govt spying operation since the fall of the Wall turned the Stasi into traffic cops, the single element they choose to key on is…the whistleblower. (more…)
Way back in April of last year I wrote that there are some things that are above political loyalty and that the Constitution is one of them. In July I wrote in a post titled “The Constitution Doesn’t Poll Very Well” that noted how busily the Obama Admin and Congressional Blue Dogs were gutting the Bill of Rights. This past February I listed a number of Bush’s illegal powers that Obama was protecting despite his promises for “transparency, accountability and openness”. Now I have to report that Obama has decided to protect the people who retroactively wrote legal justifications for this illegal and immoral policy, defend the policy itself, and worst of all, accept torture as legitimate behaviour once he puts a Yoo-style legal framework around it so we can all pretend it isn’t inhuman.
As the attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., debates whether to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate the interrogations of terrorism suspects after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he is at the brink of a career-defining decision that risks the anger of the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the Justice Department’s main partners in combating terrorism.
There is no surprise then that Mr. Holder is said by officials to have been resistant at first to the idea of appointing a prosecutor, particularly since the Obama administration has made it clear that it wants to put the issue of interrogation practices during the Bush administration behind it.
Mr. Holder has told associates he is weighing a narrow investigation, focusing only on C.I.A. interrogators and contract employees who clearly crossed the line and violated the Bush administration’s guidelines and engaged in flagrantly abusive acts.
But in taking that route, Mr. Holder would run two risks. One is the political fallout if only a handful of low-level agents are prosecuted for what many critics see as a pattern of excess condoned at the top of the government. The other is that an aggressive prosecutor would not stop at the bottom, but would work up the chain of command, and end up with a full-blown criminal inquiry into the intelligence agencies — just the kind of broad, open-ended criminal investigation the Obama administration says it wants to avoid.
AG Holder is caught between a rock and a hard place. He’s under pressure both ethically and legally to prosecute torturers yet his boss doesn’t want him to prosecute any of the people who devised and ordered the torture to occur. Glenn Greenwald put what this means succinctly.
[T]he Newsweek reporter who first printed what DOJ officials told him about Holder’s intentions, Daniel Klaidman, confirmed in an interview on The Young Turks that Holder intends to confine any investigations only to “rogue” interrogators who exceeded John Yoo’s torture permission slips while shielding high-level Bush officials who acted in accordance with Yoo’s decrees. Proving yet again that there is nothing more difficult than satirizing our rotted political culture, here is what I wrote about Holder’s intentions last week:
Holder’s plan, at least at the moment, is — from the start — to confine the prosecutors’ authority to investigate to CIA agents who went beyond what John Yoo and George Bush decreed could be done (“he used more water than Yoo said he could”; “he tied him up for longer than Yoo authorized”; “the room was colder and the freezing water icier than Yoo allowed”). At least if these reports are accurate (and, for several reasons, that’s unclear), anyone who “merely” did what John Yoo said was legal — meaning everyone who matters — will be shielded and immunized.
If low-level CIA interrogators — and only them — end up as the targets of investigations because they used m0re water than John Yoo allowed, or turned the thermostat lower than the hypothermic levels which the DOJ permitted, or waterboarded with more frequency than Jay Bybee approved, I wouldn’t blame the CIA for being furious. It was the regime itself, implemented at the highest levels of our government, that was criminal. Prosecuting only low-level interrogators who followed the torturing spirit of those policies but transgressed some bureaucratic guidelines would be a travesty on par with what happened with the Abu Ghraib “investigations.”
(emphasis in original)
Worse, by putting the legal emphasis on whether or not the interrogators had exceeded the authority given them by Yoo and Bybee and the other apologists, Obama is tacitly accepting the Yoo/Bybee/Addington/Cheney assertion that a) torture is legal in the US and b) the president can legally order an illegal procedure as long as it is kept within whatever bounds are set by the president. Which in turn means that torture is now legal and that US presidents have the power to ignore treaty law, international law, and domestic law – the Constitution – just as Bush/Cheney claimed they did. It is a de facto rather than de jure assumption of power, quiet, even stealthy. Without facing the issue squarely, discussing it openly, or explaining it clearly, the Obama Admin is simply going to act as if it’s true, thus creating precedent and making it true.
I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t been looking in the right places or because there’s so much more of it around or because Barack Obama’s election made people – especially reporters and editors – braver about reporting this shit but there has been a mini-explosion of stories this week about racist cops, all of them ugly and all but one in the state of the union which I really wish we had let secede – Texas. Here are but three of them.
1. Take That, Granpaw
From The Field Negro comes a brutal and bewildering story out of Louisiana. You remember Louisiana, right? Jena? The nooses? The right-wing dismissing them as a “joke” or claiming racism doesn’t exist and it was all getting blown out of proportion? Well, this story from Homer may help put things in perspective.
HOMER, La.—On the last afternoon of his life, Bernard Monroe was hosting a cookout for family and friends in front of his dilapidated home on Adams Street in this small northern Louisiana town.
Throat cancer had robbed the 73-year-old retired electric utility worker of his voice years ago, but family members said Monroe was clearly enjoying the commotion of a dozen of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren cavorting around him in the dusty, grassless yard.
Then the Homer police showed up, two white officers whose arrival caused the participants at the black family gathering to quickly fall silent.
Within moments, Monroe lay dead, shot by one of the officers as his family looked on.
Obama’s actions are, at best, a mixed blessing so far. He has surrounded himself with establishmentarian Blue Dogs and Democrat conservatives, from his powerful Chief-of-Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, to Treas Sec Timmy Geithner (a Wall Street Willie if ever there was one), Leon Panetta at the CIA, and Larry Summers as a Presidential Advisor. While he has talked eloquently about Wall Street’s responsibility for the mess, he insisted in $billions$ in bail-out money to moribund, clueless auto CEO’s and is about to hand over another $30B to AIG because, you know, it ran through the first $100B paying for parties and executive bonuses.
But all of that was prelude to the real danger. It puts in context a much more conservative agenda. In “Dump the Dems 6” I warned, “The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs.” Obama seems to be going out of his way to prove it. Glenn Greenwald again reports on the heels of Marcy Wheeler’s excellent summation of the recent moves by the Obama Admin to make exactly the same arguments of presidential power that Bush made.
[T]he Obama DOJ is now spouting the Cheney/Addington view of government in its purest and most radical expression.
The brief filed by Obama on Friday afternoon (.pdf) has to be read to believed. It is literally arguing that no court has the power to order that classified documents be used in a judicial proceeding; instead, it is the President — and the President alone — who possesses that decision-making power under Article II, and no court order is binding on the President to the extent it purports to direct that such information be made available for use in a judicial proceeding.
What I’ve been afraid of is happening right now. Obama and the conservative Democrat leadership are fighting to preserve the very same power Obama criticized Bush for taking, using the same autocratic arguments that Bush used. Does it make them right just because a Democrat says them?
Of course not.
I hinted before that in the coming discussion about what to do now that the Democrat party is waving its true conservative colors around like a tattered battle flag that’s seen more defeats than Oprah has seen stretch marks, I was going to note before we rushed into deciding which Third Party to support that there was a case to be made for taking it back from the conservative minority that is currently strangling it. This is what I was talking about.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the State Secrets Protection Act of 2008, which was co-sponsored by numerous key Senators [including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Chair (Pat Leahy) and ranking member (Arlen Specter)], and which was approved by the Judiciary Committee last year with all Democrats voting in favor. That bill, in essence, sought to ban the exact abuse of the State Secrets privilege which the Bush administration repeatedly invoked and which, now, the Obama administration has embraced: namely, as a weapon to conceal and immunize government lawbreaking (by compelling the dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance) rather than a limited, document-by-document evidentiary privilege.
Yesterday — as an obvious response to the Obama DOJ’s support for the Bush view of the privilege — Leahy and Specter, along with Russ Feingold, Claire McCaskill, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ted Kennedy, re-introduced that bill in the Senate. When doing so, Leahy made clear that the bill was more needed than ever in light of the actions of the Obama administration.
Sen. Feingold explicitly criticized the Obama administration earlier this week for its endorsement of exactly these abusive theories. Several hours before the Senate bill was introduced, several key House Democrats introduced a similar bill in the House. The ACLU promptly endorsed the bill.
The traditional Democrats are there, busting their humps and ready to take the party back to the center-Left, which is where most of the country is at this point. They’re standing up to Obama, they’re defending the Constitution, and they’re doing it without notice from the press when hardly anybody knows they’re doing it. (Check the links in Greenwald’s story: NONE of them goes to a newspaper report about this bill, and I couldn’t find a single news story about it in any major news venue – not the Times, the Post, or the AP.) What if we do it? What if we support them, take over their issues and play them up? What if we work to defeat conservative Democrats who stymie them?
For the last year or so I’ve been saying, to much abuse (when I could get anybody to listen at all) that there was nothing accidental about the Democrats’ giving in to Bush, that it had nothing to do with cowardice or political expediency or appeasement. Back last June, late in the process, I wrote this after the FISA betrayal:
Call it a prediction if you like. I knew the leadership would get FISA passed despite the numbers of ordinary Democrats who were against it because the leadership are all in the DLC/BD Alliance and the Alliance believes in modern conservative ideals like the restoration of a monarchy – or at least monarchic powers – in America…. [T]his was no accident. It was deliberate. It was design.
The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs. They’re under the thumb of a minority of conservative Dems who are, like the Likkud in Israel, warping the party to suit themselves and their conservative agenda. Like conservatives everywhere, they don’t care what the people want, they don’t care what the polls say, and they don’t give a rat’s ass what the majority in their own party thinks. Like Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, they’re going to do what they damn well please and if the membership doesn’t like it, fuck em.
And like the Pubs, these are no longer people liberals and progressives can compromise with. The FISA bill proves it. They will simply adopt the Republican trick of claiming a compromise when what they’ve really done is craft the right-wing conservative agreement the conservative minority demands.
That prediction has been borne out as well. We have just seen that trick played out over the stim pack, and the proof of the Democrat party’s monarchic tendencies came yesterday when, given an opportunity to return to the rule of law, Obama refused to rescind one of Bush’s primary “unitary president” moves toward giving presidents the power of kings. (more…)
Today is “Write to Marry Day“, viz:
Bloggers around the country will participate in “Write to Marry Day” on October 29, 2008, posting on their blogs in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples and against California’s Proposition 8. Prop 8 is a measure on California’s November ballot that would take away the right of same-sex couples to marry.
“Prop 8 is an unfair and unnecessary measure that would eliminate equal protections for same-sex couples and write discrimination into the California state Constitution,” adds co-organizer Dana Rudolph, founder of LGBT-parenting blog Mombian. “As marriage equality spreads throughout the country, people in all states have a vested interest in making sure this hard-won right is protected.”
Basically what happened is the usual right-wing folderol. The California Constitution was finally interpreted correctly by the State Supreme Court and gay marriage became legal. It’s pretty much the same thing that happened in Massachusetts last year and the response was equally typical: the Religious Right – Jimmy Dobson, the Devil’s Friend, and his bag of nuts in Focus on the Family are right in the middle of it no doubt – got a proposition on the California ballot demanding that the California Constitution and the rights of a group of people they don’t care for be violated in order to make the country safe for bigots and haters.
Let just get this straight (no pun intended) once and for all: gay marriage does not and cannot and will not endanger hetero marriage in any way shape or form. The whole argument against it is bogus from beginning to end.