Archive for May, 2011

Freedom, liberty, honor.

May 26, 2011 in Drugs

Republicans, if this isn’t enough to piss you off, you can go straight to hell:

As the SWAT team forced its way into his home, Guerena, a former Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq, armed himself with his AR-15 rifle and told his wife and son to hide in a closet. As the officers entered, Guerena confronted them from the far end of a long, dark hallway. The police opened fire, releasing more than 70 rounds in about 7 seconds, at least 60 of which struck Guerena. He was pronounced dead a little over an hour later.
The Pima County Sheriff’s Department initially claimed (PDF) Guerena fired his weapon at the SWAT team. They now acknowledge that not only did he not fire, the safety on his gun was still activated when he was killed. Guerena had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home. After ushering out his wife and son, the police refused to allow paramedics to access Guerena for more than hour, leaving the young father to bleed to death, alone, in his own home.

So this is nothing new, and one hardly need have a gun to be murdered in one of these drug raids, but what a crystallization of everything the Drug War has done to destroy the land of the free. In this country, the real one, your doors and windows can be smashed in by a horde of armed men, and if you react defensively at all you will be gunned down in your pajamas, in front of your family.

Over pot.

Where’s the NRA on this one? The Tea Party, who tells us that having to get health insurance is tyranny, I look forward to their outrage. Veterans groups, I expect full-throated howls of wronged fury at the gunning down of a Marine reacting to a home invasion. I want anybody who continues to support no-knock raids by militarized police forces to be shamed. I want the Obama administration to be put to the test over their giggling about marijuana legalization (can you imagine this man being killed over suspicion that he had a case of Budweiser in his fridge?).

We’ve been watching the Drug War erase American freedom and rights for decades, and most intelligent observers have realized the destructive folly of it all for the past ten years. Yet we continue.

With the War on Terror shredding what’s left of our freedoms, America is getting sandwiched. Solipsism tells us that it’s always somebody else getting the brunt, and that they usually deserve it. Hopefully Jose Guerena’s story makes it clear that this can happen to anybody. This is the world you are living in.

-hw

Thanks House Republicans!

May 24, 2011 in Politics

You wouldn’t know it by watching or reading Fox News (neither has reported it yet) but Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul won a special election against Republican state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin in the ultra-Red 26th Congressional district of New York. I think they’re all waiting around to see who is willing to test the waters first before they go jumping in. The NRCC is spinning the election thusly:

“Republican Jane Corwin ran a hard-fought campaign against two well-funded Democrats, including one masquerading under the Tea Party name. Obviously, each side would rather win a special election than lose, but to predict the future based on the results of this unusual race is naive and risky. History shows one important fact: the results of competitive special elections from Hawaii to New York are poor indicators of broader trends or future general election outcomes. If special elections were an early warning system, they sure failed to alert the Democrats of the political tsunami that flooded their ranks in 2010.”

Also, Reagan!

Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? The Tea Party candidate who won 9% of the vote was actually a Democrat in disguise so if you take into consideration the fact that Tea Party voters are easily duped and give those votes to the Republican candidate Jane Corwin would have won which wouldn’t have mattered anyway since drawing conclusions from special elections is foolish and naive. Got it? No? Well, I don’t understand it either. What’s apparent to me, however, is that Republicans aren’t learning from their mistakes. It’s clear that Hochul won by making the Republican Party’s dreams of abolishing Medicare the central issue. If the take-away for the Republicans is that they need to double down on throwing socialist grannies out of their wheelchairs then the epistemic closure David Frum spoke of last year is paying big dividends at the ballot box.

-mg

“We don’t support rationing.”

May 24, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

Republicans who want to kill Medicare, hand seniors some vouchers and say, “Good luck out there in the private insurance market!” don’t want to staff a board that will oversee Medicare spending and make intelligent reductions while providing comparable service, because, says Orrin Hatch, “We don’t believe in rationing, nor do we believe in an unaccountable organization like that. I mean that’s crazy.”

Of course, private insurance companies who don’t want to touch sickly old people with a ten-foot pole are completely accountable, right? See, folks, you may not be able to have any kind of decent plan anymore, or one at all, but you’ll be free. But if a government board with members selected by Congress makes decisions about better spending, that’s unaccountable “rationing.” Yes, having this board allows some degree of tough decision-making, but don’t Republicans believe that Congress is generally ineffective at reducing spending by itself?

I just don’t know what to make of America anymore if it continues falling for this crap much longer. Republicans said DEATH PANELS at the prospect of Medicare balking on a heart operation for a 89 year old cancer patient, and then turn around and say, hey, let’s end that Medicare anyway, right?

Exactly how much more transparent do they have to be before people say enough?

-hw

On that debt ceiling…

May 23, 2011 in Economy

Gosh, remember last year when it was all THERE IS SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY THAT IS WHAT IS KILLING THE ECONOMY…?

And now we’re sitting around trying to figure out what the hell is going to happen by August 2nd to prevent the US from defaulting on its loans and/or stopping payment for Social Security checks, Medicare, and military wages. Well, given our priorities I’m sure we’ll devote every penny we can scrape up to paying the military first, but still, that’s a whole lot of heapin’ uncertainty, all courtesy of the Republicans.

If you wonder why they have so often have no fear of making things up and being proven utterly wrong, it’s because they know that the country suffers from ADD-induced amnesia, and that the people who are supposed to hold them accountable usually find their job a lot easier as long as they’re talking about whatever it is rightwingers want to talk about on any particular day.

-hw

Jewish blood is pretty cheap nowadays.

May 21, 2011 in Beltway-itis, Israel

On the transparent fake outrage over Obama saying absolutely nothing new about Israel/Palestine using the ’67 borders as a starting basis:

As an Israeli citizen…You should know that many Israelis actually do understand that we should go back to 67′ borders, but the environment here is so toxic – Not unlike what the far right has done in America – that you just can’t say anything out loud or you’ll be denounce as almost Antisemitic. What’s going on here is awful, Bibi is taking us straight to hell.

Charges of anti-Semitism have lost their market value. Notice, this is from a citizen in Israel, and even there, among Jewish people, dissent gets one called a Jew-hater (just that you’re a self-hating Jew). Obviously, all borders of decency and shame have been erased. One must simply resign oneself to the inevitable: To speak about Israel in any terms other than that of the most belligerently rightwing guarantees that the label anti-Semite will be applied. Nothing you do will prove your bona fides. Nothing you can say will make them stop, except complete capitulation. It doesn’t matter if you think the Likud/American right is pushing Israel on a path towards destruction, your desire to save Israel will not be regarded seriously. You may only take one position: Israel takes what it wants, and Palestinians agree to settle for what’s left, and none of it matters because it’s all Israel anyway. Otherwise, put on your showercap, because the Jewish blood is going to get dumped on your head.

BTW, this is what passes for Palestine nowadays:

Obama didn’t say anything that hadn’t been U.S. policy for decades, but as Andrew Sullivan has been chronicling, the standard is that one adheres to what Israel wants, when it wants it, and right now, with Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, this subservience must be offered to the most uncompromising, rigid, unashamedly imperialist prime minister Israel has seen since…the last time Netanyahu was prime minister. Except this time he’s gotten much worse. And this standard doesn’t come from Israel alone, but rather the Republican right and the neocon Beltway elites at the WaPo and NYT. It has become startlingly apparent that, in these people’s eyes, the president of the United States is expected to take his orders from Israel’s prime minister. Thus, Republicans in Congress with no hesitation actively rub shoulders with Netanyahu and seek to undermine their own president. Obama’s speech is a grave affront to Israel, in their eyes, but no face-slap from Netanyahu is questioned.

Anti-Semitism is a real force for evil in the world, but no slur can be allowed to become so feared that one’s actions are dictated by the aversion of ever having it applied to oneself. People will call names. Let them. It’s called ad hominem, and it only matters as much as it is true. So one must return to the arguments. And, as far as my arguments go, I’m quite sure I’ve never said a single thing about Israel that connotes a scrap of anti-Semitism. Nobody has ever offered me a serious challenge to cause me to suspect otherwise. The world is full of assertions. Me, I know myself well enough to know how much love I have for the Jewish people and how much I do wish they had a genuine sanctuary free from worry, and I make the effort to see that all my positions on Israel flow from that foundation.

No matter how great a country Israel is, and no matter how good their people are, they’re just like anybody else: They have rightwingers. Radical ones, religious ones. And, much like in our country, they’re doing everything they can to drive the truck off the cliff. At least here it’s openly known that our rightwingers look forward to Israel’s conversion to Christianity or condemnation to Hell, yet sadly Israeli rightwingers are all too happy to take whatever help they can get for what they believe are their current interests. Their own radical delusions are imagined as trumping whatever silly fantasies their American counterparts have.

-hw

Math was always my lowest score.

May 21, 2011 in Politics, Taxes

Enjoy these pics. Somebody feel free to note any discrepancies or changes. The first one is older:

Of course, it’s important to note that by “Bush tax cuts” one includes the tax cuts for all Americans, which constitute 75% of the damage. Yes, America, it’s the fact that you’re not paying those horrible Clinton-era tax rates that is contributing so heavily to our deficit problems. Obama and most Democrats have, unfortunately, consistently harped on raising tax cuts for the rich only and letting the other 75% of the tax cuts stay in place, since that sounds, on the surface, like the best message in an election.

What we need is actual leadership to tell the country a hard truth that isn’t really that hard. Most Americans would give anything to return to the prosperity of the nineties, and that sense of hope we felt when we started to see hope for paying down our deficit and shoring up Social Security and Medicare. Now these things seem like impossible dreams, and the Republicans have solidified themselves behind simply ending Medicare and Social Security as we know it and privatizing them. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Besides, there’s another more important principle at work here. Our future obligations are one thing, but there’s a tab we already ran up, and every American is on the hook for that bill. Our democratically elected leaders spent a lot of money already, and it’s time to pony up. George W. Bush committed a grave act of fiscal irresponsibility slashing our taxes the second our fortunes started to pick up. There were outstanding bills at the time, and he went on a rampage of slashing taxes and increasing spending dramatically.

Talk to me about low taxes after we’ve paid down our debts and fortified the social obligations that maintain massive popular support. That’s what responsibility is about.

-hw

Giving the apocalyptics their ounce of pleasure.

May 21, 2011 in We'll post whatever we goddamned want to

And a few ounces of sperm in their shorts. You see, I have to admit, there’s always that little part of me that says…oh, shit, what if that Rapture actually did start today?

Then again, if I recorded everything that a little part of me said, I’d prove all my lovely enemies right about everything.

And at the same time, see you tomorrow!

-hw

Dear Iowa Republicans…

May 20, 2011 in Politics

You’re too crazy even for the Republican party.

Just remember, less crazy is always an option.

-hw

Can we just agree Eisenhower was a Democrat?

May 20, 2011 in Politics

On the GOP being completely dominated by madmen and fools:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

-hw

I love this big red beautiful beast!

May 19, 2011 in Politics

Ah, the Troy-Bilt Pony. How did I ever make it without you?

-mg

Brave Sir Robin!

May 18, 2011 in Politics

Rick Tyler might snort coke:

Asked by the Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone for his take on Gingrich’s treatment in the news, spokesman Rick Tyler launched into what could only be described as an epic poem recounting his candidate’s heroic journey.

“The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding,” Tyler wrote in an e-mail. “Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world.”

He continued: “The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness.They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles.”

As for Gingrich’s role in this drama, Tyler cast him as a fantasy hero straight out of Arthurian legend.

“But surely they had killed him off,” he wrote. “This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.”

I think he’s been swept up by Game of Thrones. Will Rick recount Newt’s past tales of ribaldry in similar form perhaps?

-mg

Leave Newt Alone!

May 18, 2011 in Politics

Newt Gingrich, who has been on Meet the Press thirty five times, is now explaining his Sunday morning appearance in which he made disparaging remarks about the Republican plan to eliminate Medicare as the product of a “setup”. In a refrain familiar to those who have developed a similar mechanism to defend the frequent verbal pratfalls of Sarah Palin, Gingrich even went so far as to describe the questions he was asked as “gotcha” in nature. Like Bush, Palin has a fan base that will defend her much as a doting and oblivious parent would a spoiled child. She’s not rude, she’s justifiable striking back at her detractors. She’s not stupid, you’re an elitist who doesn’t value common sense. “Just let Sarah be Sarah!” Some people are lucky in that they’re born into a life where those around them feel compelled to make excuses for their failures. But Newt Gingrich doesn’t seem like he has that sort of cult of personality. He’s got a stable of ex-wives that all agree that he has weak morals and they’ve been saying so publicly for the past ten years. When news broke that he was actively engaged in an extra-marital affair during the Clinton impeachment it added another layer of ick so thick that he’s never been able to go back and once again garner the support of his old allies on the religious right. Without a wholesome and compelling back story and an “awe-shucks” demeanor nobody is going to go along with a story of victimization at the hands of Liberal Media Elites. Especially considering that you’re supposed to be a rock-ribbed, old-school Republican who had chunks of House Democrats floating in your stool.

I never would have guessed that Newt would flame out so quickly but here we are with 2012 a mere six months away. Who knew that he’d turn out to be such a palooka?

-mg

America willing to pay for the government it wants?

May 13, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit

Or maybe just realizing that talking about cutting spending without raising taxes to reduce the deficit is like talking about not paying on your car loan while refusing to take a better paying job to balance the checkbook. Grown-ups know better:

* A May 11 Ipsos/Reuters poll found that three-fifths of people favor raising taxes to reduce the deficit.
* A May 4 Quinnipiac University poll found that 69 percent of people, including 49 percent of Republicans, support raising taxes on those households making more than $250,000.
* An April 29 Gallup poll found that only 20 percent of people say the deficit must be reduced only with spending cuts; 76 percent say that taxes should play a role.
* An April 20 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that by a 2-to-1 margin people favor a combination of higher taxes and spending cuts over spending cuts alone to reduce the deficit. It also found that 72 percent of people favor raising taxes on the rich to reduce the deficit and this is far and away the most popular deficit reduction measure.
* An April 18 McClatchy/Marist poll found that voters support higher taxes on the rich to reduce the deficit by a 2-to-1 margin, including 45 percent of self-identified Tea Party members.

Republicans are working hard to enforce their no-tax-increase-ever orthodoxy, but there are signs that the dam is beginning to break. On April 7, former Reagan budget director Dave Stockman said, “It is simply unrealistic to say that raising revenue isn’t part of the solution. It’s a measure of how far off the deep end Republicans have gone with this religious catechism about taxes.”

You can’t keep telling people that we’re in a budget crisis and that we have to all be adults, but BTW TAX CUTS ARE OFF THE TABLE I SAID!!!

-HW!!!

Oh, look, the sun is going supernova…

May 12, 2011 in Journamalism

As the Republicans’ threat to burn the economy down to the ground, i.e. not raise the debt ceiling, marches closer to the day of suicidal conflageration, those with the Beltway-itis (I gots it real bad, Mama!) are starting to stir from their slumber. PM Carpenter goes after one usual culprit, Ruth Marcus (at Ground Zero of the Beltway infection, the Washington Post):

The Post’s Ruth Marcus is, at long last, “alarmed” that the Republican Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is, when it comes to economics, grotesquely guileful. “Even more alarming,” she writes, “is the incoherent, impervious-to-facts economic philosophy undergirding Boehner’s remarks.”

Marcus cites several of these ideological Boehnerisms, which run from “The recent stimulus spending binge hurt our economy” to “A tax hike would wreak havoc … on our ability to tackle the national debt.”

One would almost think this is something new, but this is pretty much standard GOP boilerplate dogma, dialed to 11 since the thunderous collapse of 2008 pretty much eviscerated most Republican economic theories. They can’t leave, so they double-down. So where has Marcus been all this time?

What did alarm — indeed, what appalled — in Marcus’ column this morning was this:

Reporters naturally tend to ignore this boilerplate. Journalistically, that makes sense. Boehner’s economic comments [to the New York Economic Club] were nothing particularly new. Indeed, they reflect what has become the mainstream thinking of the Republican Party. But that’s exactly the point. We become so inured to hearing this thinking that we neglect to point out how wrong it is.

Let’s review that line of journalistic … logic. It “makes sense” journalistically to “ignore” profoundly misguided and inescapably harmful economic theories in national vogue because the ideological pols who tout these squalid theories have succeeded in bamboozling millions of voters who don’t comprehend just how profoundly misguided and inescapably harmful they are, because journalists have ignored the theories’ imbecilities, because they’re “inured” to the theories’ national vogue.

Even a freshman, D- student of logic would laff at this circular drivel; and virtually any honorable student of journalism would no doubt promise herself that should she ever “become so inured” to politicians’ self-serving swill of national sabotage that she “neglect[s] to point out how wrong it is,” then she’d quit her profession and just move to Madison Avenue or K Street, where she could, in better conscience, practice an older one.

Whoopty-doodles…Marcus is like most with the Beltway careerist paralysis. She can’t identify what’s going wrong with America without admitting she’s been twiddling her journalistic thumbs. Oh, those silly people are actually a serious threat?

Meting out revenge on Marcus and others like her isn’t so important, except that there’s no reason to believe they won’t go right back to sleep the second we clear this particular hurdle. Yes, you have sinned, Ms. Marcus, but you must sin no more! And part of that is understanding the scope of your past transgressions.

Do you finally feel the horrible regret, Ms. Marcus?

-hw

Whether or not torture got bin Laden does not justify torture, but torture didn’t get bin Laden.

May 12, 2011 in Torture, War Crimes

John McCain, who takes the torture issue a bit more seriously than the Republican party due to the fact that he experienced torture firsthand in Vietnam and has authority on this issue, felt the need to get to the bottom of what led to the intel that eventually led to bin Laden.

Leon Panetta gave torture supporters some ammo last week with a vague statement that info came from detainees, and that some of those detainees were tortured. This week Panetta seems to have looked into the specifics more closely and is thus able to shed a little more light on exactly what intel was gleaned from who and how:

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.

McCain doesn’t rule out that torture can potentially offer leads, but reminds us that torture will give you fewer leads of poorer quality than standard interrogation practices. Consistent with that paradigm, the most useful info that came from torture was when KSM and al-Libi lied badly, arousing investigator suspicions. It should be self-evident that interrogation that produces lies isn’t effective, and the question of what more could have been found will always haunt us. Instead, we got such paltry info that the CIA had declared the trail cold.

In conclusion, the bin Laden leads did not originate with torture and were not enhanced by torture, thus removing even the appearance of a moral quandary.

Torture would still be wrong even if we had gotten a useful nugget out of it, but the lack of evidence that torture led to bin Laden important to note because Republicans are perfectly content to use the pragmatic argument. Removing that plank reveals just how depraved and unscrupulous they’ve been the past week, as Fox News and nearly the entire Bush administration has launched a PR salvo in order to rehabilitate their reputations and retroactively justify torture. Much like Andrew Sullivan has noted, they are war criminals seeing an out. More literally, they are torturers who are desperate to find excuses for torture. They got it temporarily legalized, they got the NYT and others to call torture other names when it was done by the US, they got the next president to back off on prosecutions, but they still seem to understand that they lost the argument. They still felt that need for justification.

They thought they had it, and they squeezed tightly, but…it has run through their fingers, and there they are, empty-handed except for the bulk of their crimes. We are left with the threat that the next Republican president will resume torture, and of future blowback from torture-hardened enemies and sympathetic populaces. Letting criminals off inevitably rewards crime and guarantees its continuance.

-hw

Librul media update.

May 12, 2011 in Journamalism

Laughing to avoid poking my eyes out…

-hw

Any day Michael Gerson is lambasted by people smarter than him is a good day.

May 12, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Drugs

Most 7/11 clerks would qualify, but this drizzling beatdown from Daniel Larison is to be savored:

At last week’s debate, one of the Fox panelists posed a question to Ron Paul about heroin and prostitution as “exercises of liberty.” Paul demurred a little, objecting that the panelist was putting words in his mouth, but then went on to object to the insulting paternalism that holds that drug prohibition is necessary to protect people from themselves. Paul was assuming that most people would be personally responsible and wouldn’t rely on government prohibition to steer them on the right path in these areas. Gerson could accuse him of having too much confidence in people, but that wouldn’t go over nearly as well as attacking him for having contempt for the poor and destitute. Most irritating of all, Gerson presents himself as a defender of the weak and downtrodden, when these are the Americans disproportionately harmed by the drug war that Gerson is quite happily defending.

Although I do have to recommend this column by Gerson, where he slaps around people even dumber than him: Ayn Rand fanboys.

Rand’s novels are vehicles for a system of thought known as Objectivism. Rand developed this philosophy at the length of Tolstoy, with the intellectual pretensions of Hegel, but it can be summarized on a napkin. Reason is everything. Religion is a fraud. Selfishness is a virtue. Altruism is a crime against human excellence. Self-sacrifice is weakness. Weakness is contemptible. “The Objectivist ethics, in essence,” said Rand, “hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself.”

If Objectivism seems familiar, it is because most people know it under another name: adolescence. Many of us experienced a few unfortunate years of invincible self-involvement, testing moral boundaries and prone to stormy egotism and hero worship. Usually one grows out of it, eventually discovering that the quality of our lives is tied to the benefit of others. Rand’s achievement was to turn a phase into a philosophy, as attractive as an outbreak of acne.

Yes, Ron Paul qualifies, but on the drug war issue Paul is right about Gerson, whereas on the issue of whether Rand is meant to be taken seriously by anybody over 19, Gerson is right.

-hw

Holy smokes.

May 12, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives

Huckabee isn’t running for president, ever. To do so after having made this would make Sarah Palin’s Alaska look like a masterstroke of vexing genius.

-hw

Calling Out Fake Catholics

May 11, 2011 in Politics

Hate to break this to some of you, but the Church’s mission to the poor is non-negotiable, and you don’t have to take it from a godless liberal. These are your bishops talking. Calling poor people lazy or preaching a bootstrappers’ doctrine is very nice if you’re trying to make friends over at Town Hall, but, you know, Matthew 6:24.

Countdown to “but abortion!” distraction in 5…4…
-TT

Ten Things I Learned This Past Week

May 09, 2011 in Politics

  1. President Obama did not personally kill Osama bin Laden so claiming his death as a victory is arrogance in the extreme.
  2. George W. Bush, who did not personally kill Osama bin Laden and stated publicly that he didn’t care where bin Laden was, is to be thanked for killing Osama bin Laden.
  3. President Obama did not thank George W. Bush for killing Osama bin Laden which is rude.
  4. Osama bin Laden was no longer an important part of al Qaeda so therefore killing him didn’t matter.
  5. The United States does not torture detainees.
  6. When the United States tortures detainees we glean valuable tactical information.
  7. George W. Bush was not responsible for the torture of detainees.
  8. Bush’s policy of torturing detainees yielded the crucial intelligence required to kill Osama bin Laden who was not a vital part of al Qaeda.
  9. George W. Bush, the man who landed a jet fighter on the deck of an aircraft carrier to announce to a fawning press that our Mission was Accomplished, is humble.
  10. Barack Obama’s use of the pronoun “I”, while addressing a single camera in a silent room, is indicative of megalomania.

-mg

The bullshit is getting thicker by the second.

May 06, 2011 in Politics

This is really sad. The Republicans have been unable to take Obama’s success at killing Osama bin Laden lying down, and the spasms of anger and frustration have resulted in one bogus attempt after another to reclaim the narrative (as if they’d let Osama’s head on Bush’s fireplace go under the radar…). Latest one: Uppity Barack isn’t thanking George W. Bush, or the armed forces! He thinks he did it all himself! Ugh. It’s almost like Obama thinks he’s president of the United States or something. Some key pieces from Obama’s speech:

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

HE SAID I A LOT!!! Except:

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan.

Wait, he’s also saying all this stuff about what other people did…

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

Well, that was wall. Wait-

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

THIS IS INTERFERING WITH MY NARRATIVE!

The sense of entitlement, where President Obama’s achievement must be accompanied by thanking the president who failed, is kind of staggering. Then again, the same people complaining slapped the burden of Bush’s economy and deficits on Obama on Jan 21, 2009, so, as always, the only correct response to such people is dismissal. The guy who succeeds at a job doesn’t need to thank the previous guy who failed at it. And if any president is least deserving of thanks, it’s George W. Bush, one of the worst presidents this nation has ever faced, who turned the hunt for bin Laden into a double quagmire he left for others to solve, after losing him at Tora Bora.

-hw

More on the torture distraction.

May 05, 2011 in Politics

Complete smackdown by Dahlia Lithwick here makes me wince for not knowing everything she says already. Good bit:

Lack of facts can also be highly probative. For example: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was water-boarded 183 times in 2003, lied about knowing Bin Laden’s courier, as did Abu Faraj al-Libi, who was interrogated in 2005. They offered no useful information. Yet torture advocates now say that because both men denied knowing the courier—thus tipping off the CIA that he must be someone important—torture must work. Got it? Torture works when the prisoners disclose information, but it also works when they don’t. It’s win-win!

She links to Tonya Somander’s great piece also (click to get all the embedded links):

If there’s anything to be learned from the intelligence officials involved in this long-standing intelligence operation, it’s just that. It takes a long time. Interrogators first learned of the courier’s existence in 2002. Mohammed was caught in 2003. Jump two years and 183 waterboarding sessions later, and many inside the CIA conclude that “the bin Laden hunt ha[s] grown cold” and now they should “overhaul” their operations. Cue Operation Cannonball — “a bureaucratic reshuffling that placed more C.I.A case officers on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

From that, they learn the courier’s family name. Then, by the often preferred technique of intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages, they got the courier’s full name. In July 2010, they spot him driving to Abbottabad. May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden is pronounced dead. The killing of bin Laden was a long process, spanning three presidents, two wars, and multiple layers of intelligence gathered over nearly a decade. In that long process, one thing has become clear. Mohammed was waterboarded and nothing “direct” resulted from it. The White House’s spokesman Tommy Vietor lays out the bottom line: “The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003.”

Maybe if we’d crushed some infant skulls we’d have found out more sooner? Torture begets more torture. Also, lots of radicalized bastards who counterbalance the psychological gains of offing bin Laden. The suggestion that torture ever had any part in tracking bin Laden only detracts from the psychological value of his death.

-hw

What if it had gone wrong?

May 05, 2011 in Barack Obama, War on Terra

Two alternative scenarios here and here.

Both imagine the SEALS getting in a disastrous firefight with no bin Laden to show for it and lots of dead troops. And oh, how the usual suspects would have sang:

UPDATE: Roundup of the latest Republican responses to Operation Geronimo.

Sarah Palin on Fox and Friends: “What is truly upsetting to me is that while our brave men in uniform were being sent on this errand, the president was laughing it up at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner with his pals from the mainstream media and Hollywood. Maybe if he was actually at his desk instead of golfing and rubbing elbows with elites — and spending so much time resurrecting the birth-certificate issue — this would have turned out differently.” [FOX]

Mitt Romney: “I’ve said before that we can’t afford to have a president who is learning on the job. Before I was referring to the damage he has done to the American economy, but now it’s clear that that extends to national defense as well. Never before has there been more glaring evidence that this president is unequal to the task of leading the free world. We need a president who can handle the economy and the war. Right now, that’s something we do not have.” [WSJ]

John Huntsman: “This single ill-conceived operation has done more damage to our delicate diplomatic relationship with Pakistan — a needed ally — than anything we have seen thus far. I hate to say it, but it’s a rookie mistake by a man afraid to reach outside of his closed circle of advisers, and a costly one.” [NYT]

Michele Bachmann: “You know what, running the military is not the same as reading a TelePrompTer, not the same as giving a pretty speech. What we had last night was a president sacrificing the lives of fighting men and women in a political ploy to distract us from real problems. It’s Jimmy Carter in Somalia all over again.” [CNN]

Donald Trump: “If he was willing to be as tough with bin Laden as he was with his buddy Matt Damon at the Correspondents’ Dinner, we would have all been better off. [The timing of the mission] is pretty transparent. His approval rating is lousy. His radical agenda has failed miserably at home, so he needed a distraction. Simple. Sadly, many of our brave soldiers paid for this with their lives.” [FOX]

Newt Gingrich: “Anyone who knows anything about the War on Terror knows that bin Laden had been marginalized, that he no longer posed any real threat. He was done, isolated, living in a concrete bunker with no phone or Internet, for God’s sake. What was he going to do? We already beat him. Well, if bin Laden can’t kill American soldiers, our president sure can. [FOX]

The more I think about what could be on the news and internets, the more unbelievable Obama’s dice roll was. I know he almost had no choice but to do it, but the risk could have been seen as prohibitive in the hands of someone less courageous. Obama put his presidency on the table, and deserves the payoff.

-hw

Torture didn’t produce the info.

May 03, 2011 in Politics

There are a lot of memes trying to get started on the right in their efforts to shift more credit to Bush for Obama nabbing bin Laden, and one is that torture at Gitmo worked.

Yet it wasn’t torture that got the info, it was standard interrogation. Which would surprise few expert interrogators…

Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.

Sorry, guys. No “bonus” here justifying illegal and immoral torture. It was always unreliable, and wrong.

-hw

UPDATE: Incoming reports offer slightly conflicting stories that suggest torture might have played a small or indirect role. We’re supposed to believe Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was broken by the torture, but at the same time investigators outsmarted him by guessing that he was lying too emphatically about not knowing the courier, so he was never actually telling the truth…so yeah. The point is, torture was implemented first and foremost because Bush and Cheney wanted to torture, good interrogators don’t need it, and the fact that you eventually got something through torture doesn’t mean it was impossible to get otherwise. Not to mention that torture wasn’t just used on KSM, but on scores of prisoners, many or most innocent.

And it’s worth noting that Bush figured out where bin Laden was once at Tora Bora. How did that work out for us? While I wish Bush had caught bin Laden, because it’s freaking bin Laden, I’m glad Obama was there and not Bush when it came time. Competence counts.

Remember this?

May 01, 2011 in Politics

UPDATE:

UPDATE II:

Yes we can, you bastards.

May 01, 2011 in Politics

Obama said he’d get Osama, and he did.

Best president of my lifetime.

-hw

UPDATE: Grateful thanks to the beautiful people of Pakistan for their government’s cooperation.

UPDATE II: Maybe not so much with the participation…there seems to be almost more complicity than cooperation, and the US deliberately withheld info from Pakistan to keep them from tipping off bin Laden. Still beautiful people in Islamabad though…

Bin Laden Is Dead.

May 01, 2011 in Politics

I think the big story here is whether or not Obama can produce a long form death certificate confirming his claims.

-mg