Saturday, April 19, 2008

As much as I jump on the MSM for what they write, occasionally they provide an article that allows the average citizen to cut through the crap. The lates revelation from the Times is this piece on the cozy relationship of our teevee and our military:

Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand, by David Barstow, Message machine, NY Times: In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis. ... [...continue reading...]

Telling the truth because of fears of loosing access. Secrecy has many powers, not the least of which is that it creates a group mentality of those who are "in the know," even when that content is dubious. Is it unpatriotic to call these people whores?

I don't think so.

Maps that need no comment

The nice thing about pictures, pictograms and hieroglyphs is that they transmit information simultaneously rather than syntagmatically. Or, to put it another way, a picture paints a thousand million starving children:

(Image: Le Monde Diplomatique)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Product Fiction!

This is awesome!

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) -- A newly formed NBC Universal production unit is teaming up with an advertising agency to create programs around sponsors' products, the company said.

NBC Universal Digital Studio will work with a division of Omnicom Group Inc. to create programs that help advertisers sell their products, the entertainment giant announced in a statement Thursday. The programming will be broadcast on NBC Universal's digital properties, such as Web sites.

"We are proactively working with our clients, the advertisers, to deliver compelling content to our audiences, wherever they are," NBC entertainment chief Ben Silverman said in the statement.

Digital Studio's first productions, which will premiere this summer, are a science-fiction series starring Rosario Dawson called "Gemini Division" and a quirky comedy about a college-aged zombie called "Woke Up Dead," said NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co.

Intel Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are among the first brands involved with the development of "Gemini Division," the statement said.

The collaboration between NBC and Omnicom offers "a unique way of giving brands a seat at the table with writers and producers in developing episodic programming that ties directly to brand needs," Omnicom Media Group Digital chief executive Matt Spiegel said.

Looks like I'm going to be watching even more youtube. Teevee sucks (because teevee executives suck). I know that's not worthy of me or deep, but what else is there to say. What a racket.

I've got an idea, though. Picture this: 4 20-somethings living on a beach who don't do anything, but they but they do wear lapel pins of the U.S. flag on their bikinis and tank tops. There's lot of banter and sexual innuendo and beautiful scenery. The story is really about the lapel pins, not the characters, because we know that's what Americans want.

Aimé Césaire

The great writer, Aimé Césaire, passed away yesterday. I'm hoping that they will inter him at the Pantheon. Or, maybe he wouldn't like that. Indeed, in some ways, I would hope that Césaire would have thought leave a rejection letter at his bedside.

Le Monde: Le poète martiniquais est mort, jeudi dans la matinée, au CHU de Fort-de-France, en Martinique, où il était hospitalisé depuis le 9 avril. Depuis son hospitalisation, pour des affections "de nature cardiologique", à l'hôpital Pierre Zobda-Quitman de Fort-de-France, des rumeurs alarmistes circulaient sur son état de santé, qualifié de "préoccupant" par ses médecins.

Aimé Césaire fut, avec le Sénégalais Léopold Sédar Senghor et le Guyanais Léon-Gontran Damas, l'un des chantres du courant de la "négritude". L'auteur du Cahier d'un retour au pays natal avait consacré sa vie à la poésie et à la politique. Principale figure des Antilles françaises, il fut depuis les années 1930 de tous les combats contre le colonialisme et le racisme.

Les Martiniquais attendaient ces derniers jours avec sérénité, et dans la discrétion, l'évolution de l'état de santé d'Aimé Césaire, notamment à Fort-de-France, la ville dont il fut le maire pendant cinquante-six ans, de 1945 à 2001. Le président Nicolas Sarkozy avait salué le 26 juin 2007 en Aimé Césaire le poète et "homme d'action", "porteur d'un message de paix, de tolérance et d'ouverture", à l'occasion du 94e anniversaire de l'écrivain, dans une lettre rendue publique par l'Elysée. Après avoir refusé de rencontrer M. Sarkozy lors d'un voyage prévu, puis annulé, aux Antilles en 2005, le poète martiniquais avait finalement reçu en mars 2006 celui qui était alors ministre de l'intérieur.

Plusieurs élus, dont Ségolène Royal (PS) et Jean-Christophe Lagarde (Nouveau Centre), ont demandé que la nation lui rende hommage en l'accueillant au Panthéon, une idée à laquelle la ministre de la culture, Christine Albanel, s'est dite "favorable". "Au regard de l'œuvre et de la vie d'Aimé Césaire, il serait souhaitable, monsieur le président, que vous puissiez proposer, sous réserve naturellement de l'accord de sa famille et de ses proches, son entrée au Panthéon", a notamment écrit M. Lagarde dans une lettre adressée à l'Elysée.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

If You Don't Read Greg Mitchell...

You should. Editor and Publisher has been a mainstay of my blog reads and rss feeds for the last 4-5 years. I can only say "You haven't read the news until you've read about the newsroom." The public (which booed Charlie Gibson after the debate--betcha won't see that on teevee), knows better, but only some of the time thanks to Greg Mitchell, Media Matters and the inimitable, groundbreaking Daily Howler.

Here's Greg Mitchell on last night's debate:

NEW YORK In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health care and mortgage crises, the overall state of the economy and dozens of other pressing issues had to wait for their few moments in the sun as Obama was pressed to explain his recent "bitter" gaffe and relationship with Rev. Wright (seemingly a dead issue) and not wearing a flag pin while Clinton had to answer again for her Bosnia trip exaggerations.

Then it was back to Obama to defend his slim association with a former '60s radical -- a question that came out of rightwing talk radio and Sean Hannity on TV, but delivered by former Bill Clinton aide Stephanopolous. This approach led to a claim that Clinton's husband pardoned two other '60s radicals. And so on.

More time was spent on all of this than segments on getting out of Iraq and keeping people from losing their homes and other key issues. Gibson only got excited when he complained about anyone daring to raise taxes on his capital gains.

Yet neither candidate had the courage to ask the moderators to turn to those far more important issues. But some in the crowd did -- booing Gibson near the end.

Yet David Brooks' review at The New York Times concluded: "I thought the questions were excellent." He gave ABC an "A."

But Tom Shales of The Washington Post had an opposite view: "Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances."

Calitics has a nice round up:

"The debate is over, and I feel like I need a shower. [...] The crowd here is starting to boo Gibson. Like, a lot. Hilarious and well-deserved."
-Chris Bowers

"No Charlie. It hasn't been a "fascinating debate." It's been genuinely awful."
-Josh Marshall

"What matters to this network is money, and that is where we need to go. Starting tomorrow, my spare time, meager as it is, will be dedicated to revealing the advertisers of this network, for the purpose of organized boycotts."
-Dartagnan (top Recommended Diary on Dailykos)

"Light'Em Up
Complain about this atrocity.
Main ABC switchboard: 212-456-7777
...complain here."

"My friend Dan McQuade calls this the lowest moment in American history -- I think he's giving it too much credit, frankly."
-Will Bunch

"George and Charlie were just rumor-mongering right wingers. Charlie thought it was "fascinating." Wrong. It was just very pathetic and disturbing. If you ever question the sad state of affairs in the American political dialogue, tonight's debate was Exhibit A."
-Joe Sudbay

"This debate was just horrible. Too much time wasted on useless nonsense. From a media perspective, I am not sure why Stephanopoulos was in the mix at all. He didn't add much, and if anything, his history with the Clintons had the potential to take something away. I thought Gibson was especially rough on Obama, and I think ABC did not do themselves any good with this debate. If I weren't liveblogging, I would have switched to AI."
-Jacki Schechner

"This is the most disgraceful and dispiriting debate of all time."

"In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate this year, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia."
-Editor and Publisher

"Reflecting what seemed to be the main consensus of the night - that ABC botched this debate, big time - Charlie Gibson tells the crowd there will be one more, superfluous commercial break of the night and is subsequently jeered. "OH..." he declares, hands raised in defense. "The crowd is turning on me, the crowd is turning on me.""
-Huffington Post

A Trillion Here, A Trillion There, A Trillion Everywhere

Channeling Brad Delong again for this graph:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Trillion Here, A Trillion There

Brad Delong points to this article at Vox EU referring to the Fed's attempts to control the crisis in the finance industry. I will post some U.S. bugdet numbers for comparison's sake. My point is: if the federal government were to spend a trillion dollars on a military mission to "save our way of life," you better believe we would hear about it. (Ok, maybe not, our media suck.)

Just take a look at this:


These new programs are very different from the ones that had been in place prior to the crisis.... By changing the level of the monetary base (really commercial bank reserve deposits at the central bank) Fed officials keep the market-determined federal funds rate near their target.... Given the quantity of assets it owns, the Fed can decide whether it wants to hold Treasury securities, foreign exchange reserves, or a variety of other things.... By the end of March 2008, the Fed had committed more than half of their nearly $1 trillion balance sheet to these new programs:

  • $100 billion to the Term Auction Facility,
  • $100 billion to 28-day repo of mortgage-backed securities,
  • $200 billion to the Term Securities Lending Facility,
  • $36 billion to foreign exchange swaps,
  • $29 billion to a loan to support the sale of Bear Stearns,
  • $30 billion so far to the Primary Dealer Credit Facility.

Changes in the composition of central bank assets are intended to influence the relative price a financial assets -- that is, interest rate spreads. So, by changing its lending procedures, Fed officials hoped that they would be able to reduce the cost of 3-month interbank loans and the spread between U.S. agency securities and the equivalent maturity Treasury rate. At this writing, these programs have met with only modest success.


Now, here are a few budget numbers from 2007 courtesy of Wikipedia:

  • $586.1 billion (+7.0%) - Social Security
  • $548.8 billion (+9.0%) - Defense[2]
  • $394.5 billion (+12.4%) - Medicare
  • $294.0 billion (+2.0%) - Unemployment and welfare
  • $276.4 billion (+2.9%) - Medicaid and other health related
  • $243.7 billion (+13.4%) - Interest on debt
  • $89.9 billion (+1.3%) - Education and training
  • $76.9 billion (+8.1%) - Transportation
  • $72.6 billion (+5.8%) - Veterans' benefits
  • $43.5 billion (+9.2%) - Administration of justice
  • $33.1 billion (+5.7%) - Natural resources and environment
  • $32.5 billion (+15.4%) - Foreign affairs
  • $27.0 billion (+3.7%) - Agriculture
  • $26.8 billion (+28.7%) - Community and regional development
  • $25.0 billion (+4.0%) - Science and technology
  • $23.5 billion (+0.8%) - Energy
  • $20.1 billion (+11.4%) - General government

I don't want to argue the specifics of these numbers (military spending is actually higher than stated here). I'm also not saying that our government should refrain from action, though I think the Bear Stearns bailout was misguided and that homeowners, not hedge funds, should be getting the billions.

My point is that we are going through a national emergency simply by definition of the proportion of our government's emergency spending on a single problem.

But Pennsylvanians are bitter.


Daumier is one of my favorite artists. Incisive, observant, beautiful and grotesque, engaged, Daumier could see through the confusing changes of his time and get to the essentials.

If you're like me, you'll want to check out this web expo from la Bibliothèque Nationale.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Will Lie for Food

How can you not love the title of this article: "Will Lie for Food."

Days after it is finally confirmed that the highest officials in American government signed off on torture in the days after 9/11, pending "a legal opinion on the legality of these tactics" in order to justify them, the New York Times reports that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, "like many others recently unemployed," is having trouble getting a job.

"Mr. Gonzales, the former attorney general, who was forced to resign last year, has been unable to interest law firms in adding his name to their roster, Washington lawyers and his associates said in recent interviews."
Can't really call it accountability. Karma? Not unless one of his job interviews has involved waterboarding. After all, for all the current controversy, it's not exactly news that the famous "torture memos" were authorized by Gonzales.

But, about his job search: "What makes Mr. Gonzales's case extraordinary," the Times goes on, in typical dispassionate-to-the-point-of-obtuse tone, "is that former attorneys general, the government's chief lawyer, are typically highly sought."

Hm, yes. Highly unusual.
He's so hot (in the criminal sense) that no one will touch him. Maybe Pepperdine can offer him a spot like they did for the great purveyor of lies, Ken Starr. Or maybe he can join Yoo at Boalt Hall. Ah, the trail of ignomy leads to...Academe!

So much for the information age? (A Follow up)

Maybe you didn't read my critique of the Chronicle's "So much for the information age." In it I found some faults with Prof. Gup's complaint about his students' ignorance, a complaint in which he said that blogs and new media were not reshaping the landscape for the better since obviously his students weren't any more informed. Well, I had some problems with that.

On a not unrelated topic, Dave Niewert has a new post up on the media reaction to the president's admission that he condoned torture. In any normal world this would be a scandal of tremendous proportions. Instead, our mainstream media has let it slide into oblivion. I'll past the whole posting since it addresses several of the issues I was getting at in my critique of Gup and outlines the whole MSM problem as well.

You may have noticed that the blogosphere is abuzz with the ABC reportage revealing, as Marcy puts it, "what we already knew: the torture was approved--in excruciating detail--by the most senior members of the Bush Administration." And as Eli points out, this flies in the face of everything the Bush administration was telling the public at the time.

They were lying to us. And it tells us just how degraded our public discourse has become both at the hands of the conservative movement, embodied in the Bush administration, and of the mainstream media -- particularly the Village Idiots -- that this apparently is no big deal.

As usual, Digby puts it best:
There was a time when the Village clucked and screeched about "defiling the white house" with an extra marital affair or hosting fund raising coffees. I would say this leaves a far greater stain on that institution than any sexual act could ever do. They did this in your name, Americans.

The vice president, national security advisor and members of the president's cabinet sat around the white house "choreographing" the torture and the president approved it. I have to say that even in my most vivid imaginings about this torture scheme it didn't occur to me that the highest levels of the cabinet were personally involved (except Cheney and Rumsfeld, of course) much less that we would reach a point where the president of the United States would shrug his shoulders and say he approved. I assumed they were all vaguely knowledgeable, some more than others, but that they would have done everything in their power to keep their own fingerprints off of it. But no. It sounds as though they were eagerly involved, they all signed off unanimously and thought nothing of it.

And most of all, as she later points out:
This news was buried in a Friday news dump, but even so you would think news organizations would highlight this amazing story on the front page of their web site and mention it in their newscasts. Who would have ever thought you'd have a president casually say something like this?

He was willing to say it because he knows full well by now that the Washington press corps, fearful of being accused of insufficient patriotism, won't call him on it -- won't make it what, in a world in which traditional news judgment held sway, should be the one of the most pressing and discussed issues on the lips of the Beltway poobahs. Instead we get phony controversies, whipped up by right-wing talkers but fully embraced by every mainstream media outlet, like the Obama "pastor problem" and -- oooh! look! -- this week we'll all talk about how Obama dissed the rural folk!

Pfheh. Pardon me while I fwow up.

This is has been an increasing problem with the mainstream media for the past decade and more, and it's been acute since 9/11 -- the abject willingness to play propaganda organ for the right-wing Wurlitzer is not only one of the main reasons we invaded Iraq in the first damned place, it's also a large part of the reason we're enmeshed in such a quagmire there even today. It was obvious to a handful of dirty hippie bloggers back in 2003 that the Bush administration had neither any occupation strategy nor any exit strategy in place when we invaded, but you would be hard-pressed to find any mainstream pundits who thought that such shortsighted planning might be a long-term problem.

And of course, it's why we now stand alone in the world as the one supposedly "First World" nation that condones, and sponsors, the use of torture on detainees. The likelihood in fact that the Bush administration was in the process of committing war crimes was raised as early as March 2003, before the invasion of Iraq. It came front and center briefly during the uproar over Abu Ghraib -- at which time, as we noted here, there was plenty of evidence that the support for torture came from high up the chain of command.

Recall that at the time, Human Rights Watch insisted:
The promised U.S. investigation into the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners should not stop with the lower-level soldiers who were immediately involved, Human Rights Watch said today. The United States should also investigate the superiors of these soldiers to see whether they ordered or knowingly tolerated these abuses.

Yet in fact, what happened was that the media largely swallowed the administration's line:
U.S. President George W. Bush claimed the acts were in no way indicative of normal or acceptable practices in the United States Army.

The public denunciation of torture of prisoners by the president and other US officials contradicted the fact that Vice President Dick Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, created a distinction between forbidden "torture" and the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" methods of questioning which they advanced as permissible. The vice president's office played a central role in eliminating limits on coercion in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration later described as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials. The Geneva Convention, which has been ratified by the U.S. and is therefore the law of the land, is explicit and categorical in banning torture, the use of "violence," "cruel treatment" or "humiliating and degrading treatment" against a detainee "at any time and in any place whatsoever." The War Crimes Act of 1996 made any grave breach of those restrictions a U.S. felony.

Initially, the media responded with some vigor -- several major outlets, notably the New York Times, called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. Nonetheless, Rumsfeld remained -- in no small part because the rest of the media, particularly the broadcast crowd, stayed largely mum or "neutral."

Of course, then there was Rush Limbaugh:
"This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of emotional release?"

In the end, no one beyond the low-level soldiers involved in the actual abuse suffered any kind of serious consequences. So much for going up the chain of command.

Monday, April 14, 2008

More police: It can be a good thing sometimes

How many times have I written about the dangers of a police state? I don't know, but quite a lot. With all the caveats that go along with the subject, I am happy to report for once an instance where policing is good.

Le Monde is reporting today on the return of "police de quartier" in Saint-Denis, a banlieue (suburb) just on the edge of Paris. They write:

Quarante-huit policiers formant les trois premières unités territoriales de quartier (UTEQ) ont pris leur poste dans trois communes de Seine-Saint-Denis, lundi 14 avril. Les fonctionnaires, déployés en unités de quinze à dix-huit agents, seront chargés de couvrir les quartiers du Chêne-Pointu, du Bois du Temple et des Bosquets à Clichy-Montfermeil, le Franc-Moisin-Bel Air à Saint-Denis, et la cité des 4 000 à La Courneuve.

A terme, une soixantaine de policiers volontaires, possédant au minimum deux ans d'ancienneté, seront rattachés à ces trois UTEQ. En annonçant leur création, le 14 janvier, la ministre de l'intérieur Michèle Alliot-Marie avait ainsi défini leur mission : dissuasion, renseignement, contrôles d'identité et interpellations des auteurs d'infraction. Le premier ministre François Fillon a quant à lui prévenu que la police de quartier n'avait "rien à voir avec la conception du policier copain, animateur, assistante sociale".


Pour Frédéric Péchenard, directeur général de la police nationale, la "différence de philosophie" avec la police de proximité, créée par la gauche et supprimée par M. Sarkozy alors qu'il était ministre de l'intérieur, tient au fait que la mission de ces nouveaux policiers sera "plus axée sur le côté répressif". La "philosophie" des UTEQ reste toutefois, comme c'était le cas pour la police de proximité, d'établir "un lien de confiance" avec la population.

Les policiers ont suivi deux semaines de formation spécifique et appris les "techniques de communication dans la relation police-population", "la gestion des publics difficiles", "la connaissance du territoire, de la population, des problématiques et des populations étrangères", indique un document officiel.

Le deuxième département à tenter l'expérience des UTEQ, après la Seine–Saint-Denis, devrait être la Haute-Garonne.

Why is this a good thing? Reducing the number of police units in the troubled suburbs only creates more problems. The officers don't know the area as well and don't develop long-term relationships with the inhabitants. This causes them to swoop in, make arrests and leave. This lack of local knowledge and understanding works to the detriment of the inhabitants and the police since it undermines natural affinities and mutual respect.

Now, I'm the first one to admit that I have an inherent distrust of authoritarian measures, in particular when they come from the police. But here's an occasion where study after study has shown that policing is most effective not because of armor, weapons and surveillance, but because of community relations and communication. Given this, I hope that they put the right people on the job and that this "experiment" is given a chance to succeed. Of course, without similar investments in jobs, schools and public spaces, the police and the "troubled youth" will both fail.

That Boy

h/t: TPM

Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) on Obama: "I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button. He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country."
Interesting wording. As a Southerner, I hold no illusions as to what is implied by the use of 'boy.' You see, as many folks from the South will tell you, Black people are like children: they can't take care of themselves and are inherently without foresight or responsibility, and they are the reason the government has so many bad social programs. Now, these same Whites will also tell you that they are OK with taking care of the childish and irresponsible Blacks or "foreigners" maybe a little bit, but there are limits. In fact, these same racists will tell you how generous they are for even paying taxes that go to public schools since they would much rather have schools for their own white children only, like they did back in the good ol' days.

Seriously, Geoff Davis is a racist and this one sentence proves it to me.

An interdisciplinary course

I am offering, along with a professor in history, a new "pair." We're asking students to be enrolled in both of the courses, which will be conducted, in some ways, as a single course.

Here's the flyer:

I won't deny that I "stole" the picture of the CRS officer with the baton from an advertisement for a large supermarket chain. (Of course, they stole it from a Mai 68 protest poster.)

The irony is the the supermarket is asking you to fight for your right to maintain your purchasing power, which is, of course, their right to have cheap imports. I won't even begin to go into all the contradictions this involves, especially since seizing on rebellious energy is something corporations do regularly and well.

Anyway, I can't wait to start this class. We're talking about the reading list now and reading new stuff at this point of the semester feels so refreshing.

Is integrity ever futile?

Let's hope not:

I urge you to demand an independent prosecutor to investigate possible violations by the Bush administration of laws including the War Crimes Act, the federal Anti-Torture Act, and federal assault laws.

In a stunning admission to ABC news Friday night, President Bush declared that he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details of the CIA's use of torture. Bush reportedly told ABC, "I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved." Bush also defended the use of waterboarding.

Recent reports indicate that high-level advisers including Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and George Tenet were part of the National Security Council's "Principals Committee" that met regularly and approved the CIA's use of "combined" "enhanced" interrogation techniques, even pushing the limits of the now infamous 2002 Justice Department "torture memo." These top advisers reportedly signed off on how the CIA would interrogate suspects - whether they would be slapped, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning.

No one in the executive branch of government can be trusted to fairly investigate or prosecute any crimes, since the head of every relevant department, along with the president and vice president, either knew or participated in the planning and approval of illegal acts.

You cannot look the other way. You must demand an independent investigation and independent prosecutor.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Yoo make my dreams come true...

More on the Yoo problem from Scott Horton, brilliant Lawyer and, now, blogger and columnist at Harper's

Dean Edley asks what appears to be a rhetorical question:

Did the writing of the memoranda, and his related conduct, violate a criminal or comparable statute?

The answer to that question is "yes." The liability of an attorney dispensing advice with respect to the treatment of persons under detention in wartime is subject to a special rule. It cannot be viewed in the same manner as advice given in a complex commercial dispute, for instance... United States v. Altstoetter.... Following on the guidelines established by Justice Robert H. Jackson, the U.S. chief prosecutor, Telford Taylor, and his deputy, Charles M. La Follette, established clear principles of accountability for lawyers dispensing legal advice in circumstances virtually identical to those faced by John Yoo.... Each of these criteria is satisfied with respect to Yoo's advice under the torture memoranda. They explicitly address persons under detention. It was reasonably foreseeable that persons would suffer serious physical or mental harm or death as a result of the application of the techniques (in fact there have been more than 108 deaths in detention, a significant portion of them tied to torture). And the analysis was false, a point acknowledged ultimately by the OLC itself. Accordingly, a solid basis exists under the standard articulated by the United States under which John Yoo may be charged and brought to trial. In his defense Yoo will certainly rest almost entirely on notions of immunity crafted in derogation of non-derogable international law. These arguments will work with courts in the ideological thrall of the Bush Administration, but not elsewhere.

However, my point here is not to make the prosecutor's case against Yoo. It is to show that what he did raises not merely ethics issues, but actual criminal culpability. Edley's failure to appreciate that is very troubling. Yoo is protected by the political umbrella of the Bush Administration for the moment.... So Professor Yoo will want to think twice before boarding a jet for one of those stays on Lake Como of which he is so fond.