Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ron Paul on energy and Iran

Briefly - high energy prices are in part due to demand outgrowing supply, but also because of the four trillion deficit dollars printed to fund the war in Iraq and because of the fear premium of an impending US-Israeli attack on Iran. House Resolution 362 is a virtual declaration of war.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

FISA: as dday says

dday presents the meagre list of Senators opposing the bad FISA bill. Obama on that list, he was campaigning. But it wouldn't have mattered anyway. He's el foldo on this issue.

"The bill has changed. So I don't think the security threats have changed, I think the security threats are similar. My view on FISA has always been that the issue of the phone companies per se is not one that overrides the security interests of the American people."

A few weasel words from there, but Obama is totally cool with the precedent of the government giving a slip of paper to a corporation allowing them to break the law. He's cool with the premise of "we were just following orders" that was shot down at Nuremberg being revived. He's cool with if the President does it, then it isn't illegal. He's cool with a bunch of the other really dangerous aspects of the bill, including the vacuuming up of every communication that leaves or enters the United States without even the caveat that they be related to terrorism. He's cool with a national surveillance state.

Just plain cool with it.

Monmouth Battle Reenactment

Some pics from the annual reenactment of the Revolutionary War Battle of Monmouth are here.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hunter's Requiem

Hunter's essay on dailykos captures the bewilderment and rage many of us feel.

It also reminds me of the perspicacity of a friend of mine, who having endured Cuba's Castro, saw all of this coming, and not wanting to face it twice in a lifetime, left the country.


Of all the things I despise about the Bush administration, the one I will forever loathe most is how they made morality a minority position. It was the standard operating procedure of the Bush years that ethics was considered quaint, that pride in government was considered hopelessly idealistic, and that morality was the stuff of starry eyed fools.

...I will remember the Bush administration not for any bold speeches, but for an unending sequence of snide, guttural croaks in front of podiums, in which the latest blasphemy against mankind or God is uttered with perfect assurance, or with a dismissive sneer, or with ominous opines on the motivations of those that think differently.

[On torture]

The concept, after all, is simple: one should not torture potentially innocent people. Forget the more unambiguous version, one should not torture anyone -- we are not even halfway there. We can base the premise simply on the notion that one should not torture innocent people to find out whether they "know" something, and you would still find that central element of morality, of basic human principle, of Christianity or any other religion you can name, to be, in America, in 2008, a controversial statement likely to get you condemned as a fool or worse. If you are opposed to the torture of the innocent, you will face the wrath of fat, hateful radio blowhards. You will face condescending, patronizing, entirely amoral lectures on newly discovered legality of the acts from administration lawyers speaking from the editorial pages of our newspapers. You will be told that what you consider torture, what every other society including our own has considered torture up until this very moment of time, is not in fact torture, and that you have affection for terrorists if you think otherwise.


There were those that considered "preemptive" war an abomination; they were considered naive, and dismissed as artifacts of an earlier time with shamefully rigid thinking. There were those that thought bombing the cities of Iraq, regardless of the viciousness and corruption of their leader, under the confused banner of maybe al Qaeda or something was too high a price for an uninvolved civilian population to pay, regardless of the actions of that leader. An opinion like that was taken as evidence of secret sympathies for that leader.

There were those that thought the Geneva Conventions should apply; they were dismissed as rubes. There were those who thought those that were turned in to United States forces as terrorists should have, at some point, a trial: the larger voice howled of the danger of giving any voice to those people, whether innocent or not.

There were those that thought that, even casting aside evidence that torture does not work, even casting aside laws against it, even casting aside the impossibility of separating guilty from innocent in front of the teeth of a barking dog or using water and a rag, torture is immoral; for speaking such thoughts, the speakers become hated.

At the same time, we were lectured on the will of God from those that see hurricanes as divine judgement against tolerance; we were told that intolerance is the moral position. We were told that if there is even "a one percent" chance that someone is a terrorist, granting them doubt or mercy was a fool's game.

We were told, in short, that calculated brutality was a requirement of government. In the end, the greatest condemnation of the Bush administration is not that they believe that, but that they have almost managed to get us to believe it.


If it were merely the war on terrorism, that would be something different, though not necessarily better, but in every aspect of governance we continually have been told that the ethical position is the stupid, foolish one, or that being offended at corruption is the childish position. No news outlets demanded answers, when the Justice Department was staffed with those loyal to party, not country; it was considered expected. The outing of a CIA agent as payback was politics as normal; the urgings to prosecutors to prosecute Americans differently according to party affiliation was for a long while presumed merely one of the perks of power. The task of rebuilding Iraq was considered secondary to staffing it with die-hard conservatives, even if they had not even the slightest bit of expertise towards the job. Scientific reports by the government were either quashed or the findings changed in order to fit The Approved Version Of Reality; it barely resulted in whimpers. Forget the difficult or controversial decisions, even the most basic ones were reduced to simple equations of party advantage and ideological loyalty.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

War With Iran

Via dailykos

House Resolution 362/Senate Resolution 580 demand that the President of the United States
initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program;

As explained here
This resolution demands that President Bush "initiate an international effort" to impose a land, sea, and air blockade on Iran to prevent it from importing gasoline and to inspect all cargo entering or leaving Iran. Such a blockade imposed without United Nations authority (which the resolution does not call for) would be seen as an act of war.

Congress is set to vote on this resolution next week. The resolution has 169 co-sponsors.

We are told that our favorite friends, the Israeli lobby, AIPAC, is pushing this resolution.

White Dawn

The photographs do not capture the beauty. To the eye, it seems like stars turning on in a galaxy...




Now I understand (continued)

The Bush administration has been wretchedly mistaken in its conception of executive power, deceitful in its push for war with Iraq and appalling in its scheming to make torture an instrument of state power. But a healthy democracy punishes policy mistakes, however egregious, and seeks redress for its societal wounds, however deep, at the ballot box and not in the prisoner's dock.

(source :

I think this attitude is widespread in the political class today, maybe even shared by Obama. Bush's breaking of the laws is a "policy error". That is why everything from impeachment to enforcement of subpoenas and holding even minor officials guilty of contempt of Congress is off the table.

We ordinary Americans are guilty of thinking that our government officials could have committed crimes; quite out of sync with our Democratic Party elders.

The Democrats are not caving in, compromising, capitulating to the Republicans, they are simply following the premise that all the last seven years are simply policy errors.

All Obama is going to do, if he is successful in his bid for the Presidency, is redistribute the bread-and-circuses. He is not going to (and never was going to, we bad, our mistake for thinking otherwise) change the notion that government officials only commit policy errors, and not criminal actions.

The idea that the United States Government can possibly be complicit in criminal acts is an idea Obama explicitly discarded along with his one-time pastor Rev. Wright.

If you understand this then there is nothing to be disappointed in about Obama. There are only a handful of politicians, Kucinich among them, who know that the government can be criminal, and then it needs to be held to account by impeachment or by trials.

What you will get with Obama is a change in policy. What you will never get with Obama is any accountability for the Bush Administration's crimes.

i.e., this will go unattended

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba – forced out of the service in 2006 for trying to honestly investigate the atrocities at Abu Ghraib – was unequivocal in his statement in a new report by Physicians for Human Rights:

"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account...The commander-in-chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture."

Now I understand

Chris Floyd explained. He quoted the words of a liberal journalist, who after systematically making the case that the Bush Administration is guilty of war crmes, comes to the conclusion:

The Bush administration has been wretchedly mistaken in its conception of executive power, deceitful in its push for war with Iraq and appalling in its scheming to make torture an instrument of state power. But a healthy democracy punishes policy mistakes, however egregious, and seeks redress for its societal wounds, however deep, at the ballot box and not in the prisoner's dock.

Criminal behavior by government officials is to be dealt with only at the ballot box? It is an amazing notion, but it seems to be one shared alike by Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C.; it makes comprehensible their behavior. That is why everything from impeachment to holding officials to be in contempt of Congress is off the table.

Chris Floyd further writes:
The cognitive dissonance of this conclusion was so painful and severe that I had to read it several times to fully take in that it meant exactly what it said: Rutten believes with all his heart that the official practice of deliberate, systematic torture – a clear and unambiguous war crime which he himself has just outlined in careful detail – is ultimately nothing more than a “wretched mistake,” a “policy difference” that should not be “criminalized.” And how can this be? The answer is obvious, if unspoken: because it was done by the United States government – and nothing the United States government ever does can possibly be criminal, or evil. It can only be, at most, a mistake, a conceptual error, an ill-considered policy, a botched attempt at carrying out a noble intention.
I'm less sure of this argument; it could simply be that the politicians consider themselves to be a special breed of human being to whom the laws that apply to the rest of the United States do not apply. In favor of Floyd's argument is Senator Kit Bond's statement:
"I'm not here to say that the government is always right, but when the government tells you to do something, I'm sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do."

i.e., we must believe in the authoritarian government that is not bound by laws, presumably because it is the United States government that can do no evil. Or perhaps because it is controlled by people who can commit no crimes, only make policy mistakes.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Last Sorry Bit

Glenn Greenwald:

UPDATE III: This article from Dow Jones, celebrating that the telecom industry is completely off the hook as a result of this bill, has the full quote from Sen. Bond, which is even better:
"I'm not here to say that the government is always right, but when the government tells you to do something, I'm sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do," Bond said.
Even when the Government is wrong, even when it orders you to do something illegal, your role is not to question but to obey. That's what he is saying explicitly.

When Democrats took over the Congress, they issued a document vowing to "end the 'dead of night' special interest provisions that turn bills into special-interest giveaways" and proclaimed: "Lawmakers must have the opportunity to read every bill before they vote on it. It’s common sense."

Today, the House leadership has set aside a grand total of one hour to debate the FISA/amnesty bill today, and gave its members less than 24 hours from the time it was released yesterday until they have to vote on it today. That's the same bill which the NYT this morning calls "the most significant revision of surveillance law in 30 years." They're going to enact massive changes to our spying laws without having the slightest idea what they're voting on. All they know is that the President demanded them and, as Kit Bond says: "when the government tells you to do something, I'm sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do."

Drink Deeply the Koolaid

Letter on

Here is the Bag..., slowly, just breathe into the bag a few times... that's it. Few more times... you will be fine. Okay, here is the thing: if Congress passes a law saying something is legal, it’s legal. Got it? He never broke the law. What he did was legal, and now a Democratically controlled Congress agrees. Done deal, get over it. And, every wonder why Bush smiles a lot these days? It’s because his legacy will be huge… Consider: Bush has: (1) Kept the country 100% safe for over 6 years now, (2) defeated Al Qaeda, (3) defeated the Taliban, (4) freed 30 million people, (4) won the war in Iraq, (5) started a democracy right next door to Iran which ultimately will cause the downfall of the Mullahs in Iran... all, while presiding over an economy that has stayed out of recession for almost 7 years. Yes my friends on the left, history works in funny ways…. Okay, here is the bag again… breathe…

Epitaph for the Democratic Party

Glenn Greenwald:
I'd like to underscore the fact that in 2006, when the Congress was controlled by Bill Frist and Denny Hastert, the administration tried to get a bill passed legalizing warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, but was unable. They had to wait until the Congress was controlled by Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to accomplish that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Long Story Made Short

The warrantless wiretapping that the annual Human Rights Report issued by the US Department of State blasts when it occurs in Russia or Zimbabwe has been going on under the Bush Administration, and the Democratic Congress is about to ratify that and retroactively immunize the Bush Administration and the telecom companies from any real examination of their actions.

The fig leaf of judicial review that they're putting in the bill they're trying to pass is as follows - if the Administration made a claim that warrantless wiretapping is legal, then that settles the question; i.e., the only question before the courts would be - had the Administration made such a claim? The courts would not be able to render a judgement as to whether any law was broken by the warrantless wiretapping program.

To add insult to injury - the way they're going to get this bill passed is to not use all the procedural methods that the majority can use to stop such a bill; for instance the Majority Whip will not issue a whip. What the Democratic leadership will do is allow just enough Democrats to join with Republicans to pass the bill; the rest of them will vote against, and then represent to the voters that they opposed the bill. They really think we're stupid!

The attempted antidote is here. Contribute if you can.

For the story in detail, see Glenn Greenwald, here, here and here.

Our Soviet States of America

Glenn Greenwald:

Speaking of which, as Steny Hoyer and Congressional Democrats attempt this week to legalize George Bush's warrantless eavesdropping powers and immunize lawbreaking telecoms, it's worth noting the company we keep in that realm, too. In 2001, the U.S. State Department issued a truly amazing report on Russian human rights abusees, complaining that Russian "authorities continued to infringe on citizens' privacy rights." What was the basis of that complaint? The State Department said that Russian regulations that:

require Internet service providers and telecommunications companies to invest in equipment that enables the [Foreign Security Service] to monitor Internet traffic, telephone calls, and pagers without judicial approval caused serious concern.
"Serious concern." Worse, said our Report, in Russia "there appears to be no mechanism to prevent unauthorized [Government] access to Internet traffic without a warrant"!

In 2006, the State Department's report on Russia contained one of the most amazing passages I've read in all the time I've been writing about political issues. This is really -- honestly -- what the State Department said in condemning Russia. I highly recommend reading this a few times, especially in light of what the Congress is preparing to do this week:

The law states that officials may enter a private residence only in cases prescribed by federal law or on the basis of a judicial decision; however, authorities did not always observe these provisions.

The law permits the government to monitor correspondence, telephone conversations, and other means of communication only with judicial permission and prohibits the collection, storage, utilization, and dissemination of information about a person's private life without his consent. While these provisions were generally followed, problems remained. There were accounts of electronic surveillance by government officials and others without judicial permission, and of entry into residences and other premises by Moscow law enforcement without warrants. There were no reports of government action against officials who violated these safeguards.

What kind of monsters would spy on their own citizens without warrants even when the law requires warrants, and then not even punish those who broke the law? Russian Communist KGB thugs -- that's who would do such a horrible thing, our State Department complained in 2006. Note, too -- as our Congress attempts to legalize warrantless eavesdropping here -- that our State Department complained about Russia's surveillance abuses even though the law there permits such spying "only with judicial permission."

Finally, in August of 2007, Zimbabwe passed a law allowing its President to eavesdrop on telephone conversations with no warrants -- exactly what our Congress is about to do -- and this is what opposition leaders in that country said about that new law:

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Friday signed into law the controversial Interception of Communications Bill, which gives his government the authority to eavesdrop on phone and Internet communications and read physical mail.

The legislation has drawn outspoken opposition from the political opposition and civil society organizations as trampling on the civil rights of Zimbabweans.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction of Morgan Tsvangirai called it an addition to "the dictator's tool kit" . . .

Secretary General Welshman Ncube of the MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara called it a "final straw to the curtailment to the liberties of Zimbabweans."

Human rights lawyer Otto Saki told VOA that the law interferes and undermines the enjoyment of rights enshrined in the constitution and is a sign Mr. Mugabe wants to consolidate his power by "any means necessary or unnecessary."

But in reply to that uproar, the Mugabe government had what one must admit was a good response:
But Communications Minister Christopher Mushowe said Zimbabwe is not unique in the world in passing such legislation, citing electronic eavesdropping programs in the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa, among other countries.
That's the company Steny Hoyer and the Blue Dogs in Congress are working hard this week to ensure we continue to keep, as they devote themselves to legalizing warrantless eavesdropping and immunizing corporations that broke the law. The details of the campaign to stop that will be posted here shortly.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The House Majority Leader is a liar

Details here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Reason for the Iraq War

Thanks to skyrocketing oil prices, many oil companies again enjoyed record profits in 2007. Chevron Corporation posted a company-best $18.7 billion in profit, while Royal Dutch Shell PLC reported a near-best $31.3 billion. Exxon­Mobil Corporation, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, posted a 2007 net income of $40.6 billion, the single largest annual profit in U.S. corporate history.

The long-term future of oil companies may not be so bright, however. ExxonMobil reported a decline in oil and natural gas production in 2007, and many companies are finding it hard to replace their reserves.Not only have the largest oil fields already been developed, most of the promising prospect areas are controlled by state-owned oil companies, which hold 80 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves.

From WorldWatch.Org

The Iraq War was an attempt to reduce that 80 percent significantly.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What the Constitution is about

A very good post.

Excerpts to give the summary:
The Constitution is a creation of We the People. It is not something that has been imposed on us from a higher authority. We are that higher authority. We are the sovereign. All three branches of government created under the Constitution have only those powers that we have granted to them and no more. ...

A Constitutional question is never, and can never be, about creating rights. I repeat, the Supreme Court does not, cannot, "create" or "extend" rights. The Court is not God, and it does not have the power to bestow rights on anybody.

To the contrary, and, as we first recognized in our Declaration of Independence, everyone on earth already holds every inalienable right that exists....

...The Supreme Court is vested with the authority to decide what power We the People consented to give. The Court decides what the Constitution means, what the law is. This is the concept of judicial review and the legacy of Marbury v. Madison. It is the Court's unique function to determine whether it, or either of the other branches, has been granted the power, by We the People, to act in a particular circumstance.

...It should be obvious that the Constitution, as the source of all governmental power, must necessarily apply to all governmental action. The crime of Bush's enemy combatant detention program is that Bush claimed the power to act outside the Constitution. Such power simply does not exist.

...How did we get so confused? In part, I blame the Bill of Rights. It should never have been adopted. Beware of lists. Lists can provide useful examples to explain an underlying, abstract concept, but all too often the concept gets lost in the debate over which examples to include and which to exclude from the list. The list becomes exhaustive instead of illustrative. This was the danger Hamilton warned us about when he argued that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary and potentially harmful.

...We have failed to heed Hamilton's warning. The idea that because specific protections exist, the government necessarily holds the power to affect the protected rights took hold. That misconception, in turn, led to the idea that if the Constitution doesn't afford specific protections, the government is free to act. Both are baseless, ignorant conclusions stemming from the fundamental misconception that the Constitution exists to protect individual rights. It does not. The Constitution exists to delineate the power of our government to act.


The proper focus on governmental power is also obscured by the analysis we undertake to determine the scope of that power. Where the government does have the power to act, the scope of that power is limited by balancing the competing interests of individual rights vs. the common good. Our rights are not absolute. They may be infringed, or even denied, when necessary to promote the common good through the legitimate exercise of governmental power. Finding the fulcrum point for that balancing act depends on the nature, scope and relative importance of the individual right being affected and the competing societal interest being furthered by the government's action. In short, you can't determine how far the government can go in its exercise of legitimate power until you determine which individual rights are being impacted and to what degree. It is an exercise in labeling and classification, NOT an exercise in creating or denying rights.

Perhaps the most egregious example is Roe v Wade. Everyone understands that Roe created a right to privacy. That's simply wrong. The right to privacy has always existed. Roe decided the extent to which the government can interfere with that right in the course of exercising its legitimate power to regulate abortion. Whether they called it the right to privacy, or the right to dominion over one's body, or the right to expel tissue from one's uterus, is irrelevant. What was important was whether the individual's interest in not being subject to governmental interference outweighed society's interest in regulating the individual's behavior. But that analysis was lost in the debate over whether to include the "right to privacy" on the magic list. It is discussions of this sort that have shifted the focus from the exercise of power to the protection of rights.

Viewed from a frame focused on the existence of power, the Bill of Rights is more accurately a list of specific limitations on the exercise of governmental power. This is not a distinction without a difference. It is a shift in focus, and the different frames can and have lead to dramatically disparate results.


Twenty-two ballet companies, three hundred dancers, one photographer with a Canon 5D and 70-200mm f/2.8 LIS. The results!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Why the war in Iraq?

For years, I've been saying that the only way to understand the Iraq war – a war that hurt, rather than advanced, American interests – is to see it as a successful covert action carried out by the Israelis and their American collaborators. The "Clean Break" scenario, launched by American "advisers" to then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, laid it all out in 1996. That was the theory, the practice of which is revealed in second section of the Senate intelligence report. It's no accident that two individuals involved in creating that seminal blueprint for the "transformation" of the Middle East, Doug Feith and David Wurmser, are intimately connected with the activities examined in the Senate report.

Justin Raimondo,

I'm Voting Republican

More info.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Youtube of the day:


My comment: What Obama says about what we would do if we saw Abraham raising his knife on child Isaac, and why we would do it is an argument that is accessible to any fundamentalist. Apart from that Obama says what we've known for years.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

On the Media

Dan Rather, on why the US media spouts government propaganda:

Let me say, by way of answering, that quality news of integrity starts with an owner who has guts. In a news organization with an owner who has guts, there is an incentive to ask the tough questions, and there is an incentive to pull together the facts -- to connect the dots -- in a way that makes coherent sense to the news audience.

But it is rare, now, to find a major news organization owned by an individual, someone who can say, in effect, "The buck stops here." The more likely motto now is: "The news stops... with making bucks."

America's biggest, most important news organizations have, over the past 25 years, fallen prey to merger after merger, acquisition after acquisition... to the point where they are, now, tiny parts of immeasurably larger corporate entities -- entities whose primary business often has nothing to do with news. Entities that may, at any given time, have literally hundreds of regulatory issues before multiple arms of the government concerning a vast array of business interests.

These are entities that, as publicly held and traded corporations, have as their overall, reigning mandate: Provide a return on shareholder value. Increase profits. And not over time, not over the long haul, but quarterly.

...I could continue for hours, cataloging journalistic sins of which I know you are all too aware. But, as the time grows late, let me say that almost all of these failings come down to this: In the current model of corporate news ownership, the incentive to produce good and valuable news is simply not there....

via GregMitch, dkos

Bill Moyers (via dkos, too). If you watch any Youtube today, let this be it.

On Respect for Women

Clinton's campaign ripped open a hole in our culture and forced us to look inside. And what we found was a simmering cauldron of crude, sophomoric sexism and ugly misogyny that a lot of us knew existed but didn't realize was still so socially acceptable that it could be broadcast on national television and garner nary a complaint from anybody but a few internet scolds like me. It was eye-opening, to say the least.

Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke...She will need her sisterhood.

Clinton is very much a product of the generation that accepted a certain amount of humiliation as the price of progress. She wrote in her autobiography that when she ran for president of her high-school class against several boys, one of them told her she was “really stupid” if she thought a girl could be elected president. She lost, and later, the winner asked her to head a committee “which as far as I could tell was expected to do most of the work.” She swallowed hard, accepted and, she admitted, really liked organizing all the school parades and dances and pep rallies.

This is one of the things you have to admire about Hillary Clinton. She still enjoys the work.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Limits of Dissent

The Preamble to the Constitution reads:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

From here extract the phrase "a more perfect Union". This forms the framing that any criticism must follow to enter the political mainstream in the US. Any other framing is marginalized, kept off the air, not considered "serious". Doesn't matter what the reality is, doesn't matter whether we're sliding down an abyss. Torture, indefinite detention and suspension of habeas corpus, illegal wiretapping, the gutting of the rule of law - none of these stir any passion in the people at large, because they violate the underlying mode of thought. "We are perfect and can only become more perfect".

The Assault on Freedom

Jacob G. Hornberger explains:

The enemy-combatant doctrine constitutes the most direct and dangerous threat to the freedom of the American people in the history of our country. Prior to 9/11, terrorism was considered by almost everyone a federal criminal offense. If anyone, including an American, was accused of terrorism, the government had to secure a grand-jury indictment against him and prosecute him in U.S. district court. In that proceeding, the accused would be entitled to all the rights and guarantees enumerated in the Bill of Rights, such as the right to counsel, right to due process of law, right to trial by jury, right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, right to confront witnesses, and right against self-incrimination.

The fact that terrorism has historically been considered a criminal offense was reflected, for example, in the federal criminal prosecutions of convicted terrorists Ramzi Yousef, one of the architects of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Timothy McVeigh, the man who bombed the Oklahoma City federal building. Indeed, even in the post–9/11 era, the government has prosecuted one of the 9/11 co-conspirators, Zacarias Moussaoui, in federal district court, as well as other terrorist suspects in Michigan, Florida, and elsewhere.

What was revolutionary about President Bush’s treatment of José Padilla was that for the first time in U.S. history, the government was claiming the power to treat suspected terrorists in two alternative ways: (1) through the normal federal-court route; and (2) through the enemy-combatant route. It would be difficult to find a more perfect violation of the age-old principle of the “rule of law,” the principle that holds that all people should have to answer to a well-defined law for their conduct rather than to the discretionary decisions of government officials. With the post–9/11 option to treat suspected terrorists in two completely different ways, each with markedly different consequences, the president and the Pentagon converted the United States from a “nation of laws” to a “nation of men.”

Another revolutionary aspect of the enemy-combatant doctrine was how the discretionary power to treat suspected terrorists, including Americans, as enemy combatants was acquired by the president and the Pentagon. Despite the assumption of this monumental power by the executive branch, there never was a constitutional amendment authorizing it. Initially, there wasn’t even a law enacted by Congress granting such power to the president. Instead, the president simply announced that as a result of 9/11 and his “war on terrorism,” he and the military now possessed the power to treat anybody suspected of terrorism – American or foreigner – as an enemy combatant.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

War Impending

I came away from the trip with a heightened expectation of a US/Israeli strike on Iran or other associated step to increase tension in the region. People on both sides seem to be openly placing their bets on that basis (Geagea) and fearing it as a serious possibility (Hezbollah and Syria). Jumblatt and Hariri were more cagey on the issue but my impression was that they are hoping for it, possibly expecting it, but politically smart enough not to openly indicate as such. My assessment of the broader situation is that hard-line elements in the West have only a few months to change the domestic and international political map by escalating US involvement in the Middle East. Otherwise there is a strong, and I believe for them unacceptable, danger of an Obama presidency that could reduce US involvement in the Middle East. This in turn could precipitate a collapse of the imperial system they are working so hard to implement, based around networks of individuals and interests binding the US, Britain, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and their more minor pawns in the region. They will surely do everything in their power to avoid this scenario. " Kieran Wanduragala

Full story here.

Slovakian Kestrels

Photoessay - Life of a Kestrel, on

Monday, June 02, 2008


"'Kick ass!' [Bush] said, echoing Colin Powell's tough talk. 'If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal.

"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!'"
Read about this quote, and what Tom Engelhardt has to say about this.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

On Luttwak and Apostate President

The NYT Public Editor weighs in about whether Obama is a Muslim apostate, and what was widely seen as Luttwak's call to Muslim fanatics to attempt an assassination.

The Times Op-Ed page, quite properly, is home to a lot of provocative opinions. But all are supposed to be grounded on the bedrock of fact. Op-Ed writers are entitled to emphasize facts that support their arguments and minimize others that don’t. But they are not entitled to get the facts wrong or to so mangle them that they present a false picture.

Did Luttwak cross the line from fair argument to falsehood? Did Times editors fail to adequately check his facts before publishing his article? Did The Times owe readers a contrasting point of view?

The answers the Public Editor gives are Yes, Yes, and Yes.

Shipley, the Op-Ed editor, said he regretted not urging Luttwak to soften his language about possible assassination, given how sensitive the subject is. But he said he did not think the Op-Ed page was under any obligation to present an alternative view, beyond some letters to the editor.

I do not agree. With a subject this charged, readers would have been far better served with more than a single, extreme point of view. When writers purport to educate readers about complex matters, and they are arguably wrong, I think The Times cannot label it opinion and let it go at that.

I regret this is not enough to save my subscription to The New York Times, because the Op-Ed editor still thinks No, No and No to the questions above.

Matthew Yglesias:
But of course if I were the editor of an op-ed page, I would think that one of my goals was to publish articles that inform, rather than mislead, my audience. The actual op-ed editors at the NYT and Washington Post have, however, made it abundantly clear over the years that they see misleading their audience as fine -- hence men like Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer get hired as columnists.

It does, however, make you wonder what these institutions are for. As means of acquiring information, they're useless -- the editors are indifferent to whether the author's purpose is to inform or to mislead. As entertainment, they're not very entertaining -- even a terrible movie like Crystal Skull is more fun than an op-ed column. Are they important profit centers for the failing businesses in which they're embedded? That seems unlikely.

Lorenzo De' Medici

National Gallery of Art, with details