Friday, November 21, 2008
Obama Continues to Appoint "Retreads" for Top Government Posts. This isn't the "Change I Can Believe In"
John Brennan, Torture Tainted CIA Prospect
Marc Ambinder reported Thursday evening that former National Counterrorism Center head John Brennan is Barack Obama's "favorite to be nominated director of the Central Intelligence Agency." According to Ambinder's sources, Brennan has been vetted and even begun recruiting his team.
The news has alarmed Obama supporters who remember Brennan best for his role in both faulty pre-war intelligence and agreement with Vice President Dick Cheney on torture.
Glenn Greenwald writes, "I'm both entirely unsurprised and basically undisturbed by the fact that Obama's most significant appointments thus far are composed largely of standard Washington establishment figures and pro-Iraq-War hawks." But Brennan is "a different matter."
To appoint someone as CIA Director or Director of National Intelligence who was one of George Tenet's closest aides when The Dark Side of the last eight years was conceived and implemented, and who, to this day, continues to defend and support policies such as "enhanced interrogation techniques" and rendition (to say nothing of telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping), is to cross multiple lines that no Obama supporter should sanction. Truly turning a page on the grotesque abuses of the last eight years requires both symbolism (closing Guantanamo) and substantive policy changes (compelling adherence to the Army Field Manual, ensuring due process rights for all detainees, ending rendition, restoring safeguards on surveillance powers). Appointing John Brennan to a position of high authority would be to affirm and embrace, not repudiate, the darkest aspects of the last eight years.
Andrew Sullivan, in a post titled "No Way. No How. No Brennan," adds:
[T]he Republican, former chief-of-staff for George Tenet (who authorized war crimes as CIA head), admirer of Dick Cheney, CEO of the company one of whose contract employees improperly accessed Obama's and McCain's passports, and defender of renditions and "enhanced interrogations" is still Obama's front-runner pick to head the CIA. No, I'm not making this up. ...
Brennan was complicit and naive in the run-up to the Iraq war. And Obama wants to reward him? Brennan is also a believer in Cheney's term "the dark side," wishing merely to have some limits within it. He clearly has a mindset that has far more in common with the war crimes of his former boss than with the clear, and indisputable beliefs of the Obama movement.
The least we know is that Brennan is ambivalent about [torture]. Ambivalence on this matter is unacceptable. We haven't fought for decency and reform and a return to American values for so long to be turned back now. We didn't work our butts off to elect Obama only to get Bush another four years at CIA. If Brennan emerges as the pick, those of us against the continuation of war crimes and the prosecution of war criminals will have to oppose him strenuously in the nomination process. We will, in fact, have to go to war with Obama before he even takes office.
Melvin Goodman, a retired CIA intelligence analyst, lambasted Obama in the Baltimore Sun for relying on "discredited cronies" like Brennan.
Blogger and lawyer Anonymous Liberal says he shares their concerns, but he doesn't think the possibility is quite so dire. He points out that Brennan's actual involvement in illegal Bush-era programs is unclear, and that intelligence agencies don't set policy.
Every illegal program and policy during the Bush administration emanated from the White House and was given legal imprimatur by the Justice Department. Regardless of what John Brennan personally thinks about surveillance, torture, rendition, etc., he will only be able to do what the White House and the DOJ authorize him to do. That's why Eric Holder's nomination is reassuring. And if Obama really wants to reassure people like myself, he'll appoint someone with Holder's expressed views (perhaps Marty Lederman?) to head up the OLC.
So long story short, while some of Brennan's expressed views are troubling, his appointment may be more about operational competence than policy or ideology.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Voter Intent in Minnesota
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Huckabee Claims Civil Rights Of Gays Are Not Being Violated: They Aren’t Getting Their ‘Skulls Cracked’
Today on ABC’s “The View,” former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabe discussed his pride that an African-American has been elected president. When host Joy Behar asked if he feels the same about gay rights, he said that the two were “a different set of rights,” and suggested that the gay rights movement hasn’t suffered enough violence to be a real issue:
HUCKABEE: It’s a different set of rights. People who are homosexuals should have every right in terms of their civil rights, to be employed, to do anything they want. But that’s not really the issue. I know you talked about it and I think you got into it a little bit early on. But when we’re talking about a redefinition of an institution, that’s different than individual civil rights.
BEHAR: Well, segregation was an institution, too, in a way. It was right there on the books.
HUCKABEE: But here is the difference. Bull Connor was hosing people down in the streets of Alabama. John Lewis got his skull cracked on the Selma bridge.
Huckabee is echoing a newly popular conservative trope. Last week, Tony Perkins claimed that gay rights and civil rights are “totally different.” Tara Wall, deputy editorial page editor at the Washington Times, wrote today that “[t]here is no comparison” between blacks’ struggle and gay people’s struggle because “[b]lacks were stoned, hung, and dragged for their constitutional right to ’sit at the table.’ Whites — gay or not — already had a seat at that table.”
To suggest that a civil rights movement must meet some sort of violence threshold is an incredibly dangerous argument — not to mention blind to the serious violence gay people have already suffered. 16.6 percent of all hate crimes reported by the FBI in 2007 “resulted from sexual-orientation bias,” and the number of hate crimes directed against gays and lesbians increased six percent from 2006. More striking, a 2007 study by the University of California, Davis, found that “[n]early four in 10 gay men and about one in eight lesbians and bisexuals in the United States have been the target of violence or a property crime because of their sexual orientation.”
The murders of Matthew Shepherd in 1998 and 15-year-old Lawrence King earlier this year brought renewed public focus to lethal danger of homophobia. The violence gay activists face will gain more attention in two weeks, when “Milk,” a new feature-length movie about the first openly gay elected official, is released. Harvey Milk struggled for the political rights of gay people — just like civil rights leaders pushed for African-Americans’ political rights — and he was ultimately killed for it.
Monday, November 17, 2008
“Now, I might regret this, it’s kind of like going grocery shopping when you’re high. But here goes world. We’re Americans. We built the Golden Gate Bridge, and Hoover Damn, and Joan Rivers. We’re the only country that can look at a sandwich made of icecream and chocolate cookies covered in fudge and think… huh, you think we could fry that? And you know what… YES WE CAN! They may have 72 virgins, but we have 31 flavours. You know what our favourite burger topping is… another burger. We invented rock ‘n roll, jazz, funk, R&B and hip hop. Without our music, your iPods would be filled with ABBA, Menudo, and Men at Work. And you wouldn’t have iPods. Not only did we create the Internet, we’re the ones who filled it up with porn. Jefferson lived here, and Miles Davis, and Mark Twain, and Frank Lloyd Wright, and a lot of other people Sarah Plain never heard of. In America, strippers and Disney stars have an equal right to be named Hannah Montana. And I was freely able to make a movie saying there’s no afterlife and you could watch it while eating crap that’ll kill ya. But that’s okay, because our corn-fed high school sophomores are bigger than your soldiers, and they’re better armed. I ask you, in what other nation would they tax young people to make sure old people can afford erections. What you call football, we call soccer, and what you call war crimes, we call football. So let me just say it again, we elected a black guy. And it was because he was the best candidate, not because it was some cheap gimmick. And we should know, ‘cause we’re also the country that invented cheap gimmicks. Yes, America is like Jessica Simpson. Sometimes it’s so stupid it embarrasses you but, on the other hand, how about them titties.”
From Andrew Sullivan:
I have never done anything - nor would I do anything - to impede or restrict the civil rights of Mormons. I respect their right to freedom of conscience and religion. In fact, it is one of my strongest convictions. But when they use their money and power to target my family, to break it up, to demean it and marginalize it, to strip me and my husband of our civil rights, then they have started a war. And I am not a pacifist....
[T]he Mormons are particularly vicious homophobes. Gay people are rendered invisible, their personhood erased in this church. The cruelty the Mormon church inflicts on its gay members is matched only by the Mormons' centuries-long demonization and hatred of black people. That African-Americans would seek common cause with a church that only recently still believed they were the product of Satan shows how profound homophobia can be. But this shared hatred can be exploited by the Hewitts and Romneys of this world. And what we have just witnessed is a trial run for much larger ambitions.
If we don't resist this now, we will not be able to resist it later.
The NY Times is now breaking the story that Dan Rather's dismissal from CBS news was done in large response to Republican party pressure on the network.
Using tools unavailable to him as a reporter — including the power of subpoena and the threat of punishment against witnesses who lie under oath — he has unearthed evidence that would seem to support his assertion that CBS intended its investigation, at least in part, to quell Republican criticism of the network.
Among the materials that money has shaken free for Mr. Rather are internal CBS memorandums turned over to his lawyers, showing that network executives used Republican operatives to vet the names of potential members of a panel that had been billed as independent and charged with investigating the "60 Minutes" segment.
Can you imagine the uproar if the Democrats had pulled a similar stunt? Rigging an "unbiased" panel? Getting a prominent journalist fired to fulfill a political vendetta?
Any doubt that the Republican party can control and influence unfairly the broadcast of news and information to the American should vanish with this report.
Another memorandum turned over to Mr. Rather’s lawyers by CBS was a long typed list of conservative commentators apparently receiving some preliminary consideration as panel members, including Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan. At the bottom of that list, someone had scribbled "Roger Ailes," the founder of Fox News.
Let us not forget that the Republican party made a 77 year-old man fight for his life to defend his honor and the reputation he built as a professional journalist. Dan Rather is a hero of American journalism who proved his mettle on multiple occasions.
And let us not forget that the Republican party will continue to have the power to destroy the careers of journalists who dare to question their tactics, their methodology, and their corrupt politicians. Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, hell, ANYONE who doesn't even stand in their way but merely asks questions will be targeted.
The story is a must read from a newspaper that has, itself, had its credentials questioned.
Updated Let us also not forget that Bush himself said such a tactic would be reminiscent of Putin's Russia:
But when Bush talked about the Kremlin's crackdown on the media and explained that democracies require a free press, the Russian leader gave a rebuttal that left the President nonplussed. If the press was so free in the U.S., Putin asked, then why had those reporters at CBS lost their jobs? Bush was openmouthed. "Putin thought we'd fired Dan Rather," says a senior Administration official. "It was like something out of 1984."
And watch how Time also tried to "laugh" off the whole thing:
The Russians did not let the matter drop. Later, during the leaders' joint press conference, one of the questioners Putin called on asked Bush about the very same firings, a coincidence the White House assumed had been orchestrated. The odd episode reinforced the Administration's view that Putin's impressions of America are often based on urban myths fed to him by ill-informed aides.
Update 2: Just to clarify a couple of points that have been brought up in the comments below.
- I'm not saying Dan Rather is a paragon of journalistic virtuosity. Just that the man worked his tail off for decades, did some damn good work at times, and didn't deserve this.
- I'm not saying that Democrats need to cower before the Right. Much the opposite. I'm saying that we need to remain vigilant against this type of action. As Slinkerwink noted below, WaPo's omsbudsman is continuing to push this nonsense about the "liberal media" and is asking for a litmus test.
I guess what I'm saying is, just because Obama won doesn't mean they won't stop being dirty. If anything, it means they will step up their game. Are we afraid? No. But neither should we be content to rest on our laurels.
Remember when Doris Kearns Goodwin and the rest of the elite media socialites took to the studios of Charlie Rose's show to portray the opponents of the bailout as wild-eyed leftists? Seems there's some serious bipartisan pushback going on (h/t Atrios):
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said Saturday that Congress was not told the truth about the bailout of the nation's financial system and should take back what is left of the $700 billion "blank check'' it gave the Bush administration.
"It is just outrageous that the American people don't know that Congress doesn't know how much money he (Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson) has given away to anyone,'' the Oklahoma Republican told the Tulsa World.
"It could be to his friends. It could be to anybody else. We don't know. There is no way of knowing.''
Inhofe, who on issues like global warming is something of a know-nothing, is nonetheless absolutely correct on this one. Bailoutsleuth.com has been reporting how Paulson has tried to shroud bailout expenditures in secrecy, while Bloomberg News recently reported that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is refusing to release the names of the recipients of about $2 trillion in taxpayer-funded loans.
Inhofe will likely find an ally in Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who issued this press release this morning:
WASHINGTON, November 17 - Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today he will introduce legislation to stop the release of a $350-billion second round of the Wall Street bailout.
Sanders, who voted against the $700-billion package Congress approved in October, said he has serious concerns about how the Bush administration and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson are spending the bailout money that was already released. He also said it was unacceptable that the oversight provisions in the bill were ignored.
When the bailout originally passed over bipartisan objections, many voices began demanding Paulson refrain from buying bad mortgages, and instead buy voting stock in banks on terms that force banks to make loans off the new capital, restrict bank salaries/dividends and protect taxpayers' investment. Paulson partially buckled to that pressure, first a few weeks ago, then again late last week. Indeed, he discarded his original proposal (which would have been a straight-up giveaway) and began buying stakes in banks. The problem is he opted to buy non-voting stock on bad terms that do not protect taxpayers and allow bank executives to continue paying bonuses.
Now, with bipartisan congressional anger mounting, we may see a forceful legislative campaign to take back what remaining money Paulson wants to give away to his friends on Wall Street. The guy is working overtime to shovel out as much taxpayer money - our money - to his buddies before January 20th comes and he's out of a job. It's time to stop the kleptocracy, take back the money and spend it on a major economic stimulus to bolster the real economy here in "real America" where real people work real jobs - not simply give it away to a few financial industry fat cats in Manhattan.
UPDATE: Check this out from the Financial Times:
A senior Republican senator is seeking an investigation into potential conflicts of interest among former Goldman Sachs executives serving at the US Treasury and whether any officials exceeded their authority by implementing a controversial tax change without the approval of Congress.
Chuck Grassley, the most senior Republican on the Senate finance committee, asked Eric Thorson, inspector-general of the Treasury, to investigate the "independence" of several Treasury officials who formerly worked at Goldman Sachs and serve as advisers to Treasury secretary Hank Paulson, the former chief executive of the Wall Street bank.