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:: Friday, June 11, 2004 ::

Bush sidesteps a question about whether torture is ever justified

So Bush breaks down and talks to the country about his role in the whole SignOnSanDiego.com >torture and rape thing:
President Bush said Thursday he ordered U.S. officials to follow the law while interrogating suspected terrorists, but he sidestepped an opportunity to denounce the use of torture. Bush's comments came as a 2-year-old State Department document surfaced warning the White House that failing to apply international standards against torture could put U.S. troops at risk.

'What I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law,' Bush told reporters at the close of the G-8 summit in Savannah, Ga.
Asked if torture is ever justified, Bush replied, 'Look, I'm going to say it one more time. ... The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you.'
It doesn't comfort me. Actually, it insults me because I've read the damn legal memo which basically states "It's not torture until you're ripping out their liver. Bamboo up the fingernails, rape, forced sodomy, sleep deprivation, dog attacks, frequent beatings -- that's just abuse.".
So, no, it doesn't comfort me (or Josh Marshall, whose links I cheerfully stole so I wouldn't have to go back and figure out where I saw the story) at all.

What would comfort me would be a firm statement that all those involved would be removed from the military, from the government, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That such an example would be made of them that it would be generations before some wingnut brought up the idea of torturing prisoners.

Of course, if you did that -- and actually followed through -- the White House would be damn empty.

PS: I suggest not hanging out with John McCain. I'm sure he's a bit unhappy -- under your "definition" of torture -- to learn that he merely suffered years of abuse. I'm sure if you gave him the chance, he'd probably demonstrate the difference between "abuse" and "torture".
:: Morat 8:56 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, June 10, 2004 ::
Chirac had this to say about exporting Democracy to Iraq:
There is no ready-made formula for democracy readily transposable from one country to another. Democracy is not a method, it is a culture. For democracy to take root solidly and durably in the Arab world, it must be an Arab democracy before all else
. Sounds like a rather straight forward, honest assessment. We're not going to be able to transplant our culture and our government to another country and expect it to take root.

Chirac's just stating the obvious: For Iraqi democracy to work, it's going to have to be an Arabic democracy, one that flows from the culture and beliefs of the Arab world.

Andrew Sullivan, on the other hand, has this take:
And where would the model for that be? Of course, the model for Arab democracy has to be imported to some extent. I think Chirac is getting worried that Iraq might blaze a trail. And what would that say about France's historic support for tyranny and colonialism in the region?
There are so many "WTF?" issues in those few sentences that I'm not even sure where to begin. So to save time, I'll just tackle that last sentence: "France's historic support for tyranny and colonialism in the region". Now, I'll admit, we've not colonized the area.

On the other hand, I seem to remember a brief period called "The Reagan Administration" where we cheerfully propped up Iraq on one hand (led by Infamous Tyrant and Evildoer 'Saddam Hussein') while covertly selling weapons to the Iranians on the other.

I suppose we could get into some of our current "allies" in the War on Terror as well (dissident boiling Uzbekistan comes to mind....). We seem to be pretty active in the "historic support for tyranny in the region" area. Glass houses and thrown stones come to mind, Andrew.

Look, Andrew, the "France is TEH SUCK" mentality works for my brother-in-law. He's not a complicated fellow, he's got a very basic grasp of politics, and he doesn't do public commentary. You, on the other hand, probably need to engage a few brain cells before opening your mouth. (Especially given that France was actually right about Iraq. The may be TEH SUCK but they seem to be better informed and more rationale than George Bush.)
:: Morat 12:47 PM :: ::

Facing Defeat?

Facing Defeat?:
Lawyers within the Justice Department are now bracing for defeat in both the enemy-combatant and Guantanamo cases, both of which are expected to be decided before the Supreme Court ends its term at the end of the month, according to one conservative and politically well-connected lawyer. "They are 99 percent certain they are going to lose," said the lawyer, who asked not to be identified. "It's a very sobering realization."

While Supreme Court forecasts are hazardous at best, the conventional wisdom among former Supreme Court clerks is that recent disclosures about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and internal administration memos disavowing compliance with international treaties involving treatment of prisoners has badly hurt the government's arguments before the court and turned two key "swing" justices --Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy -- against it, the lawyer said.

Insider thinking within Justice has the Supreme Court voting six to three against the administration on Guantanamo and by a perhaps even larger margin in the Padilla and Hamdi cases.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Bush Administration's argument here was -- basically -- "Trust Us". They freely admitted there were some concerns and issues but that the authority was "necessary" and that of course they weren't going to abuse it, and that sufficient checks and balances existed that piddling little details like Judicial or Congressional oversight wasn't really needed.

It really undercut their case when it turns out that -- at the very moment Olsen was speaking -- the military was happily torturing both the innocent and the guilty alike. Finding out that the Executive branch had spent the last year working out ways to torture people (including discussions over using the Nuremburg defense) didn't help matters.

So, yeah...I'm guessing the Abu Ghraib issues, the revelations of torture and abuse in Afghanistan and Gitmo as well, probably did change some minds, because it demonstrated in no uncertain terms why the Founding Fathers were so obsessed with "checks and balances".

I don't see the Supreme Court allowing the Executive Branch such sweeping powers. Especially when it's demonstrated that it plans to use those sweeping powers to rape, abuse, torture, and kill prisoners with no regard for US law, international law, or even things like "guilt" or "innocence".
:: Morat 11:59 AM :: ::

Updates from Gitmo

More signs of moral rot:
Military interrogators at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been given access to the medical records of individual prisoners, a breach of patient confidentiality that ethicists describe as a violation of international medical standards designed to protect captives from inhumane treatment.
[...]
There is no universally established international law governing medical confidentiality. But ethics experts said international medical standards bar sharing such information with interrogators to ensure it is not used to pressure prisoners to talk by withholding medicine or by using personal information to torment a detainee.
[...]
Matthews said an individual's records would routinely list psychologists' comments about conditions such as phobias, as well as family details, including the names and ages of a spouse or children.

Such information, he said, would give interrogators "tremendous power" over prisoners. Matthews said he was disturbed that his team, which issued a generally favorable report on the base's medical facility, was not told patient records were shared with interrogators.

Asked what use nonmedical personnel could make of the files, he replied: "Nothing good."
Is there any line the White House isn't willing to cross?

I think the worst part about this isn't the White House's tacit endorsement of torture (you don't write legal memos on "How to torture legally" if you're not planning on attaching electrodes to people's genitals)...it's the way their decisions have compromised the morals and ethics of people all the way down the chain of command. Too many people stayed quiet. Too many soldiers who knew better.
:: Morat 9:26 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, June 09, 2004 ::

Joy! Happiness! Legally binding contract!

So my wife called with the good news: She just signed her teaching contract for next year. Now, this wasn't terribly surprising. She'd been formally offered the job, assured there were no problems, and wasn't worried about anything -- but after last year's little "Now you have a job, now you don't" fiasco, I wasn't going to be totally happy until she signed a legally binding employment contract.

Here's to a steady paycheck, and the means to continue paying the Mighty Gods of Mortgage, Car Payments, School Expenses, and Clothes for the Demon-Spawn Child! Oh, and food!

Can you tell I'm excited?

Note: Just a note, but there are several stages of happiness involved in this whole fiasco. There was the "Yeah, she got a summer teaching slot so we'll have a comfortable summer" followed by the "Yeah! She was offered a job" followed by the "Yeah, HR formally offered her the job" followed by -- at last -- "Yeah, she signed a contract and now they have to pay her!".

Any other year I'd have rolled the last three into one "Yippee!", but given that we played "Now you have a job, now you don't" last year and this is her first year of teaching (thus the situation is more fragile than normal), well....we learned not to equate "Offered a job" with "Has a job".
:: Morat 1:37 PM :: ::

Prison Interrogators' Gloves Came Off Before Abu Ghraib

I'm not terribly fond of John Walker, but he was -- and remains -- an American citizen. And while the legality of torturing foreigners might be debatable (I think it's pretty clear cut, but the Bush Administration is giving it the ole' college try) this is about as blatantly illegal as you can get:
After American Taliban recruit John Walker Lindh was captured in Afghanistan, the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld instructed military intelligence officers to 'take the gloves off' in interrogating him.

The instructions from Rumsfeld's legal counsel in late 2001, contained in previously undisclosed government documents, are the earliest known evidence that the Bush administration was willing to test the limits of how far it could go legally to extract information from suspected terrorists.
Bad Rummy! Violating US Law! No treats for you!

Seriously, he authorized the torture of a US citizen. It doesn't matter if Walker was a traitor, or aiding and abetting our enemies...he was still a US citizen and Rumsfeld lacks the authority -- hell, the President lacks the authority -- to order him to be tortured.

I doubt we've heard the last of this. Traitor or not, convicted or not, if these documents exist (they're probably going up in smoke right now if they do) then Walker and his family have one hell of a case against the US government. No wonder Ashcroft refuses to release the torture memos. Releasing them is only further evidence that the abuse was premeditated (and not the result of a "few bad apples"), and even Ashcroft has to realize that none of the "legal justifications" in those memos are going to cover his ass (Or George's, or Donald's, or Dick's....).(Link via Eschaton)
:: Morat 9:39 AM :: ::

More Enron Tapes, More Gloating

Wow. Looks like the dam has burst on the Enron tapes:
The Department of Justice reportedly has thousands of hours of Enron employees recorded during the West Coast power crisis. Now, some in Congress want all the tapes released.

'I want to make sure that no federal agency suppresses this information, makes the case harder for us to get relief,' says U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

After CBS broadcast the voices of Enron energy traders gloating over the crisis they helped create, more tapes were released.
What I want to know is why the Justice department has been sitting on these tapes for a year or more? (Actually, I know why. I want to see them squirm trying not to admit it).
:: Morat 9:21 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 ::

Texas Tuesdays: Martin Frost for Congress

Texas Tuesdays is featuring Martin Frost this week, who is running against GOP incumbent Pete Sessions in the 32nd District.
:: Morat 12:02 PM :: ::

The baby has arrived

Congratulations to Charles Kuffner on the birth of his daughter.
:: Morat 10:36 AM :: ::

:: Monday, June 07, 2004 ::

Who does Osama want to be President?

You know, I really don't care. I don't. I'll vote for whom I think is the best man for the job, and Osama -- and anything he does -- can go hang.
:: Morat 1:49 PM :: ::

Ronald Reagan

I don't have much to say about Reagan's death. George the Elder was the first US President I was politically aware of. Reagan was just....history. A president of my parent's generation, not mine.

That said, from what I've read (history being one of those subjects they do attempt to teach you in college) I'd imagine he was not nearly as impressive as some would say, nor as evil, banal or incompetent as others would say.

A more unbiased look -- a more truthful examination -- would be possible, but unfortunately George Bush has chosen to withhold quite a few of Reagan's Presidential papers. Until such time as they are released, forming any real historical opinion of Reagan is impossible.

In the meantime, I offer my sympathies to his family. That he was once President doesn't change the fact that he was a father and husband, and that he has left behind those who loved him.
:: Morat 10:33 AM :: ::

A few bad apples

According to Phil Carter, it appears those few bad apples were all at the top.
Jess Bravin reports in Monday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) about a classified legal memorandum prepared by the Pentagon's Office of General Counsel that appears designed to find every legal workaround possible to justify coercive interrogation and torture at Guantanamo Bay. This report comes in the wake of disclosures about other memoranda — one written in early 2002 by UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo while with the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, and a second written by White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales — justifying the White House's overall Guantanamo Bay plan. This latest memo, signed in April 2003, goes much further than those though — it specifically authorizes the use of torture tactics, up to and including those which may result in the death of a detainee.
I can't access the WSJ report, but Phil Carter's a damn good resource for this (and not exactly on my side of the partisan fence). His analysis is pretty damning, as he feels the new memo seems to be a "cookbook approach for illegal government conduct" as opposed to the more common "What's legal, what's not, and where can we fudge it" approach.

I don't think Abu Graib is going away, because it's becoming more and more obvious that this was authorized at the highest levels.
:: Morat 9:37 AM :: ::

Delays, Purge Hit Voter Rolls

Well, Florida puts another bullet into Democracy:
Today, as the 2004 election nears:

* More than 43,000 Floridians are on the waiting list to have their rights restored, some of whom first learned in 2000, after voting for years, that they weren't legally entitled to vote. The restoration process can take years, and the list is growing, not shrinking.

* Hundreds of people wrongly removed from voter rolls in 2000, who never committed felonies or whose rights had been restored, may not yet have been put back on the rolls.

* A lawsuit charges that Florida's felon disenfranchisement is unconstitutional and affects up to 600,000 people.

Despite all this, state officials have just sent elections supervisors in Florida's 67 counties another list of 47,000 names of individuals who may have committed felonies in the past, telling the supervisors to purge their rolls again.

Some supervisors say they don't have the staff, expertise or money to do the purge without the same kind of errors as in 2000.

Legally purged voters, meanwhile, won't find out about it until they get a letter from an election supervisor this summer - too late to have their rights restored for this election - or are turned away on Election Day.
Bravo, Jeb. Bravo.
:: Morat 9:31 AM :: ::

How crazy is the Texas GOP?

How crazy is the Texas GOP? Pretty damn crazy. Now, if you don't want to take my -- admittedly partisan -- word for it, Kevin Drum has reposted some of the more interesting snippets from the Texas GOP's state platform. There's two things to bear in mind here. Even for a state platform (notorious for their unusual take on things) this one is pretty wild (Kevin provides links a worthy liberal counterpart: California's Democratic platform. There's no real comparison). Secondly -- as Drum notes -- Texas seems to be providing a lot of the GOP's national leadership.

So you've got to wonder how much of this Bush and Delay (to name two) buy into.

Go read, and find out all about the Texas GOP's desire to bring back the gold standard, abolish the Federal Reserve, neuter the Supreme Court, rid the United States of the pesky "separation of church and state" nonsense, criminalize homosexuality, outlaw abortion, equate homosexuality with child molestation, teach creationism, abolish the income tax, Social Security, the minimum wage, remove at least 2/3rds of the government, leave the UN, take back the Panama canal...

Do you get the picture? Bonkers. I'll quote a bit of Kevin's take on this:
These are not the words of sane people. This is not "reform," this is not "common sense," and this is not "restraining government growth." This is plain and simple madness and the people behind it have real influence.
I can't say I disagree, although I have to point out that the state-level GOP people are relatively sane, at least compared to those that work at the local level. Like, for instance, my local school board.
:: Morat 8:49 AM :: ::

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