Thursday, April 30, 2009
Howie P.S.: Olbermann and his guest Richard Wolfe discuss the possible paper trail (an Executive order obtained via the ACLU suit) to the White House and how it could influence the politics of this issue. Wolfe takes issue with Chris Matthews' argument in an earlier segment on Hardball, video (12:47), that torture may be a president's last resort in some instances.
MSNBC-Countdown: Keith Olbermann rips Condi's torture lies to shreds with the assistance of ex-Nixon aide, John Dean, video (07:21). Dean suggests that Obama may be at risk for prosecution himself if he doesn't proceed with prosecution, based on international law.
Smithfield Farms Fled US Environmental Laws to Open a Gigantic Pig Farm in Mexico, and All We Got Was this Lousy Swine Flu--US and Mexico authorities claim that neither knew about the “swine flu” outbreak until April 24. But after hundreds of residents of a town in Veracruz, Mexico, came down with its symptoms, the story had already hit the Mexican national press by April 5. The daily La Jornada reported:
Welcome to the aftermath of “free trade.” Authorities now want you to grab a hospital facemask and avoid human contact until the outbreak hopefully blows over. And if you start to feel dizzy, or a flush with fever, or other symptoms begin to molest you or your children, remember this: The real name of this infirmity is “The NAFTA Flu,” the first of what may well emerge as many new illnesses to emerge internationally as the direct result of “free trade” agreements that allow companies like Smithfield Farms to escape health, safety and environmental laws.
MoveOn.org, video (00:30):
Jay Bybee is responsible for some of the worst of the Bush torture memos. And now? He's a federal judge. Jay Bybee showed no respect for our laws and isn't fit to be a judge. Can you sign our petition to Congress calling for the impeachment of Jay Bybee?
Spencer Ackerman (firedoglake), with video (07:14):
Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser and secretary of state to George W. Bush, put on something of a torture-and-responsibility clinic to a student at Stanford University. Annie Lowrey at Foreign Policy does the hard work of transcribing, so I can simply cut-n-paste Rice's recollection of her July 2002 approval of the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah:Howie P.S.: Condi is a condescending liar. It was gratifying to hear the suppressed rage in her voice. She's feeling the heat.
But Rice is now portraying herself as merely being a conduit for approving the CIA's interrogation regime: "I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency." Well, there are only two more-senior officials than Rice in this context, and that's Bush and then-VP Dick Cheney. If she hadn't made a decision on the part of the administration for the Abu Zubaydah interrogation plan, only one of these two men would have had the authority to do so. And all of this would have happened before the Justice Department determined the interrogation techniques to be legal.
Obama has said repeatedly, maybe too much so, that he doesn't want to be backward-looking. "He views this not unreasonably as a diversion from his agenda," says Bill Galston, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution. "He's learning what all presidents learn: there are limits to agenda control. You do what is thrust upon you."Barack Obama
The flip side of Obama's cool and unperturbed demeanor is that he sometimes doesn't quite get the passions that are part of politics, or would rather set them aside in service of his larger vision. It became clear this week that he has to find a way for Democrats to vent the anger built up against an administration that many feel acted illegally, perhaps criminally. Galston is among those who believe that one way or another, there will have to be a commission.
firedoglake, video (05:35).
Howie P.S.: Professor Turley can't square Obama's definition of waterboarding as torture and his reluctance to hold those responsible accountable for this "mistake." Obama never says "crime." Cenk Uygur presents video from Stanford University where students confronted Condi Rice over her participation in the torture process.
Obama’s broad support points to an old American character trait – pragmatism. It can tilt conservative or liberal, as resilient as the times.Howie P.S.: For the record, Mr. Egan is a Seattle resident.
We are said to be a center-right country. In truth, we lean to common sense. If that means tying up the banks in ropes of new regulation to keep them from running amok again, despite cries about restraining free enterprise, most people are for it. If that means firing hack public school teachers to the wails of the educational establishment, the public is there as well.
Howie P.S.: Joe brings in Dr. Dean as the non-resident expert and then Joe and the in-house panel (Tina Brown and Pat Buchanan) offer their remedies to improve the health of the ailing minority party.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Howie P.S.: Olbermann conducts a "press conference analysis" with Howard Fineman. In his next segment, Olbermann follows up with David Axelrod, video-(06:17) on the torture issue. Axelrod argues, once again, that it is "time to move forward." Here's what Obama said, video (03:34).
Howie P.S.: I have written before of the privilege of having spent some time "up close" with Michelle Obama when she visited Seattle during the primary campaign. Those who know me will be surprised to learn I could not find the courage to utter a single word to her, just based on my gut reaction to her presence even as I observed her talking easily with others.
Howie P.S.: Sam Stein (HuffPo) asks,"Is Obama Reading Andrew Sullivan? References Similar Torture Post During Presser."
Howie P.S.: Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, talks with Schultz about the next 100 days. Rahmbo talks with Brian Willisms (NBC Nightly News), video (11:59).
The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) met with President Obama for one hour in the East Room of the White House yesterday.Howie P.S.: I'm pleased that Jim McDermott (D-Seattle) was one of the presenters for health care reform. In Seattle, some local bellydancers showed their support for single-payer in front of the Federal Building, video (09:00).
CPC Co-Chair, Congressman Raúl Grijalva, said that 50 of the 77 Caucus members attended, and they honed in on two major issues: their commitment to only supporting a healthcare reform bill that includes a public plan option that is "more than a gesture"; and the $83 billion war supplemental.
"It was a serious meeting," Rep. Grijalva said. "It moved quickly, there was a lot of candor from both sides."
Presenting the Caucus' case for healthcare reform were Representatives Yvette Clark, Tammy Baldwin, Jan Schakowsky, and Jim McDermott.This afternoon's meeting with President Obama may signal a new unity that bodes well for the tough fights ahead.
Howie P.S.: Sestak talks about Pennsylvania politics and says he "hasn't made up his mind" on whether to run for the U.S. Senate there in 2010. Ryan Lizza, John Feehery and Jamal Simmons join Schultz to discuss the Pennsylvania situation and its national impact. In the next segment, video (11:08), Schultz gives his view of the what Spector move means to the Obama agenda and the prospects for health care reform. He discusses this with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
We Democrats here in Pennsylvania know Arlen Specter's record better than anyone and you'll be hearing endless reiterations of his many sins over the next two years. I don't need to do that now. Suffice to say that most progressives in this state find Specter to be enormously frustrating. We do not dispute that he is what passes these days for a moderate Republican. We know that he has a good record on labor issues and that he is officially pro-choice. I know high level people in the teacher's unions that intended to re-register as Republicans to vote for him in the primary and then re-register as Democrats to vote against him in the general. Specter is not hated or despised by most people, but he isn't liked or respected either.
We can win the 2010 senate election without Specter. The Republicans cannot. And that's the difference between our position and the position of the Club for Growth.
Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has decided to become a Democrat.Howie P.S.: H/t to Mike Kato.
Unless Specter becomes a fairly liberal Democrat (perhaps with one or two exceptions like EFCA) his party switch today is something which might have more symbolic than actual impact.
Recently the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice asked me to write an article for them with my ideas of how grassroots activists could better use the internet for real change. As a member of the group, I was happy to tackle that assignment, and here are my thoughts. It's likely that all these groups that comprise UFPJ have among their own existing email lists a total number of peace activists in the millions. Yet they have never figured out how to mobilize these lists to create the sort of mega-list that is wielded by MoveOn. Hopefully down the road a network of non-partisan, web-based local and state activists will come together and create state and national email lists of millions of mobilized activists. Until these grassroots local and state groups learn the tricks of online activism and marry it to powerful grassroots organizing campaigns, real change will be deferred.
It seems much longer than a hundred days to me. In fact, it feels quite natural now, almost part of the furniture. The thrilling change many of us campaigned for felt most intense and promising this time last year, and once the possibility of a president Obama loomed into view last fall, the thrill dissipated a little. It has certainly seemed that way watching him since he took office: he has talked less hope than sobriety. He has become an anchor of sorts, not a kite.Barack Obama
We have an adult in charge. And we have civil public reasoning back in a persuasive president. Even with the fetid and somewhat desperate attempts of the far right to bring him down so soon, he dominates the stage right now. Because Obama's game is always a long one, a hundred days seems too soon to judge. But the ground has been laid. For what? We'll find out.
The Daily Beast:
President Obama and other Democratic bigwigs may have nixed a truth commission on torture, but liberal activists are rallying around another cause: The impeachment of Jay Bybee, the federal judge who, as the head of President Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel, advised that waterboarding was not torture. An impeachment of Bybee would be difficult for Congressional Republicans or conservative Senate Democrats to stop. “If the House votes for it, there’s no way the Senate can avoid it,” says a former Senate parliamentarian. The liberal establishment has been getting behind the idea: The New York Times editorialized in favor of Bybee’s impeachment, while John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress and the chief of President Obama’s transition team, also came out in favor of impeachment. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said last week “we’re coming after these guys.”
I'm so old I can remember when it was Village conventional wisdom that Democrats were too ruled by the all-powerful Left. Then in 2004 the Dems proved it by, for a moment, making it look like they were going to nominate a centrist governor from Vermont who committed the sin of opposing the stupidest fucking war ever. The point being, it was never true. More importantly, if it was the case that one politcal party was dominated by its base, one wonders why our sainted agendaless news media never bothered to actually give any kind of platform to those who apparently ran the party.
Now, of course, the Republicans are run by residents of crazy base land. Good that the media is finally starting to notice.
The Fox network announced today that it will not air President Barack Obama's primetime news conference this Wednesday at 8pm (ET), and will air the regularly scheduled drama Lie to Me instead. It is the first time a major broadcast network has declined Obama's request to break into the primetime broadcasting schedule. Lie to Me viewers will see an on-screen graphic informing them that sister cable networks Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network will air Obama's press conference in its entirety.Howie P.S.: Analyzing this decision, Entertainment Weekly asks "Fox drops Obama, but is that a big deal?" and concludes the network is not known by viewers for its political content, unlike its "sisters" (Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network). The "network typically comes in dead last in the ratings when it airs presidential interruptions." But what caught my eye was the name of the show that will be seen instead and how it seemed to capture so perfectly the content of the information broadcast by the network's "sisters." For a split second, I thought I was reading something in The Onion.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Bush needed ‘evidence’ and used techniques designed to produce lies to get it--After the past two weeks of document-dumps – from the leaked February 2007 Red Cross report calling George W Bush’s interrogation policy unequivocally “torture”, to the Office of Legal Counsel “torture memos” released by Barack Obama 10 days ago, to the doorstopper armed services committee report, what do we know about the Bush-Dick Cheney programme for interrogating terror suspects that we did not know before?
Zubaydah replied: “Yes.” This is partly how the entire war was justified: on a tortured lie. And this much we now know for sure.
Isn’t revisiting the abuses of the last eight years, no matter how bad they were, a luxury we can’t afford?
It’s hard, then, not to be cynical when some of the people who should have spoken out against what was happening, but didn’t, now declare that we should forget the whole era — for the sake of the country, of course.
The irony is that those Justice Department memos were written for just this moment: the moment when all would come to light. That they exist is a chronicle of scandal foretold.For the moment, the president, an ambitious leader who wants to "look forward" and not back, sees only the political costs of such an inquiry, which will be considerable. But the country has already incurred those costs and the damage in not paying them now will be far greater. Barack Obama
Here's what we know, based on the public record as represented above. A) Torture is illegal. B) The architects of the torture regime were informed that the "harsh interrogation techniques" they intended to use were torture, and that those methods were unreliable. C) Against that counsel from a military agency, torture was deployed--excessively, and it was used in part to extract information from detainees about ties between al Qaeda and Iraq, ties that the best intelligence the administration had access to had already deemed nonexistent, in order to justify the planned invasion--the chosen war--in Iraq.
Torture violates empathy in the most direct way. The very neural system we use in creating inhuman, unbearable pain in someone you are looking at, hearing, and touching is the same neural system that equips us to feel the pain we are creating. It is the same neural system that creates human connections with others. And the same neural system that lies at the heart of political democracy. Turning it off is turning off humanity, and with it democracy.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Last night, the Washington's House of Representatives passed EHB 1244, the 2009-2011 operating budget (PDF) that has been widely panned across the state as a failure of leadership. The House appears to have no plans to allow voters to opt to mitigate the pain of its budget by sending the people a revenue package; instead, jobs will be slashed, tuition hiked for students, aid to the vulnerable gutted, and seniors left to fend for themselves.Howie P.S.: Only Sen. Ken Jacobsen followed Andrew's advice, as he predicted: "Wash. Legislature passes budget to bridge $9B gap" (AP).
Does the scenario I've outlined have much of a chance of happening?
Probably not. But if it did happen... if six Democrats teamed together and splashed some cold water around the Capitol... it would sure would brighten the spirits of untold numbers of discouraged Washingtonians who are wondering: Where has the party of working families vanished to?