Thursday, April 30, 2009


Andrew Sullivan explains the rationale for criminal prosecutions over the allegations of torture:
If the president believed that following the law at that point would lead to the imminent deaths of thousands of people, then his constitutional responsibility was either to urge the Congress to repeal the Geneva Conventions and UN Convention, or to break the law because this one moment necessitated it and then present himself for trial. That's the Lincoln model. What Bush did instead was secretly break the law, invoke a constitutional theory that the executive can always break such laws in the furtherance of national security and order his lawyers to provide specious reasons why he had not done so. Then he lied about it repeatedly in public. Then when photographs from Abu Ghraib showed in graphic detail the horrifying reality of much milder techniques than the ones he had explicitly authorized, he blamed low-level soldiers and allowed them to take the fall. Then, over a year after Abu Ghraib and four years after 9/11, he set up an elaborate, ongoing program to torture prisoners, replete with lawyers, doctors, professional torturers, and psychologists. Then, when the International Committee of the Red Cross gave him a report detailing what it described as unequivocal torture, he shelved it, further violating his core responsibility to enforce the law.

This is an ongoing, premeditated conspiracy to systematically break the law and violate treaty obligations.
These things Andrew mentions are just the things we already know about. What else might prosecutors dig up?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Moderate Republican Susan Collins

After the SARS pandemic ended, people warned the US government to prepare for the next outbreak. One professor wrote:
It may take 18 months to build a stockpile of respirators and masks, so there is no time to lose. The American people’s faith in their government will be seriously undermined if, along with larger measures like school closings, it cannot provide effective face protection for its citizens during a deadly pandemic. Masks and respirators may be our main lines of defense during a pandemic.
One "moderate Republican" senator recently tried to cut federal spending on US pandemic preparedness according to this Wall Street Journal article of Feb 5, 2009:
After meeting with Mr. Obama, Sen. Collins expressed concern about a number of spending provisions, including $780 million for pandemic-flu preparedness. "I have no doubt that the president is willing to negotiate in good faith, that he wants to have a bipartisan bill," Sen. Collins said.
Republicans have poured over $1 trillion dollars into a War on Terror with little debate, but won't spend even %0.1 of that figure on preventing deaths in a flu pandemic? That's nuts.

A major pandemic is probably no less likely than a major terrorist attack. A pandemic has the potential to kill more people. In fact, the only way a terror attack could kill as many Americans as a pandemic would be if the terrorists' weapon of choice caused a pandemic!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good cop or bad cop, it's one team

A CNN reporter attempts to ask a protester some questions, and gets heckled by members of a Republican "tea party" held in Chicago last Thursday. The protesters claimed CNN was "pro-Obama."

What's really going on here?

Recall CNN health expert Sanjay Gupta's treatment of Michael Moore's documentary Sicko). Both CNN and Fox tend to present perspectives on current events that are large-corporation-friendly.

The major difference between the networks is that from the perspective of Americans on the center-left of the political spectrum -- a majority of the US voters in the last election -- Fox plays "bad cop" to CNN's "good-cop."

Fox actually helped organize the turn-out for the Conservative movement's "tea parties" held across the US last week. By targeting CNN as "biased" right wing-groups help the networks to frame the national debate in a way that is safe for corporate America. One way to do this is to convince enough people that Obama and even CNN are on the extreme left.

By and large, Obama continues to govern from the right, pushing policies that are generous to the corrupt banking industry. His administration has actively defended the Bush Administration's efforts to spy on American citizens, committed itself to sending more troops to Afghanistan in the name of fighting the guys who attacked America eight years ago, and suggested that CIA officials accused of war crimes ought not be brought to trial.

Nevertheless, both CNN and Fox both give disporportionate weight to criticisms of Obama coming from the right.

As the right of the Republican Party has governed the US for most of the past eight years, many the most substantial criticisms of Obama come from the left. The right wing movement -- with its one-policy call for "lower taxes" -- has a modest aim at this point. That is, to distract Americans from backing solutions that could change the power structure. Captains of key industries do not want the Obama Administration to make fundamental changes concerning the economy, finance, health care, and foreign policy (defense). Even reforms that could make life better for ordinary Americans, and put the economy and environment on a sure-footing, are anathema to the oligarchs.

Good cop or bad cop, it's the same boss.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

America's double standard on human rights

When Chinese, Japanese, Africans, or Cambodians do it America calls it a "war crime." When Americans do it, Obama calls it:
“time for reflection, not retribution.”
To Obama's credit, he was letting the lower-ranking CIA guys off the hook when he said that today, not upper level officials in the Bush administration. The best news of all was that Obama did not stand in the way of the planned release of torture memos. A NY Times report on the release states:
An early review suggested that the administration had declassified the vast bulk of the memos’ contents, a defeat for C.I.A. officials who had argued that such a step could be harmful to national security. The documents included Justice Department memos from 2002 and 2005 authorizing the C.I.A. to employ a number of aggressive techniques — including sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures and “waterboarding,” the near-drowning technique.
To remind ourselves at what's at stake with respect to these memos, let's watch journalist Hitch undergo what the NY Times refers to as an "aggressive technique":

Christopher Hitchens also wrote about the experience of being water-boarded in Vanity Fair.
SPECIAL COVERAGE I live-blogged the spontaneous Obama victory celebration in Washington DC. Experience what it felt like to be among thousands of deliriously happy people gathered outside the White House. Click here.

Previously, I had been blogging about the Obama, McCain and the US election. I wrote about Sarah Palin on this blog even before McCain chose her to be his running mate. The choice was disappointing, and a possibility I had anticipated.

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