Thursday, April 30, 2009

Specter The Defector And The Incumbency Protection Racket

Long-time Republican Senator Arlen Specter fearing a loss in his states primary switched parties in a desperate attempt to retain power. His vote for President Obama's stimulus package, one of only three Republicans to do so, outraged the far right-wing of the Republican base and their hopes that Obama will fail as President.

The Republican base see this as a victory in their attempt at "purifying" their party of anything resembling reasonable. Other "moderates" of the Republican party should be concerned--both of them. The shock jocks of the right-wing wurlitzer, Rush, Hannity, Coulter, O'Reilly, etc, have captured the base of the right and demonized Democratic policies to such an extent that compromise is an impossibility. This has reduced the Republican party to a regional party limited to primarily the old confederate south.

The search for ratings and commercial success has come at the expense of electoral failure.

Aside from concern trolling for the right and doing a Dr. Phil drive-by psych 101 evaluation of the dwindling Republican party, my concern lies with the Democratic leaders reaction to Snarlin' Arlen's defection.

President Obama has pledged full support for Specter's re-election bid in Pennsylvnia. Harry Reid will allow Specter to keep his seniority in the senate. Ed Randell, Governor of Pennsylvania and master of machine politics, will "clear the field" for Senator Specter, insuring he draws no primary opponent.

Specter would have lost his primary election to a far-right loon backed by Club For Growth, a hard, right-wing party purification organization. The club's President, Pat Toomey, would have been Specter's primary opponent, bringing to bear his entire apparatus in the effort. Toomey probably would've beaten Specter but due to over 200,000 republican voters recently switching to the democratic party, it is very unlikely a hard-right loon like Toomey would have won in the general election.

So if the Senate seat Arlen has now would have went to the Democrats in the very near future, why is the Democratic party promising Arlen a walk? He was in favor of the war in Iraq, the Protect America Act, warrantless wiretapping, telecom amnesty, and every other right-wing authoritarian cultists wet dream.

Primaries are when the voters get to hold their party leaders to account. When party leaders try to short circuit this process, voters should become very concerned. Pennsylvania Democrats should have the opportunity to decide if they want to welcome Specter to the party, or someone else like Joe Sestak. Democrats have a deep bench and do not need, or want to poach from the other side.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Torture Debate

The current debate over the torture of detainees is whether the previous administration should be subject to a criminal investigation, or is this just a politically motivated "witch hunt" over "policy differences." Most of our political elites, joined by the subjective stenographic and completely compliant press corps, followed the lead of President Obama who called for reflection and not retribution. We should look forward.

First of all, America has over 2 million criminals in prison right now, more than any other country on the planet. "Reflection" and "witch hunt" may be a defense, but it smacks of elitism in the face of the unforgiving nature our criminal justice system offers regular people.

Second of all, it is not within the authority of President Obama to prevent or cause prosecutions of individual cases. He may set priorities, like fraud, pornography, etc. For the executive branch to direct prosecutions for the Attorney General would be "politicizing" of the Justice Department, something the previous administration was roundly criticized for.

As more and more information comes out, the more disturbing the pattern becomes. The "enhanced interrogation techniques" were derived from communist China capturing and torturing Americans during the Korean conflict to elicit false confessions. Military psychologists, Mitchel and Jessen, used these torture tactics to aide our military in SERE training (Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape) .

The White House contacted Mitchell after 9/11 and shortly thereafter Mitchell and Jessen quit the military, set up there own little shop of horrors and became contractors for the CIA.

Apparently the torture program began prior to the Justice Departments Office of Legal Council provided legal cover. Prior to that happening the Bush administration needed a work-around of the Geneva Conventions. This was done by dubbing the detainees "enemy combatants", stateless terrorists who were not signatories to the Geneva Conventions, therefore could not benefit from its protections. The Supreme Court later disagreed with this notion.

Reports coming out now claim the "interrogators" were not seeking information about imminent attacks or locations of bin Laden; they were under great pressure from the White House to establish a link between 9/11 and Iraq, of course which none exists.

Abu Zubayda was waterboarded 83 times in August of 2002. An eyebrow is raised when one remembers that on July 23, 2002, British foreign policy aide, Matthew Rycroft penned the infamous Downing Street Memo which stated:
"There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. ... There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." emphasis added.

Khalid Sheik Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March of 2003. The invasion of Iraq began on March 19, 2003. Gone were the OLC limits on waterboarding of twenty seconds and 2 pints of water. It was replaced by a gallon and a half of water and what must've been an unending duration.

So, we used torture designed by communists to illicit false confessions to "fix the intelligence" around an invasion of Iraq. It was so effective we had to waterboard 2 detainees 266 times.

This doesn't even address the bashing of heads into walls, keeping someone awake for a week, slapping them around. Clearly and beyond reasonable argument we have engaged in torture, which is a war crime. What is most puzzling to me is the insistance of a two-tiered criminal justice system, where regular people enjoy the full benefit from it, but our political elites are protected from it due to weird and Orwellian defenses like "policy differences" and "witch hunts."

Someone should tell Dick Cheney he has the right to remain silent...preferably someone with a badge and handcuffs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Deus Ex-Puerto

Dateline--Parodyville, KS
Police kicked down several front doors in a local neighborhood, shackled the occupants and ransacked the residences in a frantic search late last month it was learned yesterday. Not finding what they were seeking, they stripped searched the shackled occupants, beat their heads into walls, slapped them around and gave them "swirly's," a technique described as simulated drowning by dunking someone's head in a toilet and flushing it right before they quit kicking.

Several local civil rights organizations decried the events pointing to the lack of warrants or probable cause in the rude behavior some have described as torture. Members of the lunatic fringe group "Dead People Got No Rights, or Dopes for short (they can't spell) claim the police are just trying to keep us safe.

"They had some reason to kick in them doors, and even if they got it wrong we shouldn't worry about a little spritzer once in awhile," the Dopes said.

Mayor MacCheese, trying to calm the situation, claimed the police acted legally.

"Our city attorney, from the firm of Dewey, Beetom and Howe, has given a permission slip to the local police authorities which makes this legal. Our city attorney was able to roll back local, state, federal and Constitutional Law with this permission slip and the safety of our township owes a great debt to Jay Bybee," the mayor said to a stenographic press corpse.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Enemies Of The State

Occupants of the Executive Branch do not differentiate themselves as individuals and their policies as separate from the state. As elected officials, they have been given the power by the electorate to enact the agenda they were elected upon.

The rub comes in when those who oppose this agenda are viewed as "Enemies of the State."

The Bush administration used their failure to prevent the 9/11 disaster to vastly expand the powers of the Executive branch to monitor groups they deemed "radical." From the Patriot Act to The War In Error to the FISA amendments--all giving vast new super secret surveillance authority to the Executive to monitor Enemies of the State.

Well, it was sold as keeping us safe from terrorists, but when policy hit practice it was discovered the Executive surveillance apparatus was monitoring the radical Socialist organization known as "Amish" and communist sympathizers called "Catholic Workers" and far-left pinko radicals known as "peace protesters and environmentalists."

Left-leaning bloggers sounded multiple warning bells, led by Glenn Greenwald, about the President seizing the power to break the law. Indeed, many of those on the left are calling for investigations and prosecutions to this very day for constitutional violations.

From the right of the blogosphere we were routinely mocked and derided for the claim of trampling on civil rights in the face of a Global War On Terror. We were told dead people have no rights and the constitution is not a suicide pact.

Now we have a new Executive, who unfortunately is defending the prior practices and blocking investigations into these new powers.

The difference is the Enemies Of The State have completely changed. Gone are those subversive "peaceniks" like Amish and Catholics, and environmental wackjobs like Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The creepily named "Department of Homeland Security" has just issued a report to local police forces warning of "growing right-wing extremist activity."

The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in "rightwing extremist activity," saying the economic recession, the election of America's first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.

A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines "rightwing extremism in the United States" as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.

"It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration," the warning says.

Naturally, right-wing bloggers are outraged at this and immediately revert to their default position as victim and martyr. Perhaps they feel "rightwing extremism" perfectly describes themselves and their flying monkeys.
The man arrested this weekend for allegedly sending white powder to media figures and other high-profile people may be a big admirer of conservative syndicated columnists Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, according to a writer interviewed on MSNBC.

When MSNBC host Keith Olbermann -- one of the people who received the white power(sic) allegedly sent by Chad Castagana -- interviewed Radar Online senior writer John Cook yesterday, Cook speculated that "Coulter and Malkin ... sort of present a kind of rhetorical world view where they have their troops out there, and I think he thought of himself as one of their troops and wanted to live up to their standards."

Cook also said: "(W)e should point out the evidence is not conclusive, but -- it's circumstantial, but it's good evidence. It appears that Mr. Castagana was a poster to the FreeRepublic, which, as you know, is an online library of some of the most thoughtful right-wing thinkers out there. And his -- the Marc Costanzo alias that he used, his profile said, 'Ann Coulter is a goddess and I idolize Malkin and (conservative pundit Laura) Ingraham.' And there are a lot of posts that suggest that he's a big fan of Malkin and Coulter."

Bloggers on the right, like Jonah Goldberg, our lady of concentration camps Michelle Malkkkin (who now apparently defends Terrorists Rights) , John Hinderaker, and Glenn Reynolds are all whining about this report more than a loose fan-belt. However, these same individuals were the greatest cheerleaders in defense of the previous administrations claims of extra-legal surveillance authority.

This points out two things in my mind. First of all, these right-wing bloggers are ridiculous and completely unmoored from any fundamental position. Secondly, our surveillance state must be reigned in and violators of the law must be prosecuted.