Waterboarding is in the grand old High WASP tradition, it seems. My son Mike came across this excerpt from George Biddle’s autobiography in a 1939 edition of Harper’s Magazine. The Reverend Endicott Peabody founded Groton School in 1884, with the object of shaping the moral character of rich kids.
For Peabody, the primary method of instilling a “manly, Christian character” was through athletics, primarily football. Sports taught cooperation, teamwork, along with a respect for following rules and sportsmanship. Everyone had to play. A letter from 1909 conveys the importance that Peabody placed on football. “In my work at Groton I am convinced that football is of profound importance for the moral even more than the physical development of the boys. In these days of exceeding comfort, the boys need an opportunity to endure hardness, and, it may be, suffering.”
Discipline was administered in a hierarchical manner by the faculty and older boys. George Biddle, who went on to become a well known artist, recounts going to a secluded basement bathroom and watching a dozen third form boys punishing a new boy, “little Teddy Roosevelt”, then 14 and the son of Theodore Roosevelt, who had violated some unspoken rule.
One boy held a stopwatch as the others held the offender under a faucet where the water “came from the open spigot with tremendous force and the stream could be concentrated in violence by thumb and forefinger. Besides the culprit was winded and frightened and held upside down during the pumping. He was being forcibly drowned for eight or ten seconds…” He recounts how they water boarded “little Teddy Roosevelt”, not for a specific transgression, but to send a message to the whole second form whose “tone … we disapproved of.” Amazingly, Teddy “was very plucky and began answering back. Shouts arose: ‘Shut up! Under again. Shut him up!” So they waterboarded him twice.
…nor do I play one on TV like some Republicans I could mention. Watch this amazing time-lapse picture of the sun and wonder. There are more things in heaven and earth, Marco Rubio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy
…this is getting boring. Maybe if a corporation showed up to petition for a redress of grievances?
At the Supreme Court, small teams of undercover officers dress as students at large demonstrations outside the courthouse and join the protests to look for suspicious activity, according to officials familiar with the practice…
A Supreme Court spokesman, citing a policy of not discussing security practices, declined to talk about the use of undercover officers. Mr. German, the former F.B.I. undercover agent, said he was troubled to learn that the Supreme Court routinely used undercover officers to pose as demonstrators and monitor large protests.
“There is a danger to democracy,” he said, “in having police infiltrate protests when there isn’t a reasonable basis to suspect criminality.”
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Lifted without permission from Carl Strock:
It is generally acknowledged that the low turnout in our just-completed election was a disgrace. We promote ourselves as a beacon of democracy, feeling pity for those people of the world who don’t have the right to vote, and how many of us trouble to vote in our own elections? This time it was a risible 36 percent nationally, and just 29 percent in our own state, which The New York Times characterized as “shameful.”
But I don’t know. I have never considered voting the civic virtue that public figures invariably consider it. Maybe knowledgeable voting is a virtue, but voting just for the sake of voting, whether or not you have any idea of who the candidates are and what kind of horse thieves they might be, I’m not sure. It might be just as well that you stay at home if you haven’t made a minimal effort to inform yourself. What is the value of combing the woods for the ignorant and uninterested and carting them to the polls?
I have sometimes entertained a fantasy of testing people in basic civic knowledge before allowing them to vote. Nothing too demanding. Nothing like having to explain the commerce clause or the doctrine of habeas corpus. Just, what state do you live in? Who is the governor? Which way is up? I know it wouldn’t work. Some people would do worse than others, and then there would be charges of discrimination, and that would be the end of that. But it would be interesting — wouldn’t it? – to see how elections might turn out if the only people who could vote were those who knew up from down.
I’m also not convinced that the reason so many people don’t vote is apathy, that much maligned lack of passion. It may be that they’re wise to the game and figure it doesn’t make any difference, or very little difference, who becomes their representative in the state legislature, in City Hall, in county court, or even in the White House. All politicians have the same primary interest, getting themselves reelected, and all are dependent on the same big-money backers. Voting “only encourages the bastards,” as the old saying goes.
Or they may figure the contenders are all equally unattractive and refuse to take the bait of voting for the lesser of two evils and thus seeming to endorse what they do not wish to endorse. That’s how I felt in this last [New York] gubernatorial contest, in which I declined to fill in an oval. I wasn’t indifferent to democracy, I was pissed off at having no choice that remotely reflected my own tortured values. Democracy is what I wanted more of.
So let us not be too quick to bemoan low turnout. Maybe non-voters are on to something.
This from The Economist. Does it surprise you? Thought not.
A study in 20 American cities, published in the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2013, found that young children in homes with little or no spanking showed swifter cognitive development than their peers. Other studies find that children in physically punitive schools perform worse.
Still, 81% of American parents believe that spanking is sometimes necessary (see table). That is more than in many other rich countries, 20 of which have banned spanking even by parents. In America Republicans spank more than Democrats; southerners more than north-easterners; blacks more than whites; and born-again Christians more than everyone else.
From Father Gerard Manley Hopkins’ journals:
Nov. 8— Walking with Wm. Splaine we saw a vast multitude of starlings making an unspeakable jangle. They would settle in a row of trees; then one tree after another, rising at a signal, they looked like a cloud of specks of black snuff or powder struck up from a brush or broom or shaken from a wig; then they would sweep round in whirlwinds — you could see the nearer and farther bow of the rings by the size and blackness; many would be in one phase at once, all narrow black flakes hurling round, then in another; then they would fall upon a field and so on. Splaine wanted a gun: then ‘there it would rain meat,’ he said. I thought they must be full of enthusiasm and delight hearing their cries and stirring and cheering one another.
Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel and contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen interview Edward Snowden in Moscow. Read the whole thing here. Snowden is a compelling figure, way above most of his detractors in both intelligence and love of country.
What defines patriotism, for me, is the idea that one rises to act on behalf of one’s country. As I said before, that’s distinct from acting to benefit the government — a distinction that’s increasingly lost today. You’re not patriotic just because you back whoever’s in power today or their policies. You’re patriotic when you work to improve the lives of the people of your country, your community and your family. Sometimes that means making hard choices, choices that go against your personal interest.
People sometimes say I broke an oath of secrecy — one of the early charges leveled against me. But it’s a fundamental misunderstanding, because there is no oath of secrecy for people who work in the intelligence community. You are asked to sign a civil agreement, called a Standard Form 312, which basically says if you disclose classified information, they can sue you; they can do this, that and the other. And you risk going to jail. But you are also asked to take an oath, and that’s the oath of service. The oath of service is not to secrecy, but to the Constitution — to protect it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That’s the oath that I kept, that James Clapper and former NSA director Keith Alexander did not.
In case you missed them I wanted to note a couple of interesting contributions from Steve Benen today.
The first one notes that it appears something like 36.4% of eligible voters turned out for last week’s midterms. That’s the lowest percentage since 1942, when of course some of our citizens were geographically out of reach of the polls. For Democrats this is naturally bad news, but Benen points out that Republicans cannot in any sense claim a mandate, since they got about 52% of the 36.4% that voted, which comes out to just under 19% of those eligible.
The second one is a simple observation about Ted Cruz’s angry response to Obama urging the FCC to reclassify broadband into the public utility category where it could be heavily regulated rather than the category for businesses like Netflix and Facebook, which are lightly regulated. Benen says that “Cruz’s problem has always been surprisingly simple: he’s not dumb, he thinks you’re dumb.”
I would argue instead that Cruz’s strength is that he knows his audience. Seeing politics through a lens built around Bob Altemeyer’s Right Wing Authoritarians, Cruz is both an RWA and a Social Dominator, an SDO; Altemeyer calls this a Double High as it involves high scores on the two scales. Such folks have the greatest capacity for doing harm because they are true believers themselves, not the fake sort like a certain recent past President. Thus they can even more effectively convince their followers, and I use that term advisedly, that together they form a group which must hold onto its identity by any means necessary. The means that’s frequently closest at hand is to find an opponent or enemy and define the group by opposition to the Other. This emphasizes the natural tendency of certain groups to perceive opposition and even persecution where it doesn’t actually exist. Christians, for example, are so far from persecuted that Christian churches are everywhere, we’ve never had an avowedly non-Christian President, and any politician who is not a Christian had better have a good reason and an alternate religion, no agnostics or atheists allowed. Sure, many of the so-called Founding Fathers were actually deists rather than true Christians, but they were able to use terminology that emphasized their areas of agreement with the dominant tradition and they slipped by.
Anyway, I would say not that thinking you’re dumb is Cruz’s problem, but rather that it’s his limitation. He has a very strong hold on a constituency of which a disproportionate percentage actually shows up at the polls and which thus wields a huge amount of influence. His problem is really that he’s a self-righteous jerk whose shtick is basically throwing bombs wherever he thinks they’ll cause the most visible explosion. That makes him a hero with the true-believer crowd that follows him, but in my opinion it won’t fly with most Americans. He can be re-elected Senator in Texas, and he is already having an outsized influence on his party and its upcoming nomination process, but he will never be President.
Harry Leslie Smith has written what is to me a very moving piece at The Guardian on the upcoming remembrance we call Veterans Day. Here is one of those insightful folks who sees the ambiguity of life and does not quail but rather stares directly at it, and in so doing achieves a measure of understanding of the Other.
Smith volunteered for the RAF at the start of World War II, and he seems to feel nothing resembling regret about that decision. Yet he is able to look at the 60,000 men who registered as conscientious objectors in the UK and the 100,000 who deserted posts or failed to return from leave without rancor. He points out that many, especially the poor, in Britain at the time had been destroyed by the Depression and did not see a clear reason to offer their lives to support a state that didn’t support them. Some had gone through World War I and had PTSD, or shell shock as they called it then. Some had religious or moral objections. Some simply couldn’t handle the strain.
It is unfortunate that too many in this present age look upon these men as cowards whose objections to battle are best forgotten. But I believe it is important that we remember those who dissent in a time of war even if we believe our struggle to be true and just. How a nation treats those who oppose their war aims is the true measure of its enlightenment.
To say Smith is forgiving these people would be to underestimate his point. He is honoring multiple approaches, while maintaining his own approach as best for him. But what caused me to tear up was the phrasing of the penultimate sentence in this paragraph:
This is but one of the reasons I will no longer wear the poppy today: it represents only what is seen as the “courage” of war — those who stood and fought, but not those who stood and disagreed. It is the reason why, when I recently went to see the ceramic poppies that surround the Tower of London like a turgid lake of blood, I recalled not only lives lost in battles from ancient and modern wars but also those that were changed irrevocably by the consequences of having an individual conscience during a time of collective insecurity. I feel we must find a way to remember them too.
Here in the US, at least, there seems to be little social room for “having an individual conscience during a time of collective insecurity.” Our collective emotional insecurity is used by politicians, weapons and drug manufacturers, and insurance and health-care corporations to keep the economy going (“the economy,” as Bill Hicks said, “which is fake anyway!”). Our collective economic insecurity is ensured by the financial system enshrining inequality as the proper measure of a civilized society, offering an everyone-for-themselves ethic to confuse those who attempt to emulate the government dependence of those heroes who claim to bestride our world.
But I digress. My intent is to thank Harry Leslie Smith for his dedication to his own ideals and those he fought for. From the point of view of a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, I’d like to return the kind words and say, along with Joseph Campbell, that one can disagree with the aim of a war and feel that it should not have been fought, but that does not detract one whit from the courage and heroism of those who offer their lives in the service of a cause they deem greater than themselves.
…not if you live in the White House.
Googling myself, I just now came across a piece I had forgotten writing for Salon back during the 2008 presidential campaign:
Is a man fit to be commander in chief if he won’t even fly the flag from his buttonhole?
Does that man, Barack Obama, think he’s “too good — too patriotic! — to wear a flag pin on his chest?” Because that’s what William Kristol believes.
Grow up, the Chicago Sun-Times advises: “Oh for Pete’s sake, Senator Obama, pin the darn American flag to your chest.” Otherwise, the poor dope will “catch a world of hurt for … polarizing comments [that] make him sound like a hardened leftist.”
Has Obama’s failure to wear a flag pin really done “more damage to his White House hopes than a bomb bursting in air?” The New York Daily News thinks so.
Or is it just possible that Barack Obama knows more about getting to be president than all of these pundits laid end to end, as they probably should be? Is it possible that an empty buttonhole might actually help a candidate of either party, now that the nation’s No. 1 flag-wearer is circling the bowl with the lowest presidential approval ratings ever recorded?
Let’s go beyond the Beltway and take a look. Out there on the campaign trail, who’s actually been wearing lapel flags in this race and who hasn’t — and how’s that been working out for you guys anyway?
On April 26 of last year in Orangeburg, S.C., the Democrats held the first debate in the campaign that never ends. First thing that morning the candidates were all in a hurry to throw on their clothes, grabbing any old thing that came to hand. Yeah, right.
It was the most important day of their political lives to date, and they agonized over each tiny sartorial decision. Windsor knot or four-in-hand? Blue or red?
Here’s where everybody came out on lapel flags. The photo coverage of the debate shows that only Joe Biden decided to wear one. The other seven — Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Chris Dodd — went without.
Of course you’d expect that from a bunch of surrender monkeys, wouldn’t you? So let’s turn to the Republicans, tough-talking patriots to a man. Their first debate came a week later in Simi Valley, Calif. And sure enough, Tommy Thompson, Tom Tancredo and Rudy Giuliani, nonveterans all, were careful to pin on their flags.
Wait a minute, though. Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, Jim Gilmore, Duncan Hunter and Mike Huckabee all left their little flags back home on the bureau. And so did John McCain. Hmm.
By May 15, at the Columbia, S.C., Republican debate, Tancredo had stopped wearing his flag. By June, Democratic candidate Joe Biden had deflagged as well.
The only candidate of either party who chose to add a flag in the course of the campaign was Bill Richardson, who flagged up toward the end of the summer. With Biden’s flag gone by then, Richardson had become the only Democratic candidate to wear a flag in the debates.
On the Republican side, Tommy Thompson continued to wear his flag till the bitter end, which came in August when he placed sixth in the Iowa straw polls. The empty Thompson slot was filled the following month by Fred. The lobbyist/actor picked up Tommy’s banner, so to speak, and was still wearing it in January when he, too, dropped out.
Rudy Giuliani, who probably wears a flag to bed, dropped out a week later after racking up a pathetic 15 percent of the vote in the Florida Republican primary.
Do we see a subtle pattern emerging here? Every presidential candidate of both parties who ever wore a lapel flag during the debates, even as briefly as Biden, bought himself a one-way ticket to Palookaville.
And every major party candidate who remains viable today — John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — has seldom if ever been spotted with a flag in his or her lapel.
Don’t think the press hasn’t been noticing, either. To this day there has been a steady drumbeat of silence in the media over the flaglessness of Huckabee’s, Clinton’s and McCain’s lapels.
Nor would Obama’s disrespect have made news if only he had thought to point the finger at everyone else still in the race when a TV reporter posed his trivia question back in October. But instead he gave an honest if incomplete answer.
Obama said he had worn a pin after 9/11 but stopped once he began to notice, and here I paraphrase wildly but no doubt accurately, that most of the people still wearing lapel flags were assholes.
On the evidence of the campaign so far, Obama wasn’t the only one who noticed. Clinton, Huckabee and McCain, we may say with confidence, would wear anything or even nothing at all if they thought it would help them win the nomination. Then why, when it came to miniature flags, did the three join Obama in opting for nothing?
Dosed with Pentothal, each would most likely come up with a variant of the answer Obama had hinted at: that lapel flags no longer signify simple patriotism, but something that you don’t want sticking to your fingers these days.
For these past six years and more, men with those bright little flags apparently riveted to their lapels have fed the voters a daily diet of fear, secrecy, lies and a cruel war with neither point nor end.
No sensible politician would want to march under this tiny, metallic banner. Just look at all the fallen stars who did.
Nevertheless Obama, once in office, seems to have had the stars and bars stapled immediately to every lapel in his closet. What was he afraid people would think he was president of? Kenya?
…since 1996, when the late, great Mollie Ivins wrote this:
There is some kind of magical thinking that seizes politicians in election years. “I know how to fix welfare — we’ll just require them all to get jobs!” What jobs? The reason most people are on welfare in the first place is that they can’t find jobs — or child care. Or the jobs don’t carry health insurance, so when a kid gets sick his mom has to go back on welfare to get medical treatment for him.
The way this society works is really simple: The shit flows downhill and the people at the bottom are drowning in it. Every little change that makes it harder for them to climb up means that millions more of them drown. And most of them are children.
From Down With Tyranny!:
One trend that was interesting last night is that clear, strong progressives like Jeff Merkley (OR), Tom Udall (NM), Brian Schatz (HI) and Al Franken (MN) — who had massive right-wing money thrown at them — won, while conservative Democrats like Mark Warner, Mary Landrieu, Mark Udall, and Kay Hagan stumbled and the most conservative Democrat of all, Mark Pryor, lost badly. In the House, conservative Democrats — Blue Dogs and New Dems — lost everywhere, even in Democratic districts…
So, every single PVI neutral district with the exception of Israel’s own (which, honor among thieves, the NRCC doesn’t contest) and that of fellow Wall Street whore Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18, which was extremely close) is now in the hands of the Republicans. The Blue Dogs were effectively wiped out and this was a very bad cycle for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.
I had missed this political factoid in Tuesday night’s general catastrophe, but it seems logical and significant. Why would an actual Democrat bother turning out to vote for a phony one?
I knew if I looked hard enough there’d be some good news coming out of yesterday’s election. From the New York Times::
PORTLAND, Maine — Bear hunting with bait, dogs, traps will stay legal in Maine because voters rejected a ballot initiative to ban the methods.
Animal rights advocates and others pushed for the law change, which they said would have eliminated cruel and unsportsmanlike hunting methods. Hunting groups, outfitters and the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife campaigned hard against the referendum.
Bait — typically sugary human food such as doughnuts — is by far the most common method of bear hunting and accounts for about four-fifths of the hunt.
A recent front-page political “news” analysis in the New York Times ran under the headline, “A Steady Loss Of Confidence.” Confidence in the expected performance of the units within our national government, that is. The article’s support for this premise was lengthy: the VA failures, the Secret Service failures, the Ebola epidemic control failures, the IRS failures, the Border Patrol failures, the bungled roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.
In the next day’s Times, an article discussed the seemingly flawed and apparently deadly design in the highway guardrails made by the Trinity company. The article noted that the Federal Highway Administration “had defended the product for more than two years, even after it learned that Trinity had changed the design in 2005 without notifying the government, as required.”
In response to this, according to the article, “Brian Farber, a spokesman for the Transportation Department, said in a statement, ‘As we have previously stated, we are going to leave no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of this issue.’” Are those the same stones that it failed to turn over during the nine years since learning of the redesign, and the several years during that time when motorists’ injuries and deaths related to the guardrails were being reported?
We do not think our government people should say stupid stuff, stuff that carries no detectable information or even simple meaning. Mr. Farber should be fired for saying stupid stuff. His section head and his advisors should be fired for approving stupid stuff to say. The head of the entire Transportation Department should be fired for supporting the employment of stupid people or — worse — people co-opted by industry.
No wonder we are all perpetually pissed off. It seems clear by now that our current President’s inexperience in government, despite his other, better qualities, has born fruit. Can we reasonably expect anything different from the next President, or the next Congress? Before you reply, remember: don’t say stupid stuff.
When the rest of us act this way our parole is revoked. The rules, however, are slightly different for the loan sharks and market manipulators on Wall Street. From the New York Times:
The reopening of these cases represents a shift for the government, the first acknowledgment that prosecutors are coming to terms with the limitations of how they punish bank misdeeds. Typically, when banks have repeatedly run afoul of the law, they have returned to business as usual with little or no additional penalty — a stark contrast to how prosecutors mete out justice for the average criminal.
When punishing banks, prosecutors have favored so-called deferred-prosecution agreements, which suspend charges in exchange for the bank’s paying a fine and promising to behave. Several giant banks have reached multiple deferred or nonprosecution agreements in a short span, fueling concerns that the deals amount to little more than a slap on the wrist and enable a pattern of Wall Street recidivism.
Even now that prosecutors are examining repeat offenses on Wall Street, they are likely to seek punishments more symbolic than sweeping. Top executives are not expected to land in prison, nor are any problem banks in jeopardy of shutting down.
From The Economist:
The official autopsy report, obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, indicates that Brown was shot at close range, which seems to support Mr Wilson’s assertion that Brown reached for his gun. It also seems to back up his testimony that Brown first ran from the vehicle, defying the officer’s command to stop, and then turned around and charged him. Brown’s blood was found on the gun, on Mr Wilson’s uniform as well as inside the car, which also supports Mr Wilson’s claim that the confrontation took place at short range and that he was acting in self-defense. Half a dozen witnesses also provided testimony supporting Mr Wilson’s view of the events.
Once again, great attention is paid here to any evidence that a shot was fired in the car, as if this supported the policeman’s story that Brown was reaching for his gun. The unspoken assumption is that Brown wanted that gun in order to shoot the cop. How likely is that?
A jaywalker runs from a cop seated in a patrol car, door closed and window open. The suspect stops, turns, and “charges the vehicle,” presumably having been struck in mid flight by the thought that it ought to be easy to haul a cop out through a car window and teach him a good lesson by beating him to a bloody pulp in front of dozens of witnesses. However the victim’s gun turns out to be in his hand instead of out of reach on his right hip.
Why was Wilson’s gun out? Why not? Wouldn’t any officer slap leather if a jaywalker with a big mouth ran away from a patrol car? Case after case after case, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, has demonstrated that running away from a cop calls for immediate application of the death penalty.
Brown seems to have forgotten this. What an idiot.
Does improbability creep into this version here and there? Then let’s try another one.
Brown runs. Wilson shouts at him to stop. Brown stops and returns. Arriving at the vehicle he sees the gun in Wilson’s hand. Brown, being a black man, makes the reasonable assumption that Wilson, being a white cop, is about to shoot him. In self defense, he goes for the gun and is shot in the hand.
That so many media accounts treat the presence of powder residue and blood inside the car as an indication Brown was trying to shoot the cop is astonishing. Well, no, I guess it isn’t.
As always, the fix is in. Yves spells it all out for you in the post from which this comes:
Raw Story interviewed the whistleblower attorney who approached Kim after she made her charges of gross mismanagement and waste of resources. Her letter presumably represents the meatiest of his cases. He describes how the agency has been captured by large corporations:…the private sector lawyer and ex-IRS attorney explained that since 1998, IRS restructuring has focused on bringing in “outside people.” This led to the employment of an extra layer of executives who were previously “partners from big accounting firms.” Citing active IRS criminal agents, the ex-IRS attorney said: “Almost every large firm or corporation has a person inside the IRS. It’s a revolving door, with the top two or three management layers all from big accounting and law firms, and this is why they won’t work big billion-dollar cases criminally. Private bar attorneys are, in effect, controlling the IRS. It’s a type of corruption – that’s the word used by one IRS agent I’m in touch with whose case was shut down by higher ups without cause.”
The incumbent IRS chief counsel, William Wilkins, was previously a lobbyist at the WilmerHale firm where for 21 years he represented and lobbied on behalf of private sector clients including the Swiss Bankers Association. Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse have faced penalties, hearings and convictions for helping wealthy Americans illegally conceal billions of dollars of taxable income.
Attorney James Henry, former chief economist at financial consultancy McKinsey, said that Wilkins’ firm “continued to represent the Swiss Banking Association throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. Now Wilkins gets appointed chief counsel of the IRS in 2009, and he’s presiding over these whistleblower cases.”
So while we have Treasury attempting to defuse public ire over the latest high-profile form of corporate tax gaming, inversions, by relocating their headquarters overseas to a lower-tax domicile while not changing their US business, we have billions uncollected as a result of the IRS becoming a big-corporate crony.
The grownups have decided not to tell the children. We’re too little to understand. From McClatchyDC:
WASHINGTON — A soon-to-be released Senate report on the CIA doesn’t assess the responsibility of former President George W. Bush or his top aides for any of the abuses of the agency’s detention and interrogation program, avoiding a full public accounting of one of the darkest chapters of the war on terror.
“This report is not about the White House. It’s not about the president. It’s not about criminal liability. It’s about the CIA’s actions or inactions,” said a person familiar with the document, who asked not to be further identified because the executive summary – the only part that will be made public – still is in the final stages of declassification…
“There are more than 35,000 footnotes in the report,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., declared after the panel approved the final draft of the report in December 2012. “I believe it to be one of the most significant oversight efforts in the history of the United States Senate, and by far the most important oversight activity ever conducted by this committee…”
Even so, the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report doesn’t examine the responsibility of Bush and his top advisers for abuses committed while the program was in operation from 2002 to 2006, according to several people familiar with the 500-page document.
Their comments are bolstered by the report’s 20 main conclusions, which do not point to any wrongdoing outside of the CIA…
Along with being handicapped by the political considerations, the panel confronted two prior Justice Department investigations that declined to assign criminal liability to any officials involved in the program. One probe was conducted under the Bush administration and the second under President Barack Obama.
Moreover, Obama opposed any further inquiry. Although he signed an executive order banning waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques soon after taking office, he also ruled out future prosecutions of those who participated in the program.
Can we at least read the footnotes, mommy? Please? Pretty please? Daddy?
Whether you find it amusing that Republicans are suggesting ISIL terrorists are crossing the southern US border, or alarming that they don’t even acknowledge the facts when the Homeland Security folks completely trash their theory, it helps to have some idea of where they’re coming from. Here’s Ed Kilgore’s theory.
Now it may just be, as Kevin Drum has suggested, that this is just word-salad-mixing whereby candidates toss out combinations of words that excite “the base” or upset low-information voters. But there’s another and more obvious way to look at it: Republicans are appealing to an atavistic tendency to think of “the border” as a barrier against all the terrible things in the world Out There, in the benighted lands beyond America. “Sealing” the border — a laughable concept when you think about it — will somehow restore Fortress America, and all the terrorists and diseases and free-loaders and non-English-speakers and socialists and atheists will be kept out the way God intended it. And the crazier and more dangerous the “outside world” becomes, the more making it all go away seems appealing.
I would add to this the tendency of some, especially the more fundamentalist, Christians to identify with stories of persecution from New Testament times, and to imagine themselves as persecuted in the current day. Nowadays, of course, that persecution consists in being prevented from enforcing their particular sense of morality on the rest of us. But this kind of feeling comes more from internal circumstances than external ones. For some people it’s preferable to feel persecuted because that removes them from power and thus makes them not responsible for all the terrible things that happen around them. The problem is, it also makes them not responsible for the good things, leaving them helpless. And if you feel helpless you’re ripe for exploitation.
Here’s William Greider in The Nation:
The Republican Party has not given up on racism. It has developed new ways to play the “race card” without ever mentioning race. With Obama in the White House, the GOP does not need to run TV ads featuring “black hands” taking jobs from “white hands” or the one that shows Willie Horton, the black rapist. Obama’s own face on television is sufficient. It reminds hard-core supporters why they hate the man.
Just in case they missed this one, I pass it on as a service to Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and the rest of the gang. From the New York Times:
A second misconception is that pedophilia is a choice. Recent research, while often limited to sex offenders — because of the stigma of pedophilia — suggests that the disorder may have neurological origins. Pedophilia could result from a failure in the brain to identify which environmental stimuli should provoke a sexual response. M.R.I.s of sex offenders with pedophilia show fewer of the neural pathways known as white matter in their brains. Men with pedophilia are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous, a finding that strongly suggests a neurological cause. Some findings also suggest that disturbances in neurodevelopment in utero or early childhood increase the risk of pedophilia. Studies have also shown that men with pedophilia have, on average, lower scores on tests of visual-spatial ability and verbal memory.
Okay, so you’ve probably read enough ridicule of the amped-up fear, much of it on the rightward end of the political spectrum, about Ebola substituting for Lindsay Graham’s terrorists and coming here to kill us all. But Andrew O’Hehir’s take at Salon is still by turns funny, depressing, and clarifying. After comparing the likelihood of an American here at home dying from Ebola to that of being attacked by a great white shark, he claims that the underlying dynamic is pre-conscious, though he doesn’t use that precise wording. Humans are wired, he thinks, to fear large predators and plague, and it’s easy to see the survival value of those fears.
I’d suggest that Ebola-panic (like shark-panic) is shaped and informed by fictional thrillers — in this case, yarns about civilization-destroying plagues and the zombie apocalypse and so forth. It also taps into our cultural narcissism and xenophobia, into the paranoid imperial perception that American civilization is the center of the world and also that it’s precariously balanced, and constantly under attack from dangerous outsiders. All it takes is a handful of African visitors with cardboard suitcases and undiagnosed infections, and next thing you know the cable goes out at Mom’s house and we have to eat the neighbors.
You might think it can’t get sillier, but you’d be wrong.
I was going to wonder, half-facetiously, when somebody on the right-wing fringe would suggest that Ebola was actually a terrorist weapon, invented by jihadis to bring America to its knees. But you can never outrun the paranoid imagination: A site called National Report revealed a few days ago that ISIS suicide bombers have infected themselves with Ebola and are planning to “synchronize their self-detonations in the populated areas of American cities,” thereby splattering passers-by with infectious bodily goo. (In other news: You will soon need a passport to use Twitter, and Officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson shooter, is distantly related to Vlad the Impaler.)
Of course there’s another part of it too, the guilt and fear of what used to be called in polite company the Dark Continent. For many white Americans people whose skin color is darker tend to bring up subconscious ideas about racial interactions in the US that can put us on edge, and I mean people on both sides of those interactions. What about racism in America, which white folks deny and black folks experience every day? Will the other person see me through the lens of my skin color? Can I see them fully or am I stuck at their skin? Though we don’t consciously have these thoughts most of the time, they lurk just under the surface of consciousness and subtly influence how we interpret events. Thus many white, especially older, Americans fear and distrust African Americans on sight, and of course anyone who regularly encountered such attitudes would quickly learn to fear and distrust in response, especially since those white Americans are the ones with privilege and the power that goes with it.
Those who argue that we should shut down immigration and visa travel from all African nations to halt the spread of disease are the same people who’d like to do that anyway, for any number of unrelated reasons or just on general xenophobic principle. A disease that has killed thousands of ordinary people in Africa — but is highly unlikely to do so in America, given reasonable precautions — becomes just another cynical, poisoned term in the cynical, poisoned vocabulary of politics. In much the same way, the crimes of ISIS, which we didn’t notice until they started beheading Westerners, become an excuse for undead neocons to restart a war they never wanted to end in the first place. As it happens, there were no fatal shark attacks on America’s beaches this summer, so they couldn’t be blamed on terrorism or immigration or Obama or all three at once. But just you wait: The Ebola-stuffed ISIS sharknado is almost here.
Here’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott:
Abbott refused to put a time frame on Australia’s involvement in Iraq.
“I want to stress that only Iraq can defeat ISIL, but Iraq shouldn’t be alone and as far as Australia and our allies are concerned, Iraq won’t be alone,” he said. “I have to warn that this deployment to Iraq could be quite lengthy, certainly months rather than weeks.”
“I want to reassure the Australian people that it will be as long as it needs to be, but as short as it possibly can be,” the prime minister said.
Know what’s really short, Tony, and perfectly possible? Zero.
Want to be really frightened for the future? Check this out. Warning, though: It’s really really long. Seven paragraphs. Not words. Paragraphs.
Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce tries to make sense of the curious fact that so many Americans so reliably vote not only against their own interests but counter to their own actual beliefs. Turns out it’s not so much about ideology. It’s mostly about filling the political vacuums in millions of heads, and that ain’t cheap. Read it all here.
Citizens United — and its ungodly spawn, McCutcheon — have sent our politics into refraction. Nothing is what it appears to be any more. Chozick is right to point out that the result of the decision has been to create candidates drifting ever closer to the ideal of Nashville’s Hal Phillip Walker, who campaigns through that film only as a voice from a sound truck. Thanks to John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, we now have candidates who campaign primarily as characters in television commercials, like Flo from Progressive Insurance, or the two people in the bathtubs for Cialis.
Moreover, the flood of money now flows so swiftly and powerfully, and so far underground, that the best you can do is guess what effect it is having on the process. Then, after it’s over, ideology gets credit for what money has purchased. The new world of unregulated political money has given an even deeper sense of unreality to the way we govern ourselves. Nothing is as it seems to be. Nothing can be reckoned fully to be genuine. Not the polls. Not the campaigns. Not the candidates. Not even the results, truth be told. Unregulated political money has worked as an accelerant to all the worst aspects of modern political campaigns. More than ever before, our elections have become design contests.
Each day brings new wonders in my search for the perfect asshole. I had heard neither of canned hunts nor of a specimen named Ted Nugent. Now that I have, my lack of faith in the human race is powerfully reinforced:
In most canned hunts tame or semi-tame game species, reared in captivity, are placed in enclosures of varying sizes, and the gate is opened for the client, who has been issued a guarantee of success. Canned hunts are great for folks on tight schedules or who lack energy or outdoor skills. Microchip transponder implants for game not immediately visible are available for the proprietor whose clients are on really tight schedules. And because trophies are plied with drugs, minerals, vitamins, specially processed feeds, and sometimes growth hormones, they are way bigger than anything available in the wild. Often the animals have names, and you pay in advance for the one you’d like to kill, selecting your trophy from a photo or directly from its cage. For example, Rachel, Bathsheba, Paul, John, and Matthew were pet African lions that would stroll over and lick their keepers’ hands before they were shot in Texas…
“If we don’t protect our image, we may not have a heritage,” says the Colorado Wildlife Federation’s treasurer and board member, Kent Ingram, a leader in the recent well-fought but failed battle to ban canned hunts in the state. He reports that he was informed by a Denver taxidermist that half the elk coming in to be mounted had tattooed lips, which identify captives. Ingram also said he had reliable information that one canned-hunt customer had flown into Colorado and paid $40,000 to kill a Minnesota-raised bull that had been trucked in for the one-day shoot.
…were this grown-up:
Yet something curious has happened in the 18 months since the property directly opposite the Westboro church was purchased by a peace-loving charity and, in one of the more entrepreneurial acts against a hate group, transformed into a multi-coloured haven for peace, equality and gay pride. Despite appearances, the two opposing neighbours have developed a surprisingly cordial, even amiable detente.
“I go out jogging in the morning, and they’re taking out the trash, and we have small talk,” said Hammet. “Like, ‘Hey, it’s a beautiful day outside’ or ‘This damn snow: I wish I could get warm’. Just basic things that you say to neighbours.”
Occupants of the Westboro church and Equality House have even exchanged phone numbers. Recently, when someone took all of the Equality House gay pride flags and, without their knowledge, deposited them in Westboro’s yard, Hammet’s phone beeped with a text message. “It said something like: ‘A criminal has taken your flags and put them in our yard. We have put them in your mailbox. We would like to return them to you.’”
Couldn’t have said it better myself, so I won’t. Here’s Frank Rich on Obama’s idiotic descent into the Big Muddy:
In truth, we already have boots on the ground in the form of “special forces” and “advisers.” The moment they start returning to America in body bags, or are seen being slaughtered in ISIS videos, is the moment when the recent polling uptick in support for this war will evaporate. That support is an inch deep, and Congress knows it, which is why members of both parties fled Washington for the campaign trail last week rather than debate Obama’s war plan. As Paul Kane of The Washington Post pointed out, the Senate could not even fill up the scant allotted time (five hours) for debating the war, and “so at one point a senator devoted time to praising the Baltimore Orioles for their successful baseball season.” Next to this abdication of duty, Congress’s disastrous rush to authorize war in Iraq in 2002 looks like a wise and deliberate execution of checks-and-balances.
Almost everything that is happening now suggests this will end badly. We’ve failed to curb ISIS in Iraq because, for all the happy talk about its inclusive new government, Sunni Iraqis have yet to rally behind their new Shiite prime minister Haider al-Abadi any more enthusiastically than they did behind the despised Nouri al-Maliki. As for our expansion into Syria, even if we can find and train 5,000 Syrian “moderates” to fight the Islamic State, it will take a year to do so, according to our own government’s no doubt optimistic estimate. And they’ll still be outnumbered by ISIS forces by at least four-to-one. Nor do we know all the unintended consequences that will multiply throughout the region — as they have in every other American intervention in the Muslim world — with each passing month.
From Social Problems by Henry George, published in 1883:
Great wealth always supports the party in power, no matter how corrupt it may be. It never exerts itself for reform, for it instinctively fears change. It never struggles against misgovernment. When frightened by the holders of political power it does not agitate nor appeal to the people; it buys them off. It is in this way, no less than by direct interference, that aggregated wealth corrupts government, and helps to make politics a trade. Our organized lobbies, both legislative and Congressional, rely as much upon the fears as upon the hopes of moneyed interests. When “business” is dull, their resource is to get up a bill which some moneyed interest will pay them to beat. So, too, these large moneyed interests will subscribe to political funds, on the principle of keeping on the right side of those in power, just as the railroads deadhead President Arthur when he goes to Florida to fish.
The more corrupt a government, the easier wealth can use it. Where legislation is to be bought, the rich make the laws; where justice is to be purchased, the rich have the ear of the courts… A community composed of very rich and very poor falls an easy prey to whoever can seize power. The very poor have not spirit and intelligence enough to resist; the very rich have too much at stake.
The rise in the United States of monstrous fortunes, the aggregation of enormous wealth in the hands of corporations, necessarily implies the loss by the people of governmental control. Democratic forms may be maintained, but there can be as much tyranny land misgovernment under democratic forms as any other — in fact they lend themselves most readily to tyranny and misgovernment. Forms count for little…
This at least is certain: Democratic government in more than name can exist only where wealth is distributed with something like equality — where the great mass of citizens are personally free and independent, neither fettered by their poverty nor made subject by their wealth.
Here’s Richard Rhodes, in Why They Kill:
“The South, statistically the most violent region of the country, combines poverty, enthusiasm for military service, conservative Christian values and social segregation as well. Indeed, so-called black violence may well be a subset of Southern violence, since African American culture derives directly from the southern culture in which it was originally embedded before the great migration of African Americans to northern cities.”