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1/29/2004

Tracking The "He Wouldn't Let Them In" Meme. 


Senator Pat Roberts (R - Kansas), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is either very stupid (thus making a joke out of the phrase "Senate Intelligence Committee), or he is a liar. Here is what Roberts had to say to media whore Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition" this past Sunday (emphasis added):
BLITZER: There's a possibility, Senator Roberts, that Saddam Hussein was telling the truth to the international weapons inspectors, the international community, when he said in recent years there were no weapons of mass destruction.

...

ROBERTS: Well, basically that intelligence was shared by virtually every country, even the U.N. It appears now that that intelligence -- there's a lot of questions about it.

...

But, in regards to Saddam Hussein, if in fact he didn't have [WMDs], why on earth didn't he let the U.N. inspectors in and avoid the war? That is a real puzzlement to me.
Yes, Senator Roberts, I guess that would be a "real puzzlement" - especially since the weapons inspectors were in Iraq searching for WMDs from late 2002 through mid-March 2003, but were forced out as the U.S. prepared to bomb the living crap out of that country. Surely you remember this?

Dubya said this same stupid thing just this past Tuesday. But he also said it once before, sitting with an astonished Kofi Annan on July 14, 2003 in a photo op in the Oval Office. "Revisionist historians," indeed.

Jules Witcover wrote a succinct column in the Baltimore Sun responding to this issue last July. It's getting tough to keep track of all the lies this president tells. I can see why Andrew Sullivan seems to be having an itty-bitty nervous breakdown.

The Truth About Franken's Encounter With the Wild Larouschie. 


Contrary to reports in the NY Post and on Newsmax, Al Franken didn't assault a heckler who was just being loud. The Larouschie had already attacked security guards by the time Franken got there, and apparently the guy broke Franken's glasses. This is when Franken broke out the high-school wrestling move and subdued the idiot. The Hamster has the goods on this story.

1/27/2004

Bush Promises to "Restore Honor and Dignity" to White House in 2004 


This is good Onion stuff. But what's really gonna be weird is when the Bush White House spokesman accuses Bush aides of vandalizing the White House...

Link via Atrios.

1/26/2004

Dismantling the Patriot Act. 


I am praying that all those "activist judges" continue to give us rulings like this one.

1/18/2004

More on the Gitmo Detentions. 


The administration continues to frame the "War on Terror" as a never-ending, global, multi-faceted, often low-level conflict against individuals and groups of individuals, as opposed to the traditional sort of war, in which one state takes military action against another state (or two, or three). With the conflict framed this way, the White House argues that detainees at Gitmo (detainees in the "War on Terror") can be detained forever without any charges being brought.

But the War on Terror is not really being fought in the way described above. In fact, the Bush administration (in a stunning failure of imagination) has responded to a dangerous, decentralized, invisible enemy (which, by the way, certainly has cells (active or inactive) in the United States itself at this very moment) by attacking states. Our first major response to 9/11 was to attack Afghanistan, to take the Taliban out of power. Most of the detainees at Gitmo were captured in Afghanistan, during that conflict. If we understand these captives as combatants in the "War in Afghanistan" instead of combatants in the "War on Terror," it changes the equation dramatically. The war in Afghanistan is over. The "War on Terror" is not, and will probably not be for a very long time. So it comes down to a very simple question: how do you describe the conflict in which the detainees were captured? Were the captured on the battlefield (Afghanistan) during the "War in Afghanistan," which is over? Or were they captured on the battlefield (potentially anywhere in the world) in the "War on Terror"?

I think the Supremes will touch on this issue in their ruling, whichever way they rule. The President has special powers that he can use during wartime, but the you can't just call everything a war. There would be no legal basis for indefinite detentions of "combatants" captured in the "War on Drugs," for example. Ronald Reagan "declared" War on Drugs, but that didn't make it a real war, and thus he was not authorized to use special presidential wartime powers.

The "War on Terror," while more like a "real" war than the "War on Drugs," is still just a metaphor. Metaphors are not actual wars. Once we have the benefit of hindsight, the War on Terror will probably end up having been a long sequence of police actions conducted around the globe by several nations, interspersed with limited military action every few years. (The accuracy of this prediction depends almost entirely on whether Bush wins the 2004 election or not.) But hypothetical "enemy combatants" captured during police raids in Brussels, for example, should not be treated the same as hypothetical Syrian soldiers captured on the battlefield in an actual war against Syria. The president's special wartime powers are designed specifically for the exegencies of war. We cannot conflate war with police work, even if it is extremely important and dangerous police work.

Military Lawyers File Supreme Court Brief Disputing Gitmo Detentions Without Trial. 


Thank god somebody appears to have some sense in this matter. To me, the strongest argument against the indefinite Gitmo detentions is that they are, well, indefinite. Sure, nobody ever knows when a war will end. But this "war" (the "War on Terror") is particularly open-ended, like the "War on Drugs" or the "War on Poverty."

Here are excerpts from the brief [.pdf document]:

The military attorneys assigned to the defense in the Office of Military Commissions ("OMC") in the Office of the General Counsel of the United States Department of Defense are under orders to defend named or yet-to-be-named individuals who are targets of investigations by military commissions that are to take place at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba

...

Unlike earlier wars, the struggle against terrorism is potentially never-ending. The Constitution cannot countenance an open-ended Presidential power, with no civilian review whatsoever, to try anyone the President deems subject to a military tribunal, whose rules and judges have been selected by the prosecuting authority itself.

...

The colonists who wrote our Declaration of Independence penned, among their charges against King George, that "[h]e has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power"; "depriv[ed] us, in many Cases, of the benefits of trial by jury"; "made Judges dependent on his Will alone"; and "transport[ed] us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences."

Those charges describe the United States' legal position in this case. The President here asserts the power to create a legal black hole, where a simulacrum of Article III justice is dispensed but justice in fact depends on the mercy of the Executive. Under this monarchical regime, those who fall into the black hole may not contest the jurisdiction, competency, or even the constitutionality of the military tribunals, despite the guarantee of habeas corpus, see U.S. Const., Art. I, Sect. 9, Cl. 2, and the right to such determinations by a "competent tribunal" under the 1949 Geneva Convention.



1/16/2004

The Invisible Hand of the Market Likes Democrats Better. 


Apparently, the U.S. stock market does much better under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents. Interesting - especially since most people think the market prefers Republican leadership.

A recent study from the University of California at Berkeley, published in the October issue of the Journal of Finance, shows that between 1927 and 1998, the stock market returned approximately 11 percent more a year under a Democratic president versus safer, three-month Treasurys. By comparison, the stock market only returned 2 percent more a year versus the T-bills under Republicans.

Capturing Bush Part III. 


The winner of the "Bush In 30 Seconds" contest has been announced, and can be viewed at the "Bush In 30 Seconds" website. Head over there to check out the winning ad, called "Child's Pay." While you're there, you can also check out the Overall Best Ad Runner-up, the Funniest Ad, the Best Animated Ad, and the Best Youth Ad (my personal favorite.)

In related news, CBS has refused to air the winning ad during the Super Bowl, saying that CBS does not air issue ads. MoveOn will appeal. The ad will air in advance of President Bush's State of the Union address on January 20.

MoveOn parody ad - "Bush in 41.2 Seconds." 


I'm coming a little late to this party, but head on over to Liberal Oasis to see Mark Spittle's MoveOn parody ad "Bush in 41.2 Seconds." It's "snort coke out your nose" funny. What a wonderful way to start a Friday morning.

Then, you can head over to Salon to read Mark Spittle's commentary on all the controversy this little parody ad has generated. Here's a choice graf:

I now have a bit of insight into what Al Franken must have felt when called "shrill" by Fox. I also know that meme-making, however accidental, brings with it a certain level of responsibility. For these reasons I hereby promise to be more thoughtful and considerate when I next call the president a dickhead.

1/09/2004

Capturing Bush Part II. 


The voting is over for the 15 semi-finalists in the "Bush In 30 Seconds" contest, sponsored by Moveon.org. These semifinalists will be judged by an all-star cast of judges, and the winner will be announced on January 12th at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.

But all is not lost! You can still vote for the "Funniest Ad," the "Best Youth Ad," and the "Best Animation." Just head over to http://www.bushin30seconds.org/people/ to view the 12 ads and make your selections. These ads may be used in different capacities throughout the election year. For example, the "Best Youth Ad" may be aired on MTV later in the election year (pure conjecture on my part, but seems likely.)

Anyway, get over and vote - let's make sure the best ads get picked, and then lobby MoveOn.org to run them.

1/06/2004

Howard Fineman Is An Idiot. 


You knew that already, but I can't get over this question, which he asked Howard Dean in an interview published in this week's Newsweek:

Do you see Jesus Christ as the son of God and believe in him as the route to salvation and eternal life?
Is Fineman a minister now? Funny... I thought he was a journalist. PSYCH! I never thought he was a journalist.

The (Increasingly) Partisan Press. 


In this week's Newsweek, a story about Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, Iraq's purported WMDs, and London's Sunday Telgraph (and its skewed and biased coverage of the stuff just mentioned) caught my eye. There is a stunning quote in the Newsweek piece which I think speaks directly to the notion that the press has forgotten its intended function. The quote is from the "journalist" (read: Telegraph flunkie) who broke some recent stories in the Telegraph that tried to link Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda, and to show that Iraq had WMD capabilities. Here's the quote (emphasis added):

Con Coughlin, the journalist who broke the stories, conceded he had "no way of verifying [the document]. It's our job as journalists to air these things and see what happens."
But the CIA and M.I.6 believe these stories are unfounded, and are saying so publicly, despite having what is described in the Newsweek story as a "close relationship" with the exile group (Iraqi National Accord) who leaked them to Coughlin.

So let me get this straight - Coughlin's position is that journalists are tasked primarily with simply "airing" whatever crap they come across, reliable or not, without even attempting to verify it? While Coughlin argues that he had no way to verify the document, a wise choice might have been to check with the CIA and M.I.6 (as opposed to the inscrutable "former CIA officer" quoted in one of Couglin's stories), especially since the spy agencies are friendly with the source of the claim Coughlin is "investigating." It gives me vertigo just thinking about the implications of a "serious" press (we're leaving out rags like the National Enquirer, The Sun, etc.) that just publishes any rumors, allegations, and unfounded conjecture that can be sourced. And, increasingly, that looks like the direction the press is headed. Unfortunately, unlike the rumor rags, "serious" papers who print this crap usually seem to have a clear partisan agenda. The Telegraph (previously a Conrad Black property) definitely fits into this category.

Note to Con Coughlin: Your job as a journalist is not to "air these things and see what happens." Your job is to be skeptical, to research claims that seem "too good to be true" (as you yourself so eloquently put it), and to provide your readers with solid pieces of journalism that rest on a foundation of good reporting, which includes verifying the reliability of your sources, or at least letting us know that the sources might not be reliable! I can find someone to serve as a "source" for just about any claim I want to make - that doesn't make the claim any more true, and that doesn't make me any more of a journalist.

It would make me a Hack, Mr. Coughlin. Like you.