David Kirkpatrick

September 5, 2010

The GOP’s demographic problem

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:25 pm

The Republican Party can legitimately lick its chops getting ready for the upcoming midterms. It would take more than an epic collapse of public opinion to keep November from being an absolute bloodbath for Democrats. Looking down the road, however, things are little more bleak, and the darkest spot is the demographic reality of the United States electorate in the coming decades.

After serious outreach during the first Bush 43 term (largely orchestrated by Karl Rove), the GOP has done nothing to court the Latino vote and a whole lot to alienate Hispanics of all ages. It’s no stretch to say the Republican Party has absolutely destroyed at least three generations of a bloc that otherwise would be fairly sympathetic to a socially conservative pro-business message.

Take a moment to think about all the ways the GOP has turned on Latinos — starting with the extreme immigration stances around the nation — and then ponder these numbers:

  • 62% of Hispanics are under the age of 34.
  • 33% of Hispanics will be under the age of 18.
  • In Texas, California, New Mexico, Hawaii and the District of Columbia, the white portion of the population is already a minority (representing less than 50%).
  • At the DMA, level there will be 19 markets where the minority is the majority. In 15 of them, the dominant minority is Hispanic; in two markets the dominant minority is Black, and in Hawaii, of course, it’s the Asian/Pacific Islander.
  • By 2020, minorities are expected to account for 40% of the country.

See a little problem there? Now the figures above came from an Ad Age blog post and not a political consultant, but that should be cause for even more concern because marketers are not going to fudge demographic numbers since doing so would only serve to reduce the effectiveness of marketing efforts. Political numbers on the other hand are about as reliable as a weather forecast. Pretty much any demographic numbers coming from a political source have been massaged to placate someone. Maybe not massaged a whole lot, but you can bet the numbers have been skewed one way or another.

Going back to the Ad Age piece, Isaac Mizrahi, co-author on a paper covering  how the 2010 census is going to affect marketing, was quoted thusly, ” … in today’s economy, marketing to ethnic minorities may possibly be the competitive advantage they need.” I think we all know the answer to the question of how the GOP has been marketing to minorities, particularly Hispanics. Couple the last six years or so of Republican rhetoric excoriating Latinos with the latest iteration of hard nativism sweeping the party and the long-term prospects of the GOP don’t look so good. Will the 2010 election cycle be the last hurrah for the current GOP? Demographic numbers say yes.

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August 7, 2010

Bush tax cuts find foe in Greenspan

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:26 am

Alan Greenspan’s post-Fed chair economic line has been quite different from how he wielded power for almost twenty years. His latest seeming apostasy is to call for repealing the Bush 43 tax cuts. I’ll have to admit I agree with the sphinx here. I’m certainly fiscally conservative, but I’m not fiscally stupid, and I’m certainly not one of those fiscal hardliners (hardheaders?) who would prefer to see the United States go completely bankrupt than to implement a serious monetary policy that matches the facts on the ground.

From the link:

It was not enough, it seems, for Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman and a self-described lifelong Republican libertarian, to call for stringent government regulation of giant banks, as he did a few months ago.

Now Mr. Greenspan is wading into the most fierce economic policy debate in Washington — what to do with the tax cuts adopted, in large part because of his implicit backing, under President George W. Bush — with a position not only contrary to Republican orthodoxy, but decidedly to the left of President Obama.

Rather than keeping tax rates steady for all but the wealthiest Americans, as the White House wants, Mr. Greenspan is calling for the complete repeal of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, brushing aside the arguments of Republicans and even a few Democrats that doing so could threaten the already shaky economic recovery.

“I’m in favor of tax cuts, but not with borrowed money,” Mr. Greenspan, 84, said Friday in a telephone interview. “Our choices right now are not between good and better; they’re between bad and worse. The problem we now face is the most extraordinary financial crisis that I have ever seen or read about.”

July 13, 2010

Congressional showdown to keep tax breaks …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:44 pm

… for the top one percent or so of all taxpayers. Because the Bush 43 era tax policy did such wonders with the economy.

From the link:

While Democrats and Republicans alike want to keep the 2001 and 2003 tax reductions for families earning up to $250,000, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats want to end the break for those who earn more. Republicans, contending a recovery from recession is no time to raise taxes, insist on continuing the Bush-era cuts for high-income people as well.

May 1, 2010

About that Arizona “green card” law

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:48 pm

Here’s the first two bits from today’s Mike Allen Playbook:

The Arizona Republic, the state’s largest newspaper, will publish a full-page, front-page editorial on Sunday calling on state leaders to put politics aside and work toward meaningful immigration reform. The newspaper, a partner in the POLITICO Network, will condemn the lack of leadership it says has been demonstrated by a host of elected officials, including senators John McCain and Jon Kyl, former governor and now Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, as well as other local, state and national officials.

And:

Secretary of State Clinton, the first guest on the new HD ‘Meet the Press’ set, to NBC’s David Gregory (taped yesterday for air tomorrow): ‘This law … is written so broadly that if you were visiting in Arizona and you had an accent — and you were a citizen from, you know, my state of New York — you could be subjected to the kind of inquiry … that this law permits.’

GREGORY: ‘You think it invites profiling? Racial profiling?’

SECRETARY CLINTON: ‘I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. … I think … a state doesn’t have the authority to … try to impose their own immigration law — that is really the province of the federal government. … I don’t want to offer a legal opinion. … I’ll leave that to the Justice Department. But I know the attorney general of Arizona has raised questions about the legality.’

There’s been a lot of discussion about the Constitutionality of the law, the undue and unfair burden it will place on law enforcement officials in the state, and obviously its impact on illegal immigration in Arizona.

Another meme that’s going around and getting traction on both sides of the aisle is it could end up being something of a death blow the GOP nationwide. Maybe even as soon as this electoral cycle, taking some steam out of a likely very favorable Republican November.

I think the GOP lost the Latin vote with wild-eyed nativism during the Bush 43 years, particularly the second term, but any Latinos who had any inkling to vote Republican have most likely banished the thought. This attitude will last at least a generation, or maybe longer, right at a time when the Latino population (legal and voting) is growing around the country.

Now the idea that Bush 43 had some unusual mojo with the Latin vote is way overstated. It was a Karl Rove talking point and point of emphasis because he saw the demographic future and knew it was key for Republicans to court the Latin vote. Cue the crazed and rabid GOPers in Congress who went into an anti-immigration frenzy overriding any efforts by the White House to own the issue.

At the time of Bush’s two elections, the Bush 43 administration publicly touted how he grabbed a historic level of Latino GOP support. That was a lie. I have it on very good authority (a deep insider in the White House at the time) that by the actual numbers Bush 41 claimed a higher portion of the Latin vote than the son, so don’t think the GOP began wasting a golden opportunity in the mid- to late-2000s with that bloc. The real issue is Karl Rove was right. The party desperately needed to begin gaining Latino support to remain a force nationwide in the coming decades.

The anti-immigration zealots in Congress began nailing that coffin shut with abandon, and this legislative move by Arizona just might have hammered the final nail home.

September 19, 2009

Torture and George W. Bush: an indictment

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:39 pm

Andrew Sullivan has been among the loudest voices in the blogosphere, or anywhere for that matter, on the subject of torture during the Bush 43 Administration’s execution of its “war on terror.” In the October 2009 Atlantic magazine he wrote a fairly long letter to President Bush asking him to help erase the stain this policy has tainted the United States with, and described his essay as “conciliatory.”

At least one Daily Dish reader disagrees with Sullivan and describes the essay as an excellent final summation that, “tried, convicted and sentenced them (Bush Administration officials) all in one grand piece.”

The essay is quite long as web reading standards go, and it is worth the time spent to read the entire piece. It’s fair, thorough, chilling and is filled with not a little sadness of what this nation lost under Bush’s policies.

I’ve done plenty of blogging on this topic and I have Sullivan and others to thank for one, exposing what was happening to the Constitution, our rights and our standing in the world; and two, for keeping this difficult topic in front of minds and eyeballs that would most likely prefer to ignore and move on.

If you believe the torture was only done to “others” who are out to get Americans and don’t deserve any rights, I’ll excerpt what happened to a United States citizen — stripped of all rights, all dignity and in the end humanity. If you cherish your rights and the Constitution of the United States, this tale outlines in detail why you should fear the George W. Bush presidency and the idea its precepts could ever return in any form.

From the Andrew Sullivan essay, “Dear President Bush,”:

I want to mention one other human being, an American, Jose Padilla. I do not doubt that Padilla had been a troubled youth and had disturbing and dangerous contacts with radical Islamists. You were right to detain him. But what was then done to him—after a charge (subsequently dropped) that he was intent on detonating a nuclear or “dirty” bomb in an American city—remains a matter of grave concern. This was a U.S. citizen, seized on American soil at O’Hare Airport and imprisoned for years without a day in court. He was sequestered in a brig and, his lawyers argued,

was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention. The torture took myriad forms, each designed to cause pain, anguish, depression and, ultimately, the loss of will to live. The base ingredient in Mr. Padilla’s torture was stark isolation for a substantial portion of his captivity.

Among the techniques allegedly used on American soil against this American citizen were isolation (sometimes for weeks on end) for a total of 1,307 days in a nine-by-seven-foot cell, sleep deprivation effected by lights and loud music and noise, and sensory deprivation. He was goggled and earmuffed to maintain a total lack of spatial orientation, even when being treated for a tooth problem. He lost track of days and nights and lived for years in a twilight zone of pain and fear. His lawyer Andrew Patel explained:

Mr. Padilla was often put in stress positions for hours at a time. He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his cell would be manipulated, making his cell extremely cold for long stretches of time. Mr. Padilla was denied even the smallest, and most personal shreds of human dignity by being deprived of showering for weeks at a time, yet having to endure forced grooming at the whim of his captors …

After four years in U.S. custody, Padilla was reduced to a physical and mental shell of a human being. Here is Patel’s description of how Padilla appeared in his pretrial meetings:

During questioning, he often exhibits facial tics, unusual eye movements and contortions of his body. The contortions are particularly poignant since he is usually manacled and bound by a belly chain when he has meetings with counsel.

Mr. President, if you heard of a citizen of Iran being treated this way by the Iranian government, what would you call it?

August 12, 2009

Bush 43, torture and incompetence

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:39 am

These three grafs areprobably all you need to read on the genesis of the Cheney/Bush torture program and exactly how ill conceived and amatuer the whole operation was in terms of execution, and more importantly, legality.

The damage done to the United States is still an untold story, and the legitimacy our use of torture has already given despotic governments around the world is reason enough to spend time and resources to uncover the entire illegal program.

From the link:

Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were military retirees and psychologists, on the lookout for business opportunities. They found an excellent customer in the Central Intelligence Agency, where in 2002 they became the architects of the most important interrogationprogram in the history of American counterterrorism.

They had never carried out a real interrogation, only mock sessions in the military training they had overseen. They had no relevant scholarship; their Ph.D. dissertations were on high blood pressure and family therapy. They had no language skills and no expertise on Al Qaeda.

But they had psychology credentials and an intimate knowledge of a brutal treatment regimen used decades ago by Chinese Communists. For an administration eager to get tough on those who had killed 3,000 Americans, that was enough.

July 25, 2009

9/11 changed everything …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:39 pm

… and almost gave rise to a tyrannical police state in America. If Dick Cheney had his way with every policy directive the terrorists would truly have won.

Thanks, Dick.

From the link:

Some of the advisers to President George W. Bush, including Vice President Dick Cheney, argued that a president had the power to use the military on domestic soil to sweep up the terrorism suspects, who came to be known as the Lackawanna Six, and declare them enemy combatants.

Mr. Bush ultimately decided against the proposal to use military force.

A decision to dispatch troops into the streets to make arrests has few precedents in American history, as both the Constitution and subsequent laws restrict the military from being used to conduct domestic raids and seize property.

The Fourth Amendment bans “unreasonable” searches and seizures without probable cause. And the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 generally prohibits the military from acting in a law enforcement capacity.

July 17, 2009

Obama, Bush and warrantless wiretapping

I’m of two minds on this case. On one side I think the government has a legitimate interest in keeping the general public in the dark about elements of spycraft sausage-making. Flip that coin over and you have a double dose of privacy concerns and the government essentially arguing it can’t be held accountable by the very people who “own” the government in United States citizens.

Obama’s rapidly disillusioned supporters see the DoJ actions as a betrayal. I tend to see this as protecting entrenched interests of the executive branch. Some of these interests are part of the dark Bush 43 legacy.

Of course one reason I voted for Obama was for the White House to get out the cleaning fluids and scrub away the insidious creep of the government into privacy and civil liberties. Change? Maybe not so much. Hopefully only not so much just yet.

From the link:

Lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Electronic Frontier Foundation squared off in a San Francisco courtroom Wednesday over a warrantless wiretapping program instituted by the Bush administration. The EFF sued the government and officials who implemented the secret program in September in an effort to get the government to stop the practice of recording communications involving U.S. citizens without a federal warrant. The EFF argues that this warrantless wiretapping is illegal, but government lawyers say the lawsuit should be thrown out because it could lead to the disclosure of state secrets.

The judge in the case, Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, already heard most of these arguments during an ongoing 2006 suit, Hepting v. AT&T, that also sought to put an end to the program. The EFF brought this second suit, Jewel v. NSA, after Congress passed a law last year that protected telecommunications companies like AT&T from lawsuits over the wiretapping.

Click here to find out more! On Wednesday, DoJ lawyer Anthony Coppolino argued that federal laws allow people to sue government employees who leak information, but do not let them sue the government itself. Coppolino added that litigating such cases could put state secrets at risk by exposing details of the government’s anti-terrorist programs.

July 10, 2009

Debating the stimulus

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:14 pm

I have a feeling this is a discussion that will continue through the 2010 election cycle and maybe even into the 2012 presidential race if the economy remains soft for that long.

Many people don’t realize presidents pretty much live and die by economic cycles, and these cycles are almost entirely outside control by the White House. Just by polling it’s clear Obama has ownership of the current horrible economy and the immediate fire-brigade his administration was forced to put into action. It’s worth noting, to keep things in perspective if nothing else, he was handed a flaming bag of dog poop from one of the worst eight years of economic oversight, spending, saving and planning all coming from a Bush administration that was supposed to be fiscally conservative.

From the link:

And so, stimulus proponents argue, the only remaining actor with the capacity to boost total spending significantly is government. If government fails to act, they warn, the economy is likely to languish for years to come.

Stimulus opponents see things differently. In a recent Forbes column, UCLA economist Lee Ohanian attributed their skepticism to their belief that “the higher taxes on incomes or expenditures that ultimately accompany higher spending depress economic activity.” According to this argument, if the government borrows money to stimulate spending now, people will realize that the resulting debt will necessitate higher taxes in the future. And that realization will cause them to curtail their own current spending further, thereby offsetting the stimulus.

July 9, 2009

Bush-era CIA lied to Congress

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:29 am

Disappointing but not surprising.

Guess someone owes Pelosi an apology. She’s annoying, but certainly called a spade a spade when accusing the CIA of dissembling.

From the link:

In a June 26 letter to Mr. Panetta discussing his testimony, Democrats said that the agency had “misled members” of Congress for eight years about the classified matters, which the letter did not disclose. “This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods,” said the letter, made public late Wednesday by Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, one of the signers.

In an interview, Mr. Holt declined to reveal the nature of the C.I.A.’s alleged deceptions,. But he said, “We wouldn’t be doing this over a trivial matter.”

May 18, 2009

The latest on the Bush 43 “war on terror”

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:09 pm

The rabbit hole becomes more deep, more dark and more criminal.

From the link:

Worthington told TPMmuckraker that the information came from transcripts of al-Karim’s combatant status review, which he has examined.

There’s no direct evidence that al-Karim was tortured. But given what we know about interrogation techniques at Guantanamo, it certainly can’t be ruled out. And if nothing else, al-Karim’s clear belief that he was brought to Gitmo in 2002 to give information about Iraq suggests just how focused on Saddam’s regime interrogators were during that period.

It’s also worth noting that looking for information about the Iraqi army is not the same as looking for information about Saddam’s links to al Qaeda, since such information presumably had a military use, rather than just a political one. But nor is it the same as looking for information that could thwart another terror attack, which is how torture defenders prefer to portray what the program did.

Update: Even more fuel on the growing fire

Then-Vice President Dick Cheney, defending the invasion of Iraq, asserted in 2004 that detainees interrogated at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp had revealed that Iraq had trained al Qaida operatives in chemical and biological warfare, an assertion that wasn’t true.Cheney’s 2004 comments to the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News were largely overlooked at the time. However, they appear to substantiate recent reports that interrogators at Guantanamo and other prison camps were ordered to find evidence of alleged cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein — despite CIA reports that there were only sporadic, insignificant contacts between the militant Islamic group and the secular Iraqi dictatorship.

May 16, 2009

Dick Cheney and the Constitution

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:41 pm

Sully, as usual, nails it.

From the link:

America is not by virtue of being America somehow immune from the same evil that has occurred throughout human history; and the human beings running the American government are no more and no less human than those who controlled ghastly regimes in the past.

In fact, the American constitution makes no sense unless you see this. The founders assumed that Americans are as bad and as good as anyone else; and that therefore the rule of law and constitutional checks and balances are our only guarantee against tyranny. When the Cheney wing of the GOP asserts that the executive has the capacity to do anything to anyone outside the constitution and the law, and that it is also empowered to use torture to acquire “intelligence”, then the entire ballgame is over. You have given a few people the power to destroy others without due process and to create reality to buttress their power. If Democrats had done this, rule of law conservatives would have exhibited no less outrage than I have.

May 14, 2009

Bush torture program — politics over protection?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:55 pm

Sadly, that may well be the case. It’s horrible that the Bush 43 regime overturned United States policy against torture, ostensibly to keep the nation safe from terror attacks. It’s an entirely new level of criminal to have done so in order to cook up information (proven to be false) to take this nation to war.

Inexcusable, anti-American and criminal. This is subversion of U.S. law at the highest level of government, the White House.

From the link:

At last, the torture debate looks to be heading toward what’s been the big question lurking in the background all along: was the Bush administration using torture in large part to make a political case for the invasion of Iraq?

Writing on The Daily Beast, former NBC producer Robert Windrem reports that in April 2003, Dick Cheney’s office suggested that interrogators waterboard an Iraqi detainee who was suspected of having knowledge of a link between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse was questioned on the issue today in two TV interviews. Speaking to CNN, Whitehouse allowed: “I have heard that to be true.” To MSNBC, he noted that there was additional evidence of this in the Senate Armed Services committee report, and from Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell. “This thing is just getting deeper and deeper,” said Whitehouse, noting that if it were true, it would significantly bolster the case for prosecutions.

April 30, 2009

The GOP — rhetoric v. reality

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:33 am

Looks like Specter’s defection has created a certain level of soul searching within the Republican Party.

Here’s one thing I find almost comical about this process:

Patrick J. Toomey, a former head of the Club for Growth whose primary challenge to Mr. Specter led the senator to bow out in the face of what he thought was a probable defeat, said Republicans should be open to a “wide range of opinions on a wide range of issues.”

“But I think fundamental common ground that the vast majority of Republicans share is the belief in limited government, freedom and personal responsibility,” Mr. Toomey said.

If the GOP actually stood for those three “shared beliefs,” it wouldn’t be in the position it finds itself right now. You can blame it on the brand, on the sputtery right-wing media or any other number of things, but those three ideals sell very easily to most independent voters and independents do not like the current incarnation of the GOP. The Republican reality is pretty bad and the brand is much, much worse. A huge problem is the brand has taken over the party and there seems to be no real effort from the inside to right the ship.

I don’t see any easy answers and I still think the GOP could honestly fall by the wayside as a theocratic stump of a party and find itself replaced with something new that actually believes, lives and most importantly votes, those three shared beliefs — pretty much summed up with the two governing tenets of small government and civil liberties.

Here’s another bit from the first link:

The question of how the party should respond to Mr. Specter’s departure was the main subject of a Senate Republican lunch on Wednesday. The party can be a “big tent,” said Senator John Ensign of Nevada, “but here are some core principles: fiscal responsibility, more personal responsibility, looking for a smaller, more effective government.”

Mr. Graham scoffed at the notion that the party was suffering because it was not conservative enough.

“Do you really believe that we lost 18-to-34-year-olds by 19 percent, or we lost Hispanic voters, because we are not conservative enough?” he said. “No. This is a ridiculous line of thought. The truth is we lost young people because our Republican brand is tainted.”

A new note to the GOP — right now no one is buying that the core principles of the party is fiscal responsibility and personal responsibility after the Bush 43 years. And its pretty hard to back away from those failed eight years when just about no one in the party fought back against the drunken sailor spending, unbelievable government encroachment into personal behavior and massive expansion of the federal government’s bureaucratic structure.

Hypocrisy doesn’t play all that well when it’s this naked and the GOP doesn’t seem to be learning the lesson.

April 9, 2009

Bush 43 truth commission

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:05 am

Talk of some type of truth commission looking into the Bush 43 administration’s use of torture is gaining currency. Particularly now that an international court has opened a probe into possible war crimes authorized by the Bush legal team.

Politico’s “The Arena” asked the question, “Legal commentator Stuart Taylor has proposed a Senate committee probe led by John McCain into Bush administration interrogation practices. Good idea? If not, what’s yours? On that subject, should the administration protest a Spanish investigation begun recently?”

The answers were varied and interesting.

Here’s a small sample from the second link.

Nothing surprising here:

Christine Pelosi, Attorney, author and Democratic activist:

We say the United States does not torture. Let’s prove it. A bipartisan, bicameral House-Senate effort by the key committees of jurisdiction to hold public hearings into the Bush practices and Obama proposals will suffice. They can operate independently as they currently do on the budget, the wars, and the TARP, or they could work together to consolidate witnesses and resources as the joint House-Senate Intelligence committees did after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Either way, they can start with a review of the alleged torture-authorizing memosauthored by Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel and other data at the heart of the matter that are currently being withheld by the Obama administration under secrecy and immunity claims. This oversight is Congress doing its job by and for the American people. We don’t need a special committee or a Spanish inquisition – just good old fashioned American accountability.

Pragmatic and reasonable:

Mickey Edwards, Princeton lecturer and former Republican congressman:

The issues involved — and they go far beyond interrogation and rendition — should be investigated in “the regular order

It’s not a matter of investigating the activities of “the Bush Administration,” a characterization that trivializes the question by turning it into a partisan issue, but of examining whether the United States government was guilty of misconduct and whether the executive branch violated the Constitution.
Viewing the issue in partisan or Administration-specific terms creates a predictably partisan choosing of sides.

The issues involved — and they go far beyond interrogation and rendition — should be investigated in “the regular order” either by appropriate legislative committees, performing their proper oversight duties, or by an ad hoc bipartisan legislative committee with co-chairs from the two political parties. In other words, the Congress should, at long last, do its job.

As for my fellow Republicans who oppose such an investigation, what can be said? Have we, who were the voice of limited government and the Constitution, now become the protectors of government, shielding it from the people and defending its abuses? Have we now become the very enemy we feared? Have we finally abandoned any pretense of being a party of principle? So it would appear.

And here’s a classic misdirection. What was that question again?

Bradley A. Blakeman, Republican strategist, consultant, entrepreneur:

On another note: Cuba visit just PR

I am sickened by the love fest that occurred between the Dictator Brothers, Raul and Fidel Castro and members of the Congressional Black Caucus who just returned from Cuba. They were taken in by these despots and sung their praises in Cuba and on their return to America. They are nothing but dupes, who were played like a fiddle by a regime who is brutal to their people. Their visit is nothing but a propaganda bonanza for Cuba’s internal and external uses. I assume they are planning their next tax payer paid junket to visit Chavez of Venezuela and Kin Jong il of North Korea.

It’s worth the time to go check out all the reactions, proposals, answers and non-answers from the various respondents.

April 7, 2009

Sully on torture, part two

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:40 pm

Here’s part one from November. Andrew Sullivan has long written about the U.S. implementation of torture, often a singular voice out in the void. His constant, and necessary, drumbeat helped to keep my focus on this shameful subject.

Now that details are coming to light about exactly what the Bush 43 regime perpetrated and what (if anything) was truly gained, this topic will become mainstream news.

Here’s Sully today on torture. He, Glenn Greenwald, the TPM gang and others deserve a lot of credit in continuing to pursue this difficult subject when the mainstream media either completely ignored torture, or worse used the Nazi-era euphemism preferred by the Bush team, “enhanced interrogation.”

From the second link:

I should be clear. I oppose all such torture as illegal and criminal and immoral even if tangible intelligence gains were included in the morass of lies and red herrings that we got. But if torture advocates really do insist that America needs to embrace this evil if it is to survive, then we need to see and judge the evidence that they keep pointing to off-stage. We need a real and thorough and definitive investigation. If Cheney is right, he has nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. And the Congress should move to withdraw from the Geneva Conventions, withdraw from the UN Torture Treaty, amend domestic law to enshrine torture, and allow future presidents of the United States to torture suspects legally.

More sunlight please. Let us have this debate in full and in detail. And soon – before it is too late.

Medicine and torture

As more and more details on the Bush 43 administration’s unprecedented use of torture come to light, most Americans will experience increasing outrage  I’ve been blogging on the topic since essentially day one of this blog, and I’m still shocked by the level of deception administration officials presented Americans while violating the Constitution, United States law and international law.

Implementing torture is a stain on our history that must be brought into the open and dealt with. No less than the national honor of the United States is at stake.

This particular detail is one more heartbreaking element to an already soiled tale.

From the second link:

Medical personnel were deeply involved in the abusive interrogation of terrorist suspects held overseas by the Central Intelligence Agency, including torture, and their participation was a “gross breach of medical ethics,” a long-secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross concluded.

And to make the unthinkable even worse:

Facilitating such practices, which the Red Cross described as torture, was a violation of medical ethics even if the medical workers’ intentions had been to prevent death or permanent injury, the report said. But it found that the medical professionals’ role was primarily to support the interrogators, not to protect the prisoners, and that the professionals had “condoned and participated in ill treatment.”

At times, according to the detainees’ accounts, medical workers “gave instructions to interrogators to continue, to adjust or to stop particular methods.”

March 29, 2009

Torture and (the lack of) intelligence

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:00 pm

Did we get any useful information from initiating systemic torture under the Bush 43 regime? Apparently not.

Cheney and his apparatchiks continue to insist that they got reliable and vital information from these torture sessions, but they can never verify it:

 

Since 2006, Senate intelligence committee members have pressed the CIA, in classified briefings, to provide examples of specific leads that were obtained from Abu Zubaida through the use of waterboarding and other methods, according to officials familiar with the requests. The agency provided none, the officials said.

We sold our souls for lies.

March 28, 2009

The wheels of justice creak …

… a little farther forward.

That line that Bush 43 officials might not want to travel overseas? It’s becoming reality. At some point the highest levels of U.S. jurisprudence will have to look into the fact of Bush administration war crimes.

From the link:

Spain’s national newspapers, El País and Público reported that the Spanish national security court has opened a criminal probe focusing on Bush Administration lawyers who pioneered the descent into torture at the prison in Guantánamo. The criminal complaint can be examined here. Públicoidentifies the targets as University of California law professor John Yoo, former Department of Defense general counsel William J. Haynes II (now a lawyer working for Chevron), former vice presidential chief-of-staff David Addington, former attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith.

The case was opened in the Spanish national security court, the Audencia Nacional. In July 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a former Spanish citizen who had been held in Guantánamo, labeling the regime established in Guantánamo a “legal black hole.” The court forbade Spanish cooperation with U.S. authorities in connection with the Guantánamo facility. The current criminal case evolved out of an investigation into allegations, sustained by Spain’s Supreme Court, that the Spanish citizen had been tortured in Guantánamo.

Andrew Sullivan makes a point on exactly what this means:

More ominous for Yoo and Addington et al is that the judge involved is the one who nailed Pinochet. That dude doesn’t mess around. Spain’s action means these war criminals are vulnerable in 24 European countries for arrest and prosecution for enabling torture. It’s a start.

March 20, 2009

The legal floodgates are open …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:00 am

… for the criminal activities of the Bush 43 years. Look for much more jurisprudence in the coming months and years.

From the link:

A federal judge has rejected a defense contractor’s claims that it cannot be sued by alleged torture victims at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Arlington, Va.-based CACI (KA’-kee) had claimed it was immune from the lawsuit because it was only providing interrogators as the government required. The company also said the case implicates policy questions too sensitive for litigation.

March 9, 2009

Obama rolls back Bush’s signing statements

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:11 pm

Slowly, but surely Obama is pruning away the most egregious of Bush 43’s attacks on the U.S. political system. Most recently taking on Bush’s signing statements. All presidents had the power and usage went up dramatically beginning with Reagan, but Bush took this tool to unknown, and ridiculous heights:

But Mr. Bush broke all records, using signing statements to challenge about 1,200 bill sections over his eight years in office — about twice the number challenged by all previous presidents combined, according to data compiled by Christopher Kelley, a political science professor at Miami University in Ohio.

Since most of these were issued to circumvent Congress, and literally the checks and balances built into our system, Obama’s actions are a move back toward sanity and the American way.

From the link:

Calling into question the legitimacy of all the signing statements that former President George W. Bush used to challenge new laws, President Obama on Monday ordered executive officials to consult with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. before relying on any of them to bypass a statute.

But Mr. Obama also signaled that he intends to use signing statements himself if Congress sends him legislation that has provisions he decides are unconstitutional. He pledged to use a modest approach when doing so, but said there was a role for the practice if used appropriately.

“In exercising my responsibility to determine whether a provision of an enrolled bill is unconstitutional, I will act with caution and restraint, based only on interpretations of the Constitution that are well-founded,” Mr. Obama wrote in a memorandum to the heads of all departments and agencies in the executive branch. The document was obtained by The New York Times.

March 2, 2009

CIA destroys evidence of war crimes

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:52 pm

This is just shameful. Large parts of the Bush 43 years will forever be seen as some of the darkest days in U.S. history. Our president utterly failed the American people and the moral fabric of our nation.

From the link:

 The Central Intelligence Agency destroyed 92 videotapes documenting the harsh interrogations of two Al Qaeda suspects in C.I.A. detention, a greater number of destroyed tapes than the government had previously acknowledged.

The revelation came in a letter filed Monday by federal prosecutors who are investigating the destruction of the tapes by the agency’s officers, which occurred in November 2005.

It had been previously known that officials of the agency had destroyed hundreds of hours of videotaped interrogations, but the documents filed Monday reveal the number of tapes for the first time.

The tapes had been held inside a safe in the C.I.A. station in Thailand, the country where two Al Qaeda suspects — Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri — were interrogated.

The filing of the documents on Monday, submitted to a court in New York as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, comes as federal prosecutors are wrapping up the investigation into the matter.

February 24, 2009

Richard Perle — a bit confused …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:37 pm

… or a smoke-blowin’ ass monkey? You be the judge.

I’ve always found it amazing that once he bailed on the Bush 43 regime he’s gone somewhat unchallenged when making wild statements that could be generously called “truth challenged.”

From the link:

The “people who wound up in important positions” were key neoconservatives like Douglas Feith, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, and others, who had been openly calling for regime change in Iraq since the late 1990s and who used their positions in the Bush administration to make the case for war after 9/11, aided by a chorus of sympathetic pundits at places like the American Enterprise Institute, and the Weekly Standard. The neocons were hardly some secret cabal or conspiracy, as they were making their case loudly and in public, and no serious scholar claims that they “bamboozled” Bush and Cheney into a war. Rather, numerous accounts have documented that they had been openly pushing for war since 1998 and they continued to do so after 9/11. As neoconservative pundit Robert Kagan later admitted, he and his fellow neoconservatives were successful in part because they had a “ready-made approach to the world” that seemed to provide an answer to the challenges the U.S. faced after 9/11.

The bottom line is simple: Richard Perle is lying. What is disturbing about this case is is not that a former official is trying to falsify the record in such a brazen fashion; Perle is hardly the first policymaker to kick up dust about his record and he certainly won’t be the last. The real cause for concern is that there are hardly any consequences for the critical role that Perle and the neoconservatives played for their pivotal role in causing one of the great foreign policy disasters in American history. If somebody can help engineer a foolish war and remain a respected Washington insider — as is the case with Perle — what harm is likely to befall them if they lie about it later?

(Hat tip — Cato-at-Liberty)

February 22, 2009

Obama sides with Bush on missing email

A disappointing stance from an administration making claims of  transparency in government.

From the link:

The Obama administration, siding with former President George W. Bush, is trying to kill a lawsuit that seeks to recover what could be millions of missing White House e-mails.

Two advocacy groups suing the Executive Office of the President say that large amounts of White House e-mail documenting Bush’s eight years in office may still be missing, and that the government must undertake an extensive recovery effort. They expressed disappointment that Obama’s Justice Department is continuing the Bush administration’s bid to get the lawsuits dismissed.

During its first term, the Bush White House failed to install electronic record-keeping for e-mail when it switched to a new system, resulting in millions of messages that could not be found.

The Bush White House discovered the problem in 2005 and rejected a proposed solution.

Recently, the Bush White House said it had located 14 million e-mails that were misplaced and that the White House had restored hundreds of thousands of other e-mails from computer backup tapes.

The steps the White House took are inadequate, one of the two groups, the National Security Archive, told a federal judge in court papers filed Friday.

“We do not know how many more e-mails could be restored but have not been, because defendants have not looked,” the National Security Archive said in the court papers.

“The new administration seems no more eager than the last” to deal with the issue, said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the other group that sued the EOP.

February 15, 2009

Ken Starr opens mouth and expels gas

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:14 am

Why is Starr even given a mic to embarass himself with?

From the link:

Kenneth W. Starr has a warning for the Obama administration: what goes around comes around.

During a speech yesterday in Boston, Starr told a group of attorneys that President Barack Obama could face an uphill battle over his Supreme Court nominees because as a senator he opposed two of George W. Bush’s Supreme Court picks, Samuel Alito and John Roberts.

Starr’s message: elephants don’t forget.

The former independent counsel during Bill Clinton’s Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals, Starr said an aging Supreme Court meant that Obama could be able to name perhaps two or more nominees to the high court. And that could lead to a showdown with Senate Republicans who were livid with Democratslike Obama who filibustered and voted against the Bush picks.

Er, leaving Obama’s actions as a senator aside, if I were part of the GOP braintrust I’d put Ken Starr in deep mothballs. I certainly wouldn’t want to remind the public of the GOP’s cockblocking Clinton at every turn and actually moving forward with a failed impeachment effort.

Taking a longer view I’m betting history sees the last sixteen, and probably an even longer block of time, as the dark ages of the GOP. That is, if the party doesn’t completely implode which is still a very real possibility. Right now you have pundits, the right-wing blogosphere and the far right bloc looking to unseat the three Republican Senators who voted for the stimulus plan. Slick move there — it’s always a good idea to force your party into an even larger minority position at the ballot box.

History will see this period as the dark ages of the GOP because the party is purely obstructionist, partisan and hypocritical.

Partisan because every move the GOP has made over the last two presidential terms, and now the beginning of a third is to promote the GOP. Even if that means putting party over the nation. The voters have recognized that fact and if nothing changes in tone and action, the GOP may find itself in a very compromised position as an ongoing concern.

Obstructionist? See the Clinton years with the inane impeachment dog-and-pony show and the treatment offered the Democrats during the early Bush years when the GOP had the White House, Senate and House.

And hypocritical is the worst sin of all. The “small government” party spent taxpayers money like they controlled the printing press and ran up gigantic deficits to saddle the next several generations of Americans. A lot of the think tank ideas that finally went into practice under Bush 43 clearly should have remained in the filing cabinet.

The GOP coalition is in complete shambles and having a washed-up player in a failed farce making public statements isn’t going to help solve any of the many problems facing the party.

After the election I feared, and made the dark prediction, the GOP would continue to marginalize itself through a hard right-wing turn. The Palinistas were, and still are, very, very bitter. Bitter enough to bite their own noses off to spite the electorate that utterly rejected them.

That is the lesson the GOP needs to learn — the electorate has rejected them and demographics look very dismal indeed for any hope of a comeback unless drastic steps are taken. I’m not seeing those drastic steps.

I’ve contributed to NewMajority.com, and I like a lot of what I’m reading there, but I don’t see any real answers to the core problems right now. Culture11, another great new blog of conservative thought went belly-up recently. Former right wing blogosphere powerhouse Pajamas Media changed their business model to some ridiculous and soon-to-fail two-bit version of TMZ for politics. Joe the Plumber is their “star.” That’s all that needs to be said there.

I hope whatever new party rises from the ashes of the still burning brightly GOP corpse gets back to civil liberties, small government and personal responsibility. I’m not holding my breath — well, except when I keep voting Democrat because the GOP if full of folly, fools and fecklessness.

February 14, 2009

Obama, truth commissions, rendition and transparency

Here is a long, but interesting, roundup of opinion on how the Obama administration is handling the misdeeds, and possible criminal behavior, of the Bush 43 administration, and transparency in the DOJ and counterterrorism policy.

All of this will be points of discussion for a long while.

Bush team members will have a domestic axe over their collective heads until something definitive is worked out by the Obama administration regarding war crimes that were committed. These same officials will always have an international axe dangling loosely. I’m guessing quite a few can’t travel to a number of European countries lest they get nabbed and hauled to the Hague for trial.

Transparency, the Department of Justice and counterterrorism policy will always be a politcal football regardless which party is in power and setting policy.

If these subjects interest you it’s worth the time to hit this link and read Tobin Harshaw’s extensive roundup of bloggy goodness. Lots of opinions and good arguments, and if you’re really into the topics there are links galore to even more of the same.

Here’s Harshaw’s lede:

While President Obama has made it pretty clear he’d like to move on, the idea of prosecuting members of the Bush administration for its counterterrorism programs and other alleged misdeeds refuses to die. Rep. John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who heads the House Judiciary Committee, has been making noises about investigations and criminal charges for a while and now Patrick Leahy, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called for a “truth commission” — a “a person or group of people universally recognized as fair minded, and without axes to grind” with a “straightforward mission … to find the truth.”

Well, before we set out in search of axeless Washingtonians, a rare breed indeed, let’s discuss all the options. Leahy’s idea is probably along the lines of what Jack Balkin of Yale Law School recommended in a Times Op-Ed article last month: “create presidential commissions and Congressional oversight hearings on various subjects: detention and interrogation practices, extraordinary rendition, reform of military commissions and reform of surveillance practices. These different commissions have different objects and functions; a single truth commission could not begin to address them all.”

For some on the left, this is soft stuff. Sharing the page with Balkin, Dahlia Lithwick wrote that “Some commentators have suggested that any such truth commission should promise immunity or a pardon in exchange for truthful testimony, but I believe that if it becomes clear that laws were broken, or that war crimes were committed, a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate further.”

February 11, 2009

Stem cell research – free at last!

Well not quite free just yet, but the day is coming and it couldn’t come too soon. Among many, many bad science policies the US suffered under Bush 43, completely wrecking stem cell research through withholding federal funds was up there.

Thankfully some private and state money came through to keep the US from completely falling behind other countries in this vital medical research area, but Bush 43’s policies hurt and probably have cost American lives because of so-far-undiscovered breakthroughs related to stem cell research.

From the Technology Review link:

Three years ago, when Rene Rejo Pera was setting up a new lab at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), she had to make sure she had two of everything: one microscope for her federally funded lab, for example, and one for a privately funded replica next door. Because of funding restrictions on stem-cell research ordered by President George W. Bush in 2001, this was a redundant scenario played out in labs across the country. The edict specifically limited federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research to a small number of cell lines already in existence, leaving scientists who wanted to conduct cutting-edge research in this area scrambling for private money.

Scientists are now looking forward to an end of that edict. President Barack Obama promised during his campaign to overturn the order, and most expect the action to happen soon. “The imminent change in policy will quite literally allow us to take down these walls and integrate the laboratories in a way that will make the work move much more efficiently,” says Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF.

February 9, 2009

Bush administration overpaid in bailout

No surprise there. Bush 43 was an eight-year corporate Xmas morning.

From the link:

The Bush administration overpaid tens of billions of dollars for stocks and other assets in its massive bailout last year of Wall Street banks and financial institutions, a new study by a government watchdog says.

The Congressional Oversight Panel, in a report released Friday, said last year’s overpayments amounted to a taxpayer-financed $78 billion subsidy of the firms.

The findings added to the frustrations of lawmakers already wary of the $700 billion rescue plan, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Congress approved the plan last fall, but members of both parties criticized spending decisions by the Bush administration and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Financially ailing insurance giant American International Group, which the Treasury Department deemed to be too big to be allowed to fail, received $40 billion from the Treasury for assets valued at $14.8 billion, the oversight panel found.

January 31, 2009

Bush, a wing and a prayer

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:26 pm

Good luck with this ridiculous attempt to assert executive privilege for eternity. There might not be any “there” there, but boy it doesn’t pass any smell test — it does smack of desperately hoping to cover criminal activity.

I’m guessing as a little more time passes there will be many administration insiders with copies of documents coming forward hoping to get in front of any investigation into crimes committed over the last eight years of White House occupancy.

From the link:

Newsweek‘s Michael Isikoff reports that just a few days before leaving the White House, President George W. Bush sent a very interesting letter to former aide Karl Rove:

On Jan. 16, 2009, then White House Counsel Fred Fielding sent a letter (.pdf) to Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin. The message: should his client receive any future subpoenas, Rove “should not appear before Congress” or turn over any documents relating to his time in the White House. The letter told Rove that President Bush was continuing to assert executive privilege over any testimony by Rove—even after he leaves office.

Here’s Yale law professor Jack Balkin’s response:

The fact that Bush sent these letters while he was still president makes no difference. He is no longer president. The claim of absolute immunity he is making (as opposed to executive privilege, which is not absolute) would be controversial even if offered by a sitting president, but it is even more so when offered by a former president.

January 30, 2009

Terrorists are criminals, not soldiers

That very point is one of Bush’s failures in the poorly named “war on terror.” These fools are criminals. Sometimes common, sometimes uncommon, but criminals none the less. They aren’t soldiers. Just barbaric thugs wielding dark ages theology in defense  of cowardly acts.

Bush played perfectly into the hands of these idiots by declaring war on the very concept of terror, labeling them “enemy combatants” and giving them special — if unpleasant — status. Better to have utilized our law enforcement and military to capture and legally try each and every one. Being called a common international law-breaking loser is much less sexy than being martyred as a combatant captured in a global war.

Here’s a great bit from Cato-at-Liberty. It’s part of a much longer post on Ali Saleh Mohamed Kahlah al-Marri that deserves reading, but this perfectly illustrates where the Bush response to terrorism utterly failed.

From the link:

German also points out that terrorists rely on their claim to be something more akin to soldiers than criminals to maintain political legitimacy. IRA terrorists held by British authorities staged a hunger strike to retain treatment as “prisoners of war” rather than “criminals.” Ten of them willingly starved to death rather than be lumped in with murderers and rapists, the goal of the British “criminalization” strategy. As German writes:

The reasons for the hunger strike reveal much about the IRA and about terrorists in general. They didn’t strike over the anti-Catholic discrimination that led to the civil rights movement. They didn’t strike over the RUC’s police abuse or the stationing of British troops in Northern Ireland. They didn’t strike over being arrested without charges, interned, and tortured. They didn’t strike over indefinite detentions or even over Bloody Sunday. They knew all those things helped their cause. They went on hunger strike because the British government was going to make them look like criminals.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, architect of the 9/11 attacks, sees the writing on the wall — the Obama administration intends to close down the Military Commissions and try him and his co-conspirators in a traditional court of law. This is why he tried to plead guiltyand become a martyr for his cause. If we convict al-Marri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court and not a Military Commission or one of the proposed national security courts, the Al Qaeda boogey-man is revealed as a thug, not a noble Muslim soldier. 

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