Friday, September 29, 2006

We Lost, But There's Still Work to Do

As we discussed extensively yesterday, the Torture Bill passed. Many people appear ready to give up on the Democratic Party, but the truth is that many of them did stand up for principle this time.

There just were not enough of them.

That has to change. That's why it's crucial that the House and Senate change hands this November. Glenn makes this point pretty well. As does SusanG in her pep talk, "On Kicking Ass and Crashing Gates." And Barbara O'Brien.

Here's a bit from the Editors' "The Morning After":
It’s true, “the Democrats” didn’t send this awful, anti-Democratic bill to defeat. But, then, they didn’t have the votes for it. Nor, indeed, did they fillibuster the bill. But, as Sen. Reid confessed, and as the final vote proved out, they didn’t have the votes for that, either. But they should have made a futile gesture! you complain. Well, many Democrats did make futile gestures, futile speeches even, even crappy Hillary Clinton. But they should have made the futile gesture I wanted them to make! Well, perhaps they should have, but I fear we this discussion may now drifting from political commentary into interpretive dance criticism. The bottom line is the votes weren’t there. The day was lost.

Basic mathematics explains why. Only 2-3% of the representatives of the majority party voted against it, as opposed to 75-85% of the minority. It would have been nice if, under circumstances carefully contrived by the majority party to be as politically difficult as possible, 100% of the minority went down to defeat. It would have been nice if any of the 15 trojan horse amendments introduced by the Democrats had suceeded. And a pony, if you please. But that didn’t happen, and so we have to settle for defeat, and a Democratic rate of opposition only 30 times as high as the Republican.
Bluerevolt lists the (mostly) Republican senators and reps who voted for the bill and draws the analogy:
Keep this in mind. If your neighbor's mean-ass pit bull comes into your yard and bites you, you don't get mad at your own dog for not protecting you. First order of business is to get rid of the god-damned pit bull. After all, he's the one that's really responsible for your wounds. Once that's done, then you can worry about giving your own sorry pooch some watch-dog training.
Here in Pennsylvania, it looks like Santorum may finally be on his way out.

It's a start.

Jack and the White House

From TPM:

BREAKING -- White House ties to Jack Abramoff stronger than previously reported.

Update: Oh, and the favors they did for him.

It could all be totally on the up and up.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Et Tu Carper

Unfortunately, Delaware's favorite junior Senator decided that he couldn't risk his 40 point lead and voted for the President's Torture Bill. It is a sad day when one's Senator chooses to support torture.

On the bright side Delaware's senior Senator stood up and voted nay

The Republicans Win, Allow President to Torture and Detain People without Evidence or Review, Legal Black Hole Created

(Updated below. The bill passed.)

It looks like the sick, twisted torture and perpetual detention bill discussed below (here and here) is going to be passed today, no matter what. There will be no filibuster. And Arlen Specter's amendment that would have allowed some kind of judicial review failed, by a vote of 48-51. This means that once a person is labeled a terrorist (based on good evidence, bad evidence or no evidence), they can never escape that label. All of their rights are lost.
[A]s Law Professors Marty Lederman and Bruce Ackerman each point out, many of the extraordinary powers vested in the President by this bill also apply to U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil.As Ackerman put it: "The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights." Similarly, Lederman explains: "this [subsection (ii) of the definition of 'unlawful enemy combatant'] means that if the Pentagon says you're an unlawful enemy combatant -- using whatever criteria they wish -- then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to 'hostilities' at all."
Glenn said it:

[W]e are legalizing tyranny in the United States. Period.

All this destruction of our Nation's finest ideals for a little election year posturing by the Republicans: "Protect the country. Don't coddle terrorists. No rights for terrorists. Terrorists are clogging the courts." Meanwhile, with their verbal smokescreen in place, they set up an alternative legal system (due process not included) that can snare any American and from which they can never escape. But don't worry. It's only for "terrorists." Not a terrorist? Too bad, no way to prove it.

This is a black day for America.


It's all over. Glenn Greenwald has the details here . The vote was 65-34. One relevant point for those of us in Pennsylvania:
During the debate on his amendment, Arlen Specter said that the bill sends us back 900 years because it denies habeas corpus protections. Then he voted for it.
Rick Santorum voted for it too.

Without Habeas, Everything is Legal

My column today in the Legal Intelligencer is now online here. Titled Without the Writ of Habeas Corpus, Everything is Legal, the column examines what is at stake right now in the House and Senate, which are currently debating a horrendous bill that would strip the right of habeas corpus and essentially legalize techniques long understood as torture. Here's the lede:
We are on the threshold of a major decision about how America understands the concepts of law and justice. If this country does not want to institutionalize a regime where torture is practiced and potential innocents who are tortured are blocked from complaining in courts, it will have to look to senators and congressmen other than Republican senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner.
Unfortunately, since the time I wrote that, the House already voted 253-168 to pass the Bush-McCain torture bill, and I've read that the Senate is expected to pass their version today.

Give the column a read, and then check out the following additional links (and contact your Senators):

Prof. Froomkin's Dear Senator Reid

Prof. Balkin's Spineless Democrats Deserve to Lose

Digby's It Could Happen to You and Faithbased Torture

Hilzoy's We Can All Be Enemy Combatants!

Prof. Lederman's It Gets Worse

Publius' New Birth of Freedom and Bush Wins

Bruce Fein's Lincoln's Example

David Luban's The burning question

Scott Lemieux's Limited to Nothing

Steve Gilliard's About Torture

McJoan's Consensus

Hunter's A Modest Proposal

Kos' There's a Reason this is a "Long-Term Movement"

Matt Stoller's Beating Back this Bill

The Carpetbagger Report's McCain, Warner, and Graham cut and ran and Congress putting its stamp of approval on torture

Billmon's The Hard Core and See No Evil

Christy Hardin Smith's Unappetizing, This Bill Does Violence to the Constitution and Well Here's a Question

Glenn Greenwald's Democrats and the Torture Bill

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Selected Portions of NIE Released

(Bumped and Updated)

In what I can only assume is a reaction to the Blog Brief's item yesterday demanding release of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the Bush Administration has now declassified a very select portion of it, (some of) the Key Judgments. You can read them for yourself here.

Here are a few of the judgments:
  • We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.
  • The Iraq conflict has become the .cause celebre. for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
  • We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.
  • Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq .jihad;. (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims.all of which jihadists exploit.
  • Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadists. radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens.
  • The jihadists. greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution. an ultra-conservative interpretation of shari.a-based governance spanning the Muslim unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists. propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.
  • Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.
  • Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.
  • If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives. Nonetheless, attendant reforms and potentially destabilizing transitions will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit.
  • Al-Qa’ida, now merged with Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role.

I doubt the parts they didn't declassify were any more helpful to Bush in proving his constant refrain about how we're "safer" because of his decision to invade Iraq (when we were actually attacked by Al Qaeda). Incidentally, "safer, but not yet safe," one of his favorite lines, sets an awfully low standard. Still, it looks like there is now agreement that he hasn't even met that low bar of being gradually better than the previous safety level.


Former CIA analyst and counterterrorism expert Larry Johnson has quite a bit more on this topic (and graphs!).

DarkSyde offers a reality check.

DemFromCT adds the following:

Jane Harman is very clear that the second Iraq study is being kept a draft so as not to surface prior to the election (it's bad news for the GOP).

Harman Calls for Release of Second Secret Iraq Report

Insurance Adjusters Sue Katrina Whistle-Blowers

From the Biloxi Sun Herald:
GULFPORT, Miss. - A company that contracts with State Farm Insurance has sued two former employees who are helping a prominent attorney build cases against the insurer for denying claims after Hurricane Katrina.

E-A Renfroe and Company, a Birmingham-based insurance adjusting firm, alleges in its lawsuit that Cori and Kerri Rigsby broke the law when they turned over reams of internal State Farm records to attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs.

The sisters were assigned by Renfroe to help adjust claims for State Farm. The sisters claim the documents show that State Farm manipulated engineers' reports on storm-damaged homes so that policyholders' claims could be denied.

The sisters resigned from Renfroe after telling a State Farm supervisor in June that they were cooperating with Scruggs. The Rigsbys also turned over copies of the documents to state and federal authorities.

Renfroe's lawsuit, filed earlier this month in a federal court in Alabama, accuses the sisters of violating the Alabama Trade Secrets Act and breaching confidentiality agreements with the company.
In a related story, the Sun Herald reports that "Managers at State Farm will have to testify under oath in a Hurricane Katrina lawsuit, despite the company's protests that they might incriminate themselves in an ongoing criminal investigation."

More on altered engineering reports used to deny claims can be found here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Still Wondering

Is anyone else still curious about that great unsolved mystery of our time: who, exactly, was responsible for forging those documents saying Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger?

I haven't seen any new reporting on the topic in a while. Has anyone else?

True or False

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice yesterday said:

"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda."

"Big pieces were missing," Rice added, "like an approach to Pakistan that might work, because without Pakistan you weren't going to get Afghanistan."

However, as reported by Raw Story, a 2001 memo to Rice directly contradicts those statements:
. . . RAW STORY has found that just five days after President George W. Bush was sworn into office, a memo from counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke to Rice included the 2000 document, "Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al-Qida: Status and Prospects." This document devotes over 2 of its 13 pages of material to specifically addressing strategies for securing Pakistan's cooperation in airstrikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Release the National Intelligence Estimate

From the New York Times:

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

. . .

Previous drafts described actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, and some policy makers argued that the intelligence estimate should be more focused on specific steps to mitigate the terror threat. It is unclear whether the final draft of the intelligence estimate criticizes individual policies of the United States, but intelligence officials involved in preparing the document said its conclusions were not softened or massaged for political purposes.

This report has not been released. If it is up to the current occupants of the White House, it won't be released until after the election.

Writes Josh Marshall:

For the last six weeks and, in fact, the last six months, the White House and the president have been engaged in a coordinated campaign to convince the public that despite the setbacks and mistakes, the war in Iraq is a critical component of fighting the War on Terror. Making that argument is their plan for the next six weeks until the election. All the while, they've been sitting on a report that says that's flat wrong, a lie and that precisely the opposite is the case.

That's a cover-up in every meaningful sense of the word, a calculated effort to hide information from and deceive the public. And it's actually a replay of what happened in late 2002, when the White House kept the Iraq WMD NIE's doubts about Iraqi weapons programs away from the public.

The president has made very clear he wants the next six weeks to be about Iraq and the War on Terror. By all means, let's do it. But first the president has to come clean about what he's keeping hidden from the public -- the fact that the people he has fighting the War on Terror are telling him that what he's telling the public about Iraq and the War on Terror flat isn't true.

Late word from the White House is that the Times report is "not representative of the complete document." Well, then, by all means, let's get a look at the whole thing so the public can get the big picture and find out who's telling the truth.

So pick up the phone and tell your reps and senators what you think. Then ask them whether they support releasing the April Iraq/Terrorism NIE to the public before the November election. Yes, or no. You may hear excuses that it can't be released because it's classified. But that's plain bull. Reports like this are routinely and without much difficulty released in redacted versions which remove any specific information that might reveal what intel types call 'sources and methods'.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

So-Called GOP “Mavericks” Capitulate on Torture

Updated twice below

The Good Guys Aren't Supposed to Torture

Via McJoan, I see that the “maverick” Senators McCain, Graham and Warner have completely capitulated to President Bush and have agreed to a new bill that will (1) allow CIA torture to continue, (2) strip detainees of all rights to habeas corpus and the protections of the Geneva Conventions, and (3) refuse detainees any access to secret evidence in the military tribunals that try them. Of course, this is exactly what I and many others just like me have been predicting since this trio made a big show on TV and in the newspapers about how they were going to take a “principled” stand against President Bush on this issue.

I guess principles don’t last more than a week or two in Washington.

Marty Lederman's review of the draft legislation (which he helpfully reproduces) reveals that it's as bad as his headline, "Senators Snatch Defeat From Jaws of Victory: U.S. to be First Nation to Authorize Violations of Geneva":
It's not subtle at all, and only takes 30 seconds or to see that the Senators have capitualted entirely, that the U.S. will hereafter violate the Geneva Conventions by engaging in Cold Cell, Long Time Standing, etc., and that there will be very little pretense about it. In addition to the elimination of habeas rights in section 6, the bill would delegate to the President the authority to interpret "the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions" "for the United States."

And then, for good measure, it would preclude courts altogether from ever interpreting the Geneva Conventions -- any part of them -- by providing that "no person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas or civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States, is a party as a source of rights, in any court of the United States or its States or territories."
Get that? The President gets to decide what is or is not torture and what violates the Geneva Conventions under this bill. No court would ever be allowed to apply those fundamental treaties to a case and determine that it was violated. This is sick.

Here's the report from the New York Times (my emphasis added):

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 — President Bush and three Republican senators said this afternoon that they had reached an agreement on legislation to clarify which interrogation techniques can be used against terror suspects and to establish trial procedures for those in military custody.

. . .

Mr. Bush welcomed the accord, which he said met his key test of allowing the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogations of terror suspects to continue.

“I’m pleased to say this agreement preserves the most single, the most potent tool we have in protecting America and foiling terrorist attacks,” he said, adding, “The agreement clears the way to do what the American people expect us to do — to capture terrorists, to detain terrorists, to question terrorists, and then to try them.”

. . .

Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said the agreement had two key points. “Classified information will not be shared with the terrorists” tried before the tribunals, he said. And “the very important program of interrogation continues.”

The three senators met today with Mr. Frist, who had been pressing them to find a quick end to an intra-party dispute that awkwardly fell in an election year and on an issue — national security — that the president’s party has sought to make its own.

. . .

The three senators have contended that the administration was undermining Geneva Convention protections in a way that could leave Americans vulnerable in the future, and that its plan for military tribunals of terror suspects would allow evidence obtained coercively, and information they were not allowed to see to be used against them.

The three had received a high-profile vote of support when Colin L. Powell, Mr. Bush’s first secretary of state, said that the changes backed by the administration could lead the world to “doubt the moral basis” of the American-led fight against terrorism.
OK, let's recap: 3 Republican Senators pretend to oppose the Republican President for a few days on a fundamental moral and legal issue. Newspapers and television commentators fawn over them for their "principles" and "independence." Then, the 3 Senators "compromise," and the news media is expected to dutifully report that the system worked.

This is no compromise.

If this legislation passes, we will have a legal system, authorized by Congress, where you can be spied on secretly and illegally by the NSA without any court supervision, arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist, sent to Guantanamo Bay, tortured, tried in a military tribunal with evidence that you are never allowed to see and therefore cannot challenge, and then you are never allowed any right to question any of this in any court of law.

How's that for due process? Even if never applied to a U.S. citizen, this standard is simply below our great country's values and understandings of fundamental fairness and human rights. This proposal is particularly sickening coming on the very day that the Bush Administration was forced to "amend" its denial of responsibility for illegally arresting, detaining and torturing an innocent Canadian, Maher Arar. If this system were to be enacted into law, innocents like him would never be able to prove their innocence.

They would simply have to rely on a government bureaucracy coming to that realization on its own. Good luck, and enjoy sunny Cuba.

Writes McJoan:
Torture is at the heart of this program and is what the administration has been fighting for since the Supreme Court handed down Hamdan. What's more, Frist's statement makes clear that the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which guarantees that defendants have the right to see the evidence against them, is going to be gutted in this "compromise."

That's no compromise, all you "principled" GOP rebels. It's capitulation. Lay down your much vaunted "integrity" and take up your Rubber Stamps.
If the Democratic Party cannot manage to pull together a fillibuster to defeat this evil bill, then it is hard to imagine a reason for the fillibuster to exist--or an opposition party for that matter.

Be sure to contact your Senators and Representatives.


Of course, as Digby says:
Unless the Dems [are] ready to threaten to filibuster a national security bill a month before an election --- which I doubt --- I expect that the Republicans are going to rush this through the conference and force through this piece of sh-t bill in a hurry, just like they forced the AUMF through in October 2002 and give the republicans a big honking "victory" in the GWOT.

The Dems are all going to be twisted into pretzels and look like they have no backbones as they struggle with a united GOP saying that McCain and Huckleberry Graham made sure "the program" is moral and necessary. Vote for it or for the terrorists. So they'll end up voting for it without getting any benefit from it.
Yep, the GOP is going to run on the torture issue; they'll argue that the Democrats want to coddle terrorists and only the Republicans are "serious enough" to keep American safe.

They are officially the Torture Party.

Second Update (9:00am 9/22/06):

Marty Lederman has posted links to both the Agreement Upon Common Article 3 and the Agreements on Classified Information, Self Incrimination and Coercion, and Hearsay, in military commission trials, and has further comment on Three of the Most Significant Problems with the "Compromise". He writes that the result of the obfuscatory language in the agreements
unfortunately, is a very constrained conception of what constitutes "cruel treatment" -- a much narrower conception than a fair or reasonable interpretation of Geneva Article 3(1)(a) would provide. And therefore the bill would implicitly exclude from the definition of "cruel treatment" under Common Article 3 many cases of actual cruel treatment prohibited by that treaty obligation. That is to say: The Executive branch -- not only the CIA -- would effectively be authorized to engage in cruel treatment that Geneva proscribes, including pursuant to the alternative CIA techniques.
The New York Times calls it a Bad Bargain:
Here is a way to measure how seriously President Bush was willing to compromise on the military tribunals bill: Less than an hour after an agreement was announced yesterday with three leading Republican senators, the White House was already laying a path to wiggle out of its one real concession.
The Washington Post's editorial is titled, "The Abuse Can Continue: Senators won't authorize torture, but they won't prevent it, either":
The bad news is that Mr. Bush, as he made clear yesterday, intends to continue using the CIA to secretly detain and abuse certain terrorist suspects. He will do so by issuing his own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions in an executive order and by relying on questionable Justice Department opinions that authorize such practices as exposing prisoners to hypothermia and prolonged sleep deprivation. Under the compromise agreed to yesterday, Congress would recognize his authority to take these steps and prevent prisoners from appealing them to U.S. courts. The bill would also immunize CIA personnel from prosecution for all but the most serious abuses and protect those who in the past violated U.S. law against war crimes.

In short, it's hard to credit the statement by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) yesterday that "there's no doubt that the integrity and letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved." In effect, the agreement means that U.S. violations of international human rights law can continue as long as Mr. Bush is president, with Congress's tacit assent. If they do, America's standing in the world will continue to suffer, as will the fight against terrorism.

. . .

But the senators who have fought to rein in the administration's excesses -- led by Sens. McCain, Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.) -- failed to break Mr. Bush's commitment to "alternative" methods that virtually every senior officer of the U.S. military regards as unreliable, counterproductive and dangerous for Americans who may be captured by hostile governments.

Mr. Bush wanted Congress to formally approve these practices and to declare them consistent with the Geneva Conventions. It will not. But it will not stop him either, if the legislation is passed in the form agreed on yesterday. Mr. Bush will go down in history for his embrace of torture and bear responsibility for the enormous damage that has caused.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Do-Nothing Congress

So who is to blame for Congressional inaction on nearly every important issue over the past six years? The party that controls both the House and Senate (as well as the other two branches of government), or the party that doesn't?

If you ask Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), it's all those blasted Democrats' fault!
"Too often my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have inhibited the fulfillment of our duty," said Frist, after a stirring reading of the preamble of the Constitution. "They have relied on obstruction and thrown up roadblocks at every opportunity. They have let politics get in the way of sound policy and purpose. That is unacceptable."
As reported by Bob Geiger, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), "who has endured this Congress with control of no committees, an inability to pass any meaningful legislation and no say over the Senate's legislative agenda, was on Frist faster than Halliburton snaps up a no-bid contract":
"For more than 3 years, this Congress, which has been given the name of the "do-nothing Congress,'' has turned a blind eye to the intractable war in Iraq, ignoring the administration's many mistakes and allowing it to stay on a failed course," said Reid. "Here we are, with 6 days left in the 109th Congress, and the Republicans, who control the House and Senate and the White House, have not held one hearing -- not one -- into the President's wartime failures."
Reid chided his colleagues for failing their institutional duties:
"During the Civil War, President Lincoln was faced continually with oversight hearings by his Congress. Of course, we know during World War II, there were a number of commissions. The most famous was that conducted by Senator Harry Truman of Missouri, which led to his becoming Vice President. Some say, but for that he would not have been chosen as Vice President.

"What was the Truman Commission? It was to determine what was going on with World War II. Was money being wasted? Were troop levels right? Korean war hearings were also held, and the same for the Vietnam war. But for this war, none--even though this war has taken longer than it took to settle the differences in the European theater in World War II. Soon it will be the same amount of time that we were able to beat Japan."

Reid then let loose the frustration that's no doubt been building after watching Republicans shoot down three attempts by Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage in this Congress and killing many pieces of legislation designed to bolster homeland security -- including the 528-page, Democratic-sponsored Real Security Act of 2006, which was snuffed by Republicans just last week.

"This Republican Congress has wasted 20 months on horse slaughtering; the Schiavo case, dealing with someone's personal relationship, which should not even have been before this body; gay marriage; the nuclear option; flag burning; repealing the estate tax," said Reid. "But they could not find a day for some time to look at the President's mistakes, missteps, and misconduct, which have hurt American security and plunged Iraq into a civil war -- not a day."
But it gets even better when Dick Durbin (D-IL) joins in (also via Geiger):
Mr. Durbin: Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. Reid: I will be happy to yield for a question.

Mr. Durbin: Can the Senator refresh my memory? Was Mr. Bremmer the recipient of a gold medal or something from the President? Didn't he receive some high decoration or medal for his performance in Iraq?

Mr. Reid: The answer is, yes, he received that. I assume one would expect that from somebody who had a throne while he was over there.

Mr. Durbin: Isn't it also true that George Tenet, who was responsible for the intelligence that was so bad that led us into the war in Iraq, got a medal from the President the same day?

Mr. Reid: That is true.

Mr. Durbin: Did Michael Brown with FEMA receive a gold medal from the White House before he was dismissed?

Mr. Reid: I don't think he did. Even though he was doing a heck of a job, I don't think he obtained a medal from the White House.

Mr. Durbin: Apparently, these gold medals were being awarded for incompetence. They missed Mr. Brown, but they did give one to Mr. Bremmer. Will the Senator yield for another question?

Mr. Reid: I will be happy to.

Mr. Durbin: I am trying to recall the exact number -- it was in the billions of dollars -- that we gave to the President for the reconstruction of Iraq; is that not true?

Mr. Reid: It started out at $18 billion. But as the Senator from Illinois will remember, part of that money, stacks of one-hundred-dollar bills, was used by some of the contractors who were sent over there to play football games -- some of these same people.

Mr. Durbin: It is also true, is it not, that the Democratic policy conference has been holding hearings -- in fact, I think it is the only agency on the Hill holding hearings -- on this waste and abuse, this profiteering and corruption at the expense of American taxpayers and even, equally important -- more importantly -- at the expense of our troops?

Mr. Reid: I say to my friend, this war is approaching 3 1/2 years, and there has not been a single congressional oversight hearing on the conduct of the war. This war has now cost us, the American taxpayers, about $325 billion. There has not been a single congressional oversight hearing on the war.

Mr. Durbin: I ask the Senator from Nevada if he might comment on this as well: Are we not in a situation where the President has told us that he wants to "stay the course'' in Iraq, and Vice President Cheney, when asked a week ago, said he wouldn't change a thing in the way they have done this war in Iraq? Is it very clear that unless there is a change in leadership in this town soon, we are going to continue down this disastrous course, exposing our soldiers to danger every single day, their families to the anxiety of separation, and the taxpayers of this country to billions and billions of dollars more being spent that don't make us any safer?

Mr. Reid: I say to my friend, I spent the weekend reading a book. I did other things. I spent a lot of time on an airplane. The book is called "Fiasco,'' written by a man named Thomas Ricks who has spent his life covering the military. He has written books on the military. I don't know his political persuasion. This book is on the best seller's list of the New York Times.

In this book, he talks in such detail about what has happened as a result of the incompetence of this administration to our valiant fighting men and women over there. I recommend the book to anyone. It is a searing indictment of this administration.

Reid then thrust the final dagger on his own saying, "The war in Iraq has been a diversion from the real war on terror. But this administration and this do-nothing Congress are content to stay the course, even as it makes America less safe and Iraq less stable. We need a new direction. This Congress has failed."

Is the Torture Debate Kabuki Theater?

That is, is the real point of the "torture debate" to end up with a compromise where it *looks* like Bush relents on the torture issue, at the cost of Congress endorsing or protecting presently-illegal detention and eavesdropping policies?

Publius at Legal Fiction discusses.

Digby, who voiced early skepticism of the veracity of the "debate," continues, and provides a link to the "McCain Weasel Watch on Detainees."

Jack Balkin points out defects existing in both the President's bill and the one being pushed by McCain: "both bills eliminate the right of detainees to contest the legality and the conditions of their confinement through the ancient writ of habeas corpus. . . . If the McCain-Graham-Warner bill is passed in its present form, it will also undermine America's values. Because it will leave the innocent and the harmless, and those illegally abused but never brought to trial without a remedy. It will perpetrate a mockery of justice."

Katrina and Business Interruption Insurance Claims

Times-Picayune: Business interruption insurance claims could account for half of the commercial losses from Katrina, but many owners are still struggling to get payments. Excerpt:
"It's because restoring the destroyed property is going to take so long," Finley Harckham, a New York attorney whose firm, Anderson Kill & Olick, is working on both Sept. 11 and Katrina business interruption claims. "The BI claims are shaping up as the most contentious issue for businesses" after Katrina.

The terrorist attacks refined and developed a body of law surrounding the duration of business interruption claims after the many small service businesses and retailers located at the towers argued that the unique sales environment of the bustling transportation and commercial center could not be duplicated elsewhere, and that payments should continue until the World Trade Center was rebuilt. Some suits still are being litigated.

Similarly, in New Orleans, many of the disputes will tackle the question of when a temporary location becomes the new permanent location, and when an insurer's responsibility should end. In many cases, the length of time that businesses are away from their original premises may be related to difficulty repairing the property because of slow payment or disputes with their insurer over property claims. "This is shaping up as a big battleground," Harckham said.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cesspool on the Potomac

"The city of Washington was built on a stagnant swamp some 200 years ago, and very little has changed. It stank then, and it stinks now. Only today, it is the fetid stench of corruption that hangs in the air."
- Lisa Simpson (Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington)

Meanwhile, in the real world in Washington, the FBI can't keep up with all of its corruption investigations, largely involving the Republican Party (via TPM Muckraker):
There is so much political corruption on Capitol Hill that the FBI has had to triple the number of squads investigating lobbyists, lawmakers and influence peddlers, the Daily News has learned.

For decades, only one squad in Washington handled corruption cases because the crimes were seen as local offenses handled by FBI field offices in lawmakers' home districts.

But in recent years, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and other abuses of power and privilege have prompted the FBI to assign 37 agents full-time to three new squads in an office near Capitol Hill.

FBI Assistant Director Chip Burrus told The News yesterday that he wants to detail even more agents to the Washington field office for a fourth corruption squad because so much wrongdoing is being uncovered.
Brian Tamanaha at Balkinization reports how "Congressmen Bob Ney and Randy Cunningham, and a number of former legislative staff members, have admitted to corruption in connection with lobbyists, and face jail time. Other criminal investigations are still in progress. Nonetheless, the New York Times reported last week that no serious lobbying reforms will be enacted by the current Congress, despite all the talk about reform following the Abramoff scandal (see also)."

Why will nothing be done? Easy. Money:

Public records indicate that almost $2 billion was spent on federal lobbying in 2003; $2.1 billion in 2004; and in excess of $2.3 billion in 2005; and the amount keeps rising. Leaving aside outright criminal bribery, this money-laden attention, lavished on legislators and their staffs, takes several forms: making direct campaign contributions, sponsoring campaign fundraising events, providing contributions to third-party supporters (political parties, political action committees, mutually favored institutes or organizations), supplying supportive work (drafting desired legislation, administrative regulations, and briefing papers), funding or securing funding for trips at home and abroad for "informational" purposes (golf resorts being a favorite destination, along with Hawaii, Paris and Italy), subsidizing travel on private jets, supplying free social dinners and entertainment (including high-profile sporting events), employing spouses and close relatives as lobbyists or consultants, and offering the prospect of well-compensated future employment.

The Torture Party

Calvin Trillin, the Nation's deadline poet, has a gem in last week's issue, "George Bush Explains His Policy on Torture to Someone Who Is Being Waterboarded":

An "alternate set of procedures"
Is what we're applying right now.
So please don't confuse this with torture,
That's something I'd never allow.

I know when you feel you are drowning,
You're thinking, "They're torturing me!"
But torture is not what we call it,
So torture it simply can't be.

You're lucky Americans got you,
If torture's the thing that you dread.
An alternate set of procedures
Is what we're applying instead.
It's no joke though.

President Bush thinks that the words "torture", "cruel treatment", "outrages against human dignity," and "humiliating and degrading treatment"are terribly vague and confusing, and they simply must be "clarified." Otherwise, how would anyone know whether "waterboarding, hypothermia and sleep deprivation" are allowed by the Geneva Conventions?

Here's the transcript from his petulant foot-stomping in the Rose Garden, where he refused to say where he stands on torture and what he wants to make more "clear" in its legality.

Newsweek reports that even so-called "maverick" Republican John McCain "and the other GOP senators have indicated they would be willing to amend domestic U.S. law, especially the War Crimes Act, to permit at least some 'enhanced' CIA techniques. They are also willing to pass legislation that would deny many rights to detainees at Guantánamo Bay and allow them to be held indefinitely."

Ah, compromise. No need for trials or evidence, because the Bush Administration never makes mistakes. Right?

Oh, wait:
Arar, now 36, was detained by U.S. authorities as he changed planes in New York on Sept. 26, 2002. He was held for questioning for 12 days, then flown by jet to Jordan and driven to Syria. He was beaten, forced to confess to having trained in Afghanistan -- where he never has been -- and then kept in a coffin-size dungeon for 10 months before he was released, the Canadian inquiry commission found.

The Washington Post editorialized about Bush's so-called "program" of torture and indefinite detention without trial:
Throughout the world and for decades, such practices have been called torture. That's what the United States called them when they were used by the Soviet KGB. As the president himself tacitly acknowledges, they violate Geneva and other international conventions as well as current U.S. law.
That doesn't stop Republican William Kristol, a man who has been magnificently wrong about almost everything he has written or said for the past decade (see, e.g. Iraq; see also Iran, coming soon), from writing a sickening article called "The Trap" in the Weekly Standard, in which he urges Republicans to run as the pro-torture candidates so that Democratic candidates fall into Bush's "trap" and appear "weak" on "terror."

Andrew Sullivan responds: "The capitulation of neoconservatism to the evil it once fought against is now complete."

No doubt. The New York Times has this to say:
Watching the president on Friday in the Rose Garden as he threatened to quit interrogating terrorists if Congress did not approve his detainee bill, we were struck by how often he acts as though there were not two sides to a debate. We have lost count of the number of times he has said Americans have to choose between protecting the nation precisely the way he wants, and not protecting it at all.

On Friday, President Bush posed a choice between ignoring the law on wiretaps, and simply not keeping tabs on terrorists. Then he said the United States could rewrite the Geneva Conventions, or just stop questioning terrorists. To some degree, he is following a script for the elections: terrify Americans into voting Republican.

Monday, September 18, 2006

"Restoring Honor and Dignity" and "Putting the 'Grown-Ups' in Charge"

Iraq, Katrina, Torture, Domestic Spying, and an Endless War on Terror.

Is this what we want a government to do?

From the same people who brought the Coalition Provisional Authority's spendiforous incompetence and cronyism to Iraq
(seriously, read that article, or the one the Washington Monthly reported three years ago), from the people who introduced laissez-faire crisis management to the people of the Gulf Coast, we now have the outrage of a "torture debate" in Congress and across the country to add to the ever-growing list of outrages.

Digby calls this "debate" kabuki theater: "Aside from the obvious electoral benefits of this kabuki dance, I also suspect the administration's substantive goal all along was to stage a public fight on torture in order to get the congress to compromise on all the military tribunal issues." That may be. In any event, I agree with Josh Marshall:
The torture debate in Congress--I never expected to write such words--is as surreal to me as watching the collapse of the Twin Towers.

. . .

I am beyond being able to assess the political implications, one way or the other, of this spectacle. Regardless of which version of the bill finally passes, this debate is a black mark on the soul of the nation.

. . .

Only the weak, scared, and evil torture. Those who order and sanction torture, but leave the dirty work to others, are an order of magnitude more culpable morally. (A special place is reserved for the lawyers who give legal cover for such orders.) In their fear and their weakness and their smallness, the President and those around him stepped over the line. To do so in the heated days after 9/11 is understandable to a point, though not justifiable. Yet they persisted, first in saying that they did not step over the line and now in seeking to redraw the line. So which is it?

They are descending from the morally reprehensible to the morally cowardly.
Glenn Greenwald takes torture-apologist John Yoo to task for his editorial this weekend in the New York Times in which he shamelessly (and hypocritically with a touch of "truthiness") argues in favor of the President's assertion of his power to break the law.

Most people would need evidence to make such an extreme claim as a constitutional power to break the law. Not Yoo.

By contrast, to support his modest claim that the President does not have the power to break laws he disagrees with rather than, you know, VETO-ING them, Greenwald enlists the aid of that shrill and unhinged crackpot, Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 73, 78 and 84:
It is indeed true that the President has the power to "check" legislation that he considers "wrongheaded or obsolete" -- by vetoing bills before they're enacted into law, not by violating them after they're enacted into law. The whole point of Hamilton's Federalist No. 73 is to explain the purpose of the veto power, and specifically that "the case for which it is chiefly designed" is "that of an immediate attack upon the constitutional rights of the executive." That is how the President in our system of government defends against Congressional encroachments on his power and imposes "checks" on "wrongheaded or obsolete legislation" -- by vetoing such bills (an action which is then subject to being overridden), not by secretly violating laws at will.

. . .

Just look at the things we're debating -- whether the U.S. Government can abduct and indefinitely imprison U.S. citizens without charges; whether we can use torture to interrogate people; whether our Government can eavesdrop on our private conversations without warrants; whether we can create secret prisons and keep people there out of sight and beyond the reach of any law or oversight; and whether the President can simply disregard long-standing constitutional limitations and duly enacted Congressional laws because he has deemed that doing so is necessary to "protect" us.

These haven't been open questions for decades if not centuries. They've been settled as intrinsic values that define our country. Yet nothing is settled or resolved any longer. Everything -- even the most extremist and authoritarian policies and things which were long considered taboo -- are now openly entertained, justifiable and routinely justified.
I guess it depends on what the meaning of is, is, huh?

As bad as the torture debate is (I can't believe I even wrote that phrase), the Administration's approach to governing Iraq under the CPA (aka The RNC Branch Office on the Tigris) could not have been any more "unserious."

After reviewing the Washington Post's story on the CPA, Digby says it:
The Republicans are telling us that they should be re-elected because the Democrats aren't serious about national security and only they can be trusted to keep the terrorists from killing us in our beds.

But the way the administration went about creating the CPA illustrates everything you need to know about the childlike sciolism of these so-called grown-ups. They insisted on invading a well contained country of 25 million people, ripped its society to shreds, and then put a bunch of low level cronies and inexperienced schoolkids in charge of creating a Club for Growth wet dream in the desert. And they spent billions and billions of dollars failing to do anything but lay the groundwork for civil war. I don't know if it's possible to screw up on a grander scale than that.

Here's the question for the American people. Let's, for the sake of argument, say that you don't like Democrats. You have the vague feeling in the pit of your stomach that they just don't have the cojones to do "what needs to be done." You can't get over the feeling that they aren't serious enough.

But if you are a thoughtful person of any political persuasion who is concerned about national security or the economy, you simply cannot read that story above and have even the slightest faith that such people can be trusted to continue to run the government with no oversight.

The question is not whether the Democrats have a better plan to correct these grievous errors or whether they are hard enough to deal with hard issues. The question is how anyone could think Democrats could possibly be worse than an administration that ordered the US government to eschew all expertise and give billions of taxpayer dollars to inexperienced Republican functionaries to rebuild a foreign country from the ground up? Considering the stakes in all this, I don't see how anyone can think it's a good idea to let these people continue unchecked. They screw up everything they touch and they never, ever, learn from their mistakes.
Well? Can anyone name one thing that the current Administration has done RIGHT? (no points for Afghanistan; they lost Bin Laden, the Taliban is resurging, and even an idiot would have gone after the Taliban and Al Qaeda after 9/11)

How to steal an election with a Diebold AccuVote-TS machine


Edward Still at the Votelaw blog points to a research paper at Princeton's School of Engineering and Applied Science by Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten titled "Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine."

From the abstract:
Analysis of the machine, in light of real election procedures, shows that it is vulnerable to extremely serious attacks. For example, an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities — a voting-machine virus. We have constructed working demonstrations of these attacks in our lab. Mitigating these threats will require changes to the voting machine's hardware and software and the adoption of more rigorous election procedures.
Take a look at the Demonstration Video accompanying the paper here.

Americans Against Torture

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Upcoming Conference: Maximizing Your Insurance Recovery


This Friday, September 15, 2006, at the Westin Philadelphia Hotel on 99 South 17th Street, my law firm, Anderson Kill & Olick, P.C., will be hosting the 9th Annual Policyholder Advisor Conference, "Maximizing Your Insurance Recovery."

This conference is ideal for any professional or business person concerned about their company's insurance investment, and will cover every major development impacting the insurance loss environment.

Read the brochure here and register here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five Years Later

Prof. Jack Balkin has an interesting retrospective up at Balkinization, September 11 and American Politics, Five Years Later. Give it a read.

Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post's White House Briefing summarizes President Bush's speech from last night:
The occasion called for reflection and an attempt to unify the nation in its grief and determination. In fact, it was billed as such by the White House.

Instead, Bush delivered a leaden rehash of his unpersuasive rationales for his response to the threat of terrorism. He made a carefully crafted attempt to terrify Americans into supporting his deeply unpopular war in Iraq. He was misleading. He mischaracterized his critics.

It's hard to imagine that he could have been more divisive if he'd tried. And with most Americans no longer trusting the president, it's hard to imagine the speech served him well.
After pointing to commentary on Monday's speech from throughout the news industry, Froomkin highlights Ron Suskind's response in Time to Bush's speech last Wednesday on torture and military commissions:

"What the President wouldn't say, especially in a political season, is that he and the rest of the government have learned quite a bit from their early errors. What is widely known inside the Administration is that once we caught our first decent-size fish -- Abu Zubaydah, in March 2002 -- we used him as an experiment in righteous brutality that in the end produced very little. His interrogation, according to those overseeing it, yielded little from threats and torture. He named countless targets inside the U.S. to stop the pain, all of them immaterial. Indeed, think back to the sudden slew of alerts in the spring and summer of 2002 about attacks on apartment buildings, banks, shopping malls and, of course, nuclear plants. . . .

. . .

And Suskind suggest[s] one reason the White House is so opposed to trying terrorists using an authentic legal process. "The problem is not really with classified information. Most of what these captives told us is already common knowledge or dated; the U.S. hasn't caught any truly significant players in two years. However, discovery in such a case would show that the President and Vice President were involved in overseeing their interrogations, according to senior intelligence officials. Subpoenas on how evidence was obtained and who authorized what practices would go right into the West Wing."

The Constitution: Now Only for Peacetime

Berkeley law professor and former Justice Dept. lawyer/apologist for torture and unlimited Presidential power, John Yoo, summarizes the Bush Administration's understanding of the Constitution in two sentences:
We are used to a peacetime system in which Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them. In wartime, the gravity shifts to the executive branch.
(hat tip to Glenn Greenwald)

"He would fire the next person that said that"

This ought to get more press coverage.

An interview with Brigadier General Mark Scheid, chief of the Logistics War Plans Division after 9/11, revealed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (who still has a job because President Bush twice rejected his resignation) deliberately chose not to plan for post-invasion operations in Iraq. When Gen. Scheid recommended planning for occupation, Scheid recalls that Rumsfeld said "that he would fire the next person that said that . . . We would not do planning for Phase 4 operations, which would require all those additional troops that people talk about today. He said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war."

Of course, Rumsfeld made good on the threat. He replaced General Eric Shinseki in 2003 after he told Congress that occupation would require hundreds of thousands of troops.

And that's not all. Scheid confirms the blind headlong rush into Iraq when we were still dealing with Afghanistan and finding Osama Bin Laden (who is still not dead or captured):
"Then, just as we were barely into Afghanistan ... Rumsfeld came and told us to get ready for Iraq."Scheid said he remembers everyone thinking, "My gosh, we're in the middle of Afghanistan, how can we possibly be doing two at one time? How can we pull this off? It's just going to be too much."

As Kevin Drum notes: "This is an astounding interview, all the more so for the apparently resigned tone that Scheid brings to it. It belongs on the front page of the New York Times, not the Hampton Roads Daily Press."

Olbermann: "This Hole in the Ground"

Keith Olbermann's commentary on the 9/11 anniversary (via Steve Gilliard) (also, video available here):
Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.

All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and -- as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul -- two more in the Towers.

And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.

I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.

And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft,"or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.

However, of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty.

Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.

Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.

Five years later this country's wound is still open.

Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.

Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.

It is beyond shameful.

At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial -- barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field -- Mr. Lincoln said, "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.

Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground." So we won't.

Instead they bicker and buck pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they're doing instead of doing any job at all.

Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.

And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President -- and those around him -- did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."

The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."

Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space, and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.

Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.

Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in his own administration.

Yet what is happening this very night?

A mini-series, created, influenced -- possibly financed by -- the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.

The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.

How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?

Just as the terrorists have succeeded -- are still succeeding -- as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero.

So, too, have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.

This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney's continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.

And long ago, a series called "The Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."

In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm. Suddenly his car -- and only his car -- starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man's lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An "alien" is shot -- but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help. The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there's no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it's themselves."

And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight: "The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men.

"For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn."

When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American...When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President.

You have.

May this country forgive you.
More from Kevin Drum here.

Prof. Cole discusses the progress of "The War with Al-Qaeda".

Digby explains why he is still angry five years later.