Thursday, March 29, 2007

With Friends of Liberty Like These

David Brooks (actual quotation): "Security leads to freedom."

It's not even worth drudging up the old Ben Franklin chestnut about people who would sacrifice essential freedom to purchase a little safety and what they deserve, is it?

Accountability and the Renegade Executive

At Balkinization, Scott Horton has posted the text of a speech, Accountability and the Renegade Executive, which he delivered at the University of Mississippi School of Law on March 28.

On a completely unrelated and lighter note, here is a link to a blogger returning from an astrophysics conference explaining the rules of how a scientist should select their personal archnemesis.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blog reading for the day

Monday, March 26, 2007

Terrorized by the War on Terror

"A classic self-inflicted wound," in which "fear-mongering" by the government is "reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generat[ing] its own momentum," destroying civil rights and "gravely damag[ing] the United States internationally"

-- Zbigniew Brzezinski, describing the Bush Administration's choice to employ the phrase "war on terror" in the Washington Post:
The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done -- a classic self-inflicted wound -- is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare -- political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being "at war."

Hoyas in the Final Four

You read it at the Blog Brief first second, one year ago.

Catch 5-13

Joshua Kors has a cover article in the Nation on Spc. Jon Town, an unbelievable story first recounted by Kors some months ago as noted by this site and others.

Town was the victim of a direct hit rocket attack in Ramadi, Iraq. Once in the VA hospital, it sounds like he was lied to and tricked into signing away his rights to benefits and continued medical care, as well as a significant chunk of his bonus money. By the end, Town actually owed the Army close to $4,000 under an obscure provision known as Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13 in the separation manual, "Separation Because of Personality Disorder."

Here's a key graff:
But instead of sending Town to a medical board and discharging him because of his injuries, doctors at Fort Carson, Colorado, did something strange: They claimed Town's wounds were actually caused by a "personality disorder." Town was then booted from the Army and told that under a personality disorder discharge, he would never receive disability or medical benefits.

Town is not alone. A six-month investigation has uncovered multiple cases in which soldiers wounded in Iraq are suspiciously diagnosed as having a personality disorder, then prevented from collecting benefits. The conditions of their discharge have infuriated many in the military community, including the injured soldiers and their families, veterans' rights groups, even military officials required to process these dismissals.

They say the military is purposely misdiagnosing soldiers like Town and that it's doing so for one reason: to cheat them out of a lifetime of disability and medical benefits, thereby saving billions in expenses.

. . .

One military official says doctors at his base are doing more than withholding this information from wounded soldiers; they're actually telling them the opposite: that if they go along with a 5-13, they'll get to keep their bonus and receive disability and medical benefits. The official, who demanded anonymity, handles discharge papers at a prominent Army facility. He says the soldiers he works with know they don't have a personality disorder. "But the doctors are telling them, this will get you out quicker, and the VA will take care of you. To stay out of Iraq, a soldier will take that in a heartbeat. What they don't realize is, those things are lies. The soldiers, they don't read the fine print," he says. "They don't know to ask for a med board. They're taking the word of the doctors. Then they sit down with me and find out what a 5-13 really means--they're shocked."

Friday, March 23, 2007

John Dean, the USA 8, and the Nagging Questions that Remain

Former White House Counsel to President Nixon John Dean has a column at FindLaw on the scandalous firing of eight U.S. Attorneys by President Bush, the Unitary Executive Theory of presidential power, as well as the subsequent coverup that we are all now witnessing. (via FireDogLake)

Here's some more on the story from Josh Marshall, who has rightfully earned much of the credit for keeping this story alive over the last few months. Over at TPM Cafe, Mark Schmitt questions what the firings were really meant to accomplish.

I'll add that in my view, one of the big questions that is not being talked about very much (though Paul Krugman was on this angle weeks ago) isn't how wrong it was to fire U.S. Attorneys in order to interfere with their investigations (in other words, to obstruct justice), or how wrong it is to fire them for not undertaking bogus investigations for political purposes--although both of these are obviously important problems at the heart of the scandal-- but rather, what did the other 85 U.S. Attorneys do to keep their jobs?

If the eight U.S. Attorneys at issue were fired for not being "loyal Bushies," then how loyal did the rest pledge to be? Were they similarly contacted by the politicians and asked to pursue or drop particular cases? What investigations were quashed, and what investigations were drummed up for purely political reasons? There are already reports of political pressure exerted on other federal prosecutors beyond the USA-8, like this story here about investigation of Sen. Casey's contributors, or this one here about direct interference in a multi-billion dollar tobacco lawsuit, and this story here about investigations in Western Pennsylvania. This is the real impact of the scandal: the entire federal justice system is called into question, and legitimate criminal prosecutions and corruption investigations will be needlessly called into question by these concerns.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Blogs can top the presses

The mainstream media profiles Josh Marshall's work leading the reporting at TPM on the fired U.S. Attorneys story.