Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Meet the new torture, same as the old torture

A few items are floating around the b'sphere today on our country's disturbing embrace of torture (euphemistically referred to as "enhanced interrogation techniques").

These are particularly apt given the Republican candidates' embrace of torture (so long as it is given a euphemistic name):

[Brit] Hume [asked] the candidates . . . How aggressively would you interrogate" . . . captured suspects?

Rudy Giuliani — . . . "I'd say every method they could think of," affirmed Giuliani.

Mitt Romney . . . "Enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used."
First, Andrew "Fifth Columnist" Sullivan notes some uncomfortable similiarities between the enhanced interrogation techniques being employed under order of President Bush, and those permitted by the Third Reich. For example, both regimes used the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques" to describe their torture that is not torture, and both used many of the same techniques--techniques labeled as torture following the war, and for which Nazis were executed.

Second, reactions to a lecture, "Legal Policy in a Twilight War," delivered by Philip Zelikow, Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, and former advisor to the Secretary of State, can be found here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

This does not compute

"We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It's their government's choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave."

- President Bush, yesterday (he has said the same thing in 2005)

But then, only two weeks ago, we learned this:

[W]ithout note in the U.S. media, more than half of the members of Iraq's parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country. 144 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal.
Hmm, sounds like it is time to set some timetables, declare victory, and go home.

Oh wait, nevermind:

"We're not leaving, so long as I'm the President."

Who is in charge at the White House?

Both of these items suggest that Vice President Cheney is running his own foreign policy regarding Iran and the new war he wants to start, and that having had his position rebuffed by the President, he is now attempting to make an "end run" around Bush to "narrow" Bush's options:
The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).

This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf -- which just became significantly larger -- as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war.
It should also be pointed out that just because Cheney is opposed does not mean that the President's position is wise. To the contrary, his recently-leaked "non-lethal" plan to "destabilize" Iran smacks of the same kind of wishful-thinking and weak analysis that motivated the Iraq War:
President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.
Great. So either this was an intentional leak intended to put more "pressure" on Iran (perhaps intended to lead to some Iranian counteraction that could be intrepreted as a cause for a real war), or someone is letting us know how close we are coming to creating another failed state in the middle east.

Even assuming that we wildly succeeded in our plan to "destabilize" Iran and we actually overthrew the government, what are the REALISTIC chances that this would lead to a pro-U.S. government, or at the very least, a new regime that is LESS hostile to us, rather than another new region in chaos (see, e.g., Iraq) where terrorists can base and train, and the citizens are motivated by the belief that we are the ones responsible for the chaos?

And given our experience in Iraq, where apparently nobody bothered to make plans for how an invasion can create a friendly liberal democracy, are we actually doing contingency planning this time for the possibility that everything doesn't magically turn out OK in Iran?

Above: Underpants gnomes collect underpants for profit
Below: The gnomes' business model

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Blog Brief

My latest column for the Intelligencer is now online (should be free later today), featuring Lew Koch blogging from the Padilla trial for Firedoglake, Peter Lattman of the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog on lawyers copying each others' pleadings, Brian McDonough at the Legal Pad raising his eyebrow at a decision discussing listings, law professor Jeff Harrison questioning tenure for law professors, Robert J. Ambrogi discussing lawyer wikis, Digby on pseudonymous blogging, and Carolyn Elefant at the Legal Blog Watch on the consequences of your digital footprints.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Calling and folding is a horrible way to play poker

So having realized that there is no compromise that the President was willing to make on war funding benchmarks, we see that the Democrats have now completely capitulated to Mr. Bush and his never-ending war.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis) is just as angry as those of us in the rank-and-file, terming it a Democratic "collapse" in this diary at Daily Kos:
This situation is a collapse for Democrats. We had a strong start, pushed back against the President’s failed policy and held our ground that the supplemental should include binding language to end the war. But now, as Congress gets ready to send the President a bill that does nothing to get our troops out of Iraq, we are just folding our cards. As one person commented under Greg Sargent’s great post at TPM cafe, "Send the Congressional Dems over to my place for some poker - I could use a windfall right now."

This is no time to back down. This fight to end the war isn’t something that we can just put off or kick down the road. As mcjoan pointed out, it doesn’t make any sense to wait until this "mythical September" when Republicans will suddenly decide that we need to get out of Iraq. Why should this wait until September? First Americans had to put up with a Republican Congress that did nothing, and now we are faced with a Democratic Congress that is giving the President exactly what he wants – continuing his failed policy and leaving our troops stuck in the middle of a civil war. Some strategy. We can’t back down when the stakes are so high. I know you’ll keep ratcheting up the pressure, and that’s exactly what we need right now. Now is the time to be pulling out all the stops to end the war.
As a former presidential candidate asked over thirty years ago: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" And in the meantime, the carnage continues, food supplies for the troops are in jeopardy, and Bush's acknowledged plan to run out the clock and pass the mess on to his successor appears to be building steam.

"We're not leaving, so long as I'm the President." - GWB

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The voter fraud fraud

Richard L. Hasen, writing at Slate, has an interesting article online about the mysterious "American Center for Voting Rights" and attempts to disenfranchise Democratic voters with bogus charges of "voter fraud."

Josh Marshall concludes:
By rights, these crooks should be facing justice themselves. But, shall we say, ironically, Alberto Gonzales ended up putting the US Attorney system in the service of these hucksters, firing ones who wouldn't play ball.

That's the big picture.


Sadly, No! points out that David Ignatius's column in the Washington Post yesterday makes no sense, and that the post-surge "plan" for Iraq that it describes makes no sense either.

Sandy Berger Disbarred

I missed this item when it was reported last week. Apparently, Sandy Berger, the former National Security Advisor to President Clinton, agreed to forfeit his law license. This agreement follows Berger being caught removing classified documents from the U.S. Archives; Berger was "convicted of illegally removing documents from the Archives in 2005 and was preparing to testify before the national commission investigating the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."
The two-page agreement states that Berger "acknowledges that the material facts upon which the allegations of misconduct are predicated are true" and that he "could not successfully defend against them."

Monday, May 21, 2007

More on Lawyer Outsourcing

The Re Risk blog has an item on future outsourcing of lawyers and accountants, and the implications this will have on parents' educational choices for their children. The blog notes that Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton predicts that between 30 and 40 million U.S. jobs (a quarter of the workforce!) could go offshore within the next generation, including many lawyers, economists and accountants.

Legal Writing

Is shorter better? Sometimes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

"The president is either above the law or he isn't"

What Dahlia said.

Also, Marty Lederman straightens out a Washington Post op-ed writer on the details of the NSA/wiretapping/Comey/hospital-scandal.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Politicians and the Military

Two items worth highlighting on the often uncomfortable relationship between politicians and military leaders:

1) Jack Balkin notes the contrast between the Republican candidates' shameful and enthusiastic embrace of torture / "enhanced interrogation techniques" (except for John McCain), and the generals who would actually have to implement such a morally-bankrupt and horrible policy.

2) Josh Marshall has a few choice quotes on the recent appointment of a "War Czar," and the blurred lines between traditionally political and military roles.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


The above was part of Professor Blakey's take-home final exam in Jurisprudence at Notre Dame Law School, my alma mater (I took Constitutional Criminal Procedure with Professor Blakey, and loved it). Apparently, students were directed to, in 30 pages or less, use the outline to “trace the history of jurisprudence and evaluate it.”

The part-outline, part-artwork is titled “Jurisprudence at a glance” and was handed out on the last day of class by Professor G. Robert Blakey. (It first appeared here.)

In all fairness, Blakey went over the outline with his 2L and 3L students in detail, weaving the work of dozens of philosophers (from Plato to Ronald Dworkin) into the greater history of law and philosophy. In class he spends 50 minutes on connecting the scribblings together

What Marty Said

Professor Marty Lederman, formerly of the Office of Legal Counsel, looks at the Comey testimony and wonders: "Can You Even Imagine How Bad it Must Have Been?"

I almost posted a bunch of block quotes here, but again, realized that I was quoting almost the whole article. This is a must-read, so do yourself a favor and check it out for some insight into what Comey's testimony means.

See Comey Testify

If the transcript was not good enough, here is the video of Comey's testimony on the late night hospital visit and his near-resignation.

The President's Role in the Comey Crisis / Knowing Violation of the FISA Law

Josh Marshall notes that some of the major media outlets are reporting that President Bush intervened in the dispute between Comey and Ashcroft on the one hand, and Gonzalez and Card on the other. But as Josh correctly observes, Comey's testimony strongly suggested that Gonzalez and Card's late night visit to Ashcroft's hospital room was directed by the President himself. Comey testified that it was his recollection that Bush himself had called Ashcroft's wife to let her know that Gonzalez and Card were coming. Bush only relented after he was threatened with the resignations of the entire top brass of the Justice Department, as well as FBI Director Mueller.

Marty Lederman sees the president's role the same way, and also observes that Bush had "personally tried to convince Comey to change his judgment, even after DOJ had gone to such lengths to repudiate OLC's prior legal advice," and personally signed the form that Comey and Ashcroft would not sign, thereby allowing the warrantless wiretapping program NSA to continue "even though DOJ had concluded that it was legally indefensible, i.e., that it violated a criminal statute. (This is the big story that few are focusing on.)."

Bush did not mediate a dispute among subordinates; he was forced to back down because he had no choice after his attempts to bully one of the two sides failed.

What Glenn Said

He nails it again, this time on yesterday's Comey testimony. Apologies for the not-so-brief excerpt, but choosing the most important graf was pretty much impossible; be sure to read the whole thing:

. . . The overarching point here, as always, is that it is simply crystal clear that the President consciously and deliberately violated the law and committed multiple felonies by eavesdropping on Americans in violation of the law.

Recall that the only federal court to rule on this matter has concluded that the NSA program violated both federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and although that decision is being appealed by the Bush administration, they are relying largely on technical arguments to have it reversed (i.e., standing and "state secrets" arguments) and -- as has been true for the entire case -- are devoting very little efforts to arguing that the program was actually legal or constitutional.

Yet even once Bush knew that both Aschcroft and Comey believed the eavesdropping was illegal, he ordered it to continue anyway.

. . .

What more glaring and clear evidence do we need that the President of the United States deliberately committed felonies, knowing that his conduct lacked any legal authority? And what justifies simply walking away from these serial acts of deliberate criminality? At this point, how can anyone justify the lack of criminal investigations or the appointment of a Special Counsel? The President engaged in extremely serious conduct that the law expressly criminalizes and which his own DOJ made clear was illegal.

. . .

Beyond the indisputable crimes that were committed here -- and violating the law and engaging in eavesdropping that the Congress has prohibited are "crimes" in every sense of the word, in this case punishable with five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense -- there is still the completely unanswered question of how the President used these illegal eavesdropping powers. And Comey's testimony raises some very troubling questions about that matter.

. . .

But the more important issue here, by far, is that we should not have to speculate in this way about how the illegal eavesdropping powers were used. We enacted a law 30 years ago making it a felony for the government to eavesdrop on us without warrants, precisely because that power had been so severely and continuously abused. The President deliberately violated that law by eavesdropping in secret. Why don't we know -- a-year-a-half after this lawbreaking was revealed -- whether these eavesdropping powers were abused for improper purposes? Is anyone in Congress investigating that question? Why don't we know the answers to that?

. . .

. . . Not only did Comey think that he had to rush to the hospital room to protect Ashcroft from having a conniving Card and Gonzales manipulate his severe illness and confusion by coercing his signature on a document -- behavior that is seen only in the worst cases of deceitful, conniving relatives coercing a sick and confused person to sign a new will -- but the administration's own FBI Director thought it was necessary to instruct his FBI agents not to allow Comey to be removed from the room.

Comey and Mueller were clearly both operating on the premise that Card and Gonzales were basically thugs. Indeed, Comey said that when Card ordred him to the White House, Comey refused to meet with Card without a witness being present, and that Card refused to allow Comey's summoned witness (Solicitor General Ted Olson) even to enter Card's office. These are the most trusted intimates of the White House -- the ones who are politically sympathetic to them and know them best -- and they prepared for, defended themselves against, the most extreme acts of corruption and thuggery from the President's Chief of Staff and his then-legal counsel (and current Attorney General of the United States).

Does this sound in any way like the behavior of a government operating under the rule of law, which believes that it had legal authority to spy on Americans without the warrants required for three decades by law? How can we possibly permit our government to engage in this behavior, to spy on us in deliberate violation of the laws which we enacted democratically precisely in order to limit how they can spy on us, and to literally commit felonies at will, knowing that they are breaking the law?

How is this not a major scandal on the level of the greatest presidential corruption and lawbreaking scandals in our country's history? Why is this only a one-day story that will focus on the hospital drama but not on what it reveals about the bulging and unparalleled corruption of this administration and the complete erosion of the rule of law in our country? And, as I've asked many times before, if we passively allow the President to simply break the law with impunity in how the government spies on our conversations, what don't we allow?

If we had a functioning political press, these are the questions that would be dominating our political discourse and which would have been resolved long ago.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Unbelievable Testimony from Deputy AG Comey

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey provided stunning testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today -- so stunning that it places former Attorney General Ashcroft in a good light. Transcript here (scroll down to page 9). The facts are straight out of the Godfather, and involve Comey rushing to John Ashcroft's hospital room, sirens blaring, to stop the White House from interfering with his decisions on the infamous warrantless wiretapping program ("Terrorist Surveillance Program"), a confrontation that spurred Comey to insist on having witnesses before talking about the matter further with the White House.

To my ears, Comey confirmed that President Bush was informed that his warrantless wiretapping program was illegal, the Justice Department refused to reauthorize it, Bush sent Alberto Gonzalez and Andy Card to go over acting Attorney General Comey's head and pressure the incapacitated and hospitalized John Ashcroft to overrule him, and when that failed, Bush chose to continue the illegal program anyway. Comey notes that after a massive wave of resignations was threatened, which would have included Comey, Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller, among others, Bush eventually chose to have Comey conform the program to the law. Of course, we have no way of knowing whether the program actually conforms to the law, or whether the current Attorney General Gonzalez has since that time rescinded the objections of Comey and Ashcroft and reinstated the parts of the program they deemed illegal.

Read the testimony here.

Anonymity and Blogging

Digby, one of the webs most successful anonymous commmentators, has valuable thoughts (as usual) on the subject of online anonymity, which was raised by a recent newspaper story complaining about anonymity. I don't take the Washington Post's concerns seriously; it seems to me that the complaints about anonymous commentary that crop up from time to time mostly reflect a desire by the complainor that there be more real-world consequences (i.e. losing a job) when the complainor disagrees with the political views or conclusions of the commentator. Big Tent Democrat, nee Armando, who has had his own unfortunate run-in with a disgruntled reader eager to "out" his real world identity, puts it best:
Pseudonymity allows real people to post their thoughts without fear of real world repercussions. A web site can impose as strict a policy on civility, profanity, fact checking, libel, copyright, etc., as it wishes. Knowing and publishing a person's real identity is not necessary for any of that.
On a slightly-related note, here is a fascinating how-to guide for the pathologically paranoid on how to maintain complete anonymity online. As a "theoretical challenge," the author undertook defining a reliable protocol for remaining anonymous online, assuming the absolute worst and making irrationally negative assumptions about commercial operating systems and their interactions with the government. Long story short: it is almost impossible unless you have no bank account.

Blogs do original reporting

At the Firedoglake blog, renowned journalist Lew Koch will be reporting on the ongoing trial of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen and the alleged "dirty bomber" who was tortured by the government and denied constitutional rights such as the right to an attorney. Here is an earlier article by Koch on Padilla, published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

Bloggers from Firedoglake took the forefront in reporting from and about the Scooter Libby trial, providing some of the fastest and best informed reporting on the case. I am sure their efforts on the Padilla trial will be similarly excellent.

Carol Lam, fired for investigating the wrong people

TPM highlights the particulars on the firing of former U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, who was fired shortly after Kyle Sampson noted in a May 11, 2006 email the “real problem we have right now with Carol Lam.” As TPM reports, one day earlier, on May 10, 2006, Lam had informed the Justice Department that she planned to execute a search warrant on CIA Executive Director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, a target of Lam's wide-ranging corruption investigation.

By that time, Lam's investigation had already led to the bribery conviction of then-U.S. Representative Duke Cunningham (R-Cal.), and was also in pursuit of Brent Wilkes, "a defense contractor who allegedly bribed Duke Cunningham and possibly other Republican congressmen."

According to Lam, when she was informed by Justice Department official Michael Elston that she was being canned, Elston remarked that orders for her dismissal came from “very highest levels of the government.” But if his recent testimony before Congress is to be believed, Attorney General Gonzalez knows nothing, nothing (update: Gonzalez suddenly remembered today that the Deputy AG, McNulty, who resigned yesterday, was solely responsible; anyone believe that?), and no emails were written by anyone in the Justice Department or the White House about firing Lam.

Corruption is not the "real problem," investigating it is.

Dolchstosslegende, new and improved

(Above: "Obviously, Iraq would be going well if not for those damn Democrats is Congress and their cutlery")

This cartoon is insidiously creepy, given the origins of the heinous "stab in the back" myth. Background here (in case you missed it in history class), and analysis on the American tradition of invoking the legend and its current use here.

And in case you think that cartoon above is just an aberration from some cartoonist, you have not been paying attention. This is just one tree in a vast forest of scapegoating that began almost as soon as the war did.

Brace yourselves, because it is only going to get louder and more obnoxious as the architects and cheerleaders for this disaster of a war ramp up the blame game.

"No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.” - K. Rove

(via Kleiman via Yglesias via Atrios).

Monday, May 14, 2007

Fred Thompson is a joke

The man the cable pundits want to be president called for Scooter Libby to be pardoned in the same speech in which he proudly praised the "rule of law." I assume Thompson knows what "rule of law" means, who Scooter Libby is, and what Libby was convicted of.

That being the case, I take it that Thompson is pro- covering up malfeasance and conspiracies at the highest levels of government to intentionally out a CIA operative working undercover on weapons of mass destruction proliferation, all so you can cover-up your weak case for the Iraq War and discredit a critic, and then lie about it when under oath.

Here is Valerie Plame herself:
"But all of my efforts on behalf of the national security of the United States, all of my training, all the value of my years of service, were abruptly ended when my name and identity were exposed irresponsibly."

Plame said she was "shocked by the evidence that emerged" in the Libby trial about the leaking of her identity.

"My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department," she testified. "All of them understood that I worked for the CIA. And, having signed oaths to protect national security secrets, they should have been diligent in protecting me and every CIA officer."

She said the harm done by blowing a CIA cover is "grave," but that she could not provide details in her case. In general, she said, such breaches have endangered CIA officers, destroyed networks of foreign agents and discouraged others from trusting the U.S. government to protect them.

"We in the CIA always know that we might be exposed and threatened by foreign enemies," Plame said. "It was a terrible irony that administration officials were the ones who destroyed my cover." She added that testimony in the Libby trial "indicates that my exposure arose from purely political motives."

As another blogger put it, Libby's "cover-up successfully prevented anyone from being prosecuted for outing Valerie Plame or lying about the Iraq War. Libby was the instrument used to perpetuate a cover-up about a cover-up and protect the President." Then again, maybe Libby is Thompson's kind of guy.

Explaining the U.S. Attorney Scandal

Here it is in a nutshell.

Detention Law

Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog has compiled a primer (part 1 and part 2) on the law affecting U.S. detainees in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, following the recent Supreme Court decisions and Congress enacting the Military Commissions Act.

Here is the intro:
No part of the Bush Administration's campaign against terrorism has drawn more sustained challenge -- legally, politically and diplomatically -- than its policy on handling of individuals who are captured and then held in detention for prolonged periods, usually outside the U.S. mainland. Four times, the Supreme Court has reviewed facets of this policy, leading to changes or to entirely new detainee review procedures in the military or in civilian courts. More recently, however, the Court or Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., acting alone, have refused to hear or have rejected new challenges by detainees' lawyers. As a result, the detainees' legal fate in coming months will rest largely (though not exclusively) in the hands of lower courts.

Outsourcing hits journalists

Long considered one of the un-outsource-able jobs, local journalists are the next to have their jobs shipped overseas, to be replaced by a reasonably-priced Indian facsimile (from CNN):
Outsourcing first claimed manufacturing jobs, then hit services such as technical support, airline reservations and tax preparation. Now comes the next frontier: local journalism.

James Macpherson, editor and publisher of the two-year-old Web site, acknowledged it sounds strange to have journalists in India cover news in this wealthy city just outside Los Angeles.

But he said it can be done from afar now that weekly Pasadena City Council meetings can be watched over the Internet. And he said the idea makes business sense because of India's lower labor costs.
And then they came for the lawyers. (Here is the New York City Bar Association's Ethics Opinion on the issue; here is San Diego's; here is LA)

Friday, May 11, 2007

General Petreus on Values, Torture and "Expedient" Means of Extracting Information

This was long overdue (via Balkinization):

Multi-National Force—Iraq
Baghdad, Iraq
APO AE 09342-1400

10 May 2007

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in Multi-National Force—Iraq:

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate attacks, for example, have finally started to turn a substantial portion of the Iraqi population against it.

In view of this, I was concerned by the results of a recently released survey conducted last fall in Iraq that revealed an apparent unwillingness on the part of some US personnel to report illegal actions taken by fellow members of their units. The study also indicated that a small percentage of those surveyed may have mistreated noncombatants. This survey should spur reflection on our conduct in combat.

I fully appreciate the emotions that one experiences in Iraq. I also know firsthand the bonds between members of the “brotherhood of the close fight.” Seeing a fellow trooper killed by a barbaric enemy can spark frustration, anger, and a desire for immediate revenge. As hard as it might be, however, we must not let these emotions lead us—or our comrades in arms—to commit hasty, illegal actions. In the event that we witness or hear of such actions, we must not let our bonds prevent us from speaking up.

Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone “talk”; however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.

We are, indeed, warriors. We train to kill our enemies. We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly, and we must be violent at times. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings. Stress caused by lengthy deployments and combat is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign that we are human. If you feel such stress, do not hesitate to talk to your chain of command, your chaplain, or a medical expert.

We should use the survey results to renew our commitment to the values and standards that make us who we are and to spur re-examination of these issues. Leaders, in particular, need to discuss these issues with their troopers—and, as always, they need to set the right example and strive to ensure proper conduct. We should never underestimate the importance of good leadership and the difference it can make.

Thanks for what you continue to do. It is an honor to serve with each of you.

David H. Petraeus
General, United States Army

The one about guests and old fish and their smell

When you are no longer welcome, it is time to leave.
On Tuesday, without note in the U.S. media, more than half of the members of Iraq's parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country. 144 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal.
Let's flashback to Bush in 2005, seeming to suggest that such a vote would compel him to withdraw our troops:
President Bush said in an interview on Thursday that he would withdraw American forces from Iraq if the new government that is elected on Sunday asked him to do so, but that he expected Iraq's first democratically elected leaders would want the troops to remain as helpers, not as occupiers.
Uh huh.

"I was saying boooo-urns"

Some people don't like bloggers. Others don't like know-it-all Beltway pundits who hold themselves up as the voice of the people and/or serious reporters (depending on the circumstance) but who constantly get everything wrong.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Parroting TPM on U.S. Attorneys

Josh Marshall at TPM: "Gonzales comes a tiny bit clean on the McKay firing and reveals that Iglesias was added to the firing list on election day 2006."

Also, Paul Kiel analyzes the new Murray Waas story at the National Journal, which reports that "[t]he Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove's, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas." Seems a "senior executive branch official" is spilling some beans.

What a way to start a blog post!

(above: Serpentor lords it over Cobra Commander)

With grab lines like this, how can you not like Sadly, No! ?:

I have a theory that the Republican Party is like Cobra Command, Karl Rove is Dr. Mindbender and George W. Bush is their Serpentor, created from the harvested political DNA of two wingnut saints: Barry Goldwater & Richard Nixon. And not just any DNA from these two hosts. No, that would be too easy. Instead, Dr. Mindbender has carefully harvested the worst of material from both sources.

"Spring of 2008" is also an F.U.

Well that was fast. "What I am trying to do is to get until April so we can decide whether to keep it going or not," says Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno.

So after the big to-do only days ago about September being the deadline for the surge to "work" (whatever that means), the newest Friedman Unit (F.U.) is scheduled to end next April, with a new F.U. lasting through November of 2008 still to be scheduled at that time.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Teaser from 9th U.S. Attorney

Todd Graves, the ninth recently-purged U.S. Attorney: "it is far better to take a graceful exit than to do something that you should be ashamed of."

Graves was replaced by GOP operative Bradley Schlozman. Schlozman's sordid story is explained by TPM here.

Democracy in Action: Restore the Right of Habeas Corpus

Democrats on the Armed Services Committee in the House are reportedly considering a provision to restore the full right of habeas corpus into the Defense Department Authorization Bill, which is being marked up today and tomorrow. Stoller reports that "[a]pparently Chairman Skelton has the votes but there are concerns about whether to have this fight now."

Habeas corpus is a foundational right that protects all other rights you have; the right of a prisoner to petition a court for redress is the very essence of Liberty. Without a remedy, a right does not exist. Without the ability to appeal your case to a court, there is no way to ensure any of the basic necessities of due process, other than trust that your captors choose to honor them. You cannot prove that you are innocent, demand access to a lawyer, confront your accuser, review the evidence against you, or protest the conditions of your incarceration--even torture.

[Update: Glenn Greenwald has more valuable background on the issue, including the Democrats' shameful behavior in failing to fully oppose the Military Commissions Act when it was passed]

Here is the contact info for key representatives compiled by Matt Stoller at MyDD:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (202) 225-4965
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, (202) 225-4131

Armed Services Committee Democrats
Ike Skelton, Missouri, Chairman, 202-225-2876
John Spratt, South Carolina, 202-225-5501
Solomon P. Ortiz, Texas, (202) 225-7742
Gene Taylor, Mississippi, 202 225-5772
Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii, (202) 225-2726
Marty Meehan, Massachusetts, (202) 225-3411
Silvestre Reyes, Texas, (202) 225-4831
Vic Snyder, Arkansas, 202-225-2506
Adam Smith, Washington, (202) 225-8901
Loretta Sanchez, California, 202-225-5859
Mike McIntyre, North Carolina, (202) 225-2731
Ellen O. Tauscher, California, (202) 225-1880
Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4731
Robert Andrews, New Jersey, 202-225-6501
Susan A. Davis, California, (202) 225-2040
Rick Larsen, Washington, (202) 225-2605
Jim Cooper, Tennessee, 202-225-4311
Jim Marshall, Georgia, 202-225-4311
Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam, (202) 225-1188
Mark Udall, Colorado, (202) 225-2161
Dan Boren, Oklahoma, (202) 225-2701
Brad Ellsworth, Indiana, (202) 225-4636
Nancy Boyda, Kansas, (202) 225-6601
Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4276
Hank Johnson, Georgia, (202) 225-1605
Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire,(202) 225-5456
Joe Courtney, Connecticut, (202) 225-2076
David Loebsack, Iowa, 202.225.6576
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York, (202) 225-5614
Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-2011
Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona, (202) 225-2542
Elijah Cummings, Maryland, (202) 225-4741
Kendrick Meek, Florida, 202-225-4506
Kathy Castor, Florida, (202)225-3376

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The FDA and Food Inspection

LitBrit has been writing a series of compelling posts about food adulteration and inspection issues. Take a look.

Journalists are not a royal class in America

Will Bunch has an interesting post at Attytood about journalists' increasingly-uncomfortable comfort with the people they are supposed to be covering.

Conveniencing the terrorists, or, if we sacrifice one virgin, surely the gods won't destroy the whole village, right?

DICK MORRIS ON FOX: I think that withdrawal from Iraq — it obviously gives al Qaeda a huge victory. Huge victory. On the other hand, if we stay in Iraq, it gives them the opportunity to kill more Americans, which they really like.

One of the things, though, that I think the antiwar crowd has not considered is that, if we’re putting the Americans right within their arms’ reach, they don’t have to come to Wall Street to kill Americans. They don’t have to knock down the trade center. They can do it around the corner, and convenience is a big factor when you’re a terrorist.
Ah, the soldier as shiny bait strategy, aka the soldier as sacrificial lamb strategy. Of course, President Bush's "fight them there so we don't have to fight them here" is the same exact either-or fallacy that Morris is falling into (i.e. obviously the terrorists could do both), but Morris is making the faulty reasoning explicit.

And it is disgusting. I think we can support the troops a bit better than this.

September is just another F.U.

So in the last week, Bush vetoed Congress's bill to get us out of Iraq, the LA Times did a complete 180 on the war, and the Washington Post, for some reason, seems to think that September is now the "key deadline" in the war.

Where has the Post been? Bush will not be leaving Iraq during his presidency. He has made that as clear as he possibly could. See: "We're not leaving, so long as I'm the President."

September is just another Friedman Unit (F.U.), the most recent in a long series of incorrectly-predicted corner turnings, critical periods, last chances, and false deadlines.

As Atrios put it: "the real issue isn't about prognostication, but about the perpetual punting of The Iraq Question to a future date. It allows the pundit, or politician, to seem Real Concerned About The War without actually bothering to take it seriously."


In the meantime, the war continues to destroy lives and families both here and in Iraq. Riverbend, the Iraqi blogger who has been pouring out her heart onto the internet since the invasion in 2003, is now leaving Iraq with her family. We wish her the best of luck in these unimaginable circumstances, and hope that she can return to her home soon.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cheney Behind Niger Forgeries?

Is this a step towards resolving one of the Blog Brief's biggest obsessions?

On Tucker Carlson's show last night, CIA analyist Ray McGovern pretty much accused Vice President Cheney of being the man behind what is perhaps the greatest unsolved crime of recent memory: the forgery of the documents about yellowcake uranium from Africa that provided a pretext for the Iraq War.

I am unclear about whether his alleged evidence has been presented to Congress yet.

Read more about the forgeries from Eriposte at the Left Coaster, here.

Uh oh

Drip, drip, drip.

So it turns out that I Don't Recall Gonzalez secretly delegated authority to his liason to the White House to "take final action" regarding all of the Justice Department's political appointees. What is more, he neglected to inform Congress of this secret order during its investigation:
"It was an attempt to make the department more responsive to the political side of the White House and to do it in such a way that people would not know it was going on."

. . .

Referring to the firings of the U.S. attorneys and the broader plan targeting other Justice employees, the senior official said, "You cannot separate one from the other. They were one and part of the same plan by the White House."

The official added, "The president of the United States has said it was imperative for the attorney general, and the attorney general alone, to re-establish trust with the Congress to keep his job … and you have, even after the president has said that, the attorney general and his men stiffing Congress."
As Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) puts it: "If the top folks at DOJ weren't the key decision-makers, it's less likely that lower-down people at DOJ were, and much more likely that people in the White House were making the major decisions."

Why again should we believe that these firings were not designed to stifle corruption investigations involving GOP politicians, or to punish prosecutors who did not initiate enough frivolous investigations into Democrats?

Surely there is a paper trail of emails documenting that everything was on the up-and-up, right? Oh wait.

". . . with a swagger that seemed to suggest he had seen Top Gun"

Gross. Remember this crap?:
The president there -- look at this guy! We're watching him. He looks like he flew the plane. He only flew it as a passenger, but he's flown

. . .

He looks for real. What is it about the commander in chief role, the hat that he does wear, that makes him -- I mean, he seems like -- he didn't fight in a war, but he looks like he does.

. . .

Look at this guy!

. . .

We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits. We don't want an indoor prime minister type, or the Danes or the Dutch or the Italians, or a Putin. Can you imagine Putin getting elected here? We want a guy as president.
Four years later, I think we can safely conclude that this "analysis" definitely did not stand the test of time. And keep in mind that this was the supposedly liberal Chris Matthews; others were much much worse.

Four years later, even National Review founder William F. Buckley (think about that for a minute) is calling Bush's problems "grave, possibly beyond the point of rescue," and doubts "whether the Republican party will survive this [Iraq] dilemma."


Jim Henley, who is always worth reading, explains why it is well-past time to leave Iraq:
So, back to the mythical Pottery Barn a minute. The real one does not, in fact, charge you for something you break. But if you fumble around trying to put the mess back, and stumbing into étagères and toppling over shelves, with each new crash inspiring you to say, Clouseau-like, “Nono! I’ll fix it!” until the store comes to resemble the sifting tray at an archaeological dig, sooner rather than later the staff will cry, “Please sir, just go!”
More analysis on how to get out from Cernig, here.