The land of the what? The home of the who?


Is this really what we’ve become? Glenn Greenwald explains:

Decadent governments often spawn a decadent citizenry. A 22-year-old Nebraska resident was arrested yesterday for waterboarding his girlfriend as she was tied to a couch, because he wanted to know if she was cheating on him with another man; I wonder where he learned that? There are less dramatic though no less nauseating examples of this dynamic. In The Chicago Tribune today, there is an Op-Ed from Jonah Goldberg — the supreme, living embodiment of a cowardly war cheerleader — headlined: “Why is Assange still alive?” It begins this way:

    I’d like to ask a simple question: Why isn’t Julian Assange dead? . . . WikiLeaks is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb. . . .

    So again, I ask: Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?

    It’s a serious question.

He ultimately concludes that “it wouldn’t do any good to kill him, given the nature of the Web” — whatever that means — and reluctantly acknowledges: “That’s fine. And it’s the law. I don’t expect the U.S. government to kill Assange, but I do expect them to try to stop him.” What he wants the Government to do to “stop” Assange is left unsaid — tough-guy neocons love to beat their chest and demand action without having the courage to specify what they mean — but his question (“Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?”) was published in multiple newspapers around the country today.

Christian Whiton, a former Bush State Department official, wasn’t as restrained in his Fox News column last week, writing:

    Rather, this [the WikiLeaks disclosure] is an act of political warfare against the United States. . . . .Here are some of the things the U.S. could do: . . .Explore opportunities for the president to designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them.

I emailed Whiton and told him I’d like to do a podcast interview with him for Salon about his WikiLeaks proposal and he replied: “Thank you for the invitation, but I am starting a trip tomorrow and will be on a plane just about all day.” I replied that it didn’t have to be the next day — I’d be happy to do it any day that was convenient for him — and he then stopped answering ….

It was only Tuesday that various guests, including former NSC Director for Defense Strategy Kori Schake and former Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, explained on KCRW’s To the Point that there wasn’t anything particularly significant about the latest WikiLeaks release, save for its volume. Still, though, we see journalists like Goldberg, or former Bush administration officials, suggesting severe actions against WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

Are we really—really—so frightened by information? Would we support other nations that attempt to suppress public information about what the governments are doing? Would we not protest suggestions that whistleblowers should be assassinated or imprisoned as enemy combatants?

What ever happened to “the land of the free and the home of the brave”? How is it that “transparency” has become a political buzzword in the United States? More than bombs and bullets, it seems information brings night terrors to some, who feel that truth is anathema, and those who seek it ought to be punished harshly.

People don’t want transparency. They want someone to blame, to hate, to condemn. This is a fairly common psychological phenomenon; as people feel more and more alienated by the world around them, they seek some means of exercising a degree of authority. To blame and condemn satiates the hunger for a time, but that satisfaction is fleeting. For the Goldbergs, Whitons, and other warmongers of our age, the missions abroad have been disastrous blows against their identity politics. To admit and accept that the Iraqi Bush Adventure should never have happened, and the mission in Afghanistan was played to lose from the outset, is too great a burden for their identity complexes, so they must find someone or something to blame for every appearance of failure and injustice; the something is truth, and the someone is whoever brings it.

This is what we’ve come to. This is what we want. What I can’t figure, though, is why.

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An amusing “conspiracy” theory


While I may not agree with every detail of her construction, Tina Dupuy offers up a long-overdue theory to the political arena:

It seems everybody gets their own pet conspiracy these days: Birthers, Birchers, Deathers, Truthers and whatever you call the people who won’t get their kids inoculated. According to the theories, nothing is as it seems and everyone is in on it. Following this reasonable assumption, I’ve come up with my own. Here it is: former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin are all Democratic plants.

The rest of the article pretty much spells out the theory, and as conspiracy theories go, it’s probably less crazy than Truther conspiracies, and clearly less insane than Birthers. Continue reading

Calling BS on BS


Glenn Greenwald has a few things to say about the euphemization of torture:

In today’s New York Times, William Glaberson describes a proposal being circulated by the Obama administration to enable Guantanamo detainees to be put to death upon a mere guilty plea, i.e., without the need for a full-blown trial. The article describes the purpose of the proposal this way:

    The proposal would ease what has come to be recognized as the government’s difficult task of prosecuting men who have confessed to terrorism but whose cases present challenges. Much of the evidence against the men accused in the Sept. 11 case, as well as against other detainees, is believed to have come from confessions they gave during intense interrogations at secret C.I.A. prisons. In any proceeding, the reliability of those statements would be challenged, making trials difficult and drawing new political pressure over detainee treatment.

The primary reason to avoid trials upon a guilty plea is to prevent public disclosure of the details of the torture we inflicted on these detainees. Despite that, the word “torture” never once appears in this NYT article. Instead, according to the NYT, detainees in CIA black sites were merely subjected to “intense interrogations.” That’s all? Who opposes “intense interrogations”?

Over the years, we’ve heard a cyclical crescendo rising from the constant murmur about the “liberal media”, implying and sometimes explicitly accusing a conspiracy among journalists to wreck the Republican Party and the right wing of American politics.

Yet over and over, in an effort to be “neutral”, major media outlets, including newspapers of record, have given over not to political correctness, but what is described as “Bureaucratically Suitable” language. BS language is much like its cousin, PC, except that it is tailored to institutional and legalistic desires.

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Milk and cookies on Election Day


I’m not making any predictions about what happens tomorrow. It’s part superstition, part cynicism, and part that I just don’t want to set myself up for a broken heart.

Nonetheless, others are more … um … I don’t know … bold? … than I. Glenn Grenwald, for instance:

My predictions/views of tomorrow:

Popular vote: Obama – 51.6%; McCain – 47.1%; Nader/Barr/others: 1.3%

Electoral votes: Obama – 321-217 (Kerry states + CO, NM, IA, VA, NC, OH)

States I’m mostly likely to be wrong about: (1) FL; (2) NC; (3) OH; (4) MT; (5) MO

Senate: Dems – 59; GOP – 41 (including Lieberman and Sanders as Dems)

Senate Dem. pick-ups: VA, CO, NM, AK, NC, OR, NH, GA

States I’m mostly likely to be wrong about: (1) GA; (2) MN; (3) KY

House Dem. pick-up: +31

Incumbent losses that would produce the greatest pleasure (among those with a reasonable prospect to lose): (1) Saxby Chambliss; (2) Michelle Bachmann; (3) Marilyn Musgrave; (4) Robin Hayes; (5) Elizabeth Dole; (6) Dave Reichert

Democrats whose defeat would prompt indifference (or even joy): (1) Chris Carney; (2) Tim Mahoney; (3) Nick Lampson; (4) Jim Marshall; (5) Jack Murtha.

Five terms I hope never to hear again for the rest of my existence: (1) Joe the Plumber; (2) Hockey Mom; (3) game-changer; (4) tightening; (5) Sarahcuda.

Three dumbest pieces of already-solidified conventional wisdom among the Right and the media (if Obama wins): (1) The Liberal Media was unfair to McCain; (2) Obama better resist his “liberal impulses” and govern from the center unless he wants to spawn disaster; (3) The Pelosi/Reid Congress is going to pressure Obama to move to the Left.

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Obama and expectation


Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman brings us, with his latest column, an assessment of Senator Barack Obama, considering the Democratic presidential candidate in the context of two other elections, those of 1980 and 1992:

It’s feeling a lot like 1992 right now. It’s also feeling a lot like 1980. But which parallel is closer? Is Barack Obama going to be a Ronald Reagan of the left, a president who fundamentally changes the country’s direction? Or will he be just another Bill Clinton? ….

…. Reagan, for better or worse — I’d say for worse, but that’s another discussion — brought a lot of change. He ran as an unabashed conservative, with a clear ideological agenda. And he had enormous success in getting that agenda implemented. He had his failures, most notably on Social Security, which he tried to dismantle but ended up strengthening. But America at the end of the Reagan years was not the same country it was when he took office.

Bill Clinton also ran as a candidate of change, but it was much less clear what kind of change he was offering. He portrayed himself as someone who transcended the traditional liberal-conservative divide, proposing “a government that offers more empowerment and less entitlement.” The economic plan he announced during the campaign was something of a hodgepodge: higher taxes on the rich, lower taxes for the middle class, public investment in things like high-speed rail, health care reform without specifics.

We all know what happened next. The Clinton administration achieved a number of significant successes, from the revitalization of veterans’ health care and federal emergency management to the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and health insurance for children. But the big picture is summed up by the title of a new book by the historian Sean Wilentz: “The Age of Reagan: A history, 1974-2008.”

While there are also fundamental differences in the context of the circumstances under which the Reagan and Clinton presidencies occurred, Krugman—who during the primary often criticized Obama—is not without a valid point. Having achieved the nomination, Obama has followed a trend disturbing to American liberals, one that suggests a transformation of the candidate into a different kind of political creature. His withdrawal from public financing, while understandable in a political context, is disappointing, to say the least, for liberals hopeful of a president of principles. And his support of the recent FISA “compromise” ranges into the realm of the frustrating.
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Empowering the monkey-man


We know that the American political arena is a difficult one. And while shutting off microphones in an attempt to silence opposition is not a tactic confined merely to the FOX News crowd, what is the Beltway equivalent of covering one’s ears, shutting the eyes tightly, and singing “La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la Mary had a little lamb little lamb little lamb!”

Welcome to the Bush White House. (What? Like you didn’t see that one coming?)

The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.

This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant.

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