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« Liberal Outrage: October 2007 | Main | Liberal Outrage: December 2007 »

Liberal Outrage

Hey, a deal is a deal

Supporting the troops:

The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.

Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.


By fnord12 | November 21, 2007, 8:59 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



Miss the Daily Show?

Here's a video of their writers on strike.


By fnord12 | November 20, 2007, 12:56 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Alright, who infiltrated the New York Times?

Wow, suddenly the NYT is awake and criticizing the Democrats from the left:

The Democrats, however, also deserve a large measure of blame. They did almost nothing while they were in the minority to demand better nominees than Mr. Bush was sending up. And now that they have attained the majority, they are not doing any better.

On Thursday, the Senate voted by 53 to 40 to confirm Mr. Mukasey even though he would not answer a simple question: does he think waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning used to extract information from a prisoner, is torture and therefore illegal?

Democrats offer excuses for their sorry record, starting with their razor-thin majority. But it is often said that any vote in the Senate requires more than 60 votes - enough to overcome a filibuster. So why did Mr. Mukasey get by with only 53 votes? Given the success the Republicans have had in blocking action when the Democrats cannot muster 60 votes, the main culprit appears to be the Democratic leadership, which seems uninterested in or incapable of standing up to Mr. Bush.

Senator Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat who turned the tide for this nomination, said that if the Senate did not approve Mr. Mukasey, the president would get by with an interim appointment who would be under the sway of "the extreme ideology of Vice President Dick Cheney." He argued that Mr. Mukasey could be counted on to reverse the politicization of the Justice Department that occurred under Alberto Gonzales, and that Mr. Mukasey's reticence about calling waterboarding illegal might well become moot, because the Senate was considering a law making clear that it is illegal.

That is precisely the sort of cozy rationalization that Mr. Schumer and his colleagues have used so many times to back down from a confrontation with Mr. Bush. The truth is, Mr. Mukasey is already in the grip of that "extreme ideology." If he were not, he could have answered the question about waterboarding.

Mr. Bush said Mr. Mukasey could not do so because it would reveal classified information about Central Intelligence Agency interrogation techniques. That is nonsense. Mr. Mukasey was not asked if C.I.A. jailers have used waterboarding on prisoners, something he could be expected to know nothing about. He was simply asked if, as a general matter, waterboarding is illegal.

It was not a difficult question. Waterboarding is specifically banned by the Army Field Manual, and it is plainly illegal under the federal Anti-Torture Act, federal assault statutes, the Detainee Treatment Act, the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. It is hard to see how any nominee worthy of the position of attorney general could fail to answer "yes."

And Frank Rich, a columnist at NYT that i normally don't think much of, also weighs in in a very radical way:

But there's another moral to draw from the Musharraf story, and it has to do with domestic policy, not foreign. The Pakistan mess, as The New York Times editorial page aptly named it, is not just another blot on our image abroad and another instance of our mismanagement of the war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It also casts a harsh light on the mess we have at home in America, a stain that will not be so easily eradicated.

In the six years of compromising our principles since 9/11, our democracy has so steadily been defined down that it now can resemble the supposedly aspiring democracies we've propped up in places like Islamabad. Time has taken its toll. We've become inured to democracy-lite. That's why a Mukasey can be elevated to power with bipartisan support and we barely shrug.

This is a signal difference from the Vietnam era, and not necessarily for the better. During that unpopular war, disaffected Americans took to the streets and sometimes broke laws in an angry assault on American governmental institutions. The Bush years have brought an even more effective assault on those institutions from within. While the public has not erupted in riots, the executive branch has subverted the rule of law in often secretive increments. The results amount to a quiet coup, ultimately more insidious than a blatant putsch like General Musharraf's.

More Machiavellian still, Mr. Bush has constantly told the world he's championing democracy even as he strangles it. Mr. Bush repeated the word "freedom" 27 times in roughly 20 minutes at his 2005 inauguration, and even presided over a "Celebration of Freedom" concert on the Ellipse hosted by Ryan Seacrest. It was an Orwellian exercise in branding, nothing more. The sole point was to give cover to our habitual practice of cozying up to despots (especially those who control the oil spigots) and to our own government's embrace of warrantless wiretapping and torture, among other policies that invert our values.

Even if Mr. Bush had the guts to condemn General Musharraf, there is no longer any moral high ground left for him to stand on. Quite the contrary. Rather than set a democratic example, our president has instead served as a model of unconstitutional behavior, eagerly emulated by his Pakistani acolyte.

Take the Musharraf assault on human-rights lawyers. Our president would not be so unsubtle as to jail them en masse. But earlier this year a senior Pentagon official, since departed, threatened America's major white-shoe law firms by implying that corporate clients should fire any firm whose partners volunteer to defend detainees in Guantanamo and elsewhere. For its part, Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department did not round up independent-minded United States attorneys and toss them in prison. It merely purged them without cause to serve Karl Rove's political agenda.

Tipping his hat in appreciation of Mr. Bush's example, General Musharraf justified his dismantling of Pakistan's Supreme Court with language mimicking the president's diatribes against activist judges. The Pakistani leader further echoed Mr. Bush by expressing a kinship with Abraham Lincoln, citing Lincoln's Civil War suspension of a prisoner's fundamental legal right to a hearing in court, habeas corpus, as a precedent for his own excesses. (That's like praising F.D.R. for setting up internment camps.) Actually, the Bush administration has outdone both Lincoln and Musharraf on this score: Last January, Mr. Gonzales testified before Congress that "there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution."

To believe that this corruption will simply evaporate when the Bush presidency is done is to underestimate the permanent erosion inflicted over the past six years. What was once shocking and unacceptable in America has now been internalized as the new normal.

This is most apparent in the Republican presidential race, where most of the candidates seem to be running for dictator and make no apologies for it. They're falling over each other to expand Gitmo, see who can promise the most torture and abridge the largest number of constitutional rights. The front-runner, Rudy Giuliani, boasts a proven record in extralegal executive power grabs, Musharraf-style: After 9/11 he tried to mount a coup, floating the idea that he stay on as mayor in defiance of New York's term-limits law.

What makes the Democrats' Mukasey cave-in so depressing is that it shows how far even exemplary sticklers for the law like Senators Feinstein and Schumer have lowered democracy's bar. When they argued that Mr. Mukasey should be confirmed because he's not as horrifying as Mr. Gonzales or as the acting attorney general who might get the job otherwise, they sounded whipped. After all these years of Bush-Cheney torture, they'll say things they know are false just to move on.

In a Times OpEd article justifying his reluctant vote to confirm a man Dick Cheney promised would make "an outstanding attorney general," Mr. Schumer observed that waterboarding is already "illegal under current laws and conventions." But then he vowed to support a new bill "explicitly" making waterboarding illegal because Mr. Mukasey pledged to enforce it. Whatever. Even if Congress were to pass such legislation, Mr. Bush would veto it, and even if the veto were by some miracle overturned, Mr. Bush would void the law with a "signing statement." That's what he effectively did in 2005 when he signed a bill that its authors thought outlawed the torture of detainees.

That Mr. Schumer is willing to employ blatant Catch-22 illogic to pretend that Mr. Mukasey's pledge on waterboarding has any force shows what pathetic crumbs the Democrats will settle for after all these years of being beaten down. The judges and lawyers challenging General Musharraf have more fight left in them than this.

Last weekend a new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that the Democratic-controlled Congress and Mr. Bush are both roundly despised throughout the land, and that only 24 percent of Americans believe their country is on the right track. That's almost as low as the United States' rock-bottom approval ratings in the latest Pew surveys of Pakistan (15 percent) and Turkey (9 percent).

Wrong track is a euphemism. We are a people in clinical depression. Americans know that the ideals that once set our nation apart from the world have been vandalized, and no matter which party they belong to, they do not see a restoration anytime soon.

Meanwhile, after NTY editorialist David Brooks tried to whitewash Reagan's racism, both the always awesome Paul Krugman and the sometimes-pretty-good Bob Herbert gave him a smackdown. Both are also NYT editorialists.

It's like someone took over the paper. How long will it last?


By fnord12 | November 13, 2007, 2:03 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



51 is 51 again

The shoe is on the other foot, so 60 votes aren't needed this time.

Glenn Greenwald:

Every time Congressional Democrats failed this year to stop the Bush administration (i.e., every time they "tried"), the excuse they gave was that they "need 60 votes in the Senate" in order to get anything done. Each time Senate Republicans blocked Democratic legislation, the media helpfully explained not that Republicans were obstructing via filibuster, but rather that, in the Senate, there is a general "60-vote requirement" for everything.

How, then, can this be explained?

The Senate confirmed Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general Thursday night, approving him despite Democratic criticism that he had failed to take an unequivocal stance against the torture of terrorism detainees.

The 53-to-40 vote made Mr. Mukasey, a former federal judge, the third person to head the Justice Department during the tenure of President Bush . . . Thirty-nine Democrats and one independent [Bernie Sanders] opposed him.

Beyond that, four Senate Democrats running for President missed the vote, and all four had announced they oppose Mukasey's confirmation. Thus, at least 44 Senators claimed to oppose Mukasey's confirmation -- more than enough to prevent it via filibuster. So why didn't they filibuster, the way Senate Republicans have on virtually every measure this year which they wanted to defeat?

Numerous Senate Democrats delivered dramatic speeches from the floor as to why Mukasey's confirmation would be so devastating to the country. The Washington Post said the "vote came after more than four hours of impassioned floor debate."

"Torture should not be what America stands for . . . I do not vote to allow torture," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy. Russ Feingold said: "we need an attorney general who will tell the president that he cannot ignore the laws passed by Congress. And on that fundamental qualification for this office Judge Mukasey falls short." Feingold added: "If Judge Mukasey won't say the simple truth -- that this barbaric practice is torture -- how can we count on him to stand up to the White House on other issues?"

Wow -- it sounds as though there was really a lot at stake in this vote. So why would 44 Democratic Senators make a flamboyant showing of opposing confirmation without actually doing what they could to prevent it? Is it that a filibuster was not possible because a large number of these Democratic Senators were willing to symbolically oppose confirmation so they could say they did -- by casting meaningless votes in opposition knowing that confirmation was guaranteed -- but were unwilling to demonstrate the sincerity of their claimed beliefs by acting on them?


By fnord12 | November 12, 2007, 12:42 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November

One day late.

Following a link from Digby, i was brought to this article by Harper's Magazine's Scott Horton about celebrating Counterterrorism Day.

On November 5, Britain remembers Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. Fawkes, an ensign, had taken the lead in a 1605 plot to blow up the houses of Parliament at Westminster as part of a Catholic effort to bring down the Protestant monarchy in England. He was apprehended--allegedly in the act itself--taken to the Tower, and subjected to torture. For centuries, Guy Fawkes Day marked the event. Englishmen were taught of the need to be vigilant in the defense of the realm, and particularly to remember the threat from within, from the disloyal Catholics. But mostly they enjoyed the privilege of lighting bonfires and engaging in pranks on a chilly autumn evening.

But today Britons have a take on Guy Fawkes that is much at odds with the historical one. Once Fawkes was a symbol of the traitor within. The people were called to be on guard against his like. No longer. Today Guy Fawkes is increasingly viewed as the heroic figure prepared to stand against an unjust and oppressive state, as a martyr and a victim of torture. What are the lessons of Guy Fawkes Day for 2007? I propose three:

...


  1. Torture Never Works and is Always Wrong

  2. Beware the Government that Rules By Fear

  3. A Government That Stereotypes Is Unjust



Go to the article itself for the specifics.

I fear that Americans won't learn these lessons until they or their friends or their family get accused by this government of being a Guy Fawkes and by then it will be much too late.


By min | November 6, 2007, 12:20 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



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