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Liberal Outrage

I think you have it backwards

I don't normally comment on the likes of Bill O'Reilly but we seem to be getting into weird territory with the tragic murder of the two New York police officers this past weekend. Based on that, O'Reilly is calling for Mayor de Blasio to resign, saying, "He cannot run this city. He's lost control of the police department and their respect." It doesn't work that way, dude. The police work for de Blasio, not the other way around. They don't get to veto the people of New York's election of him. The actions of the police in response to de Blasio - the statements from the police union spokespeople, the cops that turned their backs on the mayor when he gave his speech (condemning the killings) - seem to amount to insurrection.

Charlie Pierce has a lot to say about this, including, "This is an incredibly perilous time for democracy at the most basic levels."

By fnord12 | December 23, 2014, 8:09 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link


Even if nothing comes of it, it's a pretty big deal for the New York Times editorial board to come out advocating for an investigation leading to prosecution of torturers, including Dick Cheney.

By fnord12 | December 22, 2014, 2:25 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

I think someone misheard

The news is that Obama is trying to normalize relations with Cuba, not that we're going to make them an unofficial colony again:

When the Castro regime assumed power in Cuba in 1959, it quickly nationalized the assets of almost every foreign corporation within its borders as the country transitioned to communism. For half a century now, American companies have laid claim to billions of dollars in lost assets on the Caribbean island 90 miles from U.S. shores. Under American law, the claims have been steadily accruing interest, but the companies have never seen a penny.


"You can safely assume a large flare went up yesterday," Robert Muse, a Washington, D.C., attorney who specializes in Cuban issues, including corporate claims, told TPM last week the day after Obama's White House announcement. "They're right now sending memos down the line: 'What about our claim?'"

Go find Fulgencio Batista; he's got your claims.

By fnord12 | December 22, 2014, 9:31 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Your Friday morning torture digest

Both are from Jane Mayer at the New Yorker. Here's the first:

[An unnamed high level CIA operative and the same woman who failed to pass on the pre-9/11 info on the hijackers to the FBI] personally partook in the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, at a black site in Poland. According to the Senate report, she sent a bubbly cable back to C.I.A. headquarters in 2003, anticipating the pain they planned to inflict on K.S.M. in an attempt to get him to confirm a report from another detainee, about a plot to use African-American Muslims training in Afghanistan for future terrorist attacks. "i love the Black American Muslim at AQ camps in Afghanuistan (sic). ... Mukie (K.S.M.) is going to be hatin' life on this one," she wrote, according to the report. But, as NBC notes, she misconstrued the intelligence gathered from the other detainee. Somehow, the C.I.A. mistakenly believed that African-American Muslim terrorists were already in the United States. The intelligence officials evidently pressed K.S.M. so hard to confirm this, under such physical duress, that he eventually did, even though it was false--leading U.S. officials on a wild-goose chase for black Muslim Al Qaeda operatives in Montana.

From the NBC article that Mayer is summarizing:

After being repeatedly "walled" -- slammed into a wall -- and then waterboarded, Mohammed told his interrogators that he had, in fact, sought to recruit American Muslims living in Montana to launch the attacks. But he recanted several months later, saying he was "under 'enhanced' measures" at the time and had simply told his captors what they wanted to hear, the report said.

Torture works! It makes people tell us whatever we want!

Here's the second from Mayer, showing the probability that little will come of the revelations in the torture report:

The 1975 Church Committee report, which was conducted following revelations of, among other things, covert operations to assassinate foreign leaders, was, until now, the best-known public airing of C.I.A. practices... its findings were broadly accepted across the political spectrum. ...By contrast, the new report, even before it was released, came under attack from Republicans, including Dick Cheney, who, although he hadn't read it, called it "full of crap." Senator Mitch McConnell, the incoming majority leader, castigated it as "ideologically motivated and distorted." John Cornyn, the second-highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, argued that C.I.A. officers should not be criticized but, rather, "thanked."

There was a way to address the matter that might have avoided much of the partisan trivialization. In a White House meeting in early 2009, Greg Craig, President Obama's White House Counsel, recommended the formation of an independent commission. Nearly every adviser in the room endorsed the idea, including such national-security hawks as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and the President's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director at the time, also supported it. Obama, however, said that he didn't want to seem to be taking punitive measures against his predecessor, apparently because he still hoped to reach bipartisan agreement on issues such as closing Guantanamo.

I don't know that an independent commission would have made any difference to Republican flaks, but it's amazing how you can take pretty much any issue and write "Obama would have done something stronger but he held back hoping for bipartisan agreement".

By fnord12 | December 19, 2014, 9:11 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

Raising the overtime threshhold

Apparently President Obama can raise the overtime threshold to adjust for inflation and basically either give millions of workers a raise or at least relieve them from working overtime and force companies to hire more workers to make up the difference. Either way it would probably be the most economically revolutionary thing that happened in this country since the New Deal even though it's really just keeping up with inflation. I imagine it could be phased in over several years so companies aren't suddenly hit with new expenses all at once (although they obviously haven't minded getting free overtime from workers for decades).

Will he do it? Probably not, but he definitely seems to be looking for Executive branch-only things to do now that he's (finally) accepted that Congress is totally gridlocked. And this would be a good issue to ask potential Democratic presidential primary challengers about, if there were any.

By fnord12 | December 18, 2014, 1:33 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Normalizing relations with Cuba

Long overdue, but good news.

By fnord12 | December 17, 2014, 10:13 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (4)| Link

How about we don't live in a police state?

Head of the Cleveland Police Patrolman Union:

Eventually, Follmer dismissed Melber's questions about excessive force and wrapped up the debate with an message to Americans.

"How about this: Listen to police officers' commands. Listen to what we tell you, and just stop," he said. "I think that eliminates a lot of problems."

"I think the nation needs to realize that when we tell you to do something, do it," he added.

This guy gets a paycheck to talk to the public and he sounds like the worst parody of a fascist.

By fnord12 | December 16, 2014, 6:36 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The answer to my question is probably "Both".

This may be some obscure procedural thing. But a bunch of blogs are happily recounting the fact that, in trying to throw a monkey wrench into the "CRomnibus" spending bill that passed over the weekend, Ted Cruz inadvertently made it possible for the Senate to confirm a number of Obama appointments that otherwise wouldn't have been approved in the 2015 senate.

As i understand it, Cruz introduced a motion that delayed the CRomnibus vote, Senator Reid decided that since they were stuck there they might as well vote on the appointees. And it's presented on the blogs as LOL CRUZ! But what i don't understand is why Reid wouldn't have kept the Senators there to do that anyway? Again, it may be some obscure procedural thing, but it seems like the Senators would have preferred to duck out early for the holidays than vote on the appointees, but since they didn't have a choice they might as well do some work.

I guess ultimately my question is: Are the Senators lazy, or is the Senate just a morass of arcane bureaucratic rules designed to make sure nothing ever gets done?

Finally, since i keep having to type "CRomnibus", here's Conan.

By CRomnibus!

By fnord12 | December 15, 2014, 2:51 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link


Dick Cheney:

Host Chuck Todd asked Cheney to respond to the Senate Intelligence Committee report's account that one detainee was "chained to the wall of a cell, doused with water, froze to death in CIA custody."

"And it turned out it was a case of mistaken identity," Todd said.

"Right," Cheney responded. "But the problem I have was with all of the folks that we did release that end up back on the battlefield."

"I'm more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that in fact were innocent," he continued.

Todd pressed Cheney, asking if he was okay with the fact that about 25 percent of the detainees interrogated were actually innocent.

"I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States," Cheney responded.

Antonin Scalia:

We have laws against torture. The Constitution itself says nothing about torture. The Constitution speaks of punishment. If you condemn someone who has committed a crime to torture, that would be unconstitutional. [fnord's emphasis]

That is the most weasel-lawyer reasoning i have ever seen. To use it in defense of torture is disgusting, and it also shows the hypocrisy of Scalia's supposed originalist philosophy, as if early Americans were ok with British soldiers torturing them as long as it wasn't because they were being punished for something.

Our final monsters for this post are the authors of the CIA's response in the Wall Street Journal to the release of the Senate's torture report, including George Tenant and Michael Haydeen. Senator Wyden has rebutted their rebuttal with annotated detail, showing that their WSJ response was basically a bunch of lies.

I can't believe we're even "debating" torture, and it's disheartening that there can be no consequence of this "debate" (i.e., there's no way anyone will be prosecuted). But at the same time it's remarkable how easy it is to be against torture. In addition to it being morally wrong, which should be enough, it's been proven that the torture we engaged in was completely ineffective, and harmful to the country in other ways. So there's not even an idealism vs. pragmatism argument to be made.

And if the torturers had any dignity or courage of their convictions, they wouldn't have been hiding and lying about it and taking a scattershot defense of "it isn't torture but if it was torture we needed to do it to save American lives plus we were scared don't you remember 9/11?". They would have done what they felt had to do and then come to the American people and said look, we did what we had to do even though it was illegal and now we're willing to go to jail for it. I could have at least respected that.

By fnord12 | December 15, 2014, 2:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Can we stop please?

The latest in our bizarre and clumsy attempts to overthrow the Cuban government isn't quite as stupid as the fake Twitter program, but it was equally ineffective, put innocent people in danger, and:

Instead of sparking a democratic revolution, it compromised an authentic source of protest that had produced some of the hardest-hitting grassroots criticism since Fidel Castro took power in 1959...

This really dovetails with Min's post on the Minerva Initiative. They're studying how popular uprisings work not just to squash them but also foment them as desired. They know it has something to do with the Twitter and youth culture, but they don't quite have the formula down yet.

If we really want to make a difference and we have any faith in ourselves, we need to relax our trade embargo and let them import our awesome culture and let the Cuban citizens be inspired by how great we are. Meddling with their rap music is not going to convince them of that.

By fnord12 | December 11, 2014, 1:34 PM | Liberal Outrage & Music | Link

This is What Happens When Banks Aren't Held Accountable

They feel it's perfectly ok to go back to doing the very thing that collapsed the economy in 2008 and want you to apologize for trying to make it harder for them to do it. And why not? Clearly, there are no consequences. Even children know if there aren't any consequences, they don't need to worry about changing their behavior.

Congress has agreed to use federal deposit insurance, which was designed to protect the savings accounts of consumers, to cover risky trading by the nation's biggest banks.

In a small provision in the budget bill, Congress agreed to allow banks to house their trading of swaps and derivatives alongside customer deposits, which are insured by the federal government against losses.

The budget move repeals a portion of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act and, some say, lays the groundwork for future bailouts of banks who make irresponsibly risky trades.


By min | December 11, 2014, 9:15 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link

Government Funding Universities to Research Ways to Contain/Neutralize Activists

Every day, the world gets a little more dystopian sci-fi. Not only is the Department of Defense using social scientists to figure out ways to control dissent, they've spread the research around so that each piece of research on its own appears innocuous. That sounds like a familiar movie plot.

Last year, the DoD's Minerva Initiative funded a project to determine 'Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?' which, however, conflates peaceful activists with "supporters of political violence" who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on "armed militancy" themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists.
From the outset, the Minerva programme was slated to provide over $75 million over five years for social and behavioural science research. This year alone it has been allocated a total budget of $17.8 million by US Congress.

An internal Minerva staff email communication referenced in a 2012 Masters dissertation reveals that the programme is geared toward producing quick results that are directly applicable to field operations. The dissertation was part of a Minerva-funded project on "counter-radical Muslim discourse" at Arizona State University.


According to Prof David Price, a cultural anthropologist at St Martin's University in Washington DC and author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State, "when you looked at the individual bits of many of these projects they sort of looked like normal social science, textual analysis, historical research, and so on, but when you added these bits up they all shared themes of legibility with all the distortions of over-simplification. Minerva is farming out the piece-work of empire in ways that can allow individuals to disassociate their individual contributions from the larger project."


By min | December 10, 2014, 3:40 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Torture report

The Washington Post has an innovative way to break down the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's torturing. Kevin Drum breaks it down even further: "We Tortured Prisoners, It Didn't Work, and We Lied About It".

By fnord12 | December 10, 2014, 9:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Why are counterterror experts involved in monitoring protests?

Here's the article, including a tremendous "you kids get off my lawn" rant from an anonymous "source", but what strikes me is that they interview a counterterror expert (again anonymous) who has been monitoring the Darren Wilson protests. Here's some commentary from a website i found that notes that this is a common occurrence:

Some people might say that 'counterterrorism' analysts...should be monitoring the tweets and Facebook posts... if those activists intend to shut down highways.

We can agree to disagree about that, but please don't say these fusion centers are primarily dedicated to stopping terrorism when they are doing things like this. Stopping traffic for a few hours is civil disobedience, not terrorism. A supposed anti-terrorism center has no business monitoring public social media accounts looking for 'intelligence' about civic protest movements.

Meanwhile, Gawker and Emptywheel mock the NYPD for being stumped by "cutting edge of 2006 technology" like Twitter and disposable phones. They don't really comment on the counterterrorism angle which i think is the most alarming part, though, although i guess the fact that the protestors know that they need disposable phones to avoid getting hacked by the police is a piece of it.

By fnord12 | December 2, 2014, 12:13 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

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