Showing posts with label Salon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Salon. Show all posts

Nov 8, 2012

Protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in Grand Bargain

FDR signs the Social Security Act in 1935
Time to get back to work, Mr. President. The forces of feudalism are forever busy.

Outside of the idiot caucus, and it pundits, no one wants the most successful social insurance programs in U.S. history diminished.

And no one, rational, wants the working class targeted in the coming the Grand Bargain.

Facing the elimination of public debt in 2001, the GOP under Bush-Cheney drove up the debt in the hopes that later structural deficits would force massive cuts to social insurance, education, stimulus spending and research.

Now is the time of reckoning of the lost decade.

Let's not reward what Bush-Cheney did.

In 2001, Fed Chair Alan Greenspan testified before the Senate Budget Committee on the potential dangers of having zero federal debt, a fiscal legacy that Bush, Cheney and his rightwing ideologues were desperate to avoid.

And avoid and reverse this no-debt legacy they did.

Greenspan’s was an ambiguous and wide-ranging testimony—recounted by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil in The Price of Loyalty—that included Greenspan’s “fear that large surpluses would create a drag on the economy,” among other expressed cautions and concerns about the then-proposed Bush tax cuts (O’Neil p. 63) for the super-rich, now set to expire.

But the damage was done and Greenspan gave political cover (then and in later statements) to the reckless Bush tax cuts.

Said Greenspan in his subsequent testimony before the House Committee on the Budget (March 2, 2001):

At zero debt, the continuing unified budget surpluses now projected under current law imply a major accumulation of private assets by the federal government. Such an accumulation would make the federal government a significant factor in our nation’s capital markets and would risk significant distortion in the allocation of capital to its most productive uses.
A significant distortion to productive uses of capital? You mean like AIG, Citibank and Goldman Sachs?

Greenspan has since more or less apologized for his role in the train-wreck of the Bush-Cheney years that the GOP wants brought back, in part because the GOP friends in the Tea Party cannot stand the site of a black president reelected by other 'mud people.'

If President Obama takes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid off the table, the American people will be behind him, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson be damned.

- A version of this piece has previously appeared

Feb 3, 2010

Anti-ACORN Activist Attended Racist Conference

The anti-racism group One People's Project has a blockbuster that rightwing rising star James O’Keefe, attended a white supremacists' conference in 2006 held at a satellite building for the Georgetown University Law School in Claredon, Virgina, and O'Keefe manned a literature table full of anti-black, anti-Latino, and anti-Semitic literature.

"The truth shall set me free," said O'Keefe in a federal courthouse after being arrested for the attempted bugging of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-Louisiana) office. Guess again O'Keefe, now even the GOP won't have you though Fox News seems to have taken a shine to your ways.

From the One People's Project:

Interesting what could have been - or not have been - had we caught this four years ago. Back then, there was this white supremacist forum that we had called attention to and eventually attended that featured American Renaissance's Jared Taylor and National Review's homophobe extraordinaire John Derbyshire.

Max Blumenthal picks up the O'Keefe-outed-as racist story at Salon:

Many of the conservatives who gleefully promoted James O’Keefe’s past political stunts are feigning shock at his arrest on charges that he and three associates planned to tamper with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu's phone lines. Once upon a time, right-wing pundits hailed the 25-year-old O’Keefe as a creative genius and model of journalistic ethics. Andrew Breitbart, who has paid O’Keefe, called him was one of the all-time ‘great journalists’ and said he deserved a Pulitzer for his undercover ACORN video. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly declared he should have earned a ‘congressional medal.’

His right-wing admirers don't seem to mind that O’Keefe's short but storied career has been defined by a series of political stunts shot through with racial resentment. Now an activist organization that monitors hate groups has produced a photo of O'Keefe at a 2006 conference on "Race and Conservatism" that featured leading white nationalists. The photo, first published Jan. 30 on the Web site of the anti-racism group One People's Project, shows O’Keefe at the gathering, which was so controversial even the ultra-right Leadership Institute, which employed O'Keefe at the time, withdrew its backing. But O'Keefe and fellow young conservative provocateur Marcus Epstein soldiered on to give anti-Semites, professional racists and proponents of Aryanism an opportunity to share their grievances and plans to make inroads in the GOP.

Sep 8, 2009

Salon Rips Herb Kohl

Zap and Pow. Salon lists the U.S. Senate "knuckleheads," and Herb Kohl makes the list. From the Salon staff:

In honor of the most recent Master of the Senate, Salon presents its list of those senators who are not masters, those who have helped turn what was once the nation's foremost debating society into the corporate board of Dunder Mifflin. Meet the senators who for reasons of questionable IQ or eccentricity, because they are vapid, stubborn or ornery, can fairly be called knuckleheads. ...

Herb Kohl, D-Wisc.
Evidence of knuckleheadedness: There is little proof in the legislative record that a 'Herb Kohl' has ever been on Capitol Hill. A small, bald robot has been spotted near the Senate office (and at Milwaukee Bucks games) bearing this name and reading questions to witnesses at hearings, but it is not believed to be a fully functioning senator.

Being thrown in the same category as Jim DeMint, Joe Lieberman, James Inhofe, Tom Coburn and Jeff Sessions seems unfair.

Much as Herb Kohl has blown votes - Patriot Act, Iraq Invasion, Defence of Marriage Act and so on - Kohl has not earned the ignominy of the other U.S. senators with which he is listed.

Aug 21, 2009

Obama and Progressives

President Obama was elected as an agent of change with the energetic support of the peace-and-justice, civil-liberties-loving, Constitution-following, reality-based community.

So it comes as a disappointment to see Obama bow to those who are opposed to change and hostile to civil liberties.

What's going on?

Mike Madden in Salon says, "Obama's just not that into you," asking if progressives and the president are really meant for each other.

Paul Krugman says, "So there’s a growing sense among progressives that they have, as my colleague Frank Rich suggests, been punked. ... So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back."

Obama needs to make a decision: Cater to Sarah Palin and her off-the-wall, white GOP or make good on the shiny, progressive promises of the last campaign that saw Americans break all manner of new ground in their thirst for real change.

Aug 13, 2009


And not pot.

The online Salon magazine is publishing the most insightful work on these seemingly crazed protesters upset that health care reform might work.

This is not the work of a grassroots uprising; it's AstroTurf and corporate weeds.

See also Adele Stan at Alternet.

Jul 16, 2009

Army Report on Stress and Murder

The online magazine, Salon, continues its Coming Home series finding an "Army report [that] seems to confirm a Salon investigation linking battle stress to murder. But the Army begs to differ."

Funny how Salon -- that has animatedly opposed the Iraq War -- steps up for veterans. Where the hell are the neocons?

Talking to veterans, many report that troops in the rear or those patrolling areas with erratic insurgencies have a worse time of it than those troops who fight more-or-less straight-up against their enemy.

But the bottom line is, we don't know and we can't guess and we shouldn't subject troops asking for DVA benefits to humiliation and bullshit.

From Michael de Yoanna and Mark Benjamin:

Read excerpts from the Army's report on homicides at Fort Carson here or download the full study here. Read Salon's Coming Home series about preventable deaths at Fort Carson here.

July 16, 2009
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- The harsh combat in Iraq, including potential war crimes that were witnessed by soldiers, contributed to a series of brutal murders by soldiers based at this Army post near Colorado Springs after they returned home, according to a hard-hitting Army study released Wednesday. Many of the findings in the study, which was announced by senior Army brass at a press conference on the post, mirror those in Salon's Coming Home series, which identified a pattern of preventable homicides and suicides at Fort Carson among soldiers who served in Iraq with combat stress and failed to receive proper medical treatment.

Jun 19, 2009

Washington Post Continues Soviet Drift

Dan Froomkin, a consistently independent anti-torture voice and critic of the Bush White House at the Washington Post, has been fired.

The Post's editorial voice has taken a sharp neoconservative turn becoming effectively a propaganda vehicle for the American rightwing, purging critical voices for not "giving readers the most value... ."

Nicole Belle at Crook and Liars and Glenn Greenwald at Salon have the story.

Belle posts the contact info for the Post's Ombudsman Andrew Alexander at:

From Greenwald:

This is what one finds -- just from today -- on the Op-Ed page of The Washington Post, which yesterday fired Dan Froomkin:
* Neocon Charles Krauthammer: attacking Obama for indifference to Freedom in Iran
* Neocon Paul Wolfowitz: attacking Obama for indifference to Freedom in Iran
* Establishment/CIA spokesman and war supporter David Ignatius: demanding that Obama do more to support Freedom in Iran and refuse to negotiate with the Iranian regime
* Bush CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden: warning that America will be in danger if CIA officials involved in torture continue to be criticized and questioned about what they did

May 17, 2009

Marcy Wheeler's The Torture 13

Marcy Wheeler has an important piece in Salon naming the The Torture 13.

These key Bush administration officials authorized it, decided how to implement it and crafted the legal fig leaf to justify it.

[Top row from left: Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales. Second row: David Addington, William "Jim" Haynes, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, George Tenet (Wikipedia)]

It's clear that Obama has no intention at this point of pursuing transparency and accountability for what was done in our names the last eight years. There's another name for a government that behaves this way, no matter the rationale and intentions: A tyranny.

May 3, 2009

Andrew O'Hehir Is Lame in Salon

Update: See Gary Leupp's piece on AIPAC, Bush neocons and lame-ass Democrats and Pelosi the Hawk (Stephen Zunes in Foreign Policy in Focus). Zunes' piece offer a real-politik analysis that explains for example why the normally non-interventionist Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) gets all crazy, voting for pro-Israel, pro-militarism resolutions against those dreaded Arabs that neocons hate.

Andrew O'Hehir's has a lame interview with filmmaker Simone Bitton, director of the documentary Rachel.

Skip the Salon interview, and see the film on the murdered American peace activist Rachel Corrie.

I guess Salon editors think need a pro-militarist, anti-human rights voice on their site so O'Hehir gets 900 words in the introduction to give some balance.

O'Hehir tries to assume the same pro-Israel tone as the Washington Post coverage of the murder of Corrie by belittling the human rights mission with which Corrie traveled to Gaza to bring attention to Israel's tendency to kill people.

Skip the interview, see the film. Better yet support the work of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, B'TSELEM - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice.

Militarists will always have their apologists like O'Hehir. The success of human rights and peace activists depends entirely on what we do.

Apr 21, 2009

Political Thriller Becomes Comedy

Jane Harman is the divine hypocrite of the new century.

Glenn Greenwald on Jane Harman - Wiretap cheerleader furious: She was wiretapped!:

So if I understand this correctly -- and I'm pretty sure I do -- when the U.S. Government eavesdropped for years on American citizens with no warrants and in violation of the law, that was 'both legal and necessary' as well as 'essential to U.S. national security,' and it was the 'despicable' whistle-blowers (such as Thomas Tamm) who disclosed that crime and the newspapers which reported it who should have been criminally investigated, but not the lawbreaking government officials. But when the U.S. Government legally and with warrants eavesdrops on Jane Harman, that is an outrageous invasion of privacy and a violent assault on her rights as an American citizen, and full-scale investigations must be commenced immediately to get to the bottom of this abuse of power. Behold Jane Harman's overnight transformation from Very Serious Champion of the Lawless Surveillance State to shrill civil liberties extremist.

Thriller Political-War Movie Becomes Reality

Update III: Greenwald: So if I understand this correctly -- and I'm pretty sure I do -- when the U.S. Government eavesdropped for years on American citizens with no warrants and in violation of the law, that was 'both legal and necessary' as well as 'essential to U.S. national security,' and it was the 'despicable' whistle-blowers (such as Thomas Tamm) who disclosed that crime and the newspapers which reported it who should have been criminally investigated, but not the lawbreaking government officials. But when the U.S. Government legally and with warrants eavesdrops on Jane Harman, that is an outrageous invasion of privacy and a violent assault on her rights as an American citizen, and full-scale investigations must be commenced immediately to get to the bottom of this abuse of power. Behold Jane Harman's overnight transformation from Very Serious Champion of the Lawless Surveillance State to shrill civil liberties extremist."

Update II: Prosecutors Considering Dropping Espionage Charges Against Former AIPAC Lobbyists

Update: The new neocon think tank Foreign Policy Initiative's launch was attended by Rep Jane Harman who served on a panel on March 31, 2009 and said, "(W)hat Washington does need is thoughtful people coming together to think about the issues. And many people in this new organization are people I have known for many years and interact with regularly."

If Robert Ludlum were alive today, he could not make this story up.

A small religious, fundamentalist state—whose most prominent power centers view its people as being in most-favored spiritual league with a supreme metaphysical force, is the fifth largest nuclear power in the world, and wants to wage war with its neighbor that is run by a rival religious sect a few hundred miles to the east—regularly spies on the United States, its historical ally, and two of the religious state's major lobbyists subsequently get caught by the FBI after receiving classified U.S. documents from a former Pentagon employee and are indicted for espionage.

Now word comes that the current House Chair of the Homeland Security Committee’s Intelligence Subcommittee and former member of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has been overheard in a National Security Agency's court-approved surveillance of a conversation in which a U.S. citizen (an accused spy) urges the congresswoman to intervene and halt the Justice Dept (DOJ)'s espionage prosecution of the two lobby spies for the small religious state in exchange for the powerful lobby working to get the congresswomen the chairmanship of the House Intelligence committee.

“This conversation doesn’t exist,” said the congresswoman not knowing that she was being bugged by the NSA.

A journalist covering the story writes:

That's not even the most significant part. Back in October, 2006, Time (Magazine) reported that the DOJ and FBI were investigating whether [the Congresswoman] and [the religious state’s main lobby] 'violated the law in a scheme to get [the Congresswoman] reappointed as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee' and 'the probe also involves whether, in exchange for the help from [the religious state’s main lobby], [the Congresswoman] agreed to help try to persuade the [Republican] Administration to go lighter on the [the religious state’s main lobby] officials caught up in the ongoing investigation.' So that part has been known since 2006.

[The journalist breaking the NSA story] adds today that [the Congresswoman] was captured on an NSA wiretap conspiring with [the religious state’s] agent to apply pressure on DOJ officials to scale back the [prosecution against the religious state’s main lobby]. But the real crux of journalist's scoop is that [the] then-Attorney General ... intervened to kill the criminal investigation into [the Congresswoman] -- even though DOJ lawyers had concluded that she committed crimes -- because top [administration] officials wanted [the Congresswoman's] credibility to be preserved so that she could publicly defend the ... administration's illegal warrantless eavesdropping program.
The religious state's (as well as that of the US Republican administration's] allies include millions of Americans of another complex religious sect who believe that an unavoidable great battle of Armageddon is upon us and will begin in the region and the specific religious state for whom the spies are working, as well as a small but influential group of nihilistic war mongers who seek to wage the same war as the religious state.

Informed observers and activists working for peace note that should the nuclear-powered religious state strike its rival sect, the "reaction to the bombing of ...will be the blocking of [the] Strait [where massive oil-exporting occurs].

[The rival religious state] dominates the whole length of the Strait. They can seal it hermetically with their missiles and artillery, both land based and naval.

If that happens, the price of oil will skyrocket - far beyond the 200 dollars-per-barrel that pessimists dread now. That will cause a chain reaction: a world-wide depression, the collapse of whole industries and a catastrophic rise in unemployment in America, Europe and Japan.

The peace activist wrote that last July when economic times seemed better. The activist assumes rational economic state actors, and could have added that several rival religious sects' governments could fall (including another nuclear-powered state) and a more deadly serious worldwide depression would result if the US-allied religious state struck its rival sect. Today a depression would seem a near certainty.

For more information see:

- Jeff Stein in
- Gleen Greenwald
- Juan Cole
- Timeline of MegaScandal (Talking Points Memo)
- Lawmaker Is Said to Have Agreed to Aid Lobbyists (Lewis and Mazzetti, NYT)
- Exclusive: Feds Probe a Top Democrat's Relationship with AIPAC (Burger, Oct. 20, 2006,Time)

Apr 18, 2009

Waco, OK City and Banality on April 19

Update: Intelligence analysts at the Homeland Security Department ignored objections by civil-liberties officials before sending out a controversial report on the resurgence of domestic right-wing extremism, a department official confirmed Friday.

April 19, Sunday is the anniversary of two American tragedies: Waco (1993) and Oklahoma City (1995).

Waco Casualties — Some 76 people dead, including more than 20 children
Oklahoma City Casualties — 168 dead and over 800 people injured
[A reader points out Ruby Ridge, April 19, 1992 — three people killed]

These numbers obviously understate the horror.

No doubt, the FBI and Homeland Security are properly on alert, trying to prevent a deadly marking of these anniversaries.

Here's one thing we should not do: Monitor political thought as revealed, for example, in last week's release of the publication Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment (7 April 2009 ) by the Homeland Security Dept.

Here's some thoughts on a few things that we should consider doing.

Realize that advocating antigovernment (whatever this amorphous term is meant to convey) sentiments and holding rightwing, whacko views do not constitute crimes. Gary Kamiya of Salon and numerous other progressive writers make this mistake, assigning culpability to rightwing figures for a recent mass murder of police.

Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the GOP, and for that matter the Tea Party idiots are not guilty of thought crimes for the compelling reason that a thought crime is no crime at all. The popular proposition that the rightwing is inciting imminent, violent action by spouting foolish thoughts is without merit.

If every bigot holding homophobic, racist sentiments were to be found guilty of thought crimes, we would not have too many non-criminals in America. Bigots are truly banal.

Personally and truly, I despise racism. But I try to expose it when I see it, and point out that race is a myth (never did get that Montagu book back to Rick Kieferndorf (sorry dood)), an invalid reification, a sociopathology and a sentiment pervasive just about everywhere.

If people want to call Obama the anti-Christ, express (unfounded) fears that Obama is going to take their guns, or believe as Jon Stewart asked facetiously of Obama last April that Obama wants to "enslave the white race," hey this is America. And please do be the face of the GOP.

Expose, challenge and condemn hate and ignorance, yes. But the state has no part to play in monitoring political thought because human beings have a right to hold whatever nutty notions that they can conjure.

The state's developing a psychological profile prone to violence is worthy, monitoring a political group advocating anti-governmental views is unworthy, and grotesque in a classical liberal democracy for the same reason that HUAC and the racist southern state government "security" bureaucracies were grotesque and anti-human.

But for many progressives, the recession-depression-global economic crisis appears about ready to supply more evidence for the frustration-aggression hypothesis and they are afraid, and reaching for the state instead of rational argumentation. [Now more than ever we need Karl and Alma Tauber (inventors of the Tauber segregation index) and the UW-Madison Sociology department, for example, to reach the populace on the reality and destructiveness of racial segregation].

But the conventional GOP hate bears no moral culpability for violence.

Let us encourage our fellow citizens to use their capacity to think, though often it seems that the most compelling argument against violence and racism is made by Mel Brooks, that wonderful, crazy filmmaker who joyfully eviscerates bigotry and taboo morality in 1970s movies.

Below is a Mel Brooks video, and a slightly edited piece from Counterpunch condemning the US-government massacre at Waco.

After Waco, as recalled by FBI profiler John Douglas, Attorney General Janet Reno asked what could have been done differently, asking Douglas and his unit to "compile a list of scenarios for standoff situations and assign each a percentage success rating." (Journey into Darkness, Mindhunters Inc. 1997. p. 18) Douglas turned down Reno's silly request. But he could have said, 'Try not killing and persecuting an off-brand shoot of Christians because they are different and happen to like guns.'

As the April 19 anniversary is marked, let's acclaim our humanity and all the respect and admiration that this status ought to hold for all of us. To the extent that our government fails on this score, let's all try to be a little bit more anti-government.

Counterpunch condeming the US-government massacre

June 5, 2003

Clinton, Reno and Waco
Remember What They've Done

In Sidney Blumenthal's new book The Clinton Wars (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003) Blumenthal includes a passages summing up the 1993 Waco tragedy.

Writes Blumenthal (page 54): "On February 23, 1993 agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms surrounded a compound outside Waco, Texas, housing a cult group called the Branch Davidians. Its leader, Vernon Howell, who called himself David Koresh after the biblical King David and Cyrus the Great, preached to his small band of followers that the federal government was the source of evil in the world and that they themselves represented the forces of goodness. All women were sexually shared with him as his 'wives.' Apocalyptic war must be waged against the government to bring about the reign of peace on earth and the second coming of the Messiah, who was himself. He stockpiled an arson of weapons. There were reports of sex abuse of children. In their effort to storm the compound four federal agents were killed. The FBI took the place of the ATF and returned on April 19, lobbing tear gas and bulldozing into the building. Suddenly, a fire consumed it. Eighty-nine people were killed, including Koresh and the children."

Blumenthal also points out that despite criticism mostly from the political right the Clinton administration was exonerated of all charges and that the Branch Davidians were found to have to have been responsible for their own demise in the fire.

The timing of this published version of events at Waco by a key Clinton player is apropos. This spring marked the tenth anniversary of this infamous domestic slaughter, though it has been rarely acknowledged as a slaughter by the few remembrances published in April (2003).

In memory of the 84 people killed at Waco, the standard narrative as promulgated by Blumenthal merits a challenge.

I remember Waco. In April 1993, I wrote a letter of encouragement to Attorney General Janet Reno urging her to stand tall in the shower of condemnation following the deadly FBI assault.

The media, President Clinton and government spokespersons had assured the public that in so many words the Branch Davidians were a bunch of gun-stocking, child-molesting, religious crazies, and that one David Koresh was a dangerous and depraved cult leader.

Taking the broadcast media and government spokespersons at face value I sympathized with Reno, the BATF, and the FBI in their apparent attempt to rescue children from the throes of a bunch of religious whackos. And I had little good will for the efforts of the religious-minded in general, much less these benighted clowns from Texas.

But the Waco attack and its aftermath demonstrate that a bias against the religious-minded among us can be as blinding and deafening as any religious dogma.

A gentle, earnest, and mildly unorthodox group of Americans gathering together and searching for meaning in their lives was deprived of their civil liberties, their religious community center, their home and their lives, and many of the grieving survivors were imprisoned, lied to and slandered afterwards.

Why? Because to make money in Texas some of the religious group sold and bought guns, and then reportedly screwed around with some of the guns making semi-automatics into automatics--not an exceedingly rate occurrence in Texas. And, it was reported as Blumenthal noted, that in accordance with their interpretation of Biblical scripture, David Koresh had parent-sanctioned sexual relationships with teenage women in the community in an apparent effort to repopulate the planet in their reading of God's Biblical Prophecy. Hardly capital offenses.

Setting the Record Straight

Reno wrote me back a brief note a few weeks later that she supported a full investigation into the events and circumstances of the two deadly government assaults on Waco. Not surprisingly, the subsequent government-sponsored investigations --including former Republican Senator John Danforth's (as special counsel for the department of Justice)--exonerated the BATF and FBI.

And a bullying political offensive launched by congressional Democrats in the 1995 Joint Sub-Committee Hearings, (with detestable performances by then-Rep. Chuck Schumer D-New York and Rep Tom Lantos D-California) aimed to head off the political damage to the Clinton administration through a mean-spirited attempt to smear anyone as part of the "lunatic fringe" who dared to question the BATF and FBI and ultimately the Clinton administration for its 1993 killing of 80 innocents.

Denial of civil liberties, rampant and deadly police/military power, cover-ups, and bullying political offensives. Does that sound like anything happening today? It surly does, except in 1993 we had an opposition party (as wrong-headed in most other matters as they were and are) with the requisite backbone to come out and call a spade a spade, and not be bullied into silence. Judged solely in terms of guts, a solid sense of right and wrong, and the truth of conviction, I will take the 1993-94 Republicans over today's supine Democrats any day.

For the record, we can remember Waco by considering the following points of an alternative narrative of the FBI attack that is overwhelmingly supported by the evidence:

--The reported Koresh sexual irregularities were not under the jurisdiction of the BATF and FBI, and no evidence of sexual abuse was ever made public. The allegations were simply reported in the press after being pushed by some in the Waco religious community with a theological ax to grind against Koresh and echoed by the Clinton administration, and then becoming conventional wisdom.

--The whole pre-February 28 investigation and raid smelled of a political stunt against an easy target designed to protect and enhance the reputation of a near-rogue agency, the BATF. Basically, the BATF were looking for a loud and safe gunfight.

--That the FBI lied about the lethality of the CS gas (a type of tear gas) used against the Branch Davidian community center banned by the Geneva Convention for use in warfare.

--The FBI lied about the presence of fragmentation grenades at the scene, which have no use except to kill people.

--The FBI lied about shooting machine gun fire into the building.

--The FBI initially lied to Janet Reno about babies being beaten by the Branch Davidians.

For insightful analyses of Waco, recommended reading is: David Thibodeau. "A Place Called Waco" (BBS, 1999), lauded by Howard Zinn as "An extraordinary account of one of the most shameful episodes in recent American history." And, James Tabor and Eugene Gallagher. "Why Waco, Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America" (University of California Press, 1995), described by Ramsey Clark as "a critically important book... "

But it is a film that graphically illustrates the horror of the attacks and the mendacity of the government line--the Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated documentary "Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997)," ( To this day the executive producer Dan Gifford, a former reporter for ABC, CNN and the McNeil Lehrer Report, remains incensed at the way critics of the government assaults on Waco, including him, have been painted out-of-hand as somehow belonging to the lunatic fringe sympathetic to blowing up federal buildings.

Politics and Violence

Waco, Ruby Ridge, MOVE, Wounded Knee, Kent State, Jackson State, deadly attacks on citizens working for labor and civil rights, and the numerous wars against perceived international enemies of the moment, government violence is government violence, irrespective of whom the victims are. In this case that still directly affects the lives of 100s, the American left and liberal/left's response was/has been inadequate to hostile.

One historical truth is that the raison d'etre for war and government violence generally is a damn lie.

In 1994, with memories of Waco and the Republican and citizens' vocal challenges to the Waco murders ringing in the political culture, Republicans swept into control of the Senate and House.

For Democrats today, there is perhaps a political lesson to be learned --Speak the truth loudly to those in power, and speak out for the victims of violence. For the survivors and the victims of Waco, there should have been a loud acknowledgment of the truth at Waco: You were murdered because you were different and were thought to be an easy target for a duplicitous and violent federal agency.

In Dan Gifford's film Waco: The Rules of Engagement, a powerful interview segment presents a sympathetic Sheriff Jack Harwell of McLennan County, Texas nearly in tears as he speaks of his experience with the Branch Davidians: "They were all good people. They had different beliefs than others, different beliefs than I have, maybe different beliefs than you have in their way of life, especially in their religious beliefs. But basically they were good people I was around them quite a lot. They were always nice, mannerly, they minded their own business. They were always clean, and courteous. I liked them."

In the face of continued government violence and its intimate relative, mendacity, one can take solace in the fact that in the work of a handful of people of all political stripes who identified with the victims of violence the truth can still emerge.

Democrats seeking the truth about war today and the path to an election victory in 2004 can take a cue from Waco--the American electorate does not like liars and accessories to mass killing in charge of its government. But the truth needs to be told.

via mal contends

Apr 16, 2009

Obama releases torture memos, vows 'never again'

Update: Ex-Bush aides: Releasing torture memos is dangerous
Now the terrorists will know how we'll torture them, the theory goes,
writes Mike Madden.

Good, not good, great:
by Glenn Greenwald:
Obama releases torture memos
If early reports are correct that there are few redactions in the Bush-era documents, the president will have passed a major test

Bad. On the other hand Bush, Cheney, Yoo, Gonzales, Addington, Feith, Haynes, and Bybee and the whole rotten bunch ought to get the ax before anyone. Maybe retributive justice vis a vis exposure won't do anyone any good.
by Alex Koppelman: Administration takes one step forward, one back
The DOJ will release disputed memos about torture, but CIA officials won't be prosecuted for waterboarding

Never again, Obama says below; he has set the record straight, what more can we ask?

Perhaps more facts.

"As the President recognized, there is no valid reason to shield these memos when the techniques they describe have already been exposed and discontinued by the new administration," says Elizabeth Goitein, Director of the Brennan Center's Liberty and National Security Project.

"Disclosure is only the first step though," Goitein adds. "There must also be accountability for the illegal policies and practices sanctioned in these memos. We cannot move forward toward a sound and effective national security policy unless we address the systemic failures that allowed the despicable practices described in these memos to be adopted and implemented. That's why we need an independent, non-partisan commission to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding torture and other counter-terrorism practices that violated our laws and our values."

The Department of Justice will today release certain memos issued by the Office of Legal Counsel between 2002 and 2005 as part of an ongoing court case. These memos speak to techniques that were used in the interrogation of terrorism suspects during that period, and their release is required by the rule of law.

My judgment on the content of these memos is a matter of record. In one of my very first acts as President, I prohibited the use of these interrogation techniques by the United States because they undermine our moral authority and do not make us safer. Enlisting our values in the protection of our people makes us stronger and more secure. A democracy as resilient as ours must reject the false choice between our security and our ideals, and that is why these methods of interrogation are already a thing of the past.

But that is not what compelled the release of these legal documents today. While I believe strongly in transparency and accountability, I also believe that in a dangerous world, the United States must sometimes carry out intelligence operations and protect information that is classified for purposes of national security. I have already fought for that principle in court and will do so again in the future. However, after consulting with the Attorney General, the Director of National Intelligence, and others, I believe that exceptional circumstances surround these memos and require their release.

First, the interrogation techniques described in these memos have already been widely reported. Second, the previous Administration publicly acknowledged portions of the program – and some of the practices – associated with these memos. Third, I have already ended the techniques described in the memos through an Executive Order. Therefore, withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time. This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States.

In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs.

Going forward, it is my strong belief that the United States has a solemn duty to vigorously maintain the classified nature of certain activities and information related to national security. This is an extraordinarily important responsibility of the presidency, and it is one that I will carry out assertively irrespective of any political concern. Consequently, the exceptional circumstances surrounding these memos should not be viewed as an erosion of the strong legal basis for maintaining the classified nature of secret activities. I will always do whatever is necessary to protect the national security of the United States.

This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.

The United States is a nation of laws. My Administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again. ###

Apr 7, 2009

Screwing Veterans

From Salon:

"I am under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD"
A secret recording reveals the Army may be pushing its medical staff not to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder. The Army and Senate have ignored the implications
by Michael de Yoanna and Mark Benjamin

Gary Kamiya Is Off Today

The Devil, strike that, the culture made me do it!

Gary Kamiya strikes out today with his piece on cop killer Richard Poplawski.

The sub-headline asks "amid the deafening din of the right wing's anti-government rhetoric, how extreme is (Poplawski)?"

Kamiya should have stopped at the editor's sub-headline in his 1,100-word piece.

Kamiya's internally incoherent argument is a brew of sloppy reasoning with a misreading of Hobbes' social contract theory thrown in.

Kamiya attempts to connect rightwing killer, anti-Semitic nut-job Poplawski to rightwing, mainstream nutty political culture.

Writes Kamiya:

As his friend, Edward Perkovic, told the Associated Press, Poplawski feared 'the Obama gun ban that's on the way' and 'didn't like our rights being infringed upon.'

Such obsessions don't come out of a vacuum. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the GOP have been whipping up hatred and fear of Obama and 'liberal Democrats' for years. Joined by the National Rifle Association, which has run false and irresponsible ads claiming that Obama is planning to take away Americans' guns, they have encouraged and helped to create a pathological right-wing subculture in which free-floating hatred of 'the government' mixes with a maniacal fetish for guns. Poplawski is the diseased fruit of that ugly tree. ... Theirs is a Hobbesian world in which law enforcement cannot be trusted to stop criminals. Hence their favorite slogan, 'When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.' Poplawski proudly subscribed to that belief.
Hobbes Loved the State

To begin with, the social contract theorist Thomas Hobbes believed in the necessity of a strong state—a society in which protection and security triumphs over individual will—lest the individuals' lives be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". (Leviathan, yuck!).

Yet, Kamiya identifies Hobbes with the right-libertarian's skepticism of state and police power. If Kamiya has read Leviathan, he didn't understand it.

Myself I share the libertarian's skepticism of state power [this skepticism is healthy if one beleives in a classical liberal democracy], though I don't own or particularly value guns.

Feared Obama, So Poplawski Killed Three Cops

Kamiya writes of Poplawski, "He is responsible for his action. You can't tar every conservative because a pathological murderer shared some of his or her core beliefs."

Right, so what then does a pathological murderer have to do with the rightwing, whack culture? Not much.

But Kamiya tries to insinuate a causal connection: Feared Obama because of Rush and Fox , so Poplawski killed three cops.

Is Kamiya saying that Rush, Fox and the like are also anti-Semitic, like Poplawski? That they advocate killing cops so Obama does not take their guns, like Poplawski?

Kamiya instead lamely suggests that "they have encouraged and helped to create a pathological right-wing subculture in which free-floating hatred of 'the government'", qualifying his earlier admonition that you can't tar conservatives with a whack like Poplawski out of existence.

So the rightwing are political culture polluters, says Kamiya. Maybe then we should police and outlaw these culture polluters, right?

Look, Rush and Fox are slime because they have little regard for liberty, care about power and not people, and their political rants are poorly reasoned. But in this regard of uninformed, poorly reasoned polemical tracts, they have a friend in Gary Kamiya today.

- via mal contends

Apr 2, 2009

Salon Looks at 1960s Civil Rights Movement

Lauren Hermele has a photo essay on 1960s civil rights veterans in Salon. Great stuff.

A lot of the people comprising the civil rights movement have names that history will not record.

And quite a few live in Wisconsin today.

Registering voters, demanding jobs, risking their lives, enforcing democracy; that's what they did.

Today's Republican Party, like Wisconsin attorney general J.B. Van Hollen, and know-nothing GOP bloggers still don't get why so many were incensed by last year's voter suppression efforts. It's likely that they never will.

The American civil rights movement lives on today, knowing that they changed the course of history and stood up for their brothers and sisters.

Some were killed, blinded for life, maimed, but they put their bodies on the line against racists and know-nothings and we salute them today.

Mar 27, 2009

Hey Wisconsin, Remember the Fear of Zero National Debt

As Gov. Doyle grapples with the giant budget deficits, it's worth recalling a time when zero national debt was feared and states argued about how much fiscal revenue they should shave off their budgets.

In 2001 Fed Chair Alan Greenspan testified before the Senate Budget Committee on the potential dangers of having no federal debt [we're at $11 trillion now], a fiscal legacy of the Clinton administration that Bush, Cheney and his rightwing ideologues were desperate to avoid.

It was an ambiguous and wide-ranging testimony, recounted by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil in The Price of Loyalty, that included Greenspan's "fear that large surpluses would create a drag on the economy," among other expressed cautions and concerns about the then-proposed Bush tax cuts (O'Neil p. 63).

But the damage was done and Greenspan gave political cover (then and in later statements) to the reckless Bush tax cuts for the super-rich.

Said Greenspan in his subsequent testimony before the House Committee on the Budget (March 2, 2001):
At zero debt, the continuing unified budget surpluses now projected under current law imply a major accumulation of private assets by the federal government. Such an accumulation would make the federal government a significant factor in our nation's capital markets and would risk significant distortion in the allocation of capital to its most productive uses.
A significant distortion?

The GOP commitment to make a fiscal mess of things is long-standing, notes Joe Conason in Salon today, and "and Republicans who are complaining about Barack Obama's spending are hypocrites," and avoid even addressing the arguments for stimulus spending (see Krugman, Dec. 1, 2008). Writes Conason

In our time, the Republican Party has compiled an impressive history of talking about fiscal responsibility while running up unrivaled deficits and debt. Of the roughly $11 trillion in federal debt accumulated to date, more than 90 percent can be attributed to the tenure of three presidents: Ronald Reagan, who used to complain constantly about runaway spending; George Herbert Walker Bush, reputed to be one of those old-fashioned green-eyeshade Republicans; and his spendthrift son George "Dubya" Bush, whose trillion-dollar war and irresponsible tax cuts accounted for nearly half the entire burden. Only Bill Clinton temporarily reversed the trend with surpluses and started to pay down the debt (by raising rates on the wealthiest taxpayers).
As is clear among honest observers, among the pathological programs pursued by the Bush administration was its enterprise to turn the national debt from prospects that were made in 2001 of the debt being completely paid off in 10 years to upping the debt to $10 trillion when it left office.

The wish list that the rightwingers, like Grover Norquist, desired from the future administrations dealing with the massive debt: Eliminating those awful programs like Social Security and Medicaid and Medicare which they hoped would become unsustainable because of the debt purposefully piled up by Bush and Cheney.

Bush bequeathed more than that: Millions of jobs shipped overseas, $trillions of unregulated financial products that may yet cost the dollar its role as reserve currency, states' deficits like Wisconsin's and on and on.

Obama has been scrupulously careful not to put the blame on the GOP; it's the wrong message for the guy sent in to clean up the mess. But Conason, Krugman and others should continue to further an understanding of the political-economic commitments of the GOP.

- See also Krugman: Large fiscal expansion needed (Dec. 1, 2008)

Mar 12, 2009

Earmarks No Good? Tell That to Janesville

Update: Mike Madden in Salon - "President Obama urges pork reform and signs a bill with earmarks in it on the same day. Republicans make an unconvincing show of outrage."

From today's State Journal: "U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl D-Wis., added $951,000 to the federal Omnibus Appropriations Bill for Black hawk Technical College to provide job training and placement services for former employees of General Motors in Janesville and it supplier companies."

The horror ... because the job training and placement services are an earmark, according to Wisconsin's Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Middleton) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) and of-course the ever-foolish John McCain.

Reads Feingold's statement:

By passing the omnibus spending bill today, which included more than 8500 pet projects costing taxpayers $7.7 billion, Congress failed to show the American people that it is committed to spending their money wisely. When Congress passed the economic recovery bill to create or save millions of American jobs, it did so without including a single earmark. Congress should have done the same thing with this omnibus spending bill and it should do so with all future bills. The president should veto the omnibus, send it back to Congress to be cleaned up and make it clear to Congress that pork-laden bills like this are no longer welcome.
And from Paul Ryan's op-ed in Racine Journal Times: "If we can’t get this issue right, how are we ever going to tackle the more pressing challenges we now face? "

More "pressing" than helping autoworkers get a new job? Mere "pet projects"? Earmarks are less than one percent of the spending bill, and the projects are needed.

You would think that Wisconsin's Feingold and Ryan would know better than to throw more barriers in the way of helping these workers who lost their jobs at GM. Both Ryan and Feingold have intimate links to the community.

But they choose to join McCain and spout this nonsense that dedicated, federally-funded projects are the main problems facing Americans. Ridiculous.

And thank you Herb Kohl for your common sense on the issue!

- See also McCain's Nuts, Feingold and Ryan Following.

via mal contends