Profiting from Torture, War, Outing CIA agents, and Ruining America

Now, ask me how I really feel about the dueling book tours of war criminals Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld?

Better yet, ask me why I disagree with President Obama who hasn’t said anything about the Dark Lords’ Book Tours and still thinks we should just put all this behind us?

MSNBC and NBC interviewed the vile creature that was our vice president, and I’ve actually watched the interviews. One of the most disgusting parts of the book and of the interviews was his continued plea for exoneration of Scooter Libby for all the lying and law breaking he did to cover up Cheney’s role in the outing of Valerie Plame.  He continues to point the finger at Colin Powell for the investigation and seethes about Dubya’s refusal to pardon Libby. He also characterizes Condoleeza Rice as “tearful” for her public apology on the 16 words that drove Joe Wilson to the op-ed pages to try to stop the incredible mistake that was and is the Iraq war.  If there ever was a reason to never bring Republicans back to a realm where they can influence the foreign policy of the U.S., Cheney is out there making that case right now.  How can so few people cost one nation so much in lives and treasure and then be allowed to go out and profit from their reckless, stupid, costly, deadly ideology and policy?

Here’s a link to The Atlantic to remind us “Why Americans Loathe Dick Cheney”.  There’s a huge, long list that includes Halliburton, spying on Americans, indefinite detentions, torture, and the radical view of executive power that haunts us today.  Each item on the list comes from a long list of books that investigated Cheney’s misdeeds and each of them should be enough to start a righteous Justice Department investigation of his actions while in office. Here’s the conclusions from author Conor Friedersdorf.

Dick Cheney was a self-aggrandizing criminal who used his knowledge as a Washington insider to subvert both informed public debate about matters of war and peace and to manipulate presidential decision-making, sometimes in ways that angered even George W. Bush.

After his early years of public service, he capitalized on connections he made while being paid by taxpayers to earn tens of millions of dollars presiding over Halliburton. While there, he did business with corrupt Arab autocrats, including some in countries that were enemies of the United States. Upon returning to government, he advanced a theory of the executive that is at odds with the intentions of the founders, successfully encouraged the federal government to illegally spy on innocent Americans, passed on to the public false information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and became directly complicit in a regime of torture for which he should be in jail.

Glenn Greenwald got a jump on the corporate media by  publishing his diatribe in Salon on Thursday.  Oh, wait the corporate media is being somewhat deferential to grab the interviews. Greenwald lists the results of the poison fruits of elite immunity.  While CNN is fretting about the dying Lockerbie bomber who killed hundreds, here’s what’s going on with Dick Cheney, who is responsible for the senseless deaths of hundreds of thousands.

That’s what happens when the Government — marching under the deceitful Orwellian banner of Look Forward, Not Backward — demands that its citizens avert their eyes from the crimes of their leaders so that all can be forgotten: the crimes become non-crimes, legitimate acts of political choice, and the criminals become instantly rehabilitated by the message that nothing they did warrants punishment.  That’s the same reason people like John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales are defending their torture and illegal spying actions not in a courtroom but in a lush conference of elites in Aspen.

The U.S. Government loves to demand that other countries hold their political leaders accountable for serious crimes, dispensing lectures on the imperatives of the rule of law.  Numerous states bar ordinary convicts from profiting from their crimes with books.  David Hicks, an Australian citizen imprisoned without charges for six years at Cheney’s Guantanamo, just had $10,000 seized by the Australian government in revenue from his book about his time in that prison camp on the ground that he is barred from profiting from his uncharged, unproven crimes.

By rather stark contrast, Dick Cheney will prance around the next several weeks in the nation’s largest media venues, engaging in civil, Serious debates about whether he was right to invade other countries, torture, and illegally spy on Americans, and will profit greatly by doing so.  There are many factors accounting for his good fortune, the most important of which are the protective shield of immunity bestowed upon him by the current administration and the more generalized American principle that criminal accountability is only for ordinary citizens and other nations’ (unfriendly) rulers.

Even George Will says that Dick Cheney–at the very least–owes the world and the US an apology.

Five hundred and sixty five pages and a simple apology would have been in order in some of them. Which is to say, the great fact of those eight years is we went to war—big war, costly war—under false pretenses. And…to write a memoir in which you say essentially nothing seriously went wrong…if I wrote a memoir of my last week, I would have things to apologize for.

From what I can tell from these bits and blurbs from the interviews with NBC, Cheney thinks everything he did was right and every one else is wrong.  This includes the President he served and the people he served with maybe the exception of Donald Rumsfeld.  It’s a little odd, don’t you think, that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Dubya can’t leave the country for fear of being sent directly to The Hague to be tried for Crimes against humanity?   Yet, Cheney can’t think of one thing that he wasn’t right about.

If you can stomach it, here’s a Youtube of NBC’s ‘exclusive” with Dick Cheney.  Isn’t this just ducky? Oh, and his book is up there on the bestseller list now.  How on earth could we let this vile creature out on a rehabilitation tour and enrich him for his inhumane agenda?

Oh, and just in case you’re inclined to give our President a Break, here’s a little reminder on something from Wikileaks via Jonathan Turley and David Corn from 2010 w/ht to Susie Madrak.

One of the little reported details from the latest batch of Wikileaks material are cables showing that the Obama Administration worked hard behind the scenes not only to prevent any investigation of torture in the United States but shutdown efforts abroad to enforce the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. This includes threatening the Spanish that, if they did not derail a judicial investigation, it would have serious consequences in bilateral relations. I discussed these cables on Countdown.

For two years, President Obama has worked to block the investigation of torture under the Bush Administration — even as both Dick Cheney and George Bush publicly admit to ordering waterboarding of suspects.

David Corn in Mother Jones has an interesting posting today on the issue.

A “confidential” April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department discloses how the Administration discarded any respect for the independence of the judiciary in Spain and pressured the government to derail the prosecution of Bush officials. Human rights groups around the world had called for such enforcement in light of Obama promise that no torturers would be prosecuted and Holder’s blocking of any investigation into war crimes.

The Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners had filed a demand for prosecution with Spain’s National Court to indict former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, former chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon’s former general counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Jay Bybee, former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, a former official in the Office of Legal Counsel. It had a compelled factual basis that these men ordered or facilitated war crimes — a record that has only become stronger since this confrontation.

American officials pressured government officials, including prosecutors and judges, not to enforce international law and that this was “a very serious matter for the USG.” It was Obama’s own effort at creating a “Coalition of the Unwilling” — nations unwilling to enforce treaties on torture and war crimes when the alleged culprits are American officials.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) joined the embassy’s charge d’affaires in the secret campaign to block the prosection of Judge Baltasar Garzón.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! I’m having trouble finding any new news, but I’ve done my best to dig up a few interesting reads for you.

The Boston Herald has the lowdown on President Obama’s illegal immigrant uncle.

An illegal immigrant from Kenya busted for drunken driving after nearly striking a cop car in Framingham is the uncle of President Obama, the Herald has learned.

Obama Onyango told cops he wanted to “call the White House” after he was nabbed for OUI Aug. 24 after nearly plowing his SUV into a police cruiser. He was arraigned Thursday and was ordered held without bail because he was wanted on a federal immigration warrant, officials said.

Mike Rogers, a spokesman for Cleveland immigration attorney Margaret Wong, who is representing Onyango, confirmed that the 67-year-old is the president’s uncle. Wong is the same lawyer who represented the president’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, in her fight to win asylum last year.

Reached at her apartment in a South Boston public housing complex today, Zeituni Onyango said of her brother’s arrest: “Why don’t you go to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washingon, D.C. and ask your president? Not me.” She then hung up on a reporter.

OK, it’s another right wing source, but Fox News has a funny article on Obama’s announcement of his new economic adviser Alan Krueger: Seriously? Obama Uses 2 Teleprompters for 3 Minute Speech

President Obama required two heavy-duty teleprompters on Monday during a three-minute speech in which he nominated Alan Krueger to serve as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers.

“I am very pleased to appoint Alan and I look forward to working with him,” Obama said, staring at the large, flat-screen monitor to his right, then shifting his eyes to the teleprompter on his left. “I have nothing but confidence in Alan as he takes on this important role as one of the leaders of my economic team.”

Why couldn’t he just memorize that?

In more serious news, the aftermath of Hurricane Irene has been devastating in Vermont, but the networks aren’t covering it 24/7. I wonder why?

Vermont is reeling today from what is becoming the state’s worst natural disaster since the epic flood of 1927. At least three people have died in the storm, one man is missing, hundreds of roads statewide are closed, and thousands of homes and businesses suffered power outages and serious damage from flooding associated with Tropical Storm Irene.

[Update 5:40 p.m.] Three people are confirmed dead in Vermont in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, and a fourth person is missing, state officials said at a news conference in Montpelier late this afternoon.

The deaths occurred in Wilmington, Rutland and Ludlow. Another person, the son of the Rutland victim, is missing and feared dead, according to state officials.

Perhaps if the media elites lived in Vermont, we’d hear more about it. But they don’t, so it’s not real to them. This is why we can have 25 million people unemployed in this country and the media and political class completely ignore the devastation it causes.

Sarah Jaffe has an important article at Alternet on “How the Surveillance State Protects the Interests Of the Ultra-Rich.”

Jaffe discusses the refusal of the British government to recognize that poverty played a role in the recent riots in London and other cities, as well as the shutdown of cell phone service by BART during the protests of the killing of a man by BART police. She writes:

The techniques that were roundly decried by Western leaders when used by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak against his people’s peaceful revolution are suddenly embraced when it comes to unrest at home. Not only that, but techniques honed in the “war on terror” are now being turned on anti-austerity protesters, clamping down on discontent that was created in the first place by policies of the state.

[....]

As a burgeoning international protest movement takes shape, opposing austerity measures, decrying the wealth gap and rising inequality, and in some cases directly attacking the interests of oligarchs, we’re likely to see the surveillance state developed for tracking “terrorists” turned on citizen activists peacefully protesting the actions of their government. And as U.S. elections post-Citizens United will be more and more expensive, look for politicians of both parties to enforce these crackdowns.

Despite growing anger at austerity in other countries, those policies have been embraced by both parties here in the States. Groups like US Uncut have stepped into the fray, pointing out the connection between the tax dodging of banks like Bank of America and other corporations and the slashing of the social safety net for everyone else. The new protest movements are led not only by traditional left groups like labor unions, but a generation of young, wired activists using the Internet for innovative protest and revolutionary activism.

It’s a lengthy article, but well worth reading.

Joseph Heller as a young man

I’ll end with a literary piece. I’m a big fan of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22, so I got a kick out of this review of books about Heller at the NYT: The Enigma of Joseph Heller.

“Oh God, this is a calamity for American literature,” Kurt Vonnegut said on learning of Joseph Heller’s death in 1999. John Updike was less alarmed: Heller “wasn’t top of the chart” as a writer, he reflected, though he was “a sweet man” and his first novel, “Catch-22” was “important.” Note the Updikean judiciousness of “important”: he didn’t say he liked the book, but it was a great cultural bellwether as novels go, and it has endured. Despite mixed reviews on publication in 1961, “Catch-22” was soon adopted by college students who recognized a kindred spirit in Yossarian, the bombardier who rebels against a materialistic bureaucracy hellbent on killing him. “Better Yossarian than Rotarian” became a popular slogan, all the more so with the timely (for the novel’s sake) military escalation in Vietnam, which became the “real” subject of “Catch-22” and partly accounts for its sales of more than 10 million copies to date. It’s hard to argue with that kind of importance.

IMHO, John Updike’s work isn’t likely to be read 100 years from now. Does anyone still read “Couples?” Please. “The Witches of Eastwick” was funny, but hardly deathless literature. Catch-22, on the other hand, might hold up 100 years from now. To me it’s the ultimate book on the insanity of war. I might just check out that Heller biography, even though the NYT reviewer wasn’t that thrilled with it.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Bush Still Confused About Why Intelligence Agencies Didn’t Predict a Terrorist Attack on the U.S.

Harriet Miers shows the day's PDB to President George W. Bush, Aug. 6, 2001

Last night George W. Bush was interviewed Peter Schnall on a National Geographic Channel special leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Bush said to Schnall:

“At some point in time in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, I thought about why didn’t we know this?” Bush recalled.

“I knew we needed to figure out what went wrong to prevent other attacks but I didn’t want start the finger pointing and say to our intelligence communities, ‘You fouled up. You should have caught this. Why didn’t you know?’”

On Aug. 6, 2001, President Bush received a presidential daily briefing entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” Here is the redacted text of the CIA briefing:

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S. Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and “bring the fighting to America.”:

After U.S. missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Laden told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a [deleted text] service.
An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told [deleted text] service at the same time that Bin Laden was planning to exploit the operative success to the U.S. to mount a terrorist strike.

The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of Bin Laden’s first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the U.S. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that BinLaden lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own U.S. attack.

Ressam says Bin Laden was aware of the Los Angeles operation.

Although Bin Laden has not succeeded, his attacks against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Laden associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.

Al Qaeda members — including some who are U.S. citizens — have resided in and traveled to the U.S. for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks.

Two Al Qaeda members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our embassies in East Africa were U.S. citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Shaykh” ‘Umar’ Abd aI-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns ofsuspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations forhijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers Bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or Bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.

From the Washington Post, October 1, 2006:

On July 10, 2001, two months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet met with his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, at CIA headquarters to review the latest on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Black laid out the case, consisting of communications intercepts and other top-secret intelligence showing the increasing likelihood that al-Qaeda would soon attack the United States. It was a mass of fragments and dots that nonetheless made a compelling case, so compelling to Tenet that he decided he and Black should go to the White House immediately.

Tenet called National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and insisted on meeting with her right away. For months, Tenet had been worried about a terrorist attack in the U.S.

Tenet hoped his abrupt request for an immediate meeting would shake Rice. He and Black, a veteran covert operator, had two main points when they met with her. First, al-Qaeda was going to attack American interests, possibly in the United States itself. Black emphasized that this amounted to a strategic warning, meaning the problem was so serious that it required an overall plan and strategy. Second, this was a major foreign policy problem that needed to be addressed immediately. They needed to take action that moment — covert, military, whatever — to thwart bin Laden.

The United States had human and technical sources, and all the intelligence was consistent, the two men told Rice. Black acknowledged that some of it was uncertain “voodoo” but said it was often this voodoo that was the best indicator.

Tenet and Black felt they were not getting through to Rice. She was polite, but they felt the brush-off. President Bush had said he didn’t want to swat at flies.

Rice later claimed she did not recall this meeting at all, but White House records showed that it indeed happened.

A review of White House records has determined that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, did brief Condoleezza Rice and other top officials on July 10, 2001, about the looming threat from Al Qaeda, a State Department spokesman said Monday.

The account by Sean McCormack came hours after Ms. Rice, the secretary of state, told reporters aboard her airplane that she did not recall the specific meeting on July 10, 2001, noting that she had met repeatedly with Mr. Tenet that summer about terrorist threats. Ms. Rice, the national security adviser at the time, said it was “incomprehensible” she ignored dire terrorist threats two months before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. McCormack also said records show that the Sept. 11 commission was informed about the meeting, a fact that former intelligence officials and members of the commission confirmed on Monday.

Then on Aug. 6, while he was on vacation, Bush received the pdb, and did nothing about it. He didn’t even contact Tenet or Rice, who were also on vacation. According to Dana Millbank and Mike Allen at the Washington Post, Bush didn’t seem worried after he received the pdb.

President Bush was in an expansive mood on Aug. 7, 2001, when he ran into reporters while playing golf at the Ridgewood Country Club in Waco, Tex.

The day before, the president had received an intelligence briefing — the contents of which were declassified by the White House Saturday night — warning “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US.” But Bush seemed carefree as he spoke about the books he was reading, the work he was doing on his nearby ranch, his love of hot-weather jogging, his golf game and his 55th birthday.

“No mulligans, except on the first tee,” he said to laughter. “That’s just to loosen up. You see, most people get to hit practice balls, but as you know, I’m walking out here, I’m fixing to go hit. Tight back, older guy — I hit the speed limit on July 6th.”

[....]

Bush spent most of August 2001 on his ranch here. His staff said at the time that by far the biggest issue on his agenda was his decision on federal funding of stem cell research, followed by education, immigration and the Social Security “lockbox.”

Why is Bush permitted to continue lying about 9/11 without being challenged? Why didn’t National Geographic ask him why he didn’t do anything after receiving the Aug. 6 pdb?


SDB Evening News Reads for 082911: Musharraf’s Property Seized, Syria’s New Censorship and Bachmann’s “Joke”

Good Evening!

Do I have a juicy post for you today! H/T to Wonk the Vote who sent me the news about:

Pakistan court orders Musharraf assets seized – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English

A Pakistani court has ordered former president Pervez Musharraf’s financial assets to be frozen and confiscated, a prosecutor said.

A hearing in Adiyala prison in the garrison town of Rawalpindi on Saturday ruled for his property to be confiscated and his Pakistani bank accounts to be frozen, Chaudhry Azhar, a public prosecutor, told the AFP news agency.

The hearing is adjourned until September 10, Azhar said.

Musharraf, the former military ruler, has been living in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai since leaving office in 2008.

He is alleged to have been part of a “broad conspiracy” to have Benazir Bhutto, ex-premier and his political rival, killed in 2007 before presidential elections.

Prosecutors issued an arrest warrant in February over what they said was his failure to provide her with enough security.

The exact nature of the charges against him, however, has not so far been made clear.

Pakistani Court Orders Seizure of Musharraf’s Property – NYTimes.com

The court order was issued Saturday by Judge Shahid Raffique at a hearing in Rawalpindi, the garrison city next to Islamabad where Mrs. Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack on Dec. 27, 2007.

Mr. Musharraf was charged in the case earlier this year, but he left the country in 2008 under threat of impeachment and has been living in exile in London and Dubai.

He has not appeared at any court hearing in the case.

During the hearing on Saturday, the judge ordered the Federal Investigation Agency to confiscate all of Mr. Musharraf’s property for failing to respond to subpoenas.

At the time of the assassination, Mr. Musharraf’s government had accused the Taliban and Al Qaeda of being behind the plot to kill Mrs. Bhutto, his political rival.

A United Nations report released in April 2010 suggested that Pakistani authorities had deliberately failed to effectively investigate the killing, but it did not say who it believed to be responsible for her death.

Last October, Mr. Musharraf apologized to Pakistan for what he characterized as mistakes he made in office, and he said he would return to the country in time for elections due by 2013.

According to this report in the Telegraph, Musharraf’s Pakistani bank accounts totalling £625,000, where seized. Pervez Musharraf’s Pakistan property confiscated – Telegraph

A United Nations investigation published last year said Mr Musharraf’s government did too little to ensure her security and criticised investigators for hosing down the crime scene after her death and failing to perform a post mortem.

Two senior police officers arrested for alleged dereliction of duty apparently told investigators that Mr Musharraf himself had ordered the removal of a security detail on the day of her death.

When Wonk sent the link to the NYT’s article, she remembered that David Axelrod used the Bhutto’s assassination as an attack against Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign. Here are a few articles I found…

Did Hillary Clinton kill Benazir Bhutto? CNN.com – Anderson Cooper 360° Blog

Did Hillary Clinton kill Benazir Bhutto? Not quite, though Barack Obama’s right hand man thinks she may have had something to do with it.

“She was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq,” David Axelrod said, speaking of Hillary “which we would submit, is one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda, who may have been players in this event today. So that’s a judgment she’ll have to defend.”

[…]

Axelrod’s comments are not just distasteful. They’re nonsensical. Exactly how were we diverted from Pakistan because of the war in Iraq? If it weren’t for the Iraq war, and the larger war on terror, we would not give Pakistan a second’s thought. The country would still be under US sanctions for its illegal nuclear program.

Perhaps Axelrod means to say that our presence in Iraq has elevated the terrorist threat in Pakistan, thereby forcing the US into an uncomfortably cozy relationship with — and $10 billion in aid to — the country’s military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, which he seems to have squandered on military equipment to maintain a police state rather than fight al-Qaeda elements in the country, thereby compelling the US to send in Bhutto under a power sharing agreement with Musharraf to salvage what’s left of Pakistan’s democracy, thus tainting her as an American stooge and leading to her assassination by the very same al-Qaeda elements that Musharraf has yet to do anything about.

Now, there is no way I can do this story any justice…Wonk is the Hillary expert extraordinaire, but here is a quote from a New York Times article back in December of 2007, when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.

Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Bhutto – NYTimes.com

Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton after a dinner reception in Pakistan in 1995. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated today, was the only celebrity whom Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton says she stood in a rope line to see. Later, after Mrs. Clinton came to international prominence, Ms. Bhutto would hold a luncheon for her and share an amusing observation about the status of husbands married to women politicians.

[…]

Mrs. Clinton apparently found in her a kindred spirit.

“Bhutto acknowledged the difficulties faced by women who were breaking with tradition and taking leading roles in public life,” she wrote. “She deftly managed to refer both to the challenges I had encountered during my White House tenure and to her own situation. ‘Women who take on tough issues and stake out new territory are often on the receiving end of ignorance,’ she concluded.”

I also found these little nuggets over at TalkLeft.  It is interesting to see what hindsight can do for you when you look back at the comments of this post…

Edwards Rips Axelrod – TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime

I wonder…who is that RalphB? Well, whoever he was…he was right! Obama is Bush with a better vocabulary, as long as he has that  teleprompter to lean on, no question about that.

Steve Clemons: Is Axelrod Nuts? – TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime

Steve Clemons, no one’s idea of a hothead, is dumbfounded by David Axelrod’s behavior:

[B]y David Axelrod’s own accounting, his candidate Barack Obama has complicity in our nation’s distraction from the serious, building threat of organized Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, by not commanding the resources under his control to raise attention. And then of course, Biden, Dodd and Edwards all voted for that Iraq War Resolution in 2002 as well. Did they all help to kill Benazir Bhutto too?

Here is something kind of funny from Steve:

Obama’s foreign policy team — of which Axelrod is not really a qualified member — needs to quickly assemble and get their candidate back in the game.

I guess Steve missed Susan Rice’s outrageous contribution to the Obama meltdown on this. Apparently, there are no grownups on the Obama campaign.

“No grownups?” Hey, who would have guessed that Obama would use the idea that he is the only “grownup” in the room during the Debt fiasco?

Thank you Wonk…for that heads up on this Musharraf story, and the nudge to find old articles about the Axelrod attack on Hillary.  Let me just say that I miss you Wonk, and when I see your name in the inbox of my email…I get very happy and excited…like a kid on Christmas morning, anticipating what your email has in store!

On to some other news items of interest…

Qadhafi family surfaces in Algeria – Jennifer Epstein – POLITICO.com

Former Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi’s wife and three of his children have fled to Algeria, that country’s government said in a statement on Monday.

I wonder where the Mad Dog is? Algeria failed to make a statement about the former dictators where abouts…

The news that some of Qadhafi’s family members have departed Libya comes as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to put her summer vacation on hold this week for a trip to Paris, where she will meet with top officials from NATO countries to discuss ways to help the Libyan opposition take control of Tripoli.

There is also some news in Syria, Video: Syria imposes new censorship as protesters beg for “international protection” « Hot Air

Two interesting developments have taken place in Syria over the last couple of days. First, the Bashar Assad regime has included strict media censorship laws as part of its so-called “reforms” in Syria. CNN can no longer report from Syria, and now has to report on the story from Istanbul. This has been greeted with alarm in the region — so much so that CNN’s Ivan Watson reports that Assad has been told that he needs to listen to his people and conduct real reform by … Iran and Hezbollah?

It is amazing what global news you can miss when the coverage has been wall to wall Irene.  I linked to this Hot Air piece because it was not getting much play on left leaning blogs…

The tenor of the protests has changed as well.  People in the streets have begun calling for international intervention against the Assad regime, referring back to the principle of civilian protection and the precedent of UN Resolution 1973.  And on its face, it’s hard to distinguish between Libya in March and Syria almost ever since.

And what about that international intervention? Morrissey has this to say about that:

Will the Syrian protesters get international intervention?  I’d call it unlikely in the extreme.  NATO could go after Qaddafi because he didn’t have strong ties to a military power in the region; he managed to alienate everyone around him.  Assad’s ties to Iran would almost guarantee that any Western or even Arab-only intervention would provoke Tehran into joining the fight.  They have no intention of allowing their most critical alliance to disappear, and with it their pipeline to Hezbollah and Lebanon.  They might even consider threatening a strike on Israel as a way to sideline the Arab nations and force NATO back to the sidelines.  If the Syrians are to be rescued from Assad, they’ll have to do the rescuing themselves.

Which leads me to this article in the New York Times:  In Times of Unrest, Social Networks Can Be a Distraction – NYTimes.com

THE mass media, including interactive social-networking tools, make you passive, can sap your initiative, leave you content to watch the spectacle of life from your couch or smartphone.

Apparently even during a revolution.

That is the provocative thesis of a new paper by Navid Hassanpour, a political science graduate student at Yale, titled “Media Disruption Exacerbates Revolutionary Unrest.”

Using complex calculations and vectors representing decision-making by potential protesters, Mr. Hassanpour, who already has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford, studied the recent uprising in Egypt.

His question was, how smart was the decision by the government of President Hosni Mubarak to completely shut down the Internet and cellphone service on Jan. 28, in the middle of the crucial protests in Tahrir Square?

His conclusion was, not so smart, but not for the reasons you might think. “Full connectivity in a social network sometimes can hinder collective action,” he writes.

To put it another way, all the Twitter posting, texting and Facebook wall-posting is great for organizing and spreading a message of protest, but it can also spread a message of caution, delay, confusion or, I don’t have time for all this politics, did you see what Lady Gaga is wearing?

I am not sure about that…I mean it all depends on who you are following right? During the Egyptian uprising, so much of our information came from reliable sources via twitter.  Hassanpour goes on to say…

“The disruption of cellphone coverage and Internet on the 28th exacerbated the unrest in at least three major ways,” he writes. “It implicated many apolitical citizens unaware of or uninterested in the unrest; it forced more face-to-face communication, i.e., more physical presence in streets; and finally it effectively decentralized the rebellion on the 28th through new hybrid communication tactics, producing a quagmire much harder to control and repress than one massive gathering in Tahrir.”

In an interview, he described “the strange darkness” that takes place in a society deprived of media outlets. “We become more normal when we actually know what is going on — we are more unpredictable when we don’t — on a mass scale that has interesting implications,” he said.

It is truly a fascinating article, please give it a full read…Hassanpour discusses Libya, Iran, and Great Britain…and then touches on Germany during the cold war.

And lastly, Bachmann is in the news yet again…this time channeling Pat Robertson… Bachmann Plays Down Comments Linking Disasters and Deficits – NYTimes.com

As municipal crews around the Northeast work to clean up after Hurricane Irene, Representative Michele Bachmann is doing her own damage control after she used a Florida political rally to suggest that the recent natural disasters were God’s way of sending a message to the politicians back in Washington.

“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians,” she told a group of generally older residents in central Florida on Sunday, referring to the need to rein in spending. “We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here? Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now.’ ”

Mrs. Bachmann’s comments came less than a week after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake near Mineral, Va., shook a large swath of the East Coast, including Washington and New York — areas that would have to brace for a hurricane days later. Irene, as both a hurricane and tropical storm, knocked out power for more than a million people and left nearly 30 dead, according to The Associated Press’s latest count.

Her campaign downplayed the remarks of course, saying that she spoke “in jest.”  Bachmann Campaign: Bachmann Spoke ‘In Jest’ When She Said God Was Communicating Via Earthquakes And Hurricanes | TPMDC

“Obviously she was saying it in jest,” campaign spokesperson Alice Stewart told TPM in a statement.

Really? A joke, come on how dumb do you think we are? Wait…strike that…

Check out these registered voter’s remarks as Bachmann continued her Florida tour…

Michele Bachmann rally draws over 1,000 in Sarasota, but some prefer Rick Perry – St. Petersburg Times

“I spoke to Rick Perry Thursday night,” said Wes Maddox, a GOP activist in Tampa who went to Texas A&M with Perry, who is expected to make his first Florida stop Sept. 13 in Tampa Bay. “He said, ‘You tell them (in Florida) help is on the way.’ That’s what the governor’s message is — help is on the way.”

Bradenton retiree Philip Staples said he’s already sold on Bachmann. “She’s got the fire in the belly, and she’s a straight shooter. She’s one of the common people,” he said.

“I like Michele Bachmann a lot,” said Stephen Gately, a Republican activist from Pinellas County who was among more than 1,000 people at a Bachmann rally in Sarasota on Sunday afternoon. “But I’m supporting Gov. Perry. I prefer governors as our nominee.”

Hmmm, I wonder what Mr. Gately thinks about governors that say things like…social security and disability are nothing but a Ponzi scheme for the “young”..a scam…perhaps Mr. Gately is one of those “young” supporters of Perry?  I bet Gately gets his monthly “scam” checks…what do you think?

I don’t know why, but I also detect a hint of masochism in that comment from Gately…but maybe I am just experiencing some major PMS and I’m just a bit tired of all this GOP Godly Jesus Freak crap…from both the men and women who are preaching, sorry, campaigning there way to the nomination.

So that is it for me, what you all think of that? Catch ya later in the comments!


It’s still the jobs, stupid

In what I hope is not some symbolic hype, Alan Krueger–an actual economist and a labor one at that–was nominated by President Obama today to head the Council of Economic Advisors.  He will replace Austin Goolsbee.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, Krueger’s scholarship suggests he will “likely provide a voice inside the administration for more-aggressive government action to bring down unemployment and, particularly, to address long-term joblessness.”

If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Krueger’s academic work has frequently played a valuable role in the political discourse. When congressional Republicans blatantly lied about the costs of a cap-and-trade plan, it was Krueger who set the record straight. When conservatives said in 2009 that slashing the minimum wage would boost the economy, Krueger explained why the opposite is true.

The economist also brings relevant experience to the table.

I’m hoping this finally brings the correct policy priorities and prescriptions to the table. We’ve had nearly three years of confused messages and results and the economy is clearly the worse for it.  There’s an article up at The Guardian by economist Dean Baker that pretty much sums up all of my economic posts for the past few years.  Obama never seemed to understand that high unemployment is a problem and never instituted any kind of policy to target the problem directly.  He says he gets it now, but I’d just like to remind every one that he said he got it after the election that delivered the House of Representatives to the Tea Party terrorists and still has shown no sign that he understands that people expect bold fiscal policy in the face of low economic growth.  All we keep getting is tax breaks for rich people and opposites day fiscal policy.

President Obama has discovered how serious the recession is. That’s what he told an audience in Chicago last week. To be fair, he was referring to revised data from the commerce department showing that the falloff in GDP was larger than originally reported.

But ridicule is appropriate. He and we knew all along how many people were out of work. The employment numbers told us the size of the hole and the desperate need for government action.

This sort of ridiculous comment, and President Obama’s weak response to the recession over the first two and a half years of his presidency, explains the tidal wave of scepticism facing his widely hyped upcoming speech on jobs after the Labor Day weekend. The list of remedies leaked ahead of time does little to inspire hope.

At the top of the list of job-creating measures is extending the 2 percentage-point reduction in the social security payroll tax. This provides no boost to the economy, since it just keeps in place a tax cut that was already there, but if the cut is allowed to end at the start of 2012, it will be a drag on growth.

As it stands, the social security programme is being fully reimbursed for the lost tax revenue, but there is always the possibility that Republicans will use this as a basis for attacking the programme. Given President Obama’s willingness to support cuts to social security, it is understandable that this part of his jobs agenda doesn’t generate much enthusiasm.

Baker goes on to call for a new CCC and explains why trade agreements, tax cuts to business yet again that undermine social security, and all the rest of the “jobs” agenda touted by the President aren’t going to do much of anything.  Economist Nancy Folbre has a great piece of analysis up at the NYT explaining why letting this high level of unemployment go on for a period of time has an increasingly negative impact on the entire economy because things multiply over time.  However, a new study covered by Folber shows that the unemployed  just don’t sit around and act like they are on vacation.  They create value by doing unpaid work.  The same folks that think that the unemployed just lie around are the same ones that push the meme that homemakers spend their days eating bon bons and watching soap operas.

The overall increase in non-market work implies that household consumption among the unemployed fell less than market income, but it’s hard to put a dollar value on the unpaid work. When people make a voluntary decision to substitute time for money, we can infer something about the relative value they place on it.

But most unemployment is involuntary, and some unpaid work probably represents an effort to stay busy more than a significant contribution to household living standards.

The authors emphasize the relatively large impact of unemployment on unpaid work, in part because this is a new finding, and in part because it counters the wrong impression that, as Professor Hurst put it, the Great Recession was a Great Vacation.

But it is also important to note that most of the unemployed can’t allocate more of the free time they gain to productive uses, even if they want to. They lack the capital, land, tools and skills needed to flexibly shift from wage employment to production for their own use. Even when they can make a partial shift, their productivity is likely to be lower in unpaid work than paid work.

That’s why involuntary unemployment represents such a waste of human capabilities and loss of productive output for the economy as a whole.

So, what can Alan Krueger bring to the White House if the President will listen to this economist?  This is economist Mark Thoma’s take on the appointee.

His most well known research is on the minimum wage and immigration, The work is somewhat controversial in that the results show small negative effects from raising the minimum wage and from increasing immigration. In my view that is a sign of an economist who is willing to let the evidence do the talking, and that is a good trait to have in this job.

He has also worked in many other areas, including occupational licensing, the economics of terrorism, and more recently on job search in periods when unemployment is high, including how job search is affected by things such as unemployment insurance. But that is just a small taste of the large amount of research he has done.

Krueger’s been working at the Treasury so maybe that will give him access that many of the other Obama economic advisers seemed without.  Time is running out for policy to help the unemployed in any meaningful way.  I say this because as we get closer to the election, it will make the Republicans more surly and less likely to do anything to help a Democratic administration. They’ve already been rewarded for hostage-taking behavior.  Then, there’s the policy lags.  Things like infrastructure banks take a lot of time to set up. Ideas like  patent reform are laughable as job creation tools. I have no idea why the Obama administration won’t embrace things that worked in the past, but that doesn’t appear to be their MO.  They seemed to get their jobs mojo from reheating failed Republican canards and presenting them as the higher, middle ground. I continue to be discouraged.