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Destroying Torture Tapes

[ 17 ] December 7, 2007 |

The CIA deliberately destroyed tapes of two of its “severe interrogations.” The First Rule of the Bush administration: it can always get worse. Marty Lederman correctly calls out Jay Rockefeller, who at the very least has been sitting on this information since 2006, for yet again shedding crocodile tears after failing to do anything when it mattered. Marcy Wheeler, among other good points, notes that this will be the first major test for Mukasey, “a clear case of obstruction of justice involving Goss and a bunch of other people.” We’ll see if there’s been any progress from the Gonzales regime soon enough…

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"A National Joke"

[ 7 ] December 7, 2007 |

I haven’t always agreed with Murray Chass’s analysis of labor issues, but he’s been doing great stuff about the exclusion of Marvin Miller from the Hall of Fame, this time by a committee stacked with Lords of the Realm after he was becoming to close to being elected under the old system. And, adding insult to injury Bowie Kuhn, the dimwitted reactionary who (thankfully) lost one battle after another in his attempt to make sure that players continued to receive grossly below-market salaries, was elected:

The National Baseball Hall of Fame has become a national joke. Its latest electoral contrivance elected three former executives to the Hall yesterday, none named Marvin Miller. Making the committee’s decision even worse, one of the three is named Bowie Kuhn.

For any committee of 12 supposedly knowledgeable baseball people to elect Kuhn, Barney Dreyfuss and Walter O’Malley and not Miller defies reasonable and logical explanation.

Of the three men elected by this newfangled panel, O’Malley deserves the honor because by moving his Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles 50 years ago, a move for which he is still reviled in Brooklyn, he opened the entire country to baseball. The new geography made a significant impact on Major League Baseball.

Few men, if any, however, made as significant an impact as Miller on Major League Baseball. You don’t have to like what he did to recognize that impact. The game today is what it is in great part because of what Miller did as executive director of the players union from 1966 through 1983.

That only 3 of the 12 voters on the new executives committee acknowledged his contribution, and voted for him, is a sad commentary on the committee members and the Hall’s board of directors, which concocted the committee.

The committee was weighted heavily in favor of management candidates. Seven of the 12 members were or are management figures, owners and executives. If ever a system was created for the failure of one man, this was it.

“They are not a jury of my peers,” Miller observed last week, “but a jury of my antagonists.”

This would seem to be payback by people who should know better. Miller wrecked the owners’ cushy setup as lords and masters of the players and they would show him. I didn’t think Miller would get the nine votes necessary for election, but I thought he could come close. I could never have imagined that only three members would vote for him. As a member of the writers’ wing of the Hall of Fame but a nonvoter because The New York Times doesn’t allow its employees to vote, I am embarrassed for the Hall and everyone connected to it. Jane Forbes Clark, the chairman, and Dale Petroskey, the president, should especially feel embarrassed for what has occurred.

It is good that Dick Williams was selected; more on that later. Stephen Brunt has more on Miller.

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You Can’t Spell "Jesus" Without "US"

[ 20 ] December 7, 2007 |

Mitt:

We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places.

OK, Mitt. Whatever you say.

Here’s the Father of Our Country (and George Washington):


And here’s Jesus with some of his Confederate friends:


. . . and mopping up after the massacre at Wounded Knee:


And so on:

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The Boumediene Oral Argument

[ 6 ] December 6, 2007 |

Unfortunately, other professional responsibilities have prevented me from reading the full transcripts yet, so I’ve only heard the highlights so far (I’ll have more when I read them in full.) Marty Lederman found both advocates brilliant (as did TAP’s Phoebe Connelly, who was in attendance) and seems optimistic about the result. Linda Greenhouse also says that the case will turn on how far Kennedy is willing to go (implying that he will join the judgment of the Court’s four more liberal members but may — in his typical fashion — try to narrow the reasoning.) I don’t differ from the conventional wisdom here; the most likely outcome seems to be a Kennedy opinion (or an opinion designed to attract Kennedy’s vote) holding that Congress doesn’t need to provide full access to ordinary federal courts to satisfy the habeas requirement but does need to supply better procedures than it did in its most recent bill. Orin Kerr, however, argues that because Kennedy was uncharacteristically silent it’s hard to make a prediction, and argues that the Court may just send the case back to the lower courts after making it clear that “that there is a Constitutional right to habeas jurisdiction for the Guantanamo detainees.” Dodging the key questions in that why wouldn’t surprise me either, although in light of the Court’s previous decision such a clarification seems unnecessary.

…As Roger points out in comments, audio of the oral argument is also available online.

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Missile Defense and Iran

[ 0 ] December 6, 2007 |

Michael Goldfarb dissents from my conclusions on the implications of the NIE on missile defense, and further asserts that liberals should love missile defense:

And finally, liberals fundamentally misunderstand the effect of deploying a missile defense system–it would decrease the likelihood of conflict, not increase it. Missile defense would provide decision makers with one more option in a world where options are the scarcest commodity.

Imagine the U.S. intelligence community, or more likely their Israeli counterpart, is able to determine with some degree of certainty that the Iranians are mere months away from an operational nuclear capability. Right now, they’d have two options: bomb or do nothing, aka diplomacy. But if those leaders could have some confidence in their ability to shoot down an Iranian missile, wouldn’t this strengthen the argument for doing nothing–the argument Farley would most certainly be making. As it is, the American people would likely demand military action, but missile defense would give liberals a fall-back position–’it doesn’t matter if they build a nuclear missile, we can shoot it down.’

Uh… no.

Let me explain the concept of “deterrence”. Deterrence means the creation in the mind of on adversary the belief that the costs of an action will outweigh the benefits. In this specific sense, it means creating in the mind of the Iranians the belief that they’ll suffer drastic consequences for doing things like firing nuclear missiles at other countries. Now, I tend to think that the dramatic military supremacy of the United States over Iran in any conceivable military confrontation is enough to deter Iran from firing nuclear missiles at random European targets. As such, I reject Michael’s premise; because of deterrence, we don’t need to overly worry about the threat of Iran committing national suicide by firing a nuke at Paris or Berlin. Indeed, this has pretty much always been the liberal position on missile defense; even the job it purports to do can be done better by deterrence. Of course, it’s been a wingnutty article of faith that the leaders of Iran are not sensitive to costs, but whatever else it has to say, I think that the NIE has put that argument decisively to bed. Backing me up on that I have no less august authority than Victor Davis Hanson, who noted recently that Iran is not a suicidal state and is sensitive to costs. Now, a sensible reader might reply “but isn’t Victor Davis Hanson an unredeemed hack who can’t be trusted to supply reliable information about his academic specialty, much less the decision-making process of the Iranian state?” The answer is yes, but the point still holds.

So, since in my world liberals are against throwing money away on weapon systems that have dramatic and unsolved technical problems, that agitate foreign countries (while it might be objected that Russia is already irritable, that’s no reason to poke it with a sharp stick for no good reason), that are extremely expensive, and whose flimsy strategic rationale has vanished like an April frost, I’d have to say that liberals like myself are quite rational in our belief that missile defense is a pointless waste.

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Depressing Hockey News (With Bonus Feminism!)

[ 14 ] December 6, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

“I was only following orders!”

According to court documents, the contract on Steve Moore, leading to Todd Bertuzzi’s near homicide, was put out by fellow scumbag Marc Crawford, backing up what many had long assumed. I don’t think this provides the slightest exoneration for Bertuzzi — he wasn’t told to sucker-punch Moore in the head, and a player could even have chosen to interpret Crawford as ordering a hard but clean and legal hit (such as, say, Moore’s hit on Naslund.) But it’s clear that the disgraceful circus was also created in large measure by Crawford.

Elsewhere, the charity created by the wives of the Ottawa Senators is donating a third of its proceeds to “crisis pregnancy” centers. As Stacey May points out, fans who purchase charity raffle tickets (I’ve certainly contributed to similar things) reasonably expect their money to go to innocuous charities, not to organizations distributing forced pregnancy propaganda. No wonder the Senators have lost seven straight!

“See You On The Links, Marc!”

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Classics In the History of Wingnuttery

[ 9 ] December 6, 2007 |

With respect to Mike Huckabee agitating for the release of serial rapist and future murderer Wayne DuMond because of pressure from anti-Clinton conspiracy nuts, a commenter chez Yglesias helpfully points us to a reprint of a 1996 Steve Dunleavy column about the horrible injustices perpetrated on the poor, poor, pitiful serial rapist by Bill Clinton. You see, one of the rape victims “is Bill Clinton’s cousin. And her mother worked as part of Clinton’s inner circle when he was governor.” Well, I’m convinced! (According to Gene Lyons, the DuMond’s defenders were also wrong to take DuMond’s claim that he was castrated by intruders as face value.)

Duncan, who has been on this for a while, had another example here, this time with Dunleavy claiming that Clinton’s “worst crime” was…putting a serial rapist in jail. (Worse even that an obscure money-losing land deal or getting a blowjob? That’s hard to believe!) He also reminds us that not all anti-Clinton wingnuttery was on the right, pointing to this Village Voice article.

Even if you lived through this recent era, it’s hard to believe it happened. And if Clinton is the nominee in ’08, progressives had better be aware of what kind of stuff is going to come out of the woodwork and be prepared to deal with it.

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Now 3% Clearer! The Real World Effects of Ab Only

[ 0 ] December 6, 2007 |


In 2006, for the first time since 1991, the teenage birthrate rose in the United States. The rate went up three percent. The increase was highest among black teenagers, but there were increases among white and Latino teens as well. What’s more, the U.S. rate remains far higher than other industrialized countries. Looking at the numbers and making some logical deductions makes it easy to see why:

“[T]eenage sex rates have risen since 2001 and condom use has dropped since 2003. Abortion rates have held steady for a decade, although numbers from 2005 and 2006 are not available.”

So, abortions hold steady, condom use goes down and sex rates are up. Seems like a no-brainer that such a situation would lead to more pregnancy.

But it’s not. Because, despite the Democratic Congress, the U.S. still spends about $176 million annually on abstinence only “education” programs that don’t work. Abstinence only programs don’t keep teens from having sex, and, what’s worse, they leave kids (who are still having sex) without the tools to prevent pregnancy and STDs. The Heritage Foundation helpfully calls blaming abstinence only education for rising teen pregnancy rates “stupid” (they prefer to blame the women themselves). But it’s not stupid. It doesn’t take much to be able to see that there might – just might – be a connection between not teaching kids how to use a condom and a rising pregnancy rate. We need to stop living in a la-la-land where teenagers’ hormones can be tamed (or should be tamed) and get back to reality. Sex isn’t bad. Kids need to know how to have sex safely. Because teens are going to have sex. As much as they can.

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The Wingnuttiest Era Ever?

[ 34 ] December 6, 2007 |

In re the Omaha shootings, it took exactly eleven comments at Little Green Footballs before question of “Sudden Jihad Syndrome” interrupted the nibbling of cucumber sandwiches and crumpets:Fortunately for all, the question received swift and thoughtful attention.

And so on.

And so forth.


Until reasonable voices took over and floated alternative hypotheses.


All of this makes me wish that blogs had been around during the Cold War. Jumping Jesus, that would have been a good time….

All of which raises the unanswerable question of whether we are in fact living through the wingnuttiest period of American history. I’m inclined to argue that if we correct for certain factors like the per capita distribution of parents’ basement apartments, bagged snack foods and technology — assuming, for example, that blogs either didn’t exist today or, conversely, did exist “back then” — we are not yet living in the most purely wingnutty epoch of all time. If pressed, I’d have to argue that the period from about 1848-1856 would take the prize. Why?

Several reasons. First, I’m working from the assumption that wingnuttery thrives in the humid gap between perceived and actual peril; the greater the disparity between the two, the greater the magnitude of wingnuttiness.

Second, it’s obvious that during the two years prior to 1848, the US was in fact embroiled in a controversial war with Mexico, and from 1856 onward the Civil War was lurching toward inevitability — e.g., the revocation of the Missouri Compromise and the subsequent splattering of east Kansas, the Dred Scott ruling, the John Brown raids, etc. So while the general level of insanity was quite high during those years, the period between 1848-1856 was characterized by unprecedented national derangement — incoherent expressions of Southern paranoia; wasteful, fantastic plots to steal Cuba from Spanish control; and a wave of anti-Catholic zealotry that helped destroy both major parties while producing its own genre of pornography to boot.

With all due respect to the great wingnuts of today, they’ve a long way to go to match the accomplishments of their pre-civil war ancestors.

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Defining Liberalism Down

[ 0 ] December 5, 2007 |

Dave Weigel claims — plausibly — that Huckabee has gotten soft coverage because reporters like him. He also claims — rather less plausibly — that this is because of Huckabee’s “liberalism.” I guess this is the flipside of arguments that George Bush’s statism makes him a liberal (as opposed to the statist conservative he actually is), but it’s a strange assertion. Unless anybody who doesn’t believe that tax cuts are the appropriate response to every conceivable fiscal situation is a liberal, then fiscally Huckabee governed as a moderate conservative (in the context of a strongly Democratic legislature), and he’s campaigning as a right-wing crank on fiscal matters by making a regressive, unworkable national sales tax his centerpiece. In addition, of course, liberals tend not to believe that abortion is a “holocaust,” support amending the Constitution to make gays and lesbians second-class citizens, etc. He may not be the first choice of the powerful Donald Luskin wing of the GOP, but he’s not a liberal in any sense.

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Upward Mobility

[ 16 ] December 5, 2007 |

TBogg is dead — long live TBogg!

Adjust your RSS feeds accordingly.

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Another Reason Why Judicial Review Is Necessary

[ 45 ] December 5, 2007 |

The Washington Post has a story today about Murat Kurnaz, a German man of Turkish origin who wasted away in Guantanamo for four years despite conclusive intelligence reports that he is not an enemy combatant or a terrorist. He was finally released in May 2006. His story brings into sharp relief what’s at stake in the Boumediene case the Supreme Court will hear today.

Despite clear statements from the intelligence community that Kurnaz posed no threat to the United States, he was kept at Guantanamo for four years based on the conclusion of a brigadier general in a memo on which members of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) that determined him to be a combatant relied. The memo included these tidbits, based on which one – I guess – could surmise (or did surmise) that Kurnaz was an enemy combatant:

the tribunal members relied heavily on a memo written by a U.S. brigadier general who noted that Kurnaz had prayed while the U.S. national anthem was sung in the prison and that he expressed an unusual interest in detainee transfers and the guard schedule. Other documents make clear that U.S. intelligence officials had earlier concluded that Kurnaz, who went to Pakistan shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to visit religious sites, had simply chosen a bad time to travel.

This was enough to keep a man at Guantanamo for four years. A 19-year-old, no less. Based on this, and on other quotes and context provided in the Washington Post article alone, one would be hard pressed to conclude that the CSRTs and the military tribunals in Guantanamo are operating in a way even close to just. The Court’s decision in Boumediene won’t necessarily fix this, but it could ensure that the courts are available as an important (and, it seems, necessary) check on the executive run amok.

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