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  • On Patriot Day, we begin the war we have been fighting for years

    Yesterday was Patriot Day, by proclamation of the President. The proclamation was released by the press office at 9:24 AM, about two hours before the office released excerpts from the speech the President delivered about 10 hours later.

    Pre-speech excerpts are a tradition. These are the lines administration officials want the chucktodds of the press to be talking and writing about in the hours before the speech, the “Tonight, the President will say” lines. These are the lines meant to manage expectations and convey gravitas. They’re released in the morning so the chucktodds have time to write something up that is similar to but not identical with what all the other chucktodds are saying and writing, and which includes responses from anonymous administration officials — somber, but favorable — and public experts (“experts disagree!”).
    Continue reading On Patriot Day, we begin the war we have been fighting for years

    The Do’s and Dont’s of Torture

    Folks torturing folks, redux: Obama plants his flag on the wrong side of Nuremberg

    When you come down on the same side of an argument as the Nazis and other Germans guilty of crimes against humanity, you’re doing something wrong.

    Not long after he took office, President Obama invoked the Nuremberg defense on behalf of the folks who tortured folks. That’s the one where the Germans who committed what are now known as crimes against humanity said they had the right to assume that superior orders are lawful. A few days ago, he described anyone wanting torturers held to account as sanctimonious because we were all afraid after 9/11.
    Continue reading Folks torturing folks, redux: Obama plants his flag on the wrong side of Nuremberg

    Torturers, looters and oligarchs let their freak flags fly

    The people who variously collapsed the economy, bought the political process and brought torture into polite society are tired of your disrespect and they’re not afraid to let you know it.

    The latest in the parade of former Bush administration officials and CIA personnel to come in from the cold the suburbs and either defend or brag about their roles in the Bush torture regimen is psychologist James Mitchell, the prominent member of the helping professions who is credited with having designed the procedures used by the CIA to torture prisoners and is supposed to have tortured at least one prisoner himself. In an interview with The Guardian, Mitchell said “I’m just a guy who got asked to do something for his country by people at the highest level of government, and I did the best that I could.” Mitchell follows in the footsteps of former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who say the times required torture and the results justify it, and anyway it wasn’t torture.

    In some circumstances, in some countries, admitting to having not just devised torture procedures but practicing them as well would land one in hot water. In the US, however, torturers have a very prominent advocate for letting bygones be bygones: the current President. In 2009, when he ordered the release of the documents the Bush administration’s legal team wrote to retroactively and prospectively justify torture, President Obama said that “[i]n 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.”
    Continue reading Torturers, looters and oligarchs let their freak flags fly

    Bartleby, the President

    Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby, in a singular mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not to.”
               — Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener

    Bartleby, the Scrivener is the story of a man who one day decides he would prefer not to — first work and, eventually, live. We needn’t worry about that with Bartleby, the President. He has too high a degree of self-regard to starve himself from indolence or despair, as should we all, and insufficient attachment to principle to risk his life on a hunger strike.

    As you must know, the passions of various Senators on the Senate intelligence committee are inflamed by agents of the CIA having illegally surveilled them and illegally executed covert operations against them. We say illegally because the CIA is proscribed from practicing its arts domestically on anyone, even Senators and their staffs, who probably bear watching more than most of us, even when the CIA believe themselves to have good reason; especially so, in fact, because that’s when the risk is highest. The CIA think they have good reason now because the Senate intelligence committee has been preparing a report that will document the agency’s crimes against humanity, including torturing people and disappearing them.

    The surveilling and operating was evidently done with the knowledge and approval of the CIA director, one John Brennan. It is particularly fraught because the CIA is an executive branch agency, and the executive branch is not meant to spy upon or coerce other branches of government. This is in part why the great Richard Nixon lost his job. What we have here is the very definition of a constitutional crisis, a plain breach of the separation of powers.
    Continue reading Bartleby, the President

    Lickspittles, Poltroons and Slubberdegullions

    Referring, obviously, to congressional Democrats who wish to further reduce food stamp benefits and to cast a Nixon spell on the NSA, rendering all its predations lawful. The latter would be Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-NSA), who is expressing her outrage over the eavesdropping on allies by writing legislation that fully legitimates spying on citizens, and the former a host of other Democrats whose starting point in the negotiations about the SNAP program (food stamps) is a $4 billion cut on top of the $5 billion lost as the stimulus ends.
    Continue reading Lickspittles, Poltroons and Slubberdegullions

    Somebody is seriously pissed off about the Obama administration’s iteration of the national security state

    The Obama administration has sprung a gusher. This is pretty remarkable. In the space of three days, we have learned (so far) that

    The National Security Agency has been collecting complete call records on Verizon users (and probably all the other telcom customers as well) for perhaps seven years; The National Security Agency is . . . → Read More: Somebody is seriously pissed off about the Obama administration’s iteration of the national security state

    James Comey, Obama’s candidate to head the FBI, approved illegal warrantless wiretapping and torture. Forward!

    Then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama disappointed some of his liberal supporters when he voted in 2008 to immunize our country’s giant telecommunications firms from any consequences of cooperating with the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping scheme. Now, he’s nominating a champion of that scheme to head the FBI.

    James Comey, who served as . . . → Read More: James Comey, Obama’s candidate to head the FBI, approved illegal warrantless wiretapping and torture. Forward!

    Routine carnage in Boston

    I was browsing through my news feed yesterday morning when I ran across a story about the US bombing a wedding in Afghanistan. I thought something like “Jeez, again?”* and didn’t click through for the full story because it was so familiar. Now I can’t find it, but I think it said 30 dead. . . . → Read More: Routine carnage in Boston

    From Newtown to Kabul, the sounds of freedom

    Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. doesn’t say what sounds “close-air support overhead” resembles, probably on the assumption that his audience, readers of the American Forces Press Service, do not need a description. He does say that the sounds “are often referred to as “the sounds of freedom,”” although he doesn’t say . . . → Read More: From Newtown to Kabul, the sounds of freedom