Post-partisan Ass-covering

by matttbastard

Paul Krugman wades into the ongoing debate over whether Obama should look back or move forward with regards to extra-legal activities on the part of the outgoing administration:

Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

[…]

Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.

First, let me make it clear that my sentiments directly and unequivocally intersect with Krugman’s, as outlined in this post. With that said, I’m all-too pessimistic about the likelihood of any serious investigations taking place. As Earl Ofari Hutchinson notes, members of the party that currently controls both branches of Congress (including and especially its leadership) also have bloodstained hands:

The Democratic-controlled Congress passed the “Protect America Act.” This put the Congressional stamp of approval on what Bush did and actually expanded his powers to snoop. The targets weren’t just foreign terror suspects and known operatives but American citizens. Democrats knew this and approved it by inserting in the law open ended wording that permitted legalized spying on anyone outside the U.S. who intelligence agencies “reasonably believed” to posses foreign intelligence information. The law deliberately made no distinction about exactly who the target could be. Then there was the infamous clause that granted immunity from lawsuits to communications service providers that made Bush snooping possible. With no fear or threat of legal action against the companies, the wraps were legally off on who could be snooped on. As an added sweetener the law also gave Bush emergency power to tap for up to a week anyone deemed a terror threat; all without a warrant.

And one can’t forget about the CIA’s torture enhanced interrogation program, of which top-level Democratic members of the House and Senate were informed early on of what was going on, yet at the time chose to do nothing. So, with all due respect to people like John Conyers Jr., any attempt to cast the spotlight on the many, many crimes committed over the past decade and hold everyone who is responsible accountable is, I fear, ultimately a futile pursuit. Forgive and (most importantly) forget will be the mantra that the Washington establishment continues to embrace, purely out of an unhealthy, cynical, yet entirely understandable bipartisan sense of self-preservation.

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Dear Bobby Rush

Two words:

Blair. Hull.

Hey, maybe the One Drop rule somehow applies...

Also, what Ta-Nehisi Coates said:

Look, I say this as a black dude obviously concerned about race in this country. If you want a black senator go out and do the work to get yourself one. Build the organizations, build the fund-raising, do a black version of Emily’s List, if need be. At some point, you have to stop bitching about the track. You have to stop bitching about your hand-me-down spikes. At some point, you just have to go out and run. I have little tolerance for the racial grievances of upper-middle class blacks. Do for your damn self, and speak for your damn self. Keep my name out your mouth.

I don’t care how solid the brotha’s resume is. Anyone who doesn’t have the good sense to say “thanks but no thanks” to a corrupt motherfucker like Blago (who quite obviously and disgustingly put a racial spin on this appointment to save his own corrupt motherfucking white ass) has basically forced people to raise questions about motives and ethics. And the same most definitely goes for cynical CBC loudmouths who willingly and cravenly pimp their negritude at the apparent behest of the aforementioned corrupt motherfucker–and, I would argue, do so at the long-term expense of those of us who are genuinely and sincerely concerned about racial disparity within the public sphere.

Yeah, thank you ever so much for giving every not-racist a handy example to righteously point out ad infinitum whenever they want to play the race-card-card, you fuckbasket wankstain sellout.

natodutch

still black, still strong, still pissed,

matttbastard

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Beltway Inertia and the Rule of Law

by matttbastard

In a must-read post today, Glenn Greenwald challenges Ruth Marcus and the establishment Washington consensus, in which the pursuit of war crimes charges against soon-to-be-former Bush officials is arbitrarily dismissed as either too polarizing, too partisan, or just too goddamn difficult to successfully prosecute, and thus should be preemptively abandoned.  Greenwald explains why this virtually ensures the perpetuation of an unlawful historical feedback loop:

Along with the desire for just retribution, one of the two principal reasons we impose penalties for violations of the criminal law is deterrence — to provide an incentive for potential lawbreakers to refrain from breaking our laws, rather than deciding that it is beneficial to do so. Though there is debate about how best to accomplish it and how effective it ultimately is, deterrence of future crimes has been, and remains, a core purpose of the criminal law. That is about as basic as it gets. From Paul Robinson, University of Pennsylvania Law Professor, and John Darley, Psychology Professor at Princeton, in “The Role of Deterrence in the Criminal Law“:

For the past several decades, the deterrence of crime has been a centerpiece of criminal law reform. Law-givers have sought to optimize the control of crime by devising a penalty-setting system that assigns criminal punishments of a magnitude sufficient to deter a thinking individual from committing a crime.

Punishment for lawbreaking is precisely how we try to ensure that crimes “never happen again.” If instead — as Marcus and so many other urge — we hold political leaders harmless when they break the law, if we exempt them from punishment under the criminal law, then what possible reason would they have from refraining from breaking the law in the future? A principal reason for imposing punishment on lawbreakers is exactly what Marcus says she wants to achieve: “ensuring that these mistakes are not repeated.” By telling political leaders that they will not be punished when they break the law, the exact opposite outcome is achieved: ensuring that this conduct will be repeated.

[…]

Every time we immunize political leaders from the consequences of their crimes, it’s manipulatively justified in the name of “ensuring that it never happens again.”  And every time, we do exactly the opposite:  we make sure it will happen again.  And it does:  Richard Nixon is pardoned.  J. Edgar Hoover’s lawbreakers are protected.  The Iran-contra criminals are set free and put back into government.  Lewis Libby is spared having to serve even a single day in prison despite multiple felony convictions.  And now it’s time to immunize even those who tortured detainees and spied on Americans in violation of numerous treaties, domestic laws, and the most basic precepts of civilized Western justice.

One would hope to see those individuals who have been granted a national platform that allows them to have a measurable impact on the tone of discourse in Washington be responsible and advocate on behalf of the rule of law. Instead, they collectively sigh, texturally furrow their brows over how hard it is to do the right thing, before finally settling for the cold, easy comfort of doing nothing (shades of grey, children. Shades. Of. Grey.) In an article published yesterday by McClatchy Newspapers, Marisa Taylor starkly lays out the logical consequence of elite apathy towards defending the rule of law:

Without wider support, the campaign to haul top administration officials before an American court is likely to stall.

What this says to the nation, and the world, about the US and its lack of commitment to justice, human rights, and the rule of law is nothing short of staggering.  As Loyola war law expert David Glazier put it,

It is mind boggling to say eight years later that there is not going to be some sort of criminal accountability for what happened… . It certainly undermines our moral authority and our ability to criticize other countries for doing exactly the same thing. But given the legal issues and the political reality, I am hard pressed to see any other outcome.

And because our gatekeepers of ‘reasonable’, ‘serious’ discourse can’t begin to envision any viable course of action other than forgive and (try our goddamndest to) forget, all of this–state-sanctioned torture and rendition, unlawful domestic surveillance, an unnecessary war in Iraq that, thus far, has killed well over a million people–has, in effect, been green-lighted twice.  First, by Bush, Cheney and the rest of those who felt that burning the Constitution was the only way to save it. Then, retroactively, by those in the Beltway press corps, elite Washington society and–most egregiously–the incoming Democratic administration, all of whom would apparently rather practice their statesman-like ostrich pose than risk disrupting the inertial ebb and flow of their delicate political ecosystem.

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Apparently We’re All Supposed To Be Shocked and Outraged Now (OH NOES–SEPARATISTS! SOCIALISTS!)

by matttbastard

Shorter Stephen Harpercons:

“How dare those undemocratic Opposition leaders (SEPARATISTS! SOCIALISTS!) actually take their parliamentary duties seriously!”

Regarding the high dudgeon and great consternation from the Serious Set (farts in Bob Fife’s general direction) at the notion of the Bloc and the NDP (SEPARATISTS! SOCIALISTS!) doing the unthinkable and actually *gasp* talking with each other, what Impolitical said:

…and? It’s news that the NDP and Bloc have been speaking? In a minority parliament? How scandalous. The other parties outnumber the Conservatives and if the Conservatives aren’t acting in a manner that the other parties agree with…then such discussions are entirely appropriate. It’s appropriate to explore at any moment and lay the groundwork for alternatives in an inherently fragile parliament, which, contrary to Conservative spinning, it is.

Uncle Steve appears to have become quite enamoured with governing like he had a majority last session (thanks in large part to perpetual Liberal acquiescence) and seemed fully prepared to continue the trend in the current session. Alas, in actuality, the Conservatives only hold a minority of seats in Parliament and minority governments have to maintain the confidence of the House. If the government loses the confidence of the House, the government falls.

Maybe if Mr. Harper weren’t so hostile to the concept of Canadian parliamentary democracy he might, y’know, have a better understanding of how it works [link corrected — mb].

Regardless, methinks Fife (SEPARATISTS! SOCIALISTS!) should perhaps pay more attention to the real scandal here: Members of our government are apparently so terrified their little empire may be in decline and on the brink of collapse that they believe it’s entirely appropriate (justified, even) to employ what some might call Nixonian ratfucking tactics, specifically, “invade other party telephone calls, tape them and distribute [them] to the media”, as Impolitical put it. Or are such piddling matters simply not newsworthy inside the Queensway cocktail circuit? Oh, wait, I forgot — Guy Giorno already sent out the script, and you’re not allowed to make any rewrites mid-production.

Gotcha.

Related: Chet takes a closer look at the the ongoing meltdown in Toryland (update: more here), while fern muses about drafting a list of demands now that our not-so-New (perhaps soon-to-be-former) Canadian Government is in such a giving mood. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pour a glass of schadenfreude shiraz to sip on while I observe the all-too-amusing exhibit of wingnut splutter and flail.

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“Dry Language, Dry Bones”

by matttbastard

Tom Hayden:

Antiseptic language is sometimes necessary in journalism and law to make objective evaluations. But it also can suppress moral and emotional responses to suffering and serve as a sedative in managing public opinion. Riveting stories of torture dungeons don’t rate much in the media in comparison to domestic violence between white Americans. For instance, clear evidence that Sunni children were being murdered by the Shi’a captors, persuasive to a top US military investigator, made it into the Salt Lake Tribune, but not much further. The US Judge Advocate happened to be from Utah, making it a local story.

Counterinsurgency often is framed as winning hearts and minds, not as crushing the alleged insurgents to protect the civilian population. In South Vietnam, that led to “strategic hamlets” and the Phoenix program. In Central America, it was death squads who killed priests, nuns and thousands of civilians. In both cases, American and world opinion was shocked.

In the case of Iraq, there is silence in the West.

h/t Nell in comments @ ObWi

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Re: Online Publication of BNP Membership List (OH NOES!)

by matttbastard

anti-fascist_sign

What Voltaire’s Priest said:

Do you people not get it? This isn’t some bastardised version of Pastor Niemoller’s famous speech, which as I recall did not in fact begin “first they came for the fascists”! The people whose rights you are so concerned to protect are the political inheritors of a tradition which runs from Kristallnacht, through the Holocaust, via the NF marches of the 1970s and random acts of violence against non-white people in the UK, through Nick Griffin’s anti-semitic rant “Who Are the Mind Benders”, to today’s “respectable nationalism” and the sick-making “Racism Cuts Both Ways” campaign. They are the ultimate enemy of socialists, liberals and democrats everywhere, and if you think they would have the slightest concern for your rights were the situation to be reversed then you are utterly deluded.

I would not endorse or encourage acts of physical violence against anyone on the BNP members’ list. But frankly if the publication of this list results in these sickos being driven out of politics completely then that would leave me unequivocally delighted. They are a poisonous presence on deprived estates across the nation, and they are a malignant parasite upon politics in the working class. I have none of the middle class, beltway liberal concerns about their destruction that have been written over the past few days, and neither should anyone else.

Yeah, I’ll sign off on that.

Update: The list (h/t Dawg).

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Go Read Off Our Pedestals Now.

by matttbastard

Ilyka fires off one final scorching laser-guided missive at the “shit-shoveling fire-fueling fauxtography-and-Jamil-obsessed bastards” of the wingnutosphere.

Not even gonna bother excerpting–am too busy applauding (much to the bemusement of my cat.)

Seriously.

You. Must. Read. The. Whole. Damn. Thing.

Related: Bookmark John Amato’s vidcap shrine to wingnut irrelevance during the 2008 presidential election. It might come in handy as a historical footnote when future generations wonder what the hell happened to the world in the first decade of the millennium–and to mark the moment when we finally stopped shrieking and kinda-sorta started breathing again.

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More Cobblestones on the Road to Hell

by matttbastard

Here in the Great White North, accountability is out and banality is in as The Nuremberg Defence seems to be enjoying a resurgence in respectability.

CBC News:

The actions of Canadian officials contributed indirectly to the torture of three Arab-Canadian men in Syria, a federal inquiry has concluded.

“I found no evidence that any of these officials were seeking to do anything other than carry out conscientiously the duties and responsibilities of the institutions of which they were a part,” former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci concluded in his report, made public Tuesday, 22 months after the inquiry began.

The probe focused on whether the detentions of Abdullah Almalki, Muayyed Nureddin and Ahmad El Maati resulted from the actions of CSIS, the RCMP and the department of Foreign Affairs and whether Canadian consular officials acted appropriately in the cases.

“It is neither necessary nor appropriate that I make findings concerning the actions of any individual Canadian official, and I have not done so,” Iacobucci wrote.

More from The Toronto Star:

The Iacobucci report concludes that all three men were detained and suffered mistreatment that amounted to torture as defined in the United Nations convention banning torture.

El Maati, Almalki and Nureddin were, separately, detained and imprisoned in 2001, 2002, and 2003 respectively while travelling in Syria.

All were interrogated and, Iacobucci concluded, tortured at the same Syrian military prison as Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was deported by U.S. authorities to Syria.

El Maati was also sent to Egypt where Iacobucci accepts he underwent further torture.

The men claimed their interrogators relied on information that could only have been gleaned from Canadian authorities, and that Canadian security and police agencies were complicit in their mistreatment.

But Iacobucci stops well short of indicting the Canadian officials for complicity.

And what do the Little Eichmanns in Canada’s New Government™ have to say about the matter?

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day declined to apologize, telling reporters, “This government can’t take responsibility for processes in place under a previous government.”

He claimed the procedures and “deficiencies” identified in this and the previous Arar inquiry have been “vastly improved,” and suggested that if the reforms his government had made were in place at the time, the incidents might not have occurred.

But Day did not single out any agency or officials for blame. He pointed to the Iacobucci report which said people were carrying out “conscientiously” the duties of their institutions.

“It’s more a case of good people acting with deficient procedures and deficient policies.”

“Justice, truth, the value of a single human being”? Pfft–go back to your September 10th fantasy world, Haywood, and tell it to Jean and Paul. Partisanship über alles.

Related: Almalki, Nureddin and El Maati discuss how their lives have been upended by their horrific experiences, along with the sense of betrayal felt thanks to the (indirect!) actions of Canadian government officials; Amnesty International Canada condemns the inquiry, warning that the probe “extended secrecy to everything, not just the national security concerns” and, as a result, “[excluded] the suspects and public from the proceedings in their entirety“. The 544 page public (read: heavily redacted) version of the Iacobucci whitewash report is available here (PDF)

Update: More from Alison @ The Beav

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Quote of the Day: Christopher Buckley is Shrill

by matttbastard

So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.

So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.

Christopher Buckley, after getting shitcanned tendering his resignation from The National Review because he committed the cardinal sin of endorsing Obama.

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I Heart Conservative Ethics (Almost as Much as Conservatives Heart Uppity Women)

by matttbastard

A now-infamously short-lived Conservative candidate may be facing a REAL shit-creek legal situation (sans paddle, of course).

dBO @ Birth Pangs:

Rosamund Luke, purportedly a member of R.E.A.L. women and until a week ago Conservative candidate for the Halifax riding, may be facing a criminal investigation regarding the disappearance of funds allocated to her [organization] by Status of Women Canada, under the New™ guidelines established by the Harper government.

Ms Luke was the executive director of an organization called All Women’s Empowerment and Development Association, the beneficiary of $142,700 federal grant last March from Status of Women Canada. The funding was meant to fund a 12-month pilot project to integrate low-income immigrant women into Nova Scotia’s small business community. About $130,000. is missing, according to the two remaining board members who fired Ms Luke. The association, whose goal was to bring economic independence to immigrant women, provided financial help to only seven women. Seven women.

That total does not include Ms Luke, who may have been quite well served by her turn as director of the organization. Transparency and accountability, it’s the Conservative way of doing business.

Heh.  Indeed.

(PS–read the whole damn thing)

Related: NDP MP Peter Stoffer’s letter to Auditor General Shelia Fraser formally requesting an investigation into the circumstances of how the grant was awarded:

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Sheila Fraser, FCA
Auditor General of Canada

Office of the Auditor General of Canada
240 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G6

Dear Ms Fraser:

I am writing to you to formally request an investigation by your office into a $142,700 grant by Status of Women Canada to a group calling itself the All Women’s Empowerment and Development Association (AWEDA).

I’m confident you are aware of recent media coverage concerning the Halifax-based organization as well as the controversy concerning its executive director Rosamond Luke and her political activities on behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Most recently, today’s Halifax Chronicle Herald reports deeply worrying details about the decision by AWEDA’s board of directors to remove Ms. Luke from her position “citing accounting irregularities”.

The department’s Grant and Contribution disclosure record states that the $142,700 grant was awarded on March 2008. It also says that the project it is purposed to be in support of as follows: “This 12 month pilot project is designed to enable and integrate low-income immigrant women in Nova Scotia society through entrepreneurship, self-employment and micro enterprise projects.”

The very same Chronicle Herald article states that the doors of the program, opened near the Armdale Rotary, have now been closed – only six months into the 12 month pilot project.

I am personally supportive of the mission of the grant, and am now grievously worried that public funds approved by parliament for one purpose may have been used for a very different one. This is why I am hoping your office will take appropriate measures to ensure that this was not the case.

I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Sincerely,

Peter Stoffer, MP
Sackville—Eastern Shore

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