30 April 2009

Glenn Greenwald and others make the same points on torture prosecution

This is so similar to the points I made below in my long post on torture, that I'll just quote it, from Glenn Greenwald:

.....Obama's answer to [Jake] Tapper on whether he believes the Bush administration "sanctioned torture," what is most significant is that Obama flatly stated that waterboarding -- which Bush officials acknowledged that they ordered -- constitutes "torture." That means that Obama is currently and simultaneously advocating these positions:

* Bush officials ordered torture.

* Torture is a crime.

* Nobody is above the law.

Unless you're David Broder, Fred Hiatt, Peggy Noonan or Tom Friedman, those premises of Obama's, as a matter of logical reasoning, all necessarily lead to one conclusion (hint: it's not: "This is a time for reflection, not retribution"). Greg Sargent has similar thoughts about the significance of Obama's torture answer.

UPDATE: When asking Obama about whether Bush officials sanctioned torture, Tapper explicitly stated that "torture is a violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions" (it is also a violation of clear domestic criminal law). Obama's acknowledgment that Bush officials did indeed sanction "torture" by, at the very least, ordering waterboarding amounts to a clear concession that Bush officials broke the law. When you combine that conclusion with the "nobody-is-above-the-law" mantra they keep embracing, the case for criminal investigations makes itself.

UPDATE II: Rep. Jerry Nadler, commenting to Greg Sargent on Obama's torture remarks, makes the obvious point:

President Obama said, "They used torture, I believe waterboarding is torture." Once you concede that torture was committed, the law requires that there be an investigation, and if warranted, a prosecution . . . . The president stated in so many words: Waterboarding is torture, the previous administration has admitted that it waterboarded, and torture is a violation of international law. Once this is admitted, there must be an investigation. It forces the Justice Department on this path.

I don't see how that can be contested. As Sargent says: "Expect more like this."

29 April 2009

Supreme Court Luminaries: Reasons why sweeping torture under the rug is unacceptable

I found these on talkleft.com, but they are hardly the words of raving left wingers. I think they say as well as anyone could why it is totally unacceptable to sweep torture and torturers under the rug, and 'move on.'

Justice Robert Jackson, dissent to Korematsu v. U.S.:

The chief restraint upon those who command the physical forces of the country, in the future as in the past, must be their responsibility to the political judgments of their contemporaries and to the moral judgments of history.

Justice Brandeis:

Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that, in the administration of the criminal law, the end justifies the means -- to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal -- would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this Court should resolutely set its face.

Inhofe: Specter Defection proof of impending GOP Comeback... say whaa?

I offer this factually devoid nonsense, literally headshakingly nutty, from the ever ridiculous James Inhofe, as Exhibit A in my thesis that the Republicans, taken over by the worst Wingnuts ever, have descended into a revolting blend of humorless lunacy and unbelievable stupidity.

What's up, Minnesota?

I just don't get how the Minnesota Supreme Court can justify not acting with outright alacrity to decide the case already, and declare Franken the winner of the election in November. The legal case on the Coleman side is preposterously flimsy. And if Pawlenty, Franken victory in court in hand, still refuses to certify the election, it will be a very dark day for any notion of orderly electoral politics in the United States. We have tolerated far too many spurious challenges, including, of course, the infamous Bush v. Gore, through which a large fraction of voters will always believe the Bush faction literally hijacked an election and brought us the worst administration in our history. Enough already. Minnesota supremes: expedite the damn case, make your decision, and give your state's citizens the senator they elected.

28 April 2009

Nate Silver: Specter Switch May Not be All that Great for Dems

The thoughts of the always trenchant Nate Silver resonate with what I found myself thinking about the Specter Switch today.

Republican Wingnuts think Colbert is serious

Here's the incontrovertible proof: Right Wing Republicans (which, especially with the loss today of Arlen Specter, is most of 'em), are, by and large, (a) stupid; and (b) devoid of any sense of humor whatsoever.

Truthdig and ProPublica

I added truthdig and ProPublica to my links list. If you don't know these sites, I recommend both of them.

Paying for the internet

Off my usual political topics, but it's crossed my mind a number of times recently that the only real salvation for American journalism will be if someone devises a system of micropayment for content rich websites, in order to pay for the content. We all want our internet to be free. Even Wikipedia, which tries to use a paradigm similar to public broadcasting; where they ask you to kick in a little scratch to keep the lights on, doesn't really raise much, compared to the service they provide. Newspaper sites have tried to figure out ways to make money, but they don't sell nearly enough advertising, and things like "Times Select", where the NYT tried to get people to pay $50 a year for access to premium content, haven't worked. I don't know if Slate and Salon are really viable long term, but it's clear that all sources will be in the same basic situation long term as people turn more and more to the online world for what they used to get from print journalism.

What's the solution? I don't pretend to know, but somehow, online 'micro-billing' software, that charges small sums to look at a particular site, is inevitable, I think. Maybe something like 30 or 35cts and then you get access for the whole day; if you want to avoid that, you subscribe, for $2 to $5 a month, depending on what it is, and the cookie tells the website you're a licensee. Alternatively, it could charge really small sums, like 2 to 5 cts, and you just get a license for 10 or 15 min. There would have to be some kind of content-billing clearing house that was set up to keep track of billions of tiny transactions with very small overhead; billing aggregated sums to credit cards or paypal once a month, or direct from bank accounts. I suspect this technology is already perfectly feasible. It's just a question of convincing people that accepting it is inevitable. The alternative is extinction of the journalism we want, because it's really obvious to everyone by now that the old paradigm of newspapers supported mainly by advertising just isn't working anymore, and online advertising isn't generating enough revenue to support the institutions of journalism.

23 April 2009

Pakistani situation really scary

If you're not really, really worried about the deteriorating situation in Pakistan, a country with 100 nuclear missiles, you aren't paying attention.

9/11 and Torture as Terrorism

I commented in my long post on Torture (link) that Torture is Terrorism. By which I meant that when used by smart, but evil, people, it has nothing to do with obtaining intelligence. It is used to terrorize populations or segments thereof. I submit this is a fact, and welcome any discussion. State actors who think they are using torture to obtain useful information are stupid as well as criminals, because it doesn't work for that purpose, as has been well understood by those who have wielded it as a terror weapon for centuries.

Some might say, as Rightists often do, that criticizing, or worse (in their minds), calling for the prosecution of, those who committed potentially illegal actions in defense of our country is part of a "Blame America First" mentality. I say, this is riproaring bullshit, and I'm sick of it. What makes America something other than just another powerful amoral empire is that we have, throughout our history, more often than not, upheld moral values in our laws, and maintained a system of due process of law, checks and balances, humane treatment of those accused, (including foreigners and prisoners of war), and openness. When we fail to uphold these values, we fail to uphold American ideals. Those who have fallen so far short of these values as to actually commit torture in the name of the American people do not defend the fallen of 9/11. They dishonor them.

Further, as I hope I've made abundantly clear, they do not help to secure our country, or ensure that further attacks do not occur. Torture doesn't work.

Worse, Torture is the worst imaginable P.R. for our country. It is an Al Qaeda recruiter's dream. Abu Ghraib, (as an example) has been cited by numerous later detainees as the reason they joined the Islamic extremist movements with which they were associated when captured.

Now there is even evidence that some of the obviously useless, but nonetheless criminal and inhumane, waterboarding that was ordered was done specifically because the top officials had preconceived notions of a (non-existent) connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and were displeased that this connection hadn't emerged from the normal interrogation of Al Zubayda in particular. Egad. How much more depraved can you get than to order torture because the intelligence doesn't fit your false world view, so you want fake, false, torture-obtained 'evidence,' to justify your false views? These people must be held accountable.

This doesn't mean I've prejudged them guilty. I haven't. I believe in due process. But the credible evidence is there. At least, investigation to determine whether charges should be filed must be conducted, and if the evidence is there to infer that conviction is likely, prosecution must follow. This is the way our system works and anyone who says otherwise is advocating a government of men, not of laws, and I say, with no irony and no room for humor, for shame. For dreadful, awful shame.

Why Do Texas Republicans Hate America?

Texas Rebublicans Approve of Gov. Rick Perry's Secession Remarks. Now, I ask you, really, what would King Karl Rove, Big Fat Rush, and Bill-o 'Reilly say if this said

Massachusetts Liberals split on whether to withdraw from U.S. ??

Wingers just love to crow about patriotism, but what can be more unpatriotic than proposing to leave the Union?

Frankly, I'd say let 'em go, if it weren't for the incredible and expensive legal wrangle it'd obviously cause. We'd have 59 out of 98 Democratic Senators, and oil or no oil, Texas is undeniably full of crazy old cusses whom we really could do quite well without. They can have Oklahoma, too, as far as I'm concerned. I'm sure the lunatics in Alaska would want to be next. Oh, hell, it won't work, so let's grow up and forget it. Now, Wingnut Journalists, how about a tiny soupcon of responsibility and calling Perry out on this nuttiness for a change?

22 April 2009

America Must Act: Torture cannot be condoned

Let me start out by saying I am very troubled, and that's why I'm taking the time to write a long post. What troubles me is the lack of any real outrage and the now irrefutable evidence that torture has been committed in our name, as Americans. I hope you will find time in your busy life to read it. I am writing, not to confront or antagonize, but because this issue seems to me to be of literally paramount importance. I believe that if a civilization cannot uphold fundamental moral conduct, it will fail. What follows is my attempt to frame this issue in a pair of principles which I hold, like our founding fathers, to be self-evident, as well as supported by unassailable facts. This isn't ideological, or political, except in the broadest sense, of having to do with the polity, our country. The principles I'm talking about aren't liberal or conservative, right or left, Democratic or Republican. They're fundamental moral principles. After setting out two basic principles, I will discuss some irrefutable facts, and some additional possibly debatable facts, and then draw what I consider some unassailable conclusions. I welcome dialog with anyone reading this.

I hold the following tenets to be critical and essential principles of American civilization. By which I mean, if someone doesn't subscribe to them, I just don't see how they can claim to be anything other than an outlaw, someone who does not value or appreciate our country and its values, and who, in fact, doesn't truly care if it survives, as an American civilization, rooted in its Constitution and founding principles. In other words, such a person cannot claim to be a genuine patriot in any sense.

Here, then, are the principles, with some comments:

1. Torture is wrong and illegal, and can never, under any circumstances, be justified.

By torture, I include weasel words like "enhanced interrogation techniques" and "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." Whatever you call it, this conduct is not, and can never be, legal, and any twisted interpretation that says it is is flat wrong, morally compromised, hideously cynical, or so far gone into ideological self-justification as to be beyond the pale of rational discourse. Our very constitution prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment" and guarantees due process. These principles are wholly and irrevocably inconsistent with toleration of any form of torture by state actors. Our country has no business tolerating these things, whatever they're called, under color of law. Ever.

Please note: I don't hold it to be a principle that torture also does not work, and yields almost entirely useless information, but I do hold that to be true. It's secondary, but true. The literature on the subject is quite extensive, and anyone who seriously disagrees with this is either very ignorant, or willfully so. When torture has been used by intelligent, albeit evil, men in the past, (and is still today by such people) it was not and continues not to be used to obtain useful information. It was and is used to create terror. That is a simple historical fact, with virtually no exceptions. I maintain, in fact, that Torture is terrorism. I trust it need not be elaborated that it is certainly a principle of American civilization that there is no legitimate use for state terror. I will leave that as inarguable and go on.

2. We are a nation of laws, not of men.

2(a). Corollary: No one, no matter what position he holds (including the presidency), no matter what his imagined justification, is above the law, or has the right to just ignore the law, or to deliberately twist and subvert it to suit his ends.

I will leave the conclusions which flow from this alone for the moment: I ask only that you consider this, and decide: is this right? Is this a principle on which our country is essentially based? Is the corollary implicit in the principle?

I submit: yes to all. Of course, I'm not saying there aren't fine points, where law must be balanced against necessity. There are exigencies; there are rare instances where emergency action must be taken, and legal justification sought afterwards. I would include the president committing troops in an emergency without a declaration of war in this category (leaving alone the question of whether more protracted involvement without such a declaration is legal). These things have obviously occurred in our history. But the systematic use of torture, whether in secret or above board, does not fall in this category. It is illegal. Period. Even if it occurs as an isolated instance, it is a crime; and, as such, on many occasions in the past, it has been prosecuted in the U.S. The fact that is has sometimes occurred in a systematic ongoing way is merely to say that we have had instances of systematic and ongoing lawlessness in our history. This can hardly be surprising or debatable, but it is no sense a justification for anything. We cannot rationalize a failure to live by our laws because some in the past have failed to do so.

Here are some irrefutable facts. If anyone disputes any of them, I'd be very much interested in their evidence. The proof of these facts is widely available. Jane Mayer's The Dark Side and recent articles by Mark Danner in The New York Review of Books should suffice.

· Waterboarding has been stated categorically by the current duly appointed chief law enforcement officer of the United States to be torture. Update 4/30: President Obama said the same thing in his Press Conference yesterday.

· On numerous occasions in the past, notably in Occupied Japan after World War II, in Viet Nam, and in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, tribunals of the United States convicted individuals, including American soldiers, of criminal conduct for waterboarding detainees. At least two Japanese officers convicted of waterboarding were shot, as a result of guilty verdicts before American Military Tribunals.

· Officials operating under color of law in the period roughly 2002-2004, and possibly at other times in the recent past, ordered waterboarding and other forms of torture to be committed, and employees of the U.S. government committed this torture repeatedly.

· Lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel composed memoranda purporting to justify the use of illegal torture during this period.

· The then President and Vice-President of the United States knowingly participated in executive decisions resulting in the authorization of torture during this period; both have admitted their participation, without admitting the characterization of the conduct authorized as "torture."

· The current president of the United States has stated that employees of the government who acted "within the four corners" of specific authorization to conduct torture (without calling it that) will not be prosecuted.

· The United States, in the Nuremberg Trials, specifically and categorically rejected what has commonly come to be known as the "Nuremberg Defense;" i.e. that someone is not guilty of a crime if he committed it under orders from superiors. Numerous Nazi defendants were found guilty notwithstanding their having presented evidence that they did nothing illegal they were not ordered to do by their superiors.

· The United States participated in promulgating, in the aftermath of World War II, and is now bound by, International Law which recognizes Universal Jurisdiction for crimes against humanity, including torture, when the original jurisdiction fails to act on credible evidence that a crime has been committed.

· At least one prosecutor in a foreign jurisdiction (Spain) has expressed interest or intention to pursue prosecution of officials involved in the United States in authorizing torture during this period.

Here are a few possibly debatable facts.

· Claims of Dick Cheney and others that significant intelligence, resulting in aversion of terror attacks in the United States, as a result of conduct which qualifies as torture (albeit not acknowledged to be such by these people), are false. No useful intelligence was actually developed from the use of torture.

· It is generally acknowledged by experts in psychology that torture is ineffective in producing useful information, because torture victims will say anything at all, including making up confessions, to stop the torture.

· The scenario of the "ticking time bomb," which is a staple of such paranoid fantasies as the television program 24, is totally unrealistic: there has never been a case where a suspect in custody had actual knowledge of impending attacks, which, if known, could be used to prevent them, such that torture was the only way to successfully prevent the attack. This has never happened, and is so incredibly unlikely that it's safe to say it never will.

· Tortured detainees in U.S. custody during the period roughly 2002-2004 did in fact provide their torturers with numerous false leads and much misinformation, which ultimately proved not only useless, but harmful, to U.S. intelligence efforts.

· Even if useful intelligence were gained from torture, such would not constitute any kind of legal defense for those accused of committing it, under existing U.S. law.

Here are a few conclusions, which I regard as virtually unassailable. Again, I welcome any comments.

· Given the evidence, there is no rational basis for not investigating for possible prosecution officials who have acknowledged authorizing conduct which must be considered torture. This must include lawyers in the OLC, and officials in the executive branch at the time, including the Vice President and President himself.

· Given the evidence, there is no rational basis for not investigating for possible prosecution those employees of the U.S. government who actually carried out torture. Following orders is no defense. Such people cannot claim not to have known their actions were illegal, and even if they did, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Perhaps some consideration should be given to circumstances in deciding how to deal with the disposition of these cases, but to simply not consider prosecuting them is unconscionable.

· If the United States fails to prosecute those against whom credible evidence may be presented that they authorized or committed torture, other jurisdictions will, under the principles of Universal Jurisdiction, be empowered to do so.

I draw these conclusions not out of any sense of rancor or desire for retribution or political payback. I am chilled to my bones at the thought that officials of my government, it now appears absolutely undeniable, rationalized, authorized, and committed torture in the name of the people of the United States. This isn't a left/right thing. It is a moral imperative. Committing torture is totally unacceptable at any time. Those who have done this must be held accountable. The failure to do so will be a moral failure which will taint our nation's name and honor forever.

21 April 2009

Rove and Noonan on torture memos: disgusting

"All of these techniques have now been ruined."
-- Karl Rove, on torture memos.

"It's hard for me to look at a great nation issuing these documents and sending them out to the world, and thinking, 'oh, much good will come of that.'

"Some things in life need to be mysterious. Sometimes you need to just keep walking.
--Peggy Noonan, ditto

These two quotes rank as among the most disgusting things public figures have ever said, to my knowledge. These two have no concept of what the term 'human rights' even means. That either of them have ever been considered respectable public voices is a blight on our country.

20 April 2009

Impeach Bybee

Allow me to add my voice to the chorus calling for the impeachment of Federal Circuit Court Justice Jay Bybee (Ninth Circuit). Anyone who can write a specious rationalization like his torture memo should be disbarred, still less be allowed to continue as a jurist for life.

There are things in law that are close questions, and debatable; i.e., opinion could go either way. This isn't one of them. Bybee, along with John Yoo and Steven Bradbury, have shamed American jurisprudence by writing such twisted concoctions as this and similar memos, designed to please their masters, whose anti-constitutional goals of justifying extrajudicial imprisonment and torture were so obviously illegal (under both U.S. and binding International Law). The illegality of torture, whether acknowledged or rationalized as "merely" "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment", and the fact that what these memos describe as permissible is torture, are not in any sense close questions. By justifying these actions, these lawyers have undermined the most basic principles of law, which require that it be rational and that it respect the intent of the law being interpreted and applied. These memos attempt to twist and subvert the law so nefariously that they can only be described (ironically) as tortuous. They are so far outside acceptable legal reasoning that their authors should not be permitted to continue as lawyers at all. The inference that they acted out of improper motives is inescapable.

These men have brought dishonor upon our nation--dishonor which it will take quite some time for us to live down. If such is not sufficient to justify impeachment of a judge, I cannot imagine what would be. As Bybee is a justice in the Circuit for my state, I am particularly galled that he continues to sit on the bench.

17 April 2009

CNN losing it

I'd subscribed to CNN's breaking news e-mail service for quite some time, but I've noticed a dropoff in the quality and relevance of their postings lately. When I got this hot breaking news notification this morning, I decided to unsubscribe.

«Ashton Kutcher is first to reach 1 million followers in Twitter contest with CNN.»

16 April 2009

Report: Obama will release Bush administration torture memos

This is certainly good news to anyone who believes in the Rule of Law, and/or that the Constitution and our nation's treaty commitments should mean anything.

UPDATE 4/17: Unfortunately, as Keith Olbermann commented quite cogently yesterday, this announcement was coupled with the troubling announcement that no one who actually implemented these policies during the Bush years will be prosecuted. This is a grave mistake. While judiciousness and selection are always applicable in decisions of whether to prosecute, in cases where people were clearly violating commonly understood standards of U.S. and international law, by committing what any reasonable person would call torture, and merely using these ridiculous and shameful "legal" memos from the corrupted Bush Justice Dept. as cover, prosecution for serious offenses is necessary; otherwise the rule of law means very little. The World is watching, President Obama. Do the right thing.

Texas gov. talks secession... these nuts have gone way too far.

TPM reports on Gov. Perry of Texas hinting at secession over non-existent tax increases. It's bad enough when right wingers rail against all reason about real policies, but when they rave about totally non-existent stuff they just made up, it's too, too much. These people have totally taken leave of whatever senses they may once have had. I think President Obama should remind Perry, as if jokingly, that his role model Lincoln held the Union together with force once before, and if necessary, he (Obama) will do it again. Sheesh.

Even if the proposals of the Obama administration to remove the Bush tax cuts are ultimately successful, as I certainly hope they are, they will do more than restore tax rates to what they were in 1993. Far lower than what they were for most of the Reagan administration. That's tyranny, by cracky! Taxation with Representation! Majority Rule! How terrible.

It never ceases to amaze me that people whose sophistication about matters economic and political appears to be at about a sixth grade level almost reflexively seem to support ideas promulgated by rich and powerful right wingers, in the interests of a tiny fraction of the population, most decidedly not including the idiots who are brainwashed by Fox News into attending "Tea Parties."

Rich right wingers aren't stupid, they know what's in their interests, and it's in their interests to use propaganda to fool masses of undereducated people to support policies directly inimical to their own self-interest. This is legal of course, but that doesn't mean it isn't despicable.

10 April 2009

TSA peeping tom machines just too much

Enough is enough. Actually, too much, already. See-all body scans are too much security, driven by obsessive singlemindedness, rather than rational assessment. There is an implicit objective presumption here; i.e. that this kind of thing actually prevents terrorism, and that a reasonable balancing of cost (including inconvenience and invasion of privacy) as against benefit makes these procedures tenable. I challenge this. I doubt seriously that these procedures significantly decrease the risk of terrorism, at all. It is at least in principle possible to assess the effectiveness of these procedures over time, and I would (again, in principle) lay odds that this kind of thing has no real benefit in any reasonably probable situations, or time periods. There's no such thing as perfect safety, and at some point, you have to say, no, this is just too inconvenient, invasive of privacy, and costly for the merely theoretical benefit it might, in the rarest of cases, yield.

Already, unless it's more than a two-hour flight at least, I don't fly. It's just not worth it.

08 April 2009

Star Trek (2009)

The new Star Trek movie, titled simply Star Trek (2009) won't be released until May 8. The premiere at Sydney Opera House this week was a special deal. It was mostly filmed in Bakersfield (!). One person who went to the special premiere (see imdb) commented, without revealing any of the story, that it manages to poke fun at some of the silliness of the original series, while still being respectful, fun, action packed, and with very high quality space scenes. What is known from the trailers, etc., is that it is recasting of the original series, with new actors. Chris Pine as Kirk, and Zachary Quinto as Spock. Majel Barrett as the voice of the computer (of course). Nimoy has a cameo, but Shatner doesn't. While it was being shot, it was given the working title Corporate Headquarters to throw off excessively enthusiastic trekkie fans. Should be fun. I intend to avoid reviews and trailers, because I prefer to see these things with as little preconception as possible.

Snippet of dialog:
Kirk: Are you afraid or aren't you?
Spock: I will not allow you to lecture me.
Kirk: Then why don't you stop me?

If you go to imdb, don't look at the additional quotes... they give too many hints.

Ebert disses Bill-O, in style

Roger Ebert does Keith Olbermann's obsession with "Bill-O" one better. Why anyone gives that gasbag five minutes of their time is beyond me.

Seat Al Franken already

No honest person, not motivated by sheer partisanship, can any longer maintain that there's any legitimacy or precedent to keeping Al Franken out of the Senate. Hypocrite Coleman immediately after the election called on Franken to concede before the votes were even final; now that the court has concluded that they are final, and Coleman lost, months after the election, he says he'll file an uprecedented appeal and the Repubicans in Congress are girding for refusing to seat Franken. It's disgusting. The Democrats should boo and hiss, literally, in the Senate Floor if the Republicans try to prevent Franken from taking his seat. This isn't legitimate, to use the courts to wend away the clock on Minnesota's elected Senator's term out of sheer political gamesmanship. For shame.

I hope the Minnesota Supreme Court takes the case on an expedited basis (which I assume they can), and simply dismisses it. Then the standing court decision will be final. If the US Supreme Court takes the case on the "precedent" of Bush v. Gore (which explicitly states that it is not intended to function as a precedent, but was a specific decision in a particular situation only), then we will have clear evidence that the Right Wing majority on that court will do anything at all to help their faction claw back to power, without even the merest pretense of constitutional legitimacy.

03 April 2009

Michelle Bachmann: insane

With her downright loony tirades against the non-existent threat of a global currency, and insinuation that the Obama administration intends to make Americans "slaves," I think Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) has finally crossed the line from wingnut to actual nut, as in certifiably insane.

Forget the bonuses, was AIG running a fraud ring?

TPM links to this interesting explanation for why the Credit Default Swaps engaged in by AIG, in particular, were apparently criminally fraudulent, not just unreserved, lacking a basis in actual risk of the insured party, etc. (and thus financially unsound by any sane standard). The point is that the current administration needs to understand that paying off the counterparties in full as if all this was hunky dory and they were victims is just throwing money away, and not really doing anything to move us out of this recession. The damage is done, and these counterparties need to take the hit (to the extent they haven't already been paid off).

02 April 2009

Sophocles got this half right, a Buddhist perspective

The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.
- Sophocles

It is not we, however, who are the cause, it is the negativity that our past actions have caused. By making the implicit distinction 'my mind,' 'my body,' we show that in our profound awareness we already know that the sense of "I" is not the same thing as the surface of our mind. On some level we understand that our mind is afflicted with delusions and inappropriate mental factors, which, if we could eliminate them, would leave our mind pure and happy. Thus, the realization that it is our own actions which are the cause of our "adversities" should not be "the keenest sorrow," but rather a cause for joy: the beginning of wisdom, in fact, because if we once realize that it is the afflictions of our mind that cause all our suffering, we are already on the path that leads to the elimination of sorrow for ourselves and others.

Part of this path is the realization that not only is the sense of "I" not the same as our mind, it is not actually a real thing at all. Rather, it itself is a delusion which needs to be overcome. But that's a deep subject for another time.

01 April 2009

Report: House GOP Budget: eliminate Medicare

And lowering top marginal tax rate to 25%. Plus, posting numbers predicting Democratic policies for 70 years resulting in the Government owning 90% of the economy. Oh, yeah, that's meaningful.
Just how clueless is it possible for the Great Obstructionist Party to be? The party of No should be thinking about changing their name to the Party of No Brain. No wonder the president's approval rating is at 66%... I suspect this is at least as much because the Republicans are being such incredibly stupid jerks as because of anything the Obama administration has accomplished or even proposed.