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Ted Koppel Agrees with Me

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In our last episode, I recounted my recent experience trying to get back into the U.s of A after traveling to the failed state and terrorist hatchery of Canada. I suggested that maybe the U.S. is overreacting to the terrorist threat and that some of what the government is doing is counterproductive.

Turns out Ted Koppel agrees with me, though he comes at the subject from a different angle. I was talking about how the security overreaction has had the effect of punishing U.S. citizens and others for the sins of Bin Laden. In this piece, Koppel is concerned with the military and intelligence (sic) excesses since 911. :

The goal of any organized terrorist attack is to goad a vastly more powerful enemy into an excessive response. And over the past nine years, the United States has blundered into the 9/11 snare with one overreaction after another. Bin Laden deserves to be the object of our hostility, national anguish and contempt, and he deserves to be taken seriously as a canny tactician. But much of what he has achieved we have done, and continue to do, to ourselves. Bin Laden does not deserve that we, even inadvertently, fulfill so many of his unimagined dreams.

Koppel is correct about this and about this:

But the insidious thing about terrorism is that there is no such thing as absolute security. Each incident provokes the contemplation of something worse to come. The Bush administration convinced itself that the minds that conspired to turn passenger jets into ballistic missiles might discover the means to arm such “missiles” with chemical, biological or nuclear payloads. This became the existential nightmare that led, in short order, to a progression of unsubstantiated assumptions: that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons; that there was a connection between the Iraqi leader and al-Qaeda.

He is wrong about this however:

While President Obama has recently declared America’s combat role in Iraq over, he glossed over the likelihood that tens of thousands of U.S. troops will have to remain there, possibly for several years to come, because Iraq lacks the military capability to protect itself against external (read: Iranian) aggression. The ultimate irony is that Hussein, to keep his neighbors in check, allowed them and the rest of the world to believe that he might have weapons of mass destruction. He thereby brought about his own destruction, as well as the need now for U.S. forces to fill the void that he and his menacing presence once provided.

This is either naivete or deception on Koppel’s part. Or maybe he is just in CYA mode. The Bush administration knew that Saddam had no WMD, but lied about it to create an excuse to invade Iraq. There is still no consensus about what the true motives were for the 2003 war, but it most certainly was not fear of Saddam and his mighty weapons.

And getting back to domestic security, let us not forget how the Bush administration used terrorism as a political weapon, never mind the consequences for the citizens and the economy of the U.S. or the failure to pay heed to real threats. Sadly, the new regime seems content to continue at least some aspects of the costly charade.

Finally, Koppel is correct when he says:

Through the initial spending of a few hundred thousand dollars, training and then sacrificing 19 of his foot soldiers, bin Laden has watched his relatively tiny and all but anonymous organization of a few hundred zealots turn into the most recognized international franchise since McDonald’s. Could any enemy of the United States have achieved more with less?

Could bin Laden, in his wildest imaginings, have hoped to provoke greater chaos? It is past time to reflect on what our enemy sought, and still seeks, to accomplish — and how we have accommodated him.

Update from the last post: Dr. Peter Watts, referred to in the last post, was convicted on March 19, 2010 of obstructing a Customs and Border Protection officer. In April of this year he received a two year suspended sentence, but of course being such a violent science fiction writer, he can now not enter the U.S.

Also, tomorrow’s On the Media, on NPR, will include a story about suspicionless laptop searches at the border:

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security over its suspicionless border searches of electronic devices. While the government considers its authority to search laptops and PDAs to be consistent with its power over briefcases and backpacks, ACLU attorney Catherine Crump says that the nature of information on a personal laptop can make these searches unconstitutionally intrusive.

Good luck with that lawsuit, ACLU.

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September 11th, 2010 at 9:45 pm

No Connection Between GOP Base and Dr. Tillers Assassin

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Hey, remember when this stuff was going on?

Ha, ha. Good times.

It would, of course, be wrong to suggest that whoever assassinated Dr. Tiller might have sympathizers among the people shown in the video above.

Thanks to Buffalo Pundit and Mike Finnigan at Crooks and Liars.

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June 1st, 2009 at 10:55 am

Idiot Villagers

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I would really like to thank Jason Linkins at good ole Huffpo for providing me with goofy videos so I don’t have to scour Youtube myself. Here is something he embedded in his Sunday Talking Heads column on 4/26:

What the hell was that? Anyway, it captures the lampoonableness (I coined a new adjective -whopee!) of the Beltway and national media.

But returning to the Sunday Talking Heads column mentioned above, I would just like to pose a question to whoever is able to answer it. To whit: What the devil is wrong with those people?

Here is Linkins describing last Sundays panel on Fox News Sunday:

Brit Hume says that the Obama White House really let the torture memos get away from them. “The base was not placated,” Hume says. And also, Brit, MAINSTREAM AMERICA WAS NOT PLACATED. In February, long before the memos were relased, nearly 60% of Americans favored SOME FORM OF INVESTIGATION, criminal or no. That’s not “the base” or “the left” talking. That’s America, reaffirming some American values.

How much is this adding to the “poison of the Washington atmosphere?” Kristol says the release of the memos is an implicit “embrace of the narrative” that the Bush administration committed crimes. Basically, Kristol suggests that if we prosecute crimes and investigate, how does that help us, doesn’t that damage our national security. Juan Williams doesn’t understand how it damages our national security. Williams points out that subjecting a person to over a hundred sessions of waterboarding is just “beyond the pale in terms of human behavior.” Way beyond the pale. The pale is like a dot on the horizon.

Liasson: What they did was “morally repugnant…but that doesn’t mean that they committed a crime.” BELTWAY JOURNAMALISM, ladies and gentlemen!

Hume: “Can anyone identify a benefit” to prosecutions? UHM, CRIMINALS ARE PUNISHED?

Kristol is straight sputtering! Let’s have everyone testify! Let’s have Dick Cheney take on everyone! GOD, THE SALTY TEARS OF THE WEEKLY STANDARD MUST BE FLOWING, at the thought that someone would challenge their version of American exceptionalism, where moral repugnance in the service of their own quasi-concept of America cannot possibly be questioned, ever.

OK, so that is on Fox, the network home of the Satan and Beelzebub. But even one of the two token humans on the panel (Liasson) isn’t sure that torture is a crime. How did Liasson and friends get so morally confused.

Things are just as murky on Obama’s own network NBC. Here’s how Linkins presents part of MTP:

“Is the president playing politics on this issue?” Gregory asks. What a relief! I’m sort of used to Gregory being all about “playing politics.” That sudden veer into “accountability” SADDENED and CONFUSED me. “Does Obama want to appease his LIBERAL ACTIVIST BASE?” he asks. LE SIGH.

Should not the question be, “Why does the President of the Unites States want to see the law of the land enforced and obeyed, even by the nation’s elites?”

As many, many others have noted, the mainstream/traditional/corporate media is bedazzled by the self serving assertions made by Cheney and his ilk that torture produces good intel. Never mind all the experienced interrogators who scoff at such a notion.

Ah well, there is one cable news guy who gets it. And here he is now:

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April 28th, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Repeat After Me: GE Owns MSNBC

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Bland and yet loathsome David Gregory will anchor MSNBC presidential debate and election night coverage, replacing Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann. Olbermann and Matthews will continue as analysts, sez the Gray Lady.

We all know why. Only corporate/conservative/GOP framing of issues will be allowed on cable news. Brokaw will continue his work as a McCain spokesperson.

Update: If more people would read Manufacturing Consent, fewer people would be surprised by the way media organizations behave. Brush up your Chomsky.

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September 7th, 2008 at 10:09 pm

Brokaw Drives Me cRaZy

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I tried to watch the GOP convention coverage tonight, but I couldn’t stomach more than five minutes. It wasn’t the Republican speeches that drove me away, it was the MSNBC crew.

OK, so Olbermann’s sympathies are, shall we say, transparent. But he is more than balanced by Joe and Mika, who did this sales pitch about how Palin was going to hit it out of the park with her speech tonight. Like teleprompter reading is the most important skill a states-person can possess. And maybe she will read her speech well and bring it off the page. But I would be more impressed if she wrote it.

And then Brokaw starts going on about how women around the country really like Sarah. Look, there is polling data about this of which Poor Tom (King Lear reference) seems unaware.

So I switched over to the season premiere of Bones, which my far, far better half likes way more than politics anyway.

Updated to add: Here’s what some Republicans really think, whatever they say on the air:

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September 3rd, 2008 at 8:37 pm

Senator Dodd Rediscovers His Low Rent Courage

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This pisses me off:

Dodd regrets not filibustering terrorism bill

IOWA CITY,Iowa –Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said he regretted being talked out of filibustering tough new tribunal legislation signed by president Bush on Tuesday, and plans to seek new legislation to overturn portions of the bill.

Dodd denounced the measure, which civil liberty groups have said endangers many freedoms.

“It’s a major, major retreat for us as a people,” Dodd said during a visit to Iowa on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s incredible what they did.”

The measure signed by Bush sets up military tribunals to try terror suspects and allows the introduction of evidence obtained through tough interrogation procedures. It also suspends rights such as habeas corpus, which requires that suspects be brought to court to ensure they are being held legally and if they should be released.

Dodd said he initially intended to filibuster the bill but was talked out of it by other Democrats who said there wouldn’t be enough votes to support the filibuster.

“I regret now that I didn’t do it,” he said. “This is a major, major blow to who we are.” (Emphasis added)

So why did the Senator and so many of his colleagues not take a principled stand? Why court regret? Why not do the right thing to begin with?

Could it be politics? Maybe Senator Dodd was afraid to take an unpopular stand, and now that the election results may have demonstrated that it would not have been unpopular, he can afford regret. He had better hurry with his corrective legislation, though. The polls could change. Infact, I know for a fact that the Democrats current honeymoon will end within 6 months. Then Senator Dodd can go back top voting for bad legislation.

I weep tonight for Connecticutt.

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November 15th, 2006 at 12:21 am

Lock Us Up and Throw Away the Key

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I am neither a lawyer nor do I play one on tv. And while I like to watch lawyer shows though and just because I used to watch LA Law doesn’t mean I know anything about the U.S. legal system, constitutional law or the Geneva Conventions.

I have helped draft legislation in the Canadian Parliament, but it was always vetted by parliamentary legal staff.

I am limited and I know my limitations. That is why I am depending on people more knowledgeable than me as I develop my understanding of the military tribunal legislation passed by the Congress today. What I know and understand about it scares the bejeezus out of me.

It looks like at this point the United States government could come to the home of an innocent legal resident of the U.S., and take them away and lock them up indefinitely. Or they could even come to my house here in The Zone and take me away – and I’m a U.S. citizen.
According to Jack Balkin at Balkinization:

A U.S. citizen may be an unlawful enemy combatant under section 948a.

Section 948a(1) defines an unlawful enemy combatant as

“(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces; or

(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.”

Section 948b states that “[t]his chapter establishes procedures governing the use of military commissions to try alien unlawful enemy combatants.” So the MCA’s procedures apply only to aliens; not to citizens. Nevertheless, Congress has declared that persons falling into the definition in 948a are unlawful enemy combatants whether they are aliens or citizens.

And who is an unlawful enemy combatant? Again according to Balkin, “The new definition is fuzzy: it includes citizens who ‘materially support’ hostilities against the U.S. or whom the DoD says are unlawful enemy combatants.”

More Balkin:

Hamdi, however, states that citizens have the right under the Due Process Clause to contest their designation as enemy combatants. Because section 948a(1)(ii) purports to make determinations of enemy combatant status conclusive, it is unconstitutional to that extent. Moreover, some applications of “material support” in section 948(1)(i) would violate the Due Process Clause or the First Amendment.

But even putting those cases to one side, the new definition is still troubling: there would be many cases where the new definition is not otherwise unconstitutional but sweeps up people who pose no serious threat to national security. For example, suppose a person knowingly lets an al Qaeda operative stay at their house overnight. That person may be in violation of federal law, but it’s hardly clear that the government should have the right to detain such a person indefinitely in a military prison without Bill of Rights protections until the end of the War on Terror, whenever that is. The problem with 948a(1) is that it may place Congress’s stamp of approval on a definition of “unlawful enemy combatant” that is far too broad and that allows the government to move a wide swath of citizens outside of the normal procedural protections of the criminal justice system and into a parallel system where the Bill of Rights does not apply.

One last point: Section 7(a) of the MCA strips habeas and federal court jurisdiction with respect to aliens. It does not strip jurisdiction with respect to citizens.

However, what if the DoD determines that a U.S. citizen is an alien in a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, claims that its determination is conclusive under section 948a(1)(ii) and ships the person off to Guantanamo? As I noted before, section 948a(1)(ii) is probably unconstitutional to the extent that it suggests that DoD determinations are conclusive. The citizen should still have the right to prove that he is a citizen in a habeas proceeding, and a court must determine that question in order to determine whether it has jurisdiction. To the extent that the MCA would prevent such a determination, it is unconstitutional.

There seems to be a widely held opinion that the way the legislation deals with habeas corpus is unconstitutional. At least one of the Senators who voted for the bill agreee that such is the case.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) voted for the bill after telling reporters earlier that he would oppose it because it is “patently unconstitutional on its face.” He cited its denial of the habeas corpus right to military detainees. In an interview last night, Specter said he decided to back the bill because it has several good items, “and the court will clean it up” by striking the habeas corpus provisions.

Yeah well, what if they don’t? It wouldn’t be the first time the Supreme Court ignored the constitution in order to support G.W. Bush. Not exactly a profile in courage moment for Specter nor fo that matter the House and Senate Democrats who supported the bill.
The Great White North is calling me. At least Canada has other countries detain and torture its citizens.

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September 29th, 2006 at 9:48 pm

UBL Dead?

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I doubt it. The rumor seems to have blossomed and died already.

But what difference would it make to U.S.security if he were dead? None whatsoever of course.

And why does it not matter whether UBL is alive or dead? Because the Bush II administration has made a complete bollocks of the job of dealing with terrorist threats. That is not my opinion by the way. That is the finding of a National Intelligience Estimate.

So by all means begin again the hunt for Bin Laden and bring him to justice if possible. But as long as W. Bush and his posse are in charge of counter terrorism, the situation will grow bleeker with each passing news cycle.

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September 24th, 2006 at 9:24 pm

Posted in Terrorism

Sunday Funnies

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I believe the entire Western world has at least heard of the Bill Clinton/Chris Wallace mismatch on Fox News Channel.

Yes, Clinton is correct when he accuses Wallace of trying to sandbag him, no doubt in my mind with the approval of whoever he reports to at FNC.

What they forgot was that when it comes to politics, Cliinton is the smartest guy, the smartest person in the room – any room. Clinton was prepared for the questions about Bin Laden, Somalia, terrorism, etc. Wallace was not prepared for the answers.

If I was Mike I would ask for a DNA test, toot sweet.

Or maybe Chris Wallace is a Democratic mole. That would explain why he gave Clinton an opportunity to torpedo the Republican ooga booga fear campaign as he did. Either that or he is an incompetent journalist, in which case he should be recruited by the George II administration.

I managed to watch a few minutes of The Beltway Boys on FNC last night. It was hilarious seeing Fred Barnes try to spin this interview against Clinton. In his world, everything that happens is good for Republicans and conservatives. If W. was caught in bed with a live boy and a dead goat it would somehow be bad for liberals. He must be paid very well to mouth on television what he must know to be falsehoods. Or he has no capacity for shame or embarrassment.

Either way, he always gives me a belly laugh.

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September 24th, 2006 at 2:39 pm

Afghanistan is Messedupistan

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Eric Margolis is a columnist specializing in international affairs who somehow got a job with the right wing Toronto Sun (the Fox News Channel of Canadian Newspapers -or is that the National Post?).

His column today is headlined West Won’t Win Afghan War. In that column, Margolis discusses a report released by the Senlis Council, a European think tank whose work, “…encompasses foreign policy, security, development and counter-narcotics policies and aims to provide innovative analysis and proposals within these areas.”

Here is margolis on the Senlis Council’s recently released report on Afghanistan:

The respected European think tank, Senlis Council, which focuses on Afghanistan, just reported the Taliban is “taking back Afghanistan” and now controls that nation’s southern half. According to Senlis, southern Afghanistan is suffering “a humanitarian crisis of starvation and poverty.

“U.S. policies in Afghanistan have re-created the safe haven for terrorism that the 2001 invasion aimed to destroy,” Senlis found.

Claims that withdrawing Western garrisons from Afghanistan or Iraq will leave a void certain to be filled by extremists are nonsense. Half of Afghanistan and a third of Iraq are already largely controlled by anti-Western resistance forces.

Were it not for omnipotent U.S. airpower, American and NATO forces would be quickly driven from the area.

Here is an article from the September 5 Guardian about the Council’s report and the British Foreign Office response (they’re in denial, of course).  I would supply a link to U.S. media coverage of this report but I can’t find any. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough.

Anyway, Margolis sums things up this way:

What the West calls “Taliban” is actually a growing coalition of veteran Taliban fighters led by Mullah Dadullah, other clans of Pashtun tribal warriors, and nationalist resistance forces under Jalalladin Hakkani and former prime minister Gulbadin Hekmatyar. Many are former mujahadeen once hailed as “freedom fighters” by the West, and branded “terrorists” by the Soviets.

The UN’s anti-narcotic agency reports narco-state Afghanistan now supplies 92% of the world’s heroin. Production surged 20% last year alone. Who is responsible? The U.S. and NATO. Washington, Ottawa and London can’t keep pretending this is someone else’s problem. Drug money fuels the Afghan economy and keeps local warlords loyal to the U.S.-installed Kabul regime.

Afghanistan’s north has become a sphere of influence of Russia and its local allies, the Uzbek-Tajik Northern Alliance (led by notorious war criminals and leaders of the old Afghan Communist Party).

The U.S. and its allies are not going to win the Afghan war. They will be lucky, the way things are going, not to lose it in the same humiliating manner the Soviets did in 1989.

Ottawa’s deepening involvement in a conflict in which it lacks any national interests — save pleasing Washington and selling lumber — jeopardizes Canada’s security.

Western troops are not fighting “terrorism” in Afghanistan, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims. They are fighting the Afghan people. Every new civilian killed, and every village bombed, breeds new enemies for the West.

So with Iraq’s Anbar province and southern Afghanistan under their belts, the Jihadists now have two enclaves from which they can plan and stage operations, whatever they may be. In other words, things are now much much worse than they were five years ago. After hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives.
Heckuva job there, Bushie.

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September 17th, 2006 at 8:39 pm