Tuesday, December 21, 2004

We'll have a real thorough, objective investigation of the Guantanamo torture -- now that the pro-torture Bush administration is in charge. "If there is abuse that occurs, we expect it to be investigated fully and people to be held accountable, and measures taken to make sure that it doesn't happen again," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. Yes, just like the whitewash following Abu Gharib. Now we learn that President Bush may have played his own direct role in the torture there in a secret executive order -- or at least interrogators believed they were following Presidential orders. Most of the groundwork for all these torture incidents and potential war-crimes were laid out by Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales in a series of memos and meetings, as outlined in new details in the latest Newsweek. The whole ugly picture is summarized neatly in this Center for American Progress overview. For more on the "probe" of prisoner abuses, see: Yahoo! News - W.House Expects Probe of Iraq, Guantanamo Abuses

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Rent-a-Nanny: Solve your pesky scandal problem today! Now that Bernie Kerik, President Bush's former homeland security nominee, has been alleged to be a sleazy influence peddler, bribe-taker, adulterer and mob fellow traveler, even his illegal nanny story is falling apart. Apparently, there may not even be any illegal immigrant nanny for whom he didn't pay taxes, the ostensible reason he withdrew his nomination.

For future presidential nominees, this fits-all-sizes scandal cover would be more plausible if they could produce a genuine nanny to come forward to tell her story. Now, we've learned, a few D.C.-based housekeeping services will be able to provide authentic-sounding, Spanish-accented nannies who will tearfully admit they were paid for their services but didn't report their Social Security taxes. Everyone will be satisfied -- and the scandal-prone can continue on their way. The New York Times > National > Mystery Woman in Kerik Case: Nanny

More Presidential honors for screw-ups: Tenet and Bremer get medals. First Bush keeps Rumsfeld and his neo-con true believers, promotes Alberto Gonzales, the legal mind behind our pro-torture policies, to Attorney General and then builds a cabinet of other yes-men to continue the administration's disastrous policies. Now he honors the man -- George Tenet -- who kept the CIA asleep at the wheel before 9/11 and said WMDs were a "slam dunk," and Paul Bremer, whose early decisions, such as disbanding the Iraqi Army, helped pave the way for today's insurgency. What's next? A Congressional Medal of Honor for Pvt. Lynndie England, the leering, cigarette-smoking abuser of Abu Ghraib?

Friday, December 10, 2004

What do the Air Force sexual assault scandal, Abu Ghraib and the Iraq fiasco have in common? Yes, Donald Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense, but more importantly, there has been no accountability for bad judgment and misdeeds. As Fred Kaplan points out in Slate, even as Rumsfeld blithely dismisses a soldier's complaint about foraging for body armor, the defense secretary also represents the Bush Administration's failure to hold Rummy and his neocon associates responsible for the mess they made in Iraq. Says Kaplan, "One sign of which way he [Bush] was headed would be whether he fired Rumsfeld and his neocon entourage or let them stay. He has now taken that test, and we all see the grim results. Rumsfeld has not merely made mistakes, he has made fatal mistakes."

Similarly, while some of the leaders of the Air Force Academy were eventually forced out of their positions there after a decade of abusive cadet conduct, they weren't booted out of the Air Force altogether or severely punished for tolerating a culture of rape at their institution. What does that say to other leaders of young men and women in our armed forces?

And what does Donald Rumsfeld's continuing hold on power say about the consequences of arrogant, foolish and abusive decisions (i.e., essentially okaying the torture of captured prisoners)? That your loyalty to President Bush will be rewarded, no matter how much you screw up.

That's a lesson neither our soldiers or commanders should be forced to learn.

Too bad the commanders of the Air Force Academy didn't pose for more photos with President Bush and become more vocal supporters; they might still be at the school.
Air Force Academy commanders faulted in sexual assault scandal

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A Pentagon advisory board has reported there's a reason terrorists hate us: our policies, not our "freedom."Those policies include support for authoritarian Mideaseastern regimes and our traditionally one-sided backing of Israel. President Bush has said, of course, that the terrorists are driven primarily by their hatred of our way of life, especially freedom. That's a simplistic view that only contributes to our inability to promote Western-style democracies in the mideast (not to mention a bungled, needless, disastrous war in Iraq that's portrayed by Islamists as a crusade against Muslim lands).

None of this means we should abandon Israel or that the Islamists haven't hijacked their religion to serve a fanatical, deadly cause. There's more insights on terrorism available from the New American Foundation's conference last week, with links available at Steven Clemons's The Washington Note.

The stinging indictment of American foreign policy by the Pentagon's Defense Science Board, an advisory group, has been excerpted in the The Daily Kos: Daily Kos :: Pentagon: Bush's 'hypocrisy' lost us hearts and minds

Too bad Donald Rumsfeld or George Bush won't face these hard truths.

New fuel for conspiracy theorists: Florida programmer tells authorities he hacked voting machines for a Florida politician.The Blue Lemur - Progressive Politics and Media News � In sworn affidavit, programmer says he developed vote-rigging prototype for Florida congressman; Congressman�s office silent

Monday, December 06, 2004

Harry Reid: Is he the best we can do? The new Democratic minority leader presented a mish-mosh of centrism without any innovation, salted with ideas designed to pander to Republicans, including possibly abolishing the income tax and staking a strong anti-abortion position. Some samples from his "Meet the Press" appearance:

MR. RUSSERT: You also said this back in 1994. "I believe in a consumption tax. ...The income tax is not working as well as it should. I think we should do away with it." Is that still your view?
SEN. REID:... So what I say is if we can figure out a way to make our tax less burdensome and if we could go to a consumer based tax, I think it would be wonderful. But the transition rules of that are very difficult and I have looked into that. It's extremely difficult.

MR. RUSSERT: But the national sales tax or consumption tax is very regressive. Poor people get hit very hard with that as...

SEN. REID: No question.

Reid then backed off a bit from his pro-consumption tax views, but still stood by his anti-abortion stance, with some rhetorical fog-making added in to mollify any Democrats who might be listening:

MR. RUSSERT: This was the Associated Press about Harry Reid. "Reid voted with Republicans to ban a procedure that opponents call partial birth abortion. In 1999, he was one of two Senate Democrats who voted against an amendment expressing support for the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion."

Would you prefer to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade which allows legal abortions across the country.

SEN. REID: Tim, I have--my views on abortion are very clear. I've never tried to hide them. I think it's something that people understand about me. But I also understand that this is a very complicated issue, very difficult issue. And, you know, in our caucus, our Democratic caucus, we have wide-ranging views. My sister, as far--I don't have a sister, but as close as I have ever had to a sister is Barbara Boxer. Her views and my views differ. But, you know, we don't have a litmus test in the Senate with Senate Democrats...

And then to futher blur the differences with Republicans, he went on to make clear his opposition to gay marriage (although expressing feeble opposition to the proposed anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment):

MR. RUSSERT: You are a Mormon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had a statement on marriage: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints favors a constitutional amendment preserving marriage as the lawful union of a man and a woman."

Do you accept that message, the statement from your church?

SEN. REID: Tim, we have in America today many, many states--I don't know the exact number; I think 11 or 13 in this last election cycle--said there can no--in our state, you have to have marriage between a man and a woman. That's the law in the state of Nevada. And within a couple years, even Massachusetts, that will be the law. And we in Congress recognized there would be some controversy over this, so we passed the Defense of Marriage Act that says you do not have to recognize the marriage laws of another state. That's the law of the land.

Even for a party out of power, this is a depressing performance for a Democratic leader. There was no vigor in his presentation or ideas, and certainly no reason from his appearnce on the show that would inspire anyone to support the Democrats in Congress or in future elections.
MSNBC - Transcript for Dec. 5

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