Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bill Kristol Wants the Medal of Freedom for Torturers and Spies

I hardly know what to say about this commentary from Bill Kristol, in the current issue of the right-wing Weekly Standard. It’s damning on its own without any comment. But then, the premise on which Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and prominent member of the Project for the New American Century, operates here does deserve comment and deconstruction:

“Bush should consider pardoning--and should at least be vociferously praising--everyone who served in good faith in the war on terror, but whose deeds may now be susceptible to demagogic or politically inspired prosecution by some seeking to score political points. The lawyers can work out if such general or specific preemptive pardons are possible; it may be that the best Bush can or should do is to warn publicly against any such harassment or prosecution. But the idea is this: The CIA agents who waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the NSA officials who listened in on phone calls from Pakistan, should not have to worry about legal bills or public defamation. In fact, Bush might want to give some of these public servants the Medal of Freedom at the same time he bestows the honor on Generals Petraeus and Odierno. They deserve it.”

So waterboarding, which is torture, and NSA spying (on all of us) that the White House was caught red-handed doing in express violation of the 1978 FISA law, are not crimes against humanity or felonies deserving not just of impeachment but criminal prosecution at the Hague and in U.S. courts. No, according to one of the more influential voices from the extreme right and from the ranks of those who are making policy in the U.S., these acts are worthy of the Medal of Freedom.

And what is this freedom that these torturers and spies have been defending? The freedom from tyranny – or at least that’s what the American Revolution was supposedly all about – and the freedom from being abducted secretly in the night by agents of the state, the freedom from torture and cruel and unusual punishment, the freedom to challenge your detention in court, the freedom to speak and assemble without being spied upon by your government.

How do the advocates and apologists for tyranny and for war crimes get to be pundits in mainstream media, hob nob with the rich and powerful, solicited for their advice and as censors and gatekeepers for CBS News and so on? They get away with murder, literally, because some people still can’t see that actions taken in the name of protecting American lives at the expense of annihilating non-Americans’ lives (actions that don’t in fact provide greater security but in fact do the very opposite) are the actions and justifications of scoundrels and fascists. The Nazis played this game very effectively until they were finally defeated. Kristol and others of his ilk are our own homegrown Nazis. If you think this language is too strong, think again about what he is saying. Read what he said above again.

If these "leaders" and opinion-makers can justify torture and killing innocents under the rubric of their precious and self-serving "war on terror," then they can justify, and will justify, absolutely anything. Nothing is safe from the "logic" of their "war on terror" and anyone who accepts the fundamental premise of that so-called war is going to find themselves, whether they intended to or not, supporting, doing and saying horrid things.

Obama, it should be noted here, accepts the logic of the "war on terror."

In the preface to my book, Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, I cited the words of Hermann Goering, Luftwaffe Commander and Nazi Leader:

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. . . All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."

The Global War on Terror and the constant invocations of 9/11 are, in other words, straight out of the Nazis' playbook.

If Obama does not prosecute those responsible for torture and felonious spying on all of us, beginning with Bush and Cheney and on down, then he is guilty as an accessory to murder and crimes against humanity. This isn’t, as Kristol so deceitfully claims, a matter of partisan politically-inspired vindictiveness. This is the meting out of justice, long overdue, for crimes that all of humanity should be crying out “shame, shame, shame!”

If Obama does not draw a line against this, something that he failed to do as a U.S. Senator when he refused to filibuster the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that legalized torture and stripped habeas corpus rights from anyone declared an “unlawful enemy combatant,” and failed again to do when he not only declined to filibuster, but actually voted FOR, the telecom amnesty bill, then any president from now on forward can do exactly what Bush and Cheney did and more and claim on the basis of precedent, that it is legal and fine because, after all, Bush and Cheney did it and weren’t prosecuted. This is what is at stake. The gravity of the situation we are presently in cannot be overstated.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai by Glenn Greenwald

Greenwald, as per his usual, has an excellent post today at I encourage you to read it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Obama's Picks: Know Him by the Company He Keeps

Obama, under fire, rightfully so, for his cabinet and advisor picks, defended his picks on Wednesday on the grounds that the vision for change comes from him and that he needs experienced people to staff his cabinet. The vision for change, he said, “comes from me.”

This is an interesting claim by a man who throughout the campaign stated that this was all about the people and not about himself. It is, however, consistent with the cult of personality that he has cultivated about himself. “I am above and more powerful than the people I am surrounding myself with. I, not they, will call the shots. I, not they, am the decider.”

The flaw in this apologia by Obama is this: a central component of the expression and actions of a leader who represents “change” is precisely his choices for the team that he assembles around himself, as these are the people who will filter, frame and edit the information that they bring to him, and shape the parameters of choices that they offer him. They will advocate what they think he should do and beyond that, of course, take principle responsibility for leading the implementation of "change" in policy.

If you wanted to fix a police department that had become famous for brutality and corruption, a new police commissioner wouldn’t start by handpicking as his or her leadership team a bunch of corrupt cops known for their brutality. If you’re serious about implementing your vision of change, you don’t, in your first and extremely important act, begin by selecting for your closest advisers and those who will lead these changes a group of people drenched from head to toe in the bankrupt policies of prior administrations.

An upright, uncorruptable police commissioner cannot realistically expect to accomplish his or her rectification campaign by relying upon a bunch of cops who have already demonstrated their penchant for corruption and brutality. You do not bring about change by relying on people who represent and have distinguished themselves as fighters for the old order.

Yet this is exactly what Obama is doing.

He knows very well - after all, he's an extremely smart guy - that his defense of his picks of his people - who emphatically do not represent change - is disingenuous and designed to deceive people.

Know people by the company they keep.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pure, Unadulterated Balderdash and Poison

Jack Goldsmith (who succeeded John Yoo at the Justice Department, serving in the Office of Legal Counsel from October 2003 to July 2004, and who, to his credit, rescinded the torture memos that Yoo wrote) writes today in the Washington Post, arguing that prosecution of the Bush White House for torture would be a huge mistake:

"The people in government who made mistakes or who acted in ways that seemed reasonable at the time but now seem inappropriate have been held publicly accountable by severe criticism, suffering enormous reputational and, in some instances, financial losses. Little will be achieved by further retribution."

Yes, they merely made "mistakes" or did reasonable things like torturing and indefinitely detaining innocent people by the thousands, murdering many of them and irrevocably traumatizing the rest even though it has been and is against the law to ever under any circumstances torture someone. They have been, my god, severely criticized! Their reputation's been harmed enormously, and some of them have lost some money - oh my Jesus - let my people go!

We certainly shouldn't pursue vindictive prosecutions of people who knowingly lied us into wars that have caused to date the needless and unjust deaths of 1.3 million Iraqis, combat deaths of over 4,000 American soldiers, more than 30,000 suicides by vets, the destruction of a fabled city and the forced extirpation of thousands from their homes in New Orleans, the treasonous outing of a dissident's wife's CIA cover for revenge, the destruction of habeas corpus and that silly little matter of the rule of law! Perish the very thought! We should just shake their hands, tell them how much we admire the difficulties they faced and how marvelously they have handled it all, and give them their pensions and go along our merry way.

That's the ticket!

It's amazing to me what passes muster to be published in a major American newspaper such as the Washington Post, what nonsense comes from the mouths and pens of people who lead this country, and what material the Post and other major publications refuse to publish.

Consider the following unbelievably horrid November 8 article by Michael Kinsley for the Washington Post. Kinsley used to play the "liberal" on CNN"s Crossfire:

Revisiting One Lawrence Summers Controversy

Opponents of Lawrence Summers for a second turn as Treasury secretary have, of course, brought up his 1991 memo as chief economist of the World Bank, in which he wrote that poor countries need more pollution, not less. The memo was obviously meant to stimulate thinking and not to be implemented as policy. But it also was undeniably correct. Summers's main point was that life and health are worth less in poor countries than in rich ones. He measured that worth by the earnings lost when a person is sick or dies prematurely. But another good measure, maybe clearer, would be the amount a society will spend to save a life. Treatments that are routine in the United States, although they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, are simply not available to citizens of poor countries. You get cancer and you die. Of course this shouldn't be true, but it undeniably is true, and rejecting the idea of poor countries earning a little cash by "buying" pollution from rich ones will do nothing to make it less true.

If an industrial plant that causes pollution is going to be built somewhere, it ought to be built where life is worth less. This sounds brutal, but it isn't. Or rather, it is less brutal than reality. Turn it around: If a life is worth less, it is also cheaper to save. For what we spend in the United States to save a single life, you could save dozens or hundreds of lives in poor countries. So if the plant is going to be built somewhere, building it in a poor country will enable more lives to be saved than building it in a rich one.

Summers also pointed out that the harm from pollution tends to be "non-linear," meaning that the harm goes up more than proportionately as pollution increases. A little bit of pollution may be virtually harmless, but double it or quadruple it and you more than double or quadruple the negative effects. If a city in a rich country is very polluted and a city the same size in a poor country is not, you will save lives -- in the rich country this time -- if some of that pollution can be moved from the rich country to the poor one. And the money the rich country pays the poor one can save even more lives in the poor country.

The general point is that clean air and other environmental goods are luxuries. The richer a country is, the more of them it can afford. And if rich countries like the United States had had to meet some of the standards being wished upon poor countries today, we would still be poor ourselves.

Every economic transaction has two sides. When you deny a rich country the opportunity to unload some toxic waste on a poor one, you are also denying that poor country the opportunity to get paid for taking the toxic waste. And by forbidding this deal, you are putting off the day when the poor country will no longer need to make deals like this.

In his notorious memo, Summers was doing his job and doing it well: thinking outside the box about how to help the poor countries that are supposed to be the World Bank's constituency. Plenty of outside-the-box thinking will be required from our next Treasury secretary too. Summers is famous for this, and for the abrasiveness that goes along with it. But the Obama administration won't have time, and shouldn't have the patience, for the umbrage game that dominated the recent political campaign. There is no point in making Larry Summers promise to behave himself. That just isn't his style, and if President-elect Obama can't face it, he should choose someone less likely to stir up fusses at regular intervals. That would be a pity.


Kinsley's outrageous article prompted many disgusted responses from readers. This one's my favorite:

I've decided that the Yucca mountain nuclear waste material should be buried on Mr. Kingsley's property. I come to this conclusion as a result of my proprietary Moral Calculation Process (tm) in which the relative values of various human beings' lives are assigned in proportion to their demonstrated humanity. Mr. Kingsley's humanity quotient being quite low (as demonstrated by this column), he is worth less as a human being than most of the rest of us.

I am SO glad we have come up with these snappy and elegant algorithms for calculating the relative worths of human beings' lives. Thank you, Messers Kingsley and Summers, for filling us in.

Posted by: B2O2 | November 8, 2008 5:04 PM


Does it make you wonder about your country when one of the most important and most prestigious publications in the US syndicates the comments of said Michael Kinsley and publishes the ridiculous apologia for torturers and war criminals of Jack Goldsmith? Does it make you want to radically change and overturn this system?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Brennan's Withdrawn His Name!

Good news. Brennan has taken his name out of consideration for a top post in Intelligence such as CIA Director or DNI Head.

From the International Herald Tribune:

John Brennan, President-elect Barack Obama's top adviser on intelligence, has taken his name out of the running for any intelligence position in the new administration.

Brennan wrote in a Nov. 25 letter to Obama that he did not want to be a distraction. His potential appointment has raised a firestorm in liberal blogs who associate him with the Bush administration's interrogation, detention and rendition policies.

"The fact that I was not involved in the decision-making process for any of these controversial policies and actions has been ignored," he wrote, in a letter obtained by The Associated Press. . .

Obama's advisers had grown increasingly concerned in recent days over online blogs that accused Brennan of condoning harsh interrogation tactics on terror suspects, including waterboarding, which critics call torture.

As Glenn Greenwald writes:

Brennan's self-defense here is quite disingenuous. Whether he "was involved in the decision-making process for any of these controversial policies" is not and never was the issue. Rather, as I documented at length when I first wrote about Brennan, he was an ardent supporter of those policies, including "enhanced interrogation techniques" and rendition, both of which he said he was intimately familiar with as a result of his CIA position. As virtually everyone who opposed his nomination made clear -- Andrew Sullivan, Digby, Cenk Uygur, Big Tent Democrat and others -- that is why he was so unacceptable.

from The New York Times' Mark Mazzetti:

"The letter came as a surprise to many intelligence experts and even some lawmakers, and some questioned whether Mr. Brennan had been forced to withdraw his name by senior members of Mr. Obama’s transition team who were concerned about Mr. Brennan’s association with Bush administration policies.

"The opposition to Mr. Brennan had been largely confined to liberal blogs, and there was not an expectation he would face a particularly difficult confirmation process. Still, the episode shows that the C.I.A.’s secret detention program remains a particularly incendiary issue for the Democratic base, making it difficult for Mr. Obama to select someone for a top intelligence post who has played any role in the agency’s campaign against Al Qaeda since the Sept. 11 attacks."

[According to Mazzetti then, the ONLY people who have played a role in the CIA's anti-Al Qaeda campaign since 9/11 are those who have advocated rendition. Ergo, if you're AGAINST Al Qaeda you must be FOR rendition. Sure. Of course. So logical.]

* * *

I suspect that this is also why Larry Summers did not end up getting the post that he was widely expected to get as the next Treasury Secretary.

On the Psychologists' Open Letter re: John Brennan

Below I have reposted an open letter asking Obama not to appoint John Brennan as CIA Director. Brennan, along with Jamie Miscik, is heading up Obama's intelligence transition team. The fact that Obama has entrusted the task of assembling Obama's intelligence policies and personnel to these two enablers and defenders of massive deception in the lead up to the Iraq War and of torture and rendition is very disturbing to anyone who has been holding out hopes that Obama will represent a decisive change from the horrid policies of the Bush White House.

Obama has repeatedly stated that he plans to shut Guantanamo down, which is welcome news.

But his team of advisers has also indicated that they may set up a separate category of so-called "National Security Courts" outside of the existing US federal court system. This would be a continuation of the fundamental logic of the Bush Regime's "War on Terror." See Attorney Candace Gorman's comments here and in these interviews posted at Fire John Yoo! See also Linda Rigas' new piece there on Eric Holder and the Bush Regime's torture policies.

The Open Letter below is a welcome development. I would underscore, however, that a "decisive repudiation" of the torture policies of Bush and Cheney would entail not only ending the practices of "preventive" detention and of "enhanced interrogation techniques," but also the prosecution of the torturers themselves. Without doing that, any future president could do it all and say that "Bush and Cheney did it, why can't I?"

Psychologists to Obama: Don't Name Torture Apologist John Brenner CIA Director

By Stephen Soldz, Psyche, Science, and Society
November 22, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama,

We are writing to urge you not to select John Brennan as Director of the CIA. We are psychologists and allies who have long opposed the abuses of detainees under the Bush administration. We are just concluding a successful several-year struggle to remove psychologists from their roles in aiding or abetting these abuses. It has been a distressing fact that, while the Bush administration resorted to abuse and torture of those in our custody, often psychologists have been put in positions to use their psychological expertise to guide these unconscionable practices.

We look forward to your administration as an opportunity for genuine change -- in this case for our country to take a new direction in its treatment of prisoners. We applaud your commitment to closing Guantanamo and are encouraged by your clear statement from your “60 Minutes” interview last Sunday, “America doesn’t torture, and I’m gonna make sure that we don’t torture.” This fuels our hope for a decisive repudiation of the “dark side” -- the willingness to use or abet illegal and unethical coercive interrogation tactics that sometimes amount to torture and often constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

We are concerned, however, by reports that you may appoint John Brennan as Director of the CIA. Mr. Brennan served as a high official in George Tenet’s CIA and supported Tenet’s policies, including “enhanced interrogations” as well as “renditions” to torturing countries. According to his own statements, Mr. Brennan was a supporter of the “dark side” policies, wishing only to have some legal justification supplied in order to protect CIA operatives. In describing Director Tenet’s views he stated during a March 8, 2006 Frontline interview:

I think George [Tenet] had two concerns. One is to make sure that there was that legal justification, as well as protection for CIA officers who are going to be engaged in some of these things, so that they would not be then prosecuted or held liable for actions that were being directed by the administration. So we want to make sure the findings and other things were done probably with the appropriate Department of Justice review.

We know, of course, that “the appropriate Department of Justice review” means that torture was authorized and conducted by our government.

The use of these tactics goes against the moral fiber of our country and is never justified. This is true whether these “enhanced interrogation” techniques are used directly by U.S. forces, as in the CIA’s “black sites,” or by other countries acting as our surrogates, as in the “renditions” program where individuals are taken to countries practicing torture, resulting in suffering inflicted by that country’s forces.

We are well aware that these techniques are ineffective as well as immoral. There is extensive evidence that abused detainees are likely to say anything, true or false, to make the pain stop, leading to faulty intelligence. Furthermore, use of torture and other coercive techniques alienates our allies, strengthens the commitment of our enemies, and puts our own captured soldiers at risk.

Earlier this year Mr. Brennan argued in a National Journal interview that a new administration will have great continuity with the Bush-Cheney administration in its intelligence policies:

"Even though people may criticize what has happened during the two Bush administrations, there has been a fair amount of continuity. A new administration, be it Republican or Democrat -- you’re going to have a fairly significant change of people involved at the senior-most levels. And I would argue for continuity in those early stages. You don’t want to whipsaw the [intelligence] community. You don’t want to presume knowledge about how things fit together and why things are being done the way they are being done. And you have to understand the implication, then, of making any major changes or redirecting things. I’m hoping there will be a number of professionals coming in who have an understanding of the evolution of the capabilities in the community over the past six years, because there is a method to how things have changed and adapted."

In order to restore American credibility and the rule of law, our country needs a clear and decisive repudiation of the “dark side” at this crucial turning point in our history. We need officials to clearly and without ambivalence assert the rule of law. Mr. Brennan is not an appropriate choice to lead us in this direction. The country cannot afford to have him as director of our most important intelligence agencies.

As psychologists and other concerned Americans, we ask you to reject Mr. Brennan as Director of the CIA. His appointment would dishearten and alienate those who opposed torture under the Bush administration. We ask you to appoint a Director who will truly represent “the change we need.”

We eagerly await your administration and the new spirit it represents.

Best wishes for a successful administration,


Stephen Soldz, Ph.D., Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis & Coalition for an Ethical Psychology

(For a full list of signatories go here.)

Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He maintains the Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice web page and the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. He is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, one of the organizations leading the struggle to change American Psychological Association policy on participation in abusive interrogations.

Friday, November 21, 2008

You’re Scaring Me, Obama: Let the Bush Years Die

by Heather Wokusch

To be honest, Obama, you lost me when you voted for the PATRIOT Act reauthorization in 2006. You lost me again when you voted for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) amendment in 2008. And you lost me every single time you voted for yet more war funding.

Don't even get me started on your vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

I cast a ballot for you in November, but I just can't share in this moment of collective euphoria over your election.

So, if your transition team really wants feedback on "where President-Elect Obama should lead this country," here's a Top Five list:

1. Dump the Bush Doctrine and don’t start more wars

You've made it clear that the US has to "take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights" and you’ve argued for "more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11."

What exactly does that mean?

Take troops out of Iraq and shove them into Afghanistan? Further destabilize Pakistan?

The whole idea of preemptive war (a.k.a. the Bush Doctrine) has no place in a civilized society and must be laid to rest, along with those sacrificed in Bush's military adventurism these past eight years.

Yet your approach to preemptive war, Mr. Obama, is nuanced at best.

During the January 2008 Democratic presidential debate, you said that if the US had "actionable intelligence" and Pakistan didn’t "take on Al Qaida in their territory," then "I would strike." You added, " And that's the flaw of the Bush doctrine. It wasn't that he went after those who attacked America. It was that he went after those who didn't."

No, the flaw of the Bush Doctrine is that it's just plain wrong. We've learned that the hard way.

2. Ditch the warmongers

What's with all of the hawks in your new administration?

You presented yourself as a peace candidate and then chose Joe Biden as your VP. Yes, he brought in the white male vote, but he also backed the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Just last month Biden warned that if you were elected, there would be "an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy." He said that you would make some "incredibly tough decisions" that could alienate the Democratic base, because if decisions are "popular, they're probably not sound."

In other words, a popular decision, one that the majority of the people wants, is probably not a good decision. Democracy to Biden…

And then there's Robert Gates, widely rumored to be staying on as your Defense Secretary. Questions about Gates’ role in Iran-Contra, not to mention his skewing of intelligence about Russia, still linger.

But especially disturbing is his recent push for beefing up the US nuclear arsenal: "As long as other nations have or seek nuclear weapons – and can potentially threaten us, our allies and friends – then we must have a deterrent capacity that makes it clear that challenging the United States in the nuclear arena, or with weapons of mass destruction, could result in an overwhelming, catastrophic response."

Let's get this straight: if other nations are even imagined to "seek" nuclear weapons, that "could result in an overwhelming, catastrophic response" from the US.

Obama, you've often insisted on taking "no options off the table" in dealing with Iran. How does Gates' proposal for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons factor in there?

While we're on the topic of warmongers in your midst… Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff? Yet another hawk, hell-bent on Iran and enamored with nuclear weapons.

And now we've got Clinton as Secretary of State.

Why is it that none of the 23 senators and 133 House Reps who voted against the war in Iraq are even on a short-list for these critical posts?

3. Close Guantanamo – and the whole system of secret prisons

Shutting down Gitmo is said to be a priority for your new administration. Terrific.

But what about Bagram? What about the other CIA "black site" secret prisons set up in Afghanistan, Thailand, Eastern Europe and elsewhere? What about the CIA torture flights? Will those end too?

Closing Gitmo also raises questions over how "high value" defendants will be handled. Your administration is reportedly considering setting up an alternative court system to deal with sensitive cases. But what safeguards will be in place to be sure that this new system won't degenerate into kangaroo courts, like Bush's military commissions?

It's a disturbing signal that you’ve appointed John Brennan, who has supported extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretapping, to help review intelligence agencies for your administration. As former CIA and State Department analyst Mel Goodman noted, Brennan "sat there at [former CIA Director George] Tenet's knee when they passed judgment on torture and abuse, on extraordinary renditions, on black sites, on secret prisons. He was part of all of that decision making."

And this is who will help lead us out of this mess?

You've criticized the use of torture, yet reportedly will not bring criminal charges against those who authorized or conducted torture during the Bush years. Your administration doesn't see it as politically expedient, and Bush might give "preemptive" pardons anyway.

But can we really end this dark chapter in our nation's history without even an investigation? A Truth Commission, perhaps? Providing blanket immunity to all low-level and senior government officials won’t prevent possible war crimes from happening again. Quite the opposite.

4. Expose Bush & Co., and ditch the national surveillance state

Speaking of war crimes, how about Bush, Cheney and the rest? You'll soon be given access to Bush-era secret orders and opinions authorizing everything from surveillance to detention. You'll no doubt rescind many, to great fanfare, but what about sharing this evidence of Bush-year excesses with the public?

Yes, Bush could file a lawsuit and invoke executive privilege, but it's worth the fight. The only other option is shielding Bush & Co., similar to how you will reportedly shield those government officials involved in torture. But the public deserves to know. And if Bush administration officials violated the law, they should be prosecuted.

Now, back to your vote for both the PATRIOT Act reauthorization in 2006 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amendment in 2008. These and other rollbacks in domestic civil liberties under Bush are inexcusable and must be addressed. We'll be waiting for you to do that.

5. Choose Main Street (not Wall Street)

Just this month you promised Americans that they can "turn the page on policies that have put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street."

Yet, as Bloomberg notes, "almost half the people" on your Transition Economic Advisory Board "have held fiduciary positions at companies that, to one degree or another, either fried their financial statements, helped send the world into an economic tailspin, or both."

This includes, for example, Anne Mulcahy and Richard Parsons, both of whom were Fannie Mae directors when the company fudged accounting rules. Ditto for another of your team members, William Daley.

Mulcahy and Parsons additionally held executive posts when their companies (Xerox Corp. and Time Warner Inc., respectively) got busted for accounting fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Also on your team is Richard Rubin, who as Bloomberg notes, was "chairman of Citigroup Inc.'s executive committee when the bank pushed bogus analyst research, helped Enron Corp. cook its books, and got caught baking its own. He was a director from 2000 to 2006 at Ford Motor Co., which also committed accounting fouls and now is begging Uncle Sam for Citigroup-style bailout cash."

The list of questionable appointees to your Transitional Economic Advisory Board goes on and on, begging the question: Is this really the best you could come up with? How about Joseph Stiglitz, Sheila Bair, Nouriel Roubini or James K. Galbraith, for starters? Someone who represents labor?

Meanwhile, we're stuck with this nasty bailout bill – which you voted for.

Others, such as Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), realized the bill's problems and voted against it. Feingold said that the Wall Street bailout legislation, "fails to reform the flawed regulatory structure that permitted this crisis to arise in the first place. And it doesn’t do enough to address the root cause of the credit market collapse, namely the housing crisis. Taxpayers deserve a plan that puts their concerns ahead of those who got us into this mess."

Feingold was right.

In short, Mr. President-elect, you promised "Change we can believe in," but across the board it's looking a lot more like "Business as usual."

***This article is archived at

Heather can be contacted at

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama: No War Crimes Charges Against the War Criminals

The news just keeps getting worse for those who have been expecting or hoping that Obama would make right that which has been so monstrously wrong. The following story is the latest evidence that what Dr. Philip Zimbardo observed about his famous Stanford Prison Experiment remains true: while not all guards in the experiment were sadistic in their treatment of the prisoners, not a single one of the "good guards" intervened on behalf of a prisoner against the "bad guards."

Failing to prosecute and hold accountable war criminals means that the Bush Regime's actions can be repeated in the future, whether under the Obama administration or by some future president. In other words, any tyrant can do anything he or she wants because the Bush Regime did it and got away with it.

Even if, for the sake of argument, Obama doesn't torture and doesn't spy upon all of us during his term(s), the failure to prosecute Bush et al for what they have done means that the only way to insure that these war crimes, crimes against humanity and breaches of the public trust and of the rule of law can be prevented in the future is by electing individuals who promise to refrain from doing these monstrous things. We can only count on their promise and their self-regulated behavior because the mechanisms - impeachment and prosecution - to ensure that illegal and outrageous behavior doesn't occur have been left to rust by the Democrats and mainstream media as curious historical relics.

The rule of law no longer applies
if Bush et al are allowed to go away without being prosecuted. This is what Obama and his party have given us. Regardless of what they do, good or bad, this one failure to act means a stain and a shame the ramifications from which are impossible to overstate.

How many of us were holding our breath this last election, worried that yet another election might be outright stolen? Do you really want to go through that over and over again? Is that any way to handle crimes against humanity? Yet this is the only thing we can count on within the parameters of official politics.

How do you like the politics we're allowed to believe in now?

If Obama is allowed to do what his people are signaling that they intend to do this also means that horrid injustice and crimes will go unpunished, irrespective of the consequences down the road.

Unfortunately, this news is not surprising. It is entirely consistent with the stance that Obama has been taking since being a US Senator: when he had the chance, the legal and moral responsibility to stop the torture and spying and so on, he demurred.

There's a changing of the guard coming but the new guards are still guards.

Yes, Virginia, this is "change we can believe in."

Obama Advisers Say No Charges Likely Against Those Who Authorized Torture

Monday 17 November 2008

by: Lara Jakes Jordan, The Associated Press

Washington - Barack Obama's incoming administration is unlikely to bring criminal charges against government officials who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush presidency. Obama, who has criticized the use of torture, is being urged by some constitutional scholars and human rights groups to investigate possible war crimes by the Bush administration.

Two Obama advisers said there's little - if any - chance that the incoming president's Justice Department will go after anyone involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogations that provoked worldwide outrage.

The advisers spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans are still tentative. A spokesman for Obama's transition team did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Additionally, the question of whether to prosecute may never become an issue if Bush issues pre-emptive pardons to protect those involved.

Obama has committed to reviewing interrogations on al-Qaida and other terror suspects. After he takes office in January, Obama is expected to create a panel modeled after the 9/11 Commission to study interrogations, including those using waterboarding and other tactics that critics call torture. The panel's findings would be used to ensure that future interrogations are undisputedly legal.

"I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture, and I'm going to make sure that we don't torture," Obama said Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes." "Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world."

Obama's most ardent supporters are split on whether he should prosecute Bush officials.

Asked this weekend during a Vermont Public Radio interview if Bush administration officials would face war crimes, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy flatly said, "In the United States, no."

"These things are not going to happen," said Leahy, D-Vt.

Robert Litt, a former top Clinton administration Justice Department prosecutor, said Obama should focus on moving forward with anti-torture policy instead of looking back.

"Both for policy and political reasons, it would not be beneficial to spend a lot of time hauling people up before Congress or before grand juries and going over what went on," Litt said at a Brookings Institution discussion about Obama's legal policy. "To as great of an extent we can say, the last eight years are over, now we can move forward - that would be beneficial both to the country and the president, politically."

But Michael Ratner, a professor at Columbia Law School and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said prosecuting Bush officials is necessary to set future anti-torture policy.

"The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it," Ratner said. "I don't see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable."

In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the White House authorized U.S. interrogators to use harsh tactics on captured al-Qaida and Taliban suspects. Bush officials relied on a 2002 Justice Department legal memo to assert that its interrogations did not amount to torture - and therefore did not violate U.S. or international laws. That memo has since been rescinded.

At least three top al-Qaida operatives - including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed - were waterboarded in 2002 and 2003 because of intelligence officials' belief that more attacks were imminent. Waterboarding creates the sensation of drowning, and has been traced back hundreds of years and is condemned by nations worldwide.

Bush could take the issue of criminal charges off the table with one stroke of his pardons pen.

Whether Bush will protect his top aides and interrogators with a pre-emptive pardon - before they are ever charged - has become a hot topic of discussion in legal and political circles in the administration's waning days. White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto declined to comment on the issue.

Under the Constitution, the president's power to issue pardons is absolute and cannot be overruled.

Pre-emptive pardons would be highly controversial, but former White House counsel Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr. said it would protect those who were following orders or otherwise trying to protect the nation.

"I know of no one who acted in reckless disregard of U.S. law or international law," said Culvahouse, who served under President Ronald Reagan. "It's just not good for the intelligence community and the defense community to have people in the field, under exigent circumstances, being told these are the rules, to be exposed months and years after the fact to criminal prosecution."

The Federalist Papers discourage presidents from pardoning themselves. It took former President Gerald Ford to clear former President Richard Nixon of wrongdoing in the 1972 Watergate break-in.

Re: Obama's Plans to Create Special Courts for GITMO

From an attorney representing two Guantanamo prisoners:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My letter to the editor to a paper today....

I am surprised to learn that President-elect Obama is seriously considering legislation to create special courts for the men at Guantanamo. I hope Obama, a lawyer himself, will take the time to carefully review the “evidence” against many of the men still being held at that base.

At first blush, some of the so called “evidence” might strike the untrained as serious but if Obama reviews the underlying support for that “evidence” he will see that the reason behind many of these detentions is (to quote one of the military tribunal panel members) “garbage.”

I represent two of the men at Guantanamo and I have looked at what is supposed to be the secret evidence against my clients. I can tell you that there is a reason they keep this information secret and it is not about “national security”, this is about national embarrassment. In fact, calling this “garbage” is, in my view, a gross understatement.

Couple this with the resignations of six of the prosecutors in the Military Commission system and it should be clear that there are serious problems underlying the cases. It is appalling that these men have sat at Guantanamo for almost seven years with no charges against them and no judicial review of the evidence.

If Obama follows through with his trial balloon and sets up yet another system to try these men my clients will look at another year or more before they get the fair hearing that they so desperately need. The US Supreme Court said in June that these men have waited long enough for their hearings. I pray that Obama will heed the call of the Supreme Court and let our justice system, which has worked just fine for over two centuries, do its job.

H. Candace Gorman
Attorney at Law

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama's Intelligence Transition Team

I will have more to say about this later, but this interview by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now today and her other interviews today everyone needs to hear:

"Ex-CIA Officials Tied to Rendition Program and Faulty Iraq Intel Tapped to Head Obama’s Intelligence Transition Team

"John Brennan and Jami Miscik, both former intelligence officials under George Tenet, are leading Barack Obama’s review of intelligence agencies and helping make recommendations to the new administration. Brennan has supported warrantless wiretapping and extraordinary rendition, and Miscik was involved with the politicized intelligence alleging weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the war on Iraq. We speak with former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Binging and Purging Commodities

Retailers report an upsurge of "buyer's regret" in the U.S. with an expected $220 billion in returns this year, an unprecedented amount. One of the people interviewed in the NPR report on this phenomenon yesterday described herself happier upon returning items than she felt when originally buying the items.

I couldn't help thinking of how this parallels the bing/purge cycle for people who adopt extreme measures to keep their weight down. The buy, buy, buy ethic is running up against the realities of the financial crisis and a sharp contraction of credit and assuming the form for some of continuing to buy (it's hard to break a habit, after all), but shortly after binging, purging it in returns.

Down with Proposition 8 and the Bush Program as a whole!

Over the last eight years the Bush Regime has codified a comprehensive reactionary political program: openly whipping up anti-gay sentiment; creationism being taught in science class; the “Partial Birth Abortion Act,” based on biblical literalism that women are nothing more than incubators and should have no control over their reproductive organs; calls for an end to the constitutional separation of church and state; endless wars; violating previously sacrosanct civil liberties and civil rights; surveillance over us all.

Millions were thrilled to see the Republicans voted out of office.

But who is to stop the Bush Program when Obama promotes finding common ground with Christian Fascists, war criminals and torturers? While Obama said he did not support Prop 8, he’s stated publicly many times that marriage should be between heterosexuals only. He should have called for stopping Prop 8 instead of straddling the fence. Obama in fact has pledged to extend Bush's faith-based initiatives that have granted over $2.2 billion to religious organizations.

We Will Not Accept The Bush Program No Matter Who The President Is!

Your government does not want what you want. That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn, or be forced, to accept. What is needed is not a minor course correction, what is needed is not some meaningless "change" we are allowed to believe in. What is needed is a radical change in direction brought about by people acting outside the strangling confines of official politics. Look at what official politics has given us!

We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do.

We call on all people living in the United States to RESIST the trajectory of wars, reaction and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush Regime and a complicit Congress. We choose to make common cause with the people of the world by extending a hand to those suffering from these policies and by showing our solidarity in word and deed. Join with us.

Prop 8 Fallout

Lesbian mom asked to quit PTA over Prop. 8
The Associated Press
Article Launched: 11/13/2008 06:38:04 PM PST

FRESNO, Calif.—A lesbian mother in Fresno says she was forced to resign from her position as president of the parent-teacher association at her son's Catholic school after she spoke out against banning gay marriage.

Robin McGehee, who enrolled her son Sebastian at St. Helens Catholic School, says she went to a vigil for the "No on Proposition 8" campaign last Thursday. After that, a priest from the Diocese of Fresno told her to step down because she had gone against church teachings.

The PTA's vice president, Tiffany Rodriquez, confirmed that McGehee was removed. Rodriquez herself resigned in protest of her removal.

The school directed inquiries to Rick Sexton of the Office of Catholic Education, who said he couldn't discuss the issue due to privacy concerns.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How the Real New York Times Reacts to the Fake New York Times

Pranksters, the "Yes Men," distributed today 1.2 million copies of a fake New York Times Special Edition that proclaims in its headlines: "Iraq War Ends." A story posted about it is at Raw Story today.

In the accompanying video, an unidentified staffer at the NY Times complains about the fake NYT and says indignantly that the Times has "been all over the Bush administration since day one. We set the standard for coverage of the Iraq War."

To this a woman near him says, "Like Judith Miller?" referring to the Times reporter whose credulous stories about WMD, repeating the lies purveyed by the Bush White House, played a crucial role in helping to justify the war.

The Times staffer on camera scowls and immediately exits in a huff.

Strangely, the Times itself did a 2004 mea culpa about its credulous coverage of the Iraq war buildup during and after the Judy Miller affair, so this Times person's indignation is a little odd.

Truth hurts, doesn't it, or in this case, the contrast between what could be and what is, is painfully stark.

Here is their fake NY Times website.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


[This essay caused me to open my eyes wide several times as some of these actions and stands of Obama's I wasn't even aware of. I urge you to read it all and to pass it on.]

By Sam Smith

Over the past few weeks I've been a good boy. I've placed everything having to do with the real Barack Obama into a futures file and spent my time on the far grimmer matter of the real John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Now the party is over and it's time for people to put away their Barack and Michelle dolls and start dealing with what has truly happened.

This, I admit, is difficult because the real Obama doesn't exist yet. He follows in the footsteps of our first postmodern president, Bill Clinton, who observed the principles outlined by scholar Pauline Marie Rosenau:

Post-modernists recognize an infinite number of interpretations . . . of any text are possible because, for the skeptical post-modernists, one can never say what one intends with language, [thus] ultimately all textual meaning, all interpretation is undecipherable.. . . Many diverse meanings are possible for any symbol, gesture, word . . . Language has no direct relationship to the real world; it is, rather, only symbolic.

As James Krichick wrote in the New Republic, "Obama is, in his own words, something of a Rorschach test. In his latest book, The Audacity of Hope, he writes, 'I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.' "

This is remarkably similar to Ted Koppel's description of Vanna White of TV's Wheel of Fortune: "Vanna leaves an intellectual vacuum, which can be filled by whatever the predisposition of the viewer happens to be."

Obama has left the same kind of vacuum. His magic, or con, was that voters could imagine whatever they wanted and he would do nothing to spoil their reverie. He was a handsome actor playing the part of the first black president-to-be and, as in films, he was careful not to muck up the role with real facts or issues that might harm the fantasy. Hence the enormous emphasis on meaningless phrases like hope and change.

Of course, in Obama's postmodern society -- one that rises above the purported false teachings of partisanship -- we find ourselves with little to steer us save the opinions of whatever non-ideologue happens to be in power. In this case, we may really only have progressed from the ideology of the many to the ideology of the one or, some might say, from democracy to authoritarianism.

The Obama campaign was driven in no small part by a younger generation trained to accept brands as a substitute for policies. If the 1960s had happened like this, the activists would have spent all their time trying to get Martin Luther King or Joan Baez elected president rather than pursing ancillary issues like ending segregation and the war in Vietnam.

Obama himself took his vaunted experience in community organizing and turned its principles on its head. Instead of empowering the many at the bottom, he used the techniques to empower one at the top: himself.

It is historic that a black has been elected president, but we should remember that Obama was not running against Bull Connor, George Wallace or Strom Thurmond. Putting Obama in the same class as earlier black activists discredits the honor of those who died, suffered physical harm or were repeatedly jailed to achieve equality. Obama is not a catalyst of change, but rather its belated beneficiary. The delay, to be sure, is striking; after all, the two white elite sports of tennis and golf were integrated long before presidential politics, but Washington - as Phil Hart said of the Senate - has always been a place that always does things twenty years after it should have.

There is an informative precedent to Obama's rise. Forty-two years ago Edward Brooke became the first black senator to be elected with a majority of white votes. Brooke was chosen from Massachusetts as a Republican in a state that was 97% white.

Jason Sokol, who teaches history at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in History News Network:

|||| On Election Day, Brooke triumphed with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Newspapers and magazines hummed with approval. The Boston Globe invoked a legacy that included the Pilgrims, Daniel Webster, and Charles Sumner, offering the Bay State as the nation's racial and political pioneer.

Journalist Carl Rowan was among the unconvinced. For whites, voting for Brooke became "a much easier way to wipe out guilt feelings about race than letting a Negro family into the neighborhood or shaking up a Jim Crow school setup." Polling numbers lent credence to Rowan's unease. They showed that only 23 percent of Massachusetts residents approved of a statewide school integration law; just 17 percent supported open housing. ||||

That's the problem with change coming from the top, as Obama might have heard when he was involved in real community organizing. It also helps to explain why there have been no more Catholic presidents since John Kennedy. Symbolism is not the change we need.

Getting at the reality of Obama is difficult. He performs as the great black liberal, but since he is one half white and one half conservative, that doesn't leave him a lot of wiggle room.

To be sure, in the Senate he got good ratings from various liberal groups, but two things need to be remembered:

First, liberals aren't that liberal any more. Thus getting a 90% score merely means that you went along with the best that an extremely conservative Democratic Party was willing to risk. This is not a party that would, in these times, have passed Social Security, Medicare or minimum wage. In fact, many liberals aren't much interested in economic issues at all - especially that portion of the constituency that controls the money, the media and the message.

Second, politicians reflect their constituency. Obama's constituency is no longer Illinois. He has a whole new set of folks to pander to.

There is one story from Chicago, however, that remains relevant. A citizen walks into his alderman's office looking for a job. "Who sent you?" he asks. "Nobody," he replies. Says the staffer: "We don't want nobody nobody sent."

Who sent Barack Obama remains a mystery. He has risen from an unknown state senator to president in exactly four years and that only happens when somebody sends for you.

The black liberal image falters on a number of other scores including Obama's affection for extreme right wingers like Chuck Hagel and an obvious indifference to anybody who votes like, say, a state senator from Hyde Park. Think back over the campaign and try to recall a single instance when Obama reached out to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party or to the better angels of the Congressional Black Caucus. Instead his ads attacked as 'extreme' the single payer health insurance backed by many of his own supporters, he dissed ACORN and Colin Powell was as radical a black as he wanted to be seen palling around with.

The key issue that has driven Obama throughout his career has been Obama. He has achieved virtually nothing for any other cause. His politics reflects whatever elite consensus he gathers around himself. This is why his "post partisanship" needs to be watched so carefully. If Bernie Sanders and John Conyers don't get to White House meetings as often as Chuck Hagel, Obama will glide easily to the right, as every president has done over the past thirty years. If liberals, as they did with Clinton, watch without a murmur as their president redesigns their party to fit his personal ambitions, then the whole country will continue to move to the right as well.

Since the real Obama doesn't exist yet, it is impossible to predict with any precision what he will do. But here is some of the evidence gathered over the past months that should serve both as a warning and as a prod to progressives not to take today's dreams as a reasonable facsimile of reality:

Business interests

Advisor Cass Sunstein told Jeffrey Rosen of the NY Times: "I would be stunned to find an anti-business [Supreme Court] appointee from either [Clinton or Obama]. There's not a strong interest on the part of Obama or Clinton in demonizing business, and you wouldn't expect to see that in their Supreme Court nominees."

Obama supported making it harder to file class action suits in state courts. David Sirota in the Nation wrote, "Opposed by most major civil rights and consumer watchdog groups, this big business-backed legislation was sold to the public as a way to stop 'frivolous' lawsuits. But everyone in Washington knew the bill's real objective was to protect corporate abusers."

He voted for a business-friendly "tort reform" bill

He voted against a 30% interest rate cap on credit cards

He had the most number of foreign lobbyist contributors in the primaries

He was even more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain

He was most popular of the candidates with K Street lobbyists

In 2003, rightwing Democratic Leadership Council named Obama as one of its "100 to Watch." After he was criticized in the black media, Obama disassociated himself with the DLC. But his major economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, is also chief economist of the conservative organization. Writes Doug Henwood of the Left Business Observer, "Goolsbee has written gushingly about Milton Friedman and denounced the idea of a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures."

Added Henwood, "Top hedge fund honcho Paul Tudor Jones threw a fundraiser for him at his Greenwich house last spring, 'The whole of Greenwich is backing Obama,' one source said of the posh headquarters of the hedge fund industry. They like him because they're socially liberal, up to a point, and probably eager for a little less war, and think he's the man to do their work. They're also confident he wouldn't undertake any renovations to the distribution of wealth."

Civil liberties

He supports the war on drugs

He supports the crack-cocaine sentence disparity

He supports Real ID

He supports the PATRIOT Act

He supports the death penalty

He opposes lowering the drinking age to 18

He supported amnesty for telecoms engaged in illegal spying on Americans


He went to Connecticut to support Joe Lieberman in the primary against Ned Lamont

Wrote Paul Street in Z Magazine, "Obama has lent his support to the aptly named Hamilton Project, formed by corporate-neo-liberal Citigroup chair Robert Rubin and other Wall Street Democrats to counter populist rebellion against corporatist tendencies within the Democratic Party. . . Obama was recently hailed as a Hamiltonian believer in limited government and free trade by Republican New York Times columnist David Brooks, who praises Obama for having "a mentality formed by globalization, not the SDS."

Writes the London Times, "Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war, and Richard Lugar, leader of the Republicans on the Senate foreign relations committee. Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain's closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defense secretary.

Richard Lugar was rated 0% by SANE. . . rated 0% by AFL-CIO. . . rated 0% BY NARAL. . . rated 12% by American Public Health Association. . . rated 0% by Alliance for Retired Americans. . . rated 27% by the National Education Association. . . rated 5% by League of Conservation Voters. . . He voted no on implementing the 9/11 Commission report. . . Vote against providing habeas corpus for Gitmo prisoners. . .voted no on comprehensive test ban treaty. . .voted against same sex marriage. . . strongly anti-abortion. . . opposed to more federal funding for healthcare. . .voted for unconstitutional wiretapping. . .voted to increase penalties for drug violations

Chuck Hagel was rated 0% by NARAL. . . rated 11% by NAACP. . . rated 0% by Human Rights Coalition. . . rated 100% by Christian Coalition. . . rated 12% by American Public Health Association. . . rated 22% by Alliance for Retired Americans. . . rated 36% by the National Education Association. . . rated 0% by League of Conservation Voters. . . rated 8% by AFL-CIO. . . He is strongly anti-abortion. . .voted for anti-flag desecration amendment. . .voted to increase penalties for drug violations. . . favors privatizing Social Security


Obama voted for a nuclear energy bill that included money for bunker buster bombs and full funding for Yucca Mountain.

He supports federally funded ethanol and is unusually close to the ethanol industry.

He led his party's reversal of a 25-year ban on off-shore oil drilling


Obama has promised to double funding for private charter schools, part of a national effort undermining public education.

He supports the No Child Left Behind Act albeit expressing reservations about its emphasis on testing. Writes Cory Mattson, "Despite NCLB''s loss of credibility among educators and the deadlock surrounding its attempted reauthorization in 2007, Barack Obama still offers his support. Even the two unions representing teachers, both which for years supported reform of the policy to avoid embarrassing their Democratic Party 'friends,' declared in 2008 that the policy is too fundamentally flawed to be reformed and should be eliminated."

Fiscal policy

Obama rejected moratoriums on foreclosures and a freeze on rates, measures supported by his primary opponents John Edwards and Hillary Clinton

He was a strong supporter of the $700 billion cash-for-trash banker bailout plan.

Two of his top advisors are former Goldman Sachs chair Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers. Noted Glen Ford of black Agenda Report, "In February 1999, Rubin and Summers flanked Fed Chief Alan Greenspan on the cover of Time magazine, heralded as, 'The Committee to Save the World.' Summers was then Secretary of the Treasury for Bill Clinton, having succeeded his mentor, Rubin, in that office. Together with Greenspan, the trio had in the previous year labored successfully to safeguard derivatives, the exotic 'ticking time bomb' financial instruments, from federal regulation."

Robert Scheer notes that "Rubin, who pocketed tens of millions running Goldman Sachs before becoming treasury secretary, is the man who got President Clinton to back legislation by then-Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, to unleash banking greed on an unprecedented scale."

Obama's fund-raising machine has been headed by Penny Prtizker former chair of the Superior Bank, one of the first to get into subprime mortgages. While she resigned as chair of the family business in 1994, as late as 2001 she was still on the board and wrote a letter saying that her family was recapitalizing the bank and pledging to "once again restore Superior's leadership position in subprime lending." The bank shut down two months later and the Pritzker family would pay $460 million in a settlement with the government.

Foreign policy

Obama endorsed US involvement in the failed drug war in Colombia: "When I am president, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program."

He has expressed a willingness to bomb Iran and won't rule out a first strike nuclear attack.

He has endorsed bombing or invading Pakistan to go after Al Qaeda in violation of international law. He has called Pakistan "the right battlefield ... in the war on terrorism."

He supports Israeli aggression and apartheid. Obama has deserted previous support for two-state solution to Mid East situation and refuses to negotiate with Hamas.

He has supported Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, saying "it must remain undivided."

He favors expanding the war in Afghanistan.

Although he claims to want to get out of Iraq, his top Iraq advisor wrote that America should keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq. Obama, in his appearances, blurred the difference between combat soldiers and other troops.

He indicated to Amy Goodman that he would leave 140,000 private contractors and mercenaries in Iraq because "we don't have the troops to replace them."

He has called Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez an enemy of the United States and urged sanctions against him.

He claimed "one of the things that I think George H.W. Bush doesn't get enough credit for was his foreign policy team and the way that he helped negotiate the end of the Cold War and prosecuted the Gulf War. That cost us $20 billion dollars. That's all it cost. It was extremely successful. I think there were a lot of very wise people."

He has hawkish foreign policy advisors who have been involved in past US misdeeds and failures. These include Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anthony Lake, General Merrill McPeak, and Dennis Ross.

It has been reported that he might well retain as secretary of defense Robert Gates who supports actions in violation of international law against countries merely suspected of being unwilling or unable to halt threats by militant groups.


Obama opposes gay marriage. He wouldn't have photo taken with San Francisco mayor because he was afraid it would seem that he supported gay marriage


Obama opposes single payer healthcare or Medicare for all.


Obama would expand the size of the military.

National Service

Obama favors a national service plan that appears to be in sync with one being promoted by a new coalition that would make national service mandatory by 2020, and with a bill requiring such mandatory national service introduced by Rep. Charles Rangel.

He announced in Colorado Springs last July, "We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."

On another occasion he said, "It's also important that a president speaks to military service as an obligation not just of some, but of many. You know, I traveled, obviously, a lot over the last 19 months. And if you go to small towns, throughout the Midwest or the Southwest or the South, every town has tons of young people who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's not always the case in other parts of the country, in more urban centers. And I think it's important for the president to say, this is an important obligation. If we are going into war, then all of us go, not just some." Some have seen this as a call for reviving the draft.

He has attacked the exclusion of ROTC on some college campuses

Presidential crimes

Obama aggressively opposed impeachment actions against Bush. One of his key advisors, Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School, said prosecuting government officials risks a "cycle" of criminalizing public service.


Unlike his deferential treatment of right wing conservatives, Obama's treatment of the left has been dismissive to insulting. He dissed Nader for daring to run for president again. And he called the late Paul Wellstone "something of a gadfly"

Public Campaign Financing

Obama's retreat from public campaign financing has endangered the whole concept.

Social welfare

Obama wrote that conservatives and Bill Clinton were right to destroy social welfare,

Social Security

Early in the campaign, Obama said, "everything is on the table" with Social Security.


As things now stand, the election primarily represents the extremist center seizing power back from the extremist right. We have moved from the prospect of disasters to the relative comfort of mere crises.

Using the word 'extreme' alongside the term 'center' is no exaggeration. Nearly all major damage to the United States in recent years - a rare exception being 9/11 - has been the result of decisions made not by right or left but by the post partisan middle: Vietnam, Iraq, the assault on constitutional liberties, the huge damage to the environment, and the collapse of the economy - to name a few. Go back further in history and you'll find, for example, the KKK riddled with members of the establishment including - in Colorado - a future governor, senator and mayor after whom Denver's airport is named. The center, to which Obama pays such homage, has always been where most of the trouble lies.

The only thing that will make Obama the president pictured in the campaign fantasy is unapologetic, unswerving and unendingly pressure on him in a progressive and moral direction, for he will not go there on his own. But what, say, gave the New Deal its progressive nature was pressure from the left of a sort that simply doesn't exist today.

Above are listed nearly three dozen things that Obama supports or opposes with which no good liberal or progressive would agree. Unfortunately, what's out there now, however, looks more like a rock concert crowd or evangelical tent meeting than a determined and directed political constituency. Which isn't so surprising given how successful our system have been at getting people to accept sights, sounds, symbols and semiotics as substitutes for reality. Once again, it looks like we'll have to learn the hard way.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sarah Palin blamed by the US Secret Service over death threats against Barack Obama

[It's remarkable that the Secret Service would be this explicit in its criticism and this precise in their determination of the relationship between a public official's comments and the unleashing of potential assassins. It is not, however, at all remarkable that comments such as Palin's would provoke assassins. Rhetoric such as hers leads directly to legitimizing assassination plots. And these remain, as this article indicates, viable dangers in the form of plots being hatched as we speak.]

Sarah Palin's attacks on Barack Obama's patriotism provoked a spike in death threats against the future president, Secret Service agents revealed during the final weeks of the campaign.

By Tim Shipman in Washington
Last Updated: 4:04PM GMT 08 Nov 2008

The Republican vice presidential candidate attracted criticism for accusing Mr Obama of "palling around with terrorists," citing his association with the sixties radical William Ayers.

The attacks provoked a near lynch mob atmosphere at her rallies, with supporters yelling "terrorist" and "kill him" until the McCain campaign ordered her to tone down the rhetoric.

But it has now emerged that her demagogic tone may have unintentionally encouraged white supremacists to go even further.

The Secret Service warned the Obama family in mid October that they had seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the Democratic candidate, coinciding with Mrs Palin's attacks.

Michelle Obama, the future First Lady, was so upset that she turned to her friend and campaign adviser Valerie Jarrett and said: "Why would they try to make people hate us?"

The revelations, contained in a Newsweek history of the campaign, are likely to further damage Mrs Palin's credentials as a future presidential candidate. She is already a frontrunner, with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, to take on Mr Obama in four years time.

Details of the spike in threats to Mr Obama come as a report last week by security and intelligence analysts Stratfor [sic], warned that he is a high risk target for racist gunmen. It concluded: "Two plots to assassinate Obama were broken up during the campaign season, and several more remain under investigation. We would expect federal authorities to uncover many more plots to attack the president that have been hatched by white supremacist ideologues."

Irate John McCain aides, who blame Mrs Palin for losing the election, claim Mrs Palin took it upon herself to question Mr Obama's patriotism, before the line of attack had been cleared by Mr McCain.

That claim is part of a campaign of targeted leaks designed to torpedo her ambitions, with claims that she did not know that Africawas a continent rather than a country.

The advisers have branded her a "diva" and a "whack job" and claimed that she did not know which other countries are in the North American Free Trade Area, (Canada and Mexico). They say she spent more than $150,000 on designer clothes, including $40,000 on her husband Todd and that she refused to prepare for the disastrous series of interviews with CBS's Katie Couric.

In a bid to salvage her reputation Mrs Palin came out firing in an interview with CNN, dismissing the anonymous leakers in unpresidential language as "jerks" who had taken "questions or comments I made in debate prep out of context."

She said: "I consider it cowardly. It's not true. That's cruel, it's mean-spirited, it's immature, it's unprofessional and those guys are jerks if they came away taking things out of context and then tried to spread something on national news that's not fair and not right."

She was not asked about her incendiary rhetoric against Mr Obama. But she did deny the spending spree claims, saying the clothes in question had been returned to the Republican National Committee. "Those are the RNC's clothes, they're not my clothes. I asked for anything more than maybe a diet Dr Pepper once in a while. These are false allegations."

Speaking as she returned to her native Alaska, Mrs Palin claimed to be baffled by what she claims was sexism on the national stage. "Here in Alaska that double standard isn't applied because these guys know that Alaskan women are pretty tough, on a par with the men in terms of being outdoors, working hard," she said.

"They're commercial fishermen, they're pilots, they're working up on the North slopein the oil fields. You see equality in Alaska. I think that was a bit of as surprise on the national level."

Pelosi: Governing from the Middle

Relief that at last the evil warlocks will be gone can be felt everywhere.

The day after the election Nancy Pelosi declared, while basking in the glow of the GOP getting drubbed in the elections, exactly the same trend that swept the Democrats back into the majority in the 2006 mid-term elections, that a "new president must govern from the middle."

The GOP's defeat happened despite Congress' approval ratings being even lower than the White House's. It happened because of the deep and wide revulsion towards the Bush Regime's policies. But the American people's political sophistication isn't yet very high. The belief and hope that voting for a candidate who sounds like he's going to bring a change - and that that is all it's going to take - exists broadly among the people. Obama's campaign skillfully appropriated phrases from the movement and Obama speaks repeatedly of this cause being something that requires people's participation. But what he means by this is very different from what most people think.

Pelosi said what she said not because she's an idiot, like Palin, but because she's dishonest. Her comments are the equivalent of an army soundly defeating the other side and then having the victorious general say: "No hard feelings. You and I are still going to rule in tandem and with equal regard for each other's views." Apparently, "change" isn't supposed to mean a change from the "bipartisan" debacle that got us to this point.

The election results were meant to be understood as precisely the opposite of Pelosi's claim.

The electorate wants the policies of the Republicans and the free market fundamentalists to go the way of the DoDo Bird.

But this is not what Pelosi and the Democratic DLC want. Pelosi, who was briefed back in 2002 about the use of waterboarding on detainees and told that the NSA was spying on all of us, said nothing then and has said nothing since. She has actively shielded holding the war criminals in the White House accountable. By her silence and inaction, she has been complicit in war crimes.

Continued co-operation and complicity with the GOP and the Christian fascists is what we're going to get from Pelosi and Obama, unless and until millions in this country realize that merely voting and going to campaign rallies is not going to do what must be done.

Unless and until a movement that is independent of electoral politics arises in sufficient magnitude in the society and demands the righting of the wrongs that this government has brought us - including from the likes of the Pelosi and Reid and Obama - then the very people and policies that we and the world have been suffering under the heel of will be allowed to continue, with a slightly different tinge.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fox News on Palin's Foibles

I must tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed this clip from Fox on Palin - how often I'm going to say that I don't know! - that's inside of Rob Kall's article today at OpEd News.

Palin didn't know that Africa was a continent and didn't know what countries were in NAFTA.

Sounds perfect. Let's make her vice-president!

That's ok anyway. God tells you everything you need to know in the Bible. And the Bible didn't talk about NAFTA or Africa being a whole continent (hey, you can't see Africa from Alaska!) or the Bush Doctrine (although, God does go after people that annoy him and destroys them) or what the vice-president of the United States does or what the First Amendment means. That must mean those things aren't worth knowing.

(Has anyone done a parody of her based on that Miss Teen USA contestant of 2007 from South Carolina made so famous on YouTube?)

Read/watch and enjoy!

Against Larry Summers, the Friedmanite

Former Harvard President, eventually forced out for a number of reasons, including his extraordinary abrasiveness, arrogance, and blatant sexism, Larry Summers is being widely reported as having the inside track for appointment as Obama's Treasury Secretary.

In the following article by John Wilson we hear such gems from Summers as this memo that he signed while vice-president and chief economist at the World Bank in 1991: “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”

And then there's this:

"Back in April 2008, Summers was predicting that 'There is a reasonable chance that from a financial market, Wall Street perspective, the worst has passed.' That doesn't sound like a smart economic prognosticator.

"Just a few months ago, Summers declared: 'Alan Greenspan had a tremendous record as Fed chairman.'

"And in April 2008, Summers proclaimed, 'Any honest Democrat will admit that we are now all Friedmanites.'”

I don't know about you, but this is change I can believe in! Install as Treasury Secretary a guy who thinks that the free market cures all ills, the same ideology that has created the terrible crisis we are suffering from in the country and world. Capital idea!

So much more, see the Wilson article at OpEd News.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The NYT's Editorial on Obama's Win and My Commentary on It

The Next President by the NYT Editors

This is one of those moments in history when it is worth pausing to reflect on the basic facts:

An American with the name Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a white woman and a black man he barely knew, raised by his grandparents far outside the stream of American power and wealth, has been elected the 44th president of the United States.

Showing extraordinary focus and quiet certainty, Mr. Obama swept away one political presumption after another to defeat first Hillary Clinton, who wanted to be president so badly that she lost her bearings, and then John McCain, who forsook his principles for a campaign built on anger and fear.

His triumph was decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens. He offered a government that does not try to solve every problem but will do those things beyond the power of individual citizens: to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalized world.

Mr. Obama spoke candidly of the failure of Republican economic policies that promised to lift all Americans but left so many millions far behind. He committed himself to ending a bloody and pointless war. He promised to restore Americans’ civil liberties and their tattered reputation around the world.

With a message of hope and competence, he drew in legions of voters who had been disengaged and voiceless. The scenes Tuesday night of young men and women, black and white, weeping and cheering in Chicago and New York and in Atlanta’s storied Ebenezer Baptist Church were powerful and deeply moving.

Mr. Obama inherits a terrible legacy. The nation is embroiled in two wars — one of necessity in Afghanistan and one of folly in Iraq. Mr. Obama’s challenge will be to manage an orderly withdrawal from Iraq without igniting new conflicts so the Pentagon can focus its resources on the real front in the war on terror, Afghanistan.

The campaign began with the war as its central focus. By Election Day, Americans were deeply anguished about their futures and the government’s failure to prevent an economic collapse fed by greed and an orgy of deregulation. Mr. Obama will have to move quickly to impose control, coherence, transparency and fairness on the Bush administration’s jumbled bailout plan.

His administration will also have to identify all of the ways that Americans’ basic rights and fundamental values have been violated and rein that dark work back in. Climate change is a global threat, and after years of denial and inaction, this country must take the lead on addressing it. The nation must develop new, cleaner energy technologies, to reduce greenhouse gases and its dependence on foreign oil.

Mr. Obama also will have to rally sensible people to come up with immigration reform consistent with the values of a nation built by immigrants and refugees.

There are many other urgent problems that must be addressed. Tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance, including some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens — children of the working poor. Other Americans can barely pay for their insurance or are in danger of losing it along with their jobs. They must be protected.

Mr. Obama will now need the support of all Americans. Mr. McCain made an elegant concession speech Tuesday night in which he called on his followers not just to honor the vote, but to stand behind Mr. Obama. After a nasty, dispiriting campaign, he seemed on that stage to be the senator we long respected for his service to this country and his willingness to compromise.

That is a start. The nation’s many challenges are beyond the reach of any one man, or any one political party.

* * *

This what I posted at the NYT's website. It is presently being moderated:

You write that Obama won because he sees "the utter failure of government to protect its citizens." If this is so, then why did Obama vote FOR the Telecom Amnesty Bill that legalizes the government's ubiquitous spying on all of us? If I'm not mistaken, the NYT editorialized against this outrageous bill that legalized the White House, the NSA, and the telecom companies' felonious breach of the 1978 FISA bill.

When the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was being considered in September of 2006, you editorialized that if you're going to filibuster anything, filibuster this, this bill that would legalize torture and strip habeas corpus rights from anyone deemed an "unlawful enemy combatant" by Bush or one of his people.

Yet Obama, though he voted against the MCA, failed at that historic moment on two counts: he refused to filibuster the MCA and he expressed his disagreements with it on the grounds that it was "dumb," not on the grounds that it was barbaric and unthinkable. Thus, he along with the Democrats, allowed this monstrous bill to pass when they could have and should have stopped it with a filibuster.

Failing to protect its citizens? Obama voted for the massive bailout of investment banks.

Failing to protect its citizens? Though Obama opposed the Iraq war initially, he has voted funding for it on every single opportunity.

When the invasion of Iraq was being prepared and public opinion was being created to justify it through the repeated and deceitful use of lies, the NYT failed to ever utter the words "international law" or the words "the UN Charter." Had it done so, it would have been clear that invading another country that has not first attacked you is the highest war crime of all. Those who were paying attention at the time knew that there were no WMD in Iraq, but EVEN if there had been, that would not have justified an attack. If possessing WMD were sufficient grounds, then any country on this earth could justify attacking the US as we have the largest inventory of WMD in the world and are the only ones to ever have used nuclear weapons on others. Indeed, Obama has threatened very vigorously to do so against Iran.

While it is a good and historic thing that finally the GOP has been beaten at the polls and this beating has FINALLY been officially recognized, unlike the 2000 and 2004 elections in which the losers took office, we should be under no illusions about what is to come. Change will only come if the people demand it through creating their [own] independent, extra-electoral actions the way that the war in Vietnam was ended and civil rights were won. Civil rights and the end of the war were not won through the largesse of condescending saviors. They were won through the inspired and heroic struggle of millions.

How can the infamous atrocities of the Bush White House be made right merely by voting? Will Obama prosecute these war criminals? When Bush finally admitted that he approved of waterboarding, what did Obama do? Did he immediately call for Bush's resignation as a war criminal? This is what

— Dr. Dennis Loo, Los Angeles

November 05, 2008 10:49 am

(This is what got cut off in my earlier posting:)

When Bush finally admitted approving of waterboarding - i.e., torture - here is what Obama said:

"[O]ne of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I've said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances."

What, if not exceptional, have been the actions of the Bush White House?

For the rest of his comments and a commentary on it, see

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

NY Times Editorial November 4, 2008

[A very short list of the damage that can and is still being done by the current criminals in the White House until at least January 20, 2009. Regardless of who wins the election, the awful policies continue. They need to be fought today and until they are reversed and those who responsible for these crimes against humanity brought to justice.]

So Little Time, So Much Damage

While Americans eagerly vote for the next president, here's a sobering reminder: As of Tuesday, George W. Bush still has 77 days left in the White House — and he's not wasting a minute.

President Bush's aides have been scrambling to change rules and regulations on the environment, civil liberties and abortion rights, among others — few for the good. Most presidents put on a last-minute policy stamp, but in Mr. Bush's case it is more like a wrecking ball. We fear it could take months, or years, for the next president to identify and then undo all of the damage.

Here is a look — by no means comprehensive — at some of Mr. Bush's recent parting gifts and those we fear are yet to come.

CIVIL LIBERTIES We don't know all of the ways that the administration has violated Americans' rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Last month, Attorney General Michael Mukasey rushed out new guidelines for the F.B.I. that permit agents to use chillingly intrusive techniques to collect information on Americans even where there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

Agents will be allowed to use informants to infiltrate lawful groups, engage in prolonged physical surveillance and lie about their identity while questioning a subject's neighbors, relatives, co-workers and friends. The changes also give the F.B.I. — which has a long history of spying on civil rights groups and others — expanded latitude to use these techniques on people identified by racial, ethnic and religious background.

The administration showed further disdain for Americans' privacy rights and for Congress's power by making clear that it will ignore a provision in the legislation that established the Department of Homeland Security. The law requires the department's privacy officer to account annually for any activity that could affect Americans' privacy — and clearly stipulates that the report cannot be edited by any other officials at the department or the White House.

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel has now released a memo asserting that the law "does not prohibit" officials from homeland security or the White House from reviewing the report. The memo then argues that since the law allows the officials to review the report, it would be unconstitutional to stop them from changing it. George Orwell couldn't have done better.

THE ENVIRONMENT The administration has been especially busy weakening regulations that promote clean air and clean water and protect endangered species.

Mr. Bush, or more to the point, Vice President Dick Cheney, came to office determined to dismantle Bill Clinton's environmental legacy, undo decades of environmental law and keep their friends in industry happy. They have had less success than we feared, but only because of the determined opposition of environmental groups, courageous members of Congress and protests from citizens. But the White House keeps trying.

Mr. Bush's secretary of the interior, Dirk Kempthorne, has recently carved out significant exceptions to regulations requiring expert scientific review of any federal project that might harm endangered or threatened species (one consequence will be to relieve the agency of the need to assess the impact of global warming on at-risk species). The department also is rushing to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list — again. The wolves were re-listed after a federal judge ruled the government had not lived up to its own recovery plan.

In coming weeks, we expect the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a final rule that would weaken a program created by the Clean Air Act, which requires utilities to install modern pollution controls when they upgrade their plants to produce more power. The agency is also expected to issue a final rule that would make it easier for coal-fired power plants to locate near national parks in defiance of longstanding Congressional mandates to protect air quality in areas of special natural or recreational value.

Interior also is awaiting E.P.A.'s concurrence on a proposal that would make it easier for mining companies to dump toxic mine wastes in valleys and streams.

And while no rules changes are at issue, the interior department also has been rushing to open up millions of acres of pristine federal land to oil and gas exploration. We fear that, in coming weeks, Mr. Kempthorne will open up even more acreage to the commercial development of oil shale, a hugely expensive and environmentally risky process that even the oil companies seem in no hurry to begin. He should not.

ABORTION RIGHTS Soon after the election, Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, is expected to issue new regulations aimed at further limiting women's access to abortion, contraceptives and information about their reproductive health care options.

Existing law allows doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in an abortion. These changes would extend the so-called right to refuse to a wide range of health care workers and activities including abortion referrals, unbiased counseling and provision of birth control pills or emergency contraception, even for rape victims.

The administration has taken other disturbing steps in recent weeks. In late September, the I.R.S. restored tax breaks for banks that take big losses on bad loans inherited through acquisitions. Now we learn that JPMorgan Chase and others are planning to use their bailout funds for mergers and acquisitions, transactions that will be greatly enhanced by the new tax subsidy.

One last-minute change Mr. Bush won't be making: He apparently has decided not to shut down the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — the most shameful symbol of his administration's disdain for the rule of law.

Mr. Bush has said it should be closed, and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and his secretary of defense, Robert Gates, pushed for it. Proposals were prepared, including a plan for sending the real bad guys to other countries for trial. But Mr. Cheney objected, and the president has refused even to review the memos. He will hand this mess off to his successor.

We suppose there is some good news in all of this. While Mr. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, 2009, he has only until Nov. 20 to issue "economically significant" rule changes and until Dec. 20 to issue other changes. Anything after that is merely a draft and can be easily withdrawn by the next president.

Unfortunately, the White House is well aware of those deadlines.