The Drag of Congressional Hearings

boehner-obamacareThe prospects of paralyzing hearings and pontificating for no reason, other than Republican hatred toward Obama.

The public gets what it wants every two years. Will there be prolonged hearings, will the Republican Congress pursue a witch hunt, or will it fear blow-back in 2014 elections?

From the New York Times (Jonathan Weisman):

G.O.P., Energized, Weighs How Far to Take Inquiries

WASHINGTON — The investigations ensnaring the White House have unified the Republican Party, energized a political base shattered by election losses and given common purpose to lawmakers divided over a legislative agenda.

The most pressing question for Congressional Republicans is no longer how to finesse changes to immigration law or gun control, but how far they can push their cases against President Obama without inciting a backlash of the sort that has left them staggering in the past.

Stay tuned.

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Coming Distractions: The IRS Saga–More Republican Nonsense in a Congress Near You

Gallup Poll Shows Congressional Approval at around 13 percent.

Gallup Poll Shows Congressional Approval at around 13 percent.

In the knee-jerk fraud that masquerades as a Republican alternative, the latest pseudo-drama inside the Beltway will be the sanctimonious months of Congressional hearings about a non-existent conspiracy at the Internal Revenue Service.  Faced with real issues — immigration, health care, gun reform, electoral reform, among them — the wing-nuts that control the House of Representatives have a new excuse to do worse than nothing.

The real agenda is to attack their Democratic opponents, especially the president, and increasingly the leading presidential candidate for 2016, Hillary Clinton.

Succinctly stated, all of this, in a New York Times editorial:

Inevitably, the stumble by the I.R.S. will now be used by the Republicans as a point of attack. They are gleefully promising months of hearings, and the National Republican Congressional Committee is already trying to tarnish Democratic lawmakers with what it calls “the Obama administration’s use of the I.R.S. as a political tool.”

This will serve as the perfect distraction from issues, like the budget, gun control or immigration reform. And it will probably prevent any real progress on campaign finance reform, which, in turn, will make it vastly more difficult for the I.R.S. to prevent abuse of the tax code.

The I.R.S. stumble, if it is one, comes as a result of a highly partisan flawed and democracy-damaging decision by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case. The I.R.S. began to investigate whether right-wing nonprofits claiming tax exemption were really political fronts for the Republicans who placed the Supreme Court majority on the bench so it could make the damaging decision. “Oh no,” meanwhile, cries the Tea Party, “we’re nonpartisan.”

All of this works very well as long as straight-thinking citizens pay little heed, not even the 22 minutes needed to watch The Daily Show, to check out the sad humor of it all.

I don’t know about you — but it becomes increasingly difficult to even read or watch the news from Washington — so predictable as it is. A moderate majority of citizens appears to have given up. We are left with a Senate tilted to low-population states, a House built by a Republican minority that stacked the deck state by state.

Two of the prime deck-stackers, the Koch Brothers, by the way, are now trying to purchase the Los Angeles Times and the rest of the Chicago Tribune’s assets. Then, they’ll even be able to control the message better than they already have.

Failing broader outrage from a gerrymandered public, laughter and mockery is probably the best way to go.

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G.W. Bush–The Foolish Rewrite

Bush-Library-3The rehabilitation of G.W. Bush this past week requires participation of very, very gullible people with bad memories. Worst-best ratings, and polls aside, G.W. Bush took the United States to war on fraudulent grounds.

To this hour, too many Americans accept the incessantly repeated phrase about Iraq — “he was acting on the best available intelligence at the time.”

That is not true, mightily disproved, for instance, in my book, The Italian Letter, which I wrote with my colleague Knut Royce. We show, quoting officials by name, that Bush’s 16 words uttered in his 2003 State of the Union message were a lie:  “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .” I later summarized the case in the Washington Post.

Bush and his former aides have been on the hustings once more during the period leading up to inauguration of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. They had the same talking points, praising Bush because he “made decisions…presidential decisions.”  The tautology must be a joke. Of course he made decisions,  indeed, presidential decisions, because he was president.

But the decisions were wrong. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost or changed, one trillion dollars gone, those were the results of presidential decisions. The stupidity of it all and the presidential civility of the week were well-covered  by Chris Hayes on MSNBC.

Harsh but apt words for “the decider,” including an assessment in the MSNBC story from Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for then-secretary of state Colin Powell. The retired colonel is one of the sources for The Italian Letter. Wilkerson, along the way, casts as much blame on the American people, for succumbing to apathy. He finds that nothing has changed.

We may be doomed, thinking of George Santayana, not only failing to learn from history, but disinterested and badly informed as others produce a fake rewrite.

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Fear and Stupidity: Wrong lesson in government

Contrast the  fear-mongering of elected Republicans  with the abiding words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
fear itself

Lindsey Graham:

If captured, I hope Administration will at least consider holding the Boston suspect as enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes.

John McCain in a joint statement with Graham:

“The public safety exception is a domestic criminal law doctrine that allows questioning of a criminal suspect without Miranda warnings for a limited time and purpose.

Prejudgment, no facts, no faith in laws guaranteeing the constitutional rights of an American citizen.

Both are elected by a populace that should think things through. McCain, save us, could have been President of the United States.

The lesson to be taken from Boston is that police know their jobs, and the system does work. If anything, the danger is succumbing to fear. There is this wise analysis by author and journalist, James Bamford, echoing Roosevelt three-quarters of a century ago.

If the idea of terrorism is to terrorize, then the hyper-hysterical media coverage of the Boston bombing was made to order and almost guarantees that others, seeking similar attention, will follow. This was not 9/11, far from it. And shutting down an entire city, telling everyone to lock themselves inside, is not a sign of strength. It is also a terrible precedent to set. London and other major cities have seen much, much worse and managed to follow the principle, Keep Calm and Carry On.

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Torture and US

Almost lost in the news is a report  from a blue-ribbon bipartisan Constitution Project commission that states bluntly that the U.S. government has conducted torture in violation of law.

The commission found there is “indisputable” evidence that U.S. government officials bear responsibility for mistreatment of detainees. Members reached unanimous consent on their findings, although they were stonewalled in receiving some official documents and full interviews with officials of the administration of George W. Bush. The committee includes Democratic and Republican former lawmakers, jurists, academics and retired and decorated high-ranking military officials. They cannot be dismissed on political grounds.

The commission said in a 560-page report:

“U.S. Forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading  treatment.’  Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to the values of the Constitution and our nation.”

Among other things, the report debunks the notion that so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” — the euphemism for torture — obtain useful information. The report concludes:

“The nation’s most senior officials … bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some US personnel on detainees in several theaters.”

The commission was hampered by the lack of subpoena power to get to the bottom of the systematic decision during the Bush administration to torture detainees. The commission says authorization of subpoenas should be the next step, a step that might lead to something akin to what many people have advocated for years — a Truth Commission.

Here’s what the organization Human Rights said about the commission report:

“The American people deserve a full accounting of the torture conducted in their name…The work of this private, bipartisan commission sends a clear message that full disclosure is an issue of great importance to all Americans, no matter their political leanings.”

Will Americans demand accounting or will they be complacent to the techniques of torture practiced in their name?

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Russell Brand — A Thatcher Dissent

Russell Brand, on childhood and manhood, thinking of Margaret Thatcher

I can’t articulate with the skill of either of “the Marks” – Steel or Thomas – why Thatcher and Thatcherism were so bad for Britain but I do recall that even to a child her demeanour and every discernible action seemed to be to the detriment of our national spirit and identity. Her refusal to stand against apartheid, her civil war against the unions, her aggression towards our neighbours in Ireland and a taxation system that was devised in the dark ages, the bombing of a retreating ship – it’s just not British.

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A Vision Test on Iraq and the Media. Choose A or B

Here are two competing visions of the media handling of the war in Iraq

This is the way it works at the eye doctor. He holds letters in front of your eyes and asks you to choose. The answer gets better and better, hopefully vision more and more clear.

Choose A….

This is a piece by Greg Mitchell, substantially published by The Nation, after being spiked by the Washington Post

For awhile, back in 2003, Iraq meant never having to say you’re sorry.  The spring offensive had produced a victory in less than three weeks, with a relatively low American and Iraqi civilian death toll.  Saddam fled and George W. Bush and his team drew overwhelming praise, at least here at home.

But wait.  Where were the crowds greeting us as “liberators”?  Why were the Iraqis now shooting at each other–and blowing up our soldiers?  And where were those WMDs, bio-chem labs, and nuclear materials?  Most Americans still backed the invasion, so it still too early for mea culpas–it was more “my sad” than “my bad.”

or B

A story by Paul Fahri published on the Opinion Pages

There’s no doubt that many news organizations, including this one, missed important stories, underplayed others that were skeptical of the administration’s case and acted too deferentially to those in power. A few instances — such as the New York Times’ September 2002 report hyping Iraq’s aluminum tubes as evidence of a reconstituted nuclear program — have become infamous. The Times and The Washington Post have publicly examinedand admitted their shortcomings.

But “failure” grossly oversimplifies what the media did and didn’t do before the war, and it ignores important reasons the reporting turned out the way it did. As new threats loom, from Iran to North Korea, better understanding these circumstances can help us assess what happened and whether we’re better positioned today.

Can they both be right? I don’t think so. Somebody will need new glasses.

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