Category Archives: Republicans

“Waterboarding” is Torture — Torturers have been imprisoned and executed

Dick Cheney claims that “waterboarding” “stops short” of torture, but victims knew the reality. Torturers have been executed for submitting prisoners to simulated drowning, now tagged with  that indistinct, even innocuous-sounding term.

Go no further than John McCain, who is unequivocal on the subject. He says waterboarding is not “enhanced interrogation” — it is torture.

In World War II, German and Japanese interrogators — and their commanders — were punished, imprisoned and executed for such crimes:

“The torture of the bathtub consisted in plunging the patient into a bath of icy water, his hands handcuffed behind the back, and keeping his head underwater until he was on the point of drowning. He was dragged to the surface by the hair and, if he still refused to speak, was immediately plunged underwater again.”Jacques Delarue, an anti-Nazi French intelligence officer during World War II.

The quote is from The Freedom Line, my book about the rescue of Allied pilots rescued by underground fighters in occupied Europe during World War Two. One key practitioner of simulated drowning at Gestapo headquarters in Paris was Jacques Desoubrie — aka Jean Masson. Desoubrie, a double agent who had infiltrated the underground, was captured by the United States after the war and executed in France.

 

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“Isn’t it Rich, Aren’t we a Pair?” The Koch Brothers and Pope Francis

What do we find in our Sunday newspaper this morning? An opinion piece that conflates the Koch brothers and Pope Francis as being on the same page.

The Washington Post

The Washington Post

It is clear, we are told, that the Koch Brothers and the pope (who by golly the writers have met) are fighting the same fight–the “preferential option for the poor.”

The authors are John and Carol Saeman, fawning friends and moneyed allies of the Koch brothers, the benevolent pair who oppose climate change legislation and Affordable Health Care, using their billions to support the Tea Party and other ultra right-wing causes, and to control American politics and election outcomes. This ‘umble opinion piece is topped off by photographs of the brothers, David and Charles, flanking Pope Francis.

Yea, as we walk through the valley of American fear, the Koch brothers are our saviors. Progressive social programs, welfare and anything else created since the New Deal are the enemy. No mention of Democrats, or the name of the president, just code–“centralization” and “bureaucrats…collude to protect politically favored companies and crowd out competitors.”

“This phenomenon isn’t found only in Third World Dictatorships. It’s increasingly evident in Washington….”

Not to worry, the Koch brothers are here. “We believe the Kochs are doing more to help the poor than the “social justice” campaigners who so often attack them.”

It is a strange argument and, at the least, difficult to believe.

More about the Koch Brothers?

Daily Show

Rolling Stone

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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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Truths and Lies in the Senate

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Libya, a Tea Party Republican senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, used indirect language to blame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the killing of four American diplomats in Benghazi last year. Paul described their deaths as the worst tragedy involving Americans since 9/11. Partisan politics, ignorance and nonsense.

A newly elected senator answered him strongly:

“I think if some people on this committee want to call the tragedy in Benghazi the worst since 9/11, it misunderstands the nature of 4,000 Americans plus lost over ten years of war in Iraq fought under false pretenses,” newly elected Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in response.

Under a Republican president, George W. Bush, the United States went to war using lies about U.S. intelligence information. To this hour, a number of Americans — perhaps the same number that voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election — think that President Bush invaded Iraq based on “the best available intelligence” at the time. That has been proven to be a lie, as I wrote with my colleague, Knut Royce, in the book, The Italian Letter. I also wrote about it in the Washington Post.

President Bush has not stood before the Senate to answer that serious charge. It is fairly certain that he never will.

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Guns Abroad — How Others See Americans

Guns turned in voluntarily after Australian law took effect (AP)

Once, when I was a kid, a lady in Germany was shocked that I was an American who could speak to her in her own language and took advantage. “Where’s your six-shooter,” she asked. Another time, entering New Zealand, a customs official thought about patting me down for drugs and weapons. “Florida, eh? he said raising an eyebrow.

That’s the way they see us.

Such is the case with U.S. gun violence; President Obama’s announcements on gun control were big news.

Australian television, for example, chose an extreme talking head, Larry Pratt, president of the Gun Owners of America, to discuss the issue.

By way of context, Australia imposed gun laws that worked in 1996 after a shocking mass killing. Former Prime Minister John Howard described the success of Australia’s laws in an op-ed article in the New York Times.

Here’s a section of the interview with Mr. Pratt on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

LEIGH SALES: In Australia, the government reacted to a massacre in 1996 by banning the sale, importation and possession of semi-automatic rifles and by removing 700,000 guns from circulation.

In the 18 years before that we had 13 massacres. After that we had zero. We didn’t have a civil war, the government didn’t come and take all of our stuff away from us. Why not just give it a try in the US?

LARRY PRATT: Once you’ve given it a try there’s no going back and so in the United States we’re not going to do that. In the United States we are citizens in control of the government and as the Swiss say to this day, a rifle is the emblem of a free man.

LEIGH SALES: But it worked in Australia. Why not just try it?

LARRY PRATT: Your violent crime rate is not so admirable and besides…

LEIGH SALES: It’s a lot lower than yours.

LARRY PRATT: We’re not interested in being like Australia. We’re Americans.

An American friend of mine visiting Australia called attention to the interview. “Doubtless Larry Pratt left the show pleased with his no holds barred defense of Americans’ right to own automatic weapons,” my friend said, “but I have to say that as the segment ended I felt sick.”

It is called American exceptionalism. Overseas, it is a farce.

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“A [political] change coming on”

muse of history“I feel a change comin’ on
Though the last part of the day’s already gone”
Bob Dylan and Robert Hunter

We may be witnessing a sea-change in American politics, but we’re too close to know exactly what it is. How can Republicans and their losing agenda survive when a majority of people in the United States support exactly what Republicans hate, issues including: gun-control; a woman’s right to choose; and the government role in health care. Oh and one more thing, a majority of Americans have just re-elected President Barack Obama. Republicans are not a happy lot.

There’s an interesting analysis by George Packer in The New Yorker that describes a progressive change in political alignment — the South was solidly Democratic until Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 Civil Rights Act, Republicans have been ensconced one way or another ever since. “At the same time,” Packer writes….

the Southern way of life began to be embraced around the country until, in a sense, it came to stand for the “real America”: country music and Lynyrd Skynyrd, barbecue and nascar, political conservatism, God and guns, the code of masculinity, militarization, hostility to unions, and suspicion of government authority, especially in Washington, D.C. (despite its largesse). In 1978, the Dallas Cowboys laid claim to the title of “America’s team”—something the San Francisco 49ers never would have attempted. In Palo Alto, of all places, the cool way to express rebellion in your high-school yearbook was with a Confederate flag. That same year, the tax revolt began, in California.

We hear a protest movement from that “real America,’ secession nonsense and defiance. Governors and legislators who are sworn to uphold BOTH the U.S. Constitution AND their state constitutions advocate defiance of federal programs, health insurance or any move from Washington to control guns.

Packer says the change, as far as we see so far, is that Republicans, controlled and distorted by this Southern bloc, can no longer lead.

The Southern bloc in the House majority can still prevent the President from enjoying any major legislative achievements, but it has no chance of enacting an agenda, and it’s unlikely to produce a nationally popular figure.

Where is it all headed? Interesting question on the eve of the inauguration of second term for a man who has repeatedly cited his own unlikely road to the White House. That man is a member of a new generation, a product as we all are, but not a part, of the South.

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Platinum Coin Update – No go

A good idea, scotched by the Treasury Department.

This from Ezra Klein at the Washington Post

“…Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the Treasury Department…“Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit,” he said.

If President Obama doesn’t want the fight, he’ll have to come up with another interesting way around Congress to beat the debt ceiling. Stay tuned.

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