C.I.A. destroys torture tapes

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In 2005 the C.I.A. destroyed two tapes which showed “severe interrogation techniques”, the New York Times reports. Apparently two Al-Queda terrorists’ interogations were videotaped. Now folks, the only thing I can think of for reason for destroying them is that a great many people would consider the contents to be indicative of torture.

I want to know what John McCain thinks.

Ridiculous. You know what hurts the most? The lack of respect … Okay, well maybe that hurts the second most-the other thing, that hurts the most, but the lack of respect hurts the most.

Ridiculous.

David Broder is the man.

David Broder

Note: from now on I am going to try and post after every David Broder opinion column from the Washington Post. You should all read it anyways because the man is good.

Case and point: Today’s article (12/5) highlights the most important events of the international community according to how they might affect the U.S. Broder tells us that things are different than they were two weeks ago. Now, his near perky article must have been a result from this weeks BIG STORY: the NIE report on Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Anywho, he got me thinking about how much I want a Democrat in the White House, AND a Democrat controlled Congress. This would be the ill na na, ninjas. Actually … f*ck that, I just don’t want Giulliani or Romney-Bushified chuckle heads. If the Reps cared about themselves they would rally around McCain with Huckabee as the VP. Huckabee is ill because he’s the Republican I could see stabbing the neo-cons right in the heart and letting the blood drip all over him. Interesting guy.

The point is, ninjas, change is on the horizon. If you live in a swing-State, I plead with you: don’t vote for an asshole. Take the time to listen to how these candidates talk, what they talk about, their demeanor, their grace or lack their off … In all sincerity, I think Hillary Clinton should get the nod.

Ninjas, the war on terror needs to end. Because it’s not really a war on terror, this government seems to be all too pleased to feed this fire.

Getting harder and harder

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Times are tough, my ninjas … at least for GDubz, who just can’t get anything to come together for him. Yesterday came a release, the National Intelligence Estimate, which is a report from all of intelligence from all 16 of the departments of intelligence we have: the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, etc. etc. etc.

Now, this report claims that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons development in 2003. President Bush has said that he did not know about this information prior to last week. Whaaaaaaaaat? My Ninja, Please. Bush is trying to claim that though there was new information which surfaced as early as July, he wasn’t told what this new information was until he was briefed on this report last week. I can probably say that he isn’t smart enough to know that he’s insulting our intelligence.

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Now us hopeful bleeding hearts (or just practical folk) upon hearing this thought that this might just be reason enough for the Bush team to take the possibility of an air strike on Iran off the table. However, according to Bush’s response the the report, nothing has changed.

For those of you silly enough to think Giulliani is a solid choice in 2008, this is the statement from his Middle East policy man, Norman Podhoretz, essentially claiming the intelligence community is purposefully doing Iran a favor. [Ed: Podhoretz, a known idiot]

2 For the Price of 1?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfkRjvAYuOc[/youtube]

Charles Krauthammer‘s Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post today got me thinking.

Should Hillary Clinton find her way into the White House because of the 2008 elections, guess who comes with her: PRESIDENT Bill Clinton. Clinton had a great Presidency compared to Bush (and that really pisses some people off). He also had a wife back then, and as much as he’s already been there and done that, she was looking over his shoulder. So, do we, the people, benefit from this? Honestly, I’m gonna go ahead and say yes on this one. Ninjas, if we had foresight of what was to come with the Bush Administration we would have been saying, “Damn, Bill. Go ahead, get some ugly p@$@@, whatever. Just don’t do what this dude’s gonna do.”

And however you look at the f*cked up marriage he and Hillary have, he’s still going to be an enormous influence on this Presidency, if it were to happen… Don’t forget, Hillary has lived in the White House for 8 years. She might know what’s up. And, not that it has anything to do with the U.S., but in Argentina, the out-going President’s wife was just elected President. Things that make you go “Hmmm…”.

I’d say the fact that these two have both lived in the White House for eight years should be a significant thing for voters when considering Hillary Clinton.

Get it Together, France

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Wow. 80 police officers injured. dozens of cars set ablaze, along with a police station, a library, schools, and shops. This, my ninjas, is a full fledged serious situation.

For those who don’t know, France has already been in trouble in the past two weeks, losing millions of dollars a day due to strikes coming from the state workers whose pensions will disappear. The Paris metro, the TGV, buses, all these things barely running as a result of Sarkozy’s “mandate” to do something about the supposed waste of money on transportation pensioners. This situation was enough of a problem in and of itself for Parisiennes and the gov’t, but now France has a far more serious something to deal with.

Two nights ago an unregistered motorcycle was apparently being driven recklessly by 15 and 16 year old Algerians in a Parisian suburb, Villiers-le-Bel. Now, it is said that the motorcycle crashed head on with a police car, which was on a routine patrol and was no way in engaged with the bike. The teens, who were not wearing helmets, died. Because the police car and the bike collided head on the youth of the area believes that the police intentionally rammed the teens in some sort of act of aggression. As a result there have been two full nights of intense rioting. Why, you ask? Well, ninjas, allow me:

There are two major factors as to why this incident may have erupted into the large scale riot that has ensued:

1. The departed are teens. Do we all remember 2005, when two teens were being chased by police in another Parisian suburb, Clichy-sous-Bois, they were killed when the fell onto the electric rail of the subway. During the time France’s gov’t was being criticized for a program that would make it easier for employers to terminate “unsatisfactory employees”, namely young folk. The catalyst for action however came as a result of this event, and it resulted in the flipping of cars, and arson, and riots, and going after the police, but it wasn’t this big. So, perhaps, the youth of France sees this as yet another act of aggression from the authorities against the youth, and it’s something they won’t stand for.

2. The departed are Algerians. The Algerian War, which took place over 50 years ago, was the struggle for Algerian independence and the end of France colonization of the country. It is said that France massacred ten times as many Algerians as Algerians did French, far more so according to some sources, and that the torture techniques and bombing of Algeria by the French severely handicapped Algeria. The way France handled the Algerian War has forever been a scar left on the Republic. Some Algerians have yet to let this go (rightfully so). I would say the fact that the two teens killed two days ago were of Algerian decent plays a significant part in the reasoning of the French youth.

So did these cops want to kill these punk teen Algerians for who they were? To be honest ninjas, I think not. I’m gonna have to go ahead and say these kids are acting pretty foolish over there. But, 1. What do you expect? There is nothing to do in these suburbs. By and large they consist of large apartment buildings with no stimulation, a serious unemployment rate and a general lack of shit to do. They are pissed. 2. I think the message here could be a good one, had it not been carried out in such a fucked up way. The youth of France wants respect, they want jobs, they want to be included as members of a society that has left them in the dust, and the only way they feel they can express that notion is by fucking up some police. It sucks, but that’s the way of the world, ninjas. Keep your eyes on this story, we’ll see what comes of it.

Contemporary.MNP is HERE!

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The MNP Art Store, AKA the MNP Gallery, AKA Contemporary.MNP has launched. As a result of the better part of a year of networking and planning, we now present to you this labor of love, in its first official section. The Gallery/Store is up and running, featuring original works of art by local and international artists.

Contemporary.MNP is part art gallery, allowing you to view different dope works of art – with detailed high resolution pictures and part art store, providing potential purchasers with custom framing options. There are 8 different artists involved and the number is growing every day. The works are a diverse mix of paintings, dry point etchings, and sculptures. We even have some custom faceplates for DJ mixers!

Ninjas who read from our network every day know that we constantly strive to bring you new things in ways that we never even imagine ourselves to be possible. We switch up forms and formats continuously in an effort to make our blog BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER (um… kinda like what’s his name). So, stop looking so surprised, visit the art store, and expect more curveballs out of the ninja bullpen.

The MNP Art Store can currently be reached at the two following URLs:

http://contemporary.myninjaplease.com

http://www.contemporarymnp.com

Another Weekend, Another Defeat

Before I get started on today’s post, I shall take a moment to note just how right I was about the “how do we beat the bitch” bit: here’s the New York Times (seriously, the “bastion of old liberalism” the right is always railing about) on how the incident not only won’t hurt McCain, it’ll hurt Clinton. Sometimes knowing how the process really works can suck.

Anyway, I think enough time has now passed that I can begin to talk rationally about the pathetic collapse of the Democrats on the Mukasey nomination last week. Whether I will remain rational as I type is up for debate, but let’s give it a shot anyway.

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So to begin, what the hell happened? The Senate theoretically has a 60-vote threshold in order to do anything, yes? After all, every time a war funding bill comes to the upper chamber, every Democrat in sight will begin to gnash their teeth and rend their garments over the awful burden of needing 60 votes to overcome Republican filibuster threats. Yet there were, if I recall, 40 votes actually cast against Mukasey, not to mention that Biden, Clinton, Dodd, and Obama had all declared their opposition to his nomination, and could easily have gotten back to Washington in time for a vote if given word that it was imminent. That, by my count, is 44. Now, I’m a history/poli-sci major, so math’s not my strong suit, but I’m pretty sure that 44 is more than the 40 votes which are required to sustain a filibuster well into 2009.
So if the Senate Democratic leadership really opposed the nomination, and had a tool at their disposal which would have prevented the nomination from succeeding, then why didn’t they use it? Glenn Greenwald’s got one theory, which I’m inclined to buy, but I’m also really blown away by the story I found on TPM about another possible explanation: that Reid struck a deal in which he would hold the vote and pledge not to stage a filibuster, in exchange for which several Senate Republicans would support a move to split the latest defense appropriations bill into one general funding bill (for troop pay, weapons development, base maintenance, etc) and one bill specifically doling out funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The theory here was basically “we keep getting rolled on Iraq because the President accuses us of threatening national defense by cutting the DoD’s budget. So if we separate that from war funding, he can’t use that weapon anymore.” So they’d take the hit of an executive-worshipping, torture-sanctioning Attorney General in order to bring a swifter conclusion to the war. Decent deal, right?

Well, let’s fast-forward to this week, when it actually happened. The Senate passed an appropriations bill, with no funding for the war attached. The House swiftly followed with a bill which would grant enough funds for the next several months, provided that the President started a withdrawal, with a goal of complete withdrawal by the end of 2008. And so it went to the Senate, where… well, what do you think happened?

Ah well, at least they’ve managed to defuse that whole “you’re risking America’s defense and not supporting the troops” thing, right? In fact, here’s Tony Fratto, White House spokesman, who I’m sure will have nothing but respect for the Democrats’ principled stand:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwWHJv7qhQY[/youtube]

So the war keeps going, the Republicans continue to use their “support the troops” mantra, and Mukasey is Attorney General. To quote Casey Stengel as he addressed the 1962 Mets: “Can’t anyone here play this game?”

Win A Subscription to dwell

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That’s right my ninjas – we here at MNP are giving away a subscription to dwell [I believe that's 10 issues over 12 months] to one of our readers. How do you get in on this, you ask? It’s simple – every visitor who leaves a comment [a content-related comment, not just 'first!' or something foolish] on ANY MNP SITE, along with their email address will be entered. The ninjas will then select a commenter at random, and name the winner on Novermber 26th. Every individual comment counts [the more you comment, the more likely you are to win] so visit all of our sites and let your voice be heard.

myninjaplease.com

architecture.mnp

green.mnp

music.mnp

politricks.mnp

arquitectura.mnp

robotninja.mnp

the pimp’s corner [warning: may be too hood for the white belt]

Too lazy to post a comment? Well, we won’t give you anything for free – but you can follow this link to pay for your own [discounted - 2 bucks is 2 bucks] subscription to dwell. There are only a few publications we’ll point you to off-line, and this is one; don’t sleep!

[helpful hint: look in the ‘Talk of the Dojo’ section of the sidebar to read comments made by other MNP readers]

The Straight Talk Express in All Its Glory

The newest bit of controversy on the campaign trail has been provided by the McCain campaign (really, he’s still running, don’t let the 3rd or 4th-place standing fool you). Let’s go to the clip:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLQGWpRVA7o[/youtube]
Note that the reaction of this noble, upstanding war veteran is not to admonish his supporter for insulting one of his fellow Senators, but rather to laugh and then discuss his numbers against Hillary Clinton (with a nice little reference to the “Democrat” party thrown in, which I won’t go into here, but may later). Consider this for a moment.

There are two potential ways I could address this. One would be to simply decry the overall descent of political discourse into name-calling and mudslinging. That seems too easy, though, and it’s not like today’s campaigns are any worse than the campaigns of the early Republic. Indeed, at least modern campaigns have the theoretical restriction of slander laws.
No, I think I’ll try to imagine a similar incident in which another candidate was insulted in an equivalently crude manner, and what would happen. And I don’t mean something along the lines of asking a Democrat “how do we get this asshole out of office?” in 2004. Asshole isn’t a charged enough word. But say that either Richardson or Obama were the Democratic frontrunner, and a voter asked McCain or Romney “How do we beat the (insert ethnic slur here),” followed by said candidate giggling and calling it “an excellent question.” One imagines the fallout would be rather substantial, even campaign-crippling. Remember this guy?

Yet weirdly, not only has McCain’s campaign not suffered in the polls (though it’s early, we’ll see what happens), they’re using the incident as a fundraising tool. You read that right. They’ve decided that CNN’s coverage shows their inherent pro-Hillary bias. After all, why run that clip unless they’re afraid that McCain would beat Clinton? As such, you should give lots of money to the McCain campaign, so that he can win the Republican nomination and put that uppity Democratic bitch in her place.

A few weeks ago I posted about the recent history of subtle Republican appeals to racial hatred. So it’s not exactly surprising to me when they go for this sort of lowest-common-denominator tactic. It is striking, though, how blatant they’re being about this one, and how easily they’re getting away with it. Surrogates of the Clinton campaign may well have been overstating a bit when they implied that the other Democratic candidates were ganging up on her at the debate because she was the only woman on stage, but the underlying point was no less true. Nowhere have I yet read any prominent reporter or columnist calling McCain for being sexist, only “too candid.” How much of this is due to underlying misogyny, as opposed to the media’s bizarre crush on McCain or their astonishing inability to ever call Republicans on their bullshit is hard to say. Most likely it’s a bit of each.
For a nice way to finish this off, let’s turn it over to CNN. I’d give you a bit of a preview, but I really can’t do justice to how gawdawful this is.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BnA_uPz7d8&feature=user[/youtube]

There you have it, folks. For a man running for President to tell one of his supporters to refer to a fellow Senator with respect is not a sign of character, it would be “buckling,” and “would look ridiculous.” It’s going to be a very long election year.

53-40

That was the vote to confirm Michael Mukasey late Thursday night as our 81st Attorney General.

So let’s see. Now Chuck Schumer will forward legislation explicitly banning waterboarding, since his good buddy Mukasey assured him that such legislation would be enforced. It’ll pass the Senate with something like 90 votes, then it’ll get through the House with similar support. The President will cheerfully sign it, with the new AG by his side, talking about the importance of the rule of law. This will be swiftly followed by the grand tradition of Bush-era bipartisanship, pictured below:

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A day after the bill-signing, Charlie Savage will find, buried deep within the Federal Register, a newly written signing statement which pledges to uphold the waterboarding ban, so long as doing so doesn’t infringe upon the President’s dual role as Commander-in-Chief and head of the unitary executive branch. The story will run on page A9 of the Boston Globe, and might get a two-paragraph blurb in the Washington section of the New York Times. None of the networks will mention it.

Then, sometime in mid-February, Democrats in Congress will claim to be “troubled” and “deeply shocked” that despite AG Mukasey’s previous assurances, evidence continues to roll in that US agents are using waterboarding. There will be an angry letter from Chairman Leahy demanding that Mukasey testify on these matters before the Judiciary Committee. The White House will say no, it being inappropriate for a member of the Executive Branch to be summoned like an errand boy before Congress. The Senate will drop it in the name of compromise.

And far from Capitol Hill, at some undisclosed location, a prisoner in American custody will have water poured down his throat until he begins to drown. This will be done again and again until he tells his captors what they want to hear. To protect our freedoms.

Another one about the AG battle

Admittedly, I’m really entertained by the idea of Pat Robertson endorsing Rudy Giuliani, but that’ll have to wait until later. For now my main concern is the coming Senate vote on Michael Mukasey. As I’ve mentioned previously, Mukasey was approved by the Judiciary Committee and sent on to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. He’s certainly got enough votes to pass, so the only chance of preventing his confirmation would be a filibuster, which would only require 40 votes. And even that might be a challenge.

I realize I’ve been harping on this one, and I think it’s fair that I explain why. Now, y’all may remember this chap, who has a pretty damn good claim on the title of Worst Attorney General Ever:

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During Gonzales’s tenure as AG, it appears that the Justice Department was transformed into a wing of the Republican political machine, and ultimately collapsed in a sorry wreck of scandal and resignations. Thus, the initial reaction of the Senate to Judge Mukasey was “he can’t possibly be worse than the last guy, let’s get him in there.” This opinion was only furthered by the perception that Mukasey had stood up to the Bush Administration in the Padilla case.
Of course, as is ever the case in these things, a quick look under the surface revealed multiple causes for alarm. Now, as clear as it was (and still is) that Mukasey would not go in for the sort of partisan shenanigans that were the hallmark of the Gonzales DoJ, his record on executive authority is less than reassuring. For example, in that Padilla ruling, despite its assertion that Jose Padilla had the right to legal counsel, Mukasey made it clear that he was comfortable with the President exercising a power to declare American citizens “enemy combatants,” and arrest them without charge.

Allow me to pause a moment to explain that one. Under Anglo-American law dating back to the Magna Carta (and arguably earlier), the government can not arrest you without charging you with a crime, then granting you access to a court of law in which you can defend yourself. For a judge to concede that an executive has an inherent authority to abrogate those rights by determining that you are an “enemy combatant” (a determination which is not subject to review by anyone but the executive) is to undermine one of the founding principles of our government. So, yeah, maybe a problem in the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

The shit really hit the fan, though, when the Judiciary Committee began to question Mukasey on the use by American intelligence agents of “waterboarding,” which the press refers to as a “controversial procedure,” and the rest of the world refers to as torture. (For an excellent take on the press’s absurd attempts to present a “debate” about the merits of torture, check out this article.) Despite constant questioning, Mukasey refused to state that he thought the practice was illegal. This caused most of the Democrats on the Committee to declare their opposition to his nomination, and suddenly things were looking up.
However, apparently Mukasey met privately with Chuck Schumer and assured him that, should the Congress pass a law explicitly banning waterboarding, he would enforce said law. Now, there are many proper reactions to such an assurance, ranging in eloquence from Senator Kennedy’s to “Whoop-de-friggin-do, we already have about a half-dozen laws against waterboarding, why don’t you enforce those?” But Schumer’s was to vote for him.

So now, short a filibuster, we’ll have an Attorney General who, while neither a partisan flack nor a religious fanatic obsessed with the breasts of Justice, will not stand in the way of a President who claims the power to imprison citizens at will, ignore Congressional statute, and torture people. Indeed, he may even actively abet such claims. This is a problem. To explain why this is a problem, I’ll turn to Senator Lindsey Graham, who (despite his support for Mukasey’s nomination) gave one of the more eloquent statements I’ve heard on these matters during the Judiciary Committee’s vote Tuesday:

The world is not short of people and countries who will waterboard you. There’s not a shortage of people who will cut your heads off in the name of religion. There is a shortage of people who believe in justice, not vengeance.

Kennedy’s thoughts on Mukasey

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I’m going to have a lot to say about our soon-to-be Attorney General later tonight, but before I head out to work, I thought I’d turn over the floor to Senator Kennedy, who had this to say:

…we are told that Judge Mukasey agreed to enforce a ban against waterboarding if Congress specifically passes one. We are supposed to find comfort in the representations by a nominee to be the highest law enforcement officer in the country that he will in fact enforce the laws that we pass in the future? Can our standards really have sunk so low? Enforcing the law is the job of the Attorney General. It’s a prerequisite – not a virtue that enhances a nominee’s qualifications.

The full text of his statement is here.

Are we electing a president, or a strongman?

Machismo, noun.

Exaggerated pride in masculinity, perceived as power, often coupled with a minimal sense of responsibility and disregard of consequences.

I bring this up not to poke fun at that ridiculous pageant on the Lincoln four years ago (entertaining as that is), but to point out the importance of machismo in the Republican primaries. (As I write this, I’m watching the King of the Hill episode in which Hank worries that Dubya’s limp handshake means he won’t be a strong enough president. Coincidence is a funny thing.) All the GOP candidates are falling over themselves to prove how tough they’ll be on Iran, or immigrants, or Guantanamo prisoners. For the most part (especially on Romney) it looks to be ordinary electoral posturing.

But for Rudy Giuliani, the tough-guy act appears to be less an election-year persona than an ingrained element of his character. To wit, the following:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6V8gbrhq3HI[/youtube]

So what we have here is two claims. One, the bit about McCain. For those who don’t know, John McCain, as a pilot during the Vietnam War, was shot down over North Vietnam, captured, and imprisoned for five years, during which time he was tortured. But hey, Rudy ran a city for eight years, so he must be better informed on the topic. Next, that bizarre bit about “there would be a lot more Mafia guys running around” if he hadn’t used “intensive questioning” on them. As several others have pointed out, this means either that he doesn’t know the difference between torture and interrogation, or that he waterboarded domestic criminal suspects.

My suspicion is that he doesn’t mind people thinking it’s the latter. After all, the current President, in his aforementioned carrier landing and his decision to keep Saddam Hussein’s pistol as a trophy, has more than a bit wrapped up in the “Great Warrior against Terror” bit. How on earth does one top that? Ah, right, imply that as soon as we do manage to capture Osama, you’ll personally be the one to strap him to a chair and apply the electrodes. And given Rudy’s place in the polls, it appears it’s working.

This is why, as much as I’d love to believe the chatter that the Christian right will bail and vote for a third-party candidate rather than the pro-choice Giuliani, I don’t really buy it. The Republicans have spent fifty years now building the President-as-Protector narrative, and don’t show any sign of abandoning it anytime soon. Indeed, it’s only gotten stronger in the last six years. Just look at how easily the President still gets his way on matters relating to foreign policy and executive power, despite having worse popularity ratings than Nixon. Congress keeps handing him blank checks for the war in Iraq, and Tuesday the Judiciary Committee gave him his Attorney General nominee. (Speaking of which, thanks ever so much for that one, Senators Feinstein and Schumer. You’re an inspiration to us all.)
After all, he’s our Protector. We were attacked (as we’re never allowed to forget), and we haven’t been since. And the real kicker? If we’re attacked again, it doesn’t mean that he screwed up and should be held accountable; it means that his hands were tied by pesky civil libertarians and terrorist-coddling lawyers. Thus, he needs more powers. And if you think it’s been bad under Bush, just consider the idea of this sort of narrative with a leader who once tried to pull a Musharraf in his municipality.

I realize how alarmist this sounds, but think for a moment about how far we’ve moved politically in the last few years. I’ve just mentioned that a Presidential candidate clearly thinks torture is acceptable, and he’s in the lead. We’re discussing an attack on Iran, and the major concern of Americans isn’t so much that we’re about to invade a country that hasn’t attacked us for the second time in four years, but that we might rush into it. Ten years ago, could you have imagined any of this? We’re not through the looking glass just yet, but it wouldn’t take much of a shove to get us there.