Shocked and Persuaded


Separating Fact From Fiction

How To Get Rush and Hannity To Shut Up for 5min!

Very simply as it relates to mushroom clouds, ticking time bomb scenarios, the war on terror, what is and is not torture, the definition of the word implement (Seriously check this one out, semantics associated with legal definitions of cruel and unusual punishment (, enhanced interrogation techniques, actionable information, blah blah blah blah we could shut up for at least 5minutes hopefully forever Fatso and Slickster very easily.

All we have to do is acknowledge that Nancy Pelosi and former Florida Senator and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chair (2001-2003) Bob Graham were informed on some level of enhanced interrogation techniques being used and that waterboarding while not being used at least came up in conversation. In acknowledging this we would bring them forward along with their respective counterparts at the time Porter Goss and Richard Shelby. This aquiescing to the Bush administration was clearly a bipartisan effort as is evidence in the words of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy when asked by Jonathan Mahler about his arrival in DC as a “Watergate Baby”

There was a sense inside the Senate among both Republicans and Democrats that the government had gotten off course and that we had a responsibility to find out what happened” (

We have reached a similar crossroads here in the US resulting from the irresponsible, cruel, and myopic Bush administration policies. Yet, they could not have accomplished what they did without the approval, tacit or otherwise, of the Democrats. We must reverse course immediately or we will be going at it alone on all fronts in the future. The only way to guarantee credibility and more importantly shut-up the neocons and idealogues on the way right is if we treat all that knew about the clandestine operations of the CIA, special ops, and to a lesser degree the FBI equally. I mean give me a break Ms. Pelosi sent a staff member to these meetings with the folks at the CIA? A STAFF MEMBER!? Seems like whether or not we are torturing captives is something she should want to hear with her own ears.

Ms. Pelosi and Senator Graham were privy to the same information as Mr. Goss and Mr. Shelby. If it smelled, looked, and felt like torture it probably was torture. Yet, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Graham fearing being portrayed as soft betrayed their senses and in my opinion, while not as guilty as Cheney et al, deserve to be reprimanded. This is not the common view of many in the MIC including almost everyone at MSNBC and The Times, but it is the only way an inquiry into torture will be seen as credible, both on the right and the left. No one is above reproach in the real world and no one should be above reproach in DC. That includes Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Graham. Their rhetoric carries no weight unless they acknowledge their own responsibility. Democrats try to come across as “Of The People By The People”, but a similar brush to that used for Republicans could be used to paint their portraits. There is a way to change that but it will involve a very harsh and large mirror!

Who Forgot To Make The Bed?

The answer is George Bush et al. (that means you as well Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Reid, and the rest of you supine Democrats)! For that President Obama we as a nation wish we had handed you something with a little more pizazz, but we didn’t. In the words of the the NYT’s editorial board “We do not envy President Obama as he tries to undo George W. Bush’s illegal and shameful detainee policy.” ( However, you volunteered Mr. Obama and I don’t think there was anything about this job and it’s myriad obstacles you had not been well versed in. You have the intellect of the last 10 presidents combined, but it appears that it escapes you every time you ponder Pakistan and your policy towards “resolving” the conflict. As press reports have recently discussed 14 terrorists have been killed by predator and reaper drone strikes in Pakistan’s northern tribal regions. If you combined that with Pakistan’s estimate of 700 civilians you get 2% efficiency. Okay I know you would reply that the military’s civilian casuality numbers are much lower. How much lower? A third? Well that still leaves us at 6% efficiency, which by my qualitative assessment would require that we not even use the word efficient when discussing remotely piloted drones in Pakistan. According to Kilcullen and Exum “…every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.” (

Oh yeah and the fact that the title of an article about your new COO in Afghanistan Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is “MAN IN THE NEWS; General Steps From Shadow” ( really ain’t very assuring or indicative of the change you said was heading towards DC. I wonder is this shadow that McChrystal emerged from like a beacon in the night the same one that former VP Cheney referred to a week after 9/11 with Tim Russert

“We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.” (

Unfortunately by these folks Mr. Cheney meant Gen. McChrystal and his boss Donald Rumsfeld, along with the convenient advice of folks like John Yoo, David Addington, and current Federal District Judge Jay Bybee. This statement by Cheney is often cited as the tacit acknowledgement that torture was going to be used and more importantly was deemed well within our right as a nation under attack. Torture! Well it seems Mr. Obama is placing his eggs in the centrist to right of center basket on this one as well. Why? Well it probably has something to do with the Democrats feeling as though they have to flex their muscle Hulk Hogan style with respect to terror. Obama is dangerously close to having complete ownership of the war in Afghanistan and the quagmire that is Iraq (; bybee-torture-memo; bybee_to_rizzo_torture_memo)

Instead of choosing the 4:1 diplomacy:military ratio suggested by the Progressive Caucus the Obama administration is going to continue to rely on the 1:10 ratio employed by the hawkish policy makers in the previous adminstration ( This will get us nowhere fast and will facilitate the creation of jihadist and anti-American sentiment where there was none. Gen. McChrystal who was the commander of the Pentagon’s Join Special Operations Command (JSOC) an ultra-covert crew of heavies not proned to diplomacy but rather brute force. According to Tom Engelhardt it was Cheney in endorsing the super-general that said “I think you’d be hard put to find anyone better than Stan McChrystal.” The general’s crews use of force clearly bordered on if not blatantly stepped over the line of torture in Baghdad specifically Task Force 6-26 according to Engelhardt (

So anyway Bush didn’t make his bed and for that he will be perpetually tarnished, but you Mr. Obama don’t need to make things worse, because if you do your name will find an equally unflattering fate. Use your superior intellect and immense resources to severe ties with the previous administration. That includes aborting predator and reaper drone attacks and the employment of an Afghanistan COO whose heavy-handed and borderline Geneva violating past will only fuel the insurgency and spawn generations of jihadists. Oh yeah and try giving the people of Afghanistan a viable alternative to poppy rather than simply scolding them for growing one of the only crops that could survive in AfPak.

Torture is Torture is Torture!

“Punching, flogging, assault and bodily attacks, hitting with the hand, kicking, ear pulling, hair pulling, head shaving, beating on the soles of the feet, burning, scalding, stabbing, severe beatings with or without clothes, being made to kneel and stand in fixed positions for lengthy periods, made to sleep outside overnight, being forced into cold or excessively hot baths and showers, hosed down with cold water before being beaten, beaten while hanging from hooks on the wall, being set upon by dogs, being restrained in order to be beaten, physical assaults by more than one person, and having objects thrown at them.”

This is not an accounting of happenings at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib or Bagram or Laos. No this is from a report issued about the treatment of boys and girls in Irish Catholic church-run residential schools from the 1930s to 1990s ( Release of the report was delayed by an apparent beacon of integrity the Christian Brothers, who objected to having the abusers’ names included. If you want to do this kind of thing to children you need to be prepared to face the backlash. Oh yeah and if you engage in such practices in the name of Homeland Security or the War on Terror you also need to face the consequences. What is even more amazing is that the Vatican has no response? No response, but yet this same Vatican has the time to reinstate Bishop Richard Williamson a noted Holocaust denier ( This is the same institution that in releasing their bioethical assessment restated their belief that every human life is sacred even embryos ( Well what about chidren that were essentially conscripted because their parents couldn’t afford them, had committed adultery, or were birthed out of wedlock. Instead of focusing on the product the Vatican needs to focus on the process underyling the results. They could stand to spend less time insighting fire and more time putting it out! The Vatican could at this point separate themselves from other religions by getting out in front of such a controversy rather than sheepishly making excuses or belated apologies. My suggestion is that the Vatican could go a long way towards making right by these children by denouncing all forms of torture, whether it be of Irish schoolchildren or supposed terrorists at Guantanamo Bay prison. There has been far too much blood shed in the name of religions and it is about time all the worlds major religions shed their supine image as it really is not very becoming.

Cheers to you Mr. Fine!

I think it is about time we salute the beacon of light that is Glenn Fine the Justice Department’s pugnacious Inspector General. You see folks while we were all looking forward to January 19th, 2009 he was working diligently to bring some semblance of respect back to the department that risks losing its title. Mr. Fine has gained bi-partisan support from Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy for staying above the morally corrupt fray in the DOJ. When the entire department looked like it lacked even a modicum of scruples Mr. Fine reminded us that some were worried about their reputation and alas upholding the law. This man’s pragmatic and methodical internal investigation, while not really uncovering anything salacious, did buttress claims from those in the know at the ACLU and elsewhere and those who smelled a rat without actually seeing one like yours truly. We can only hope that Eric Holder need not be raked over the IG’s coals like Alberto and Mr. Mukasey. However, after this brief congratulatory note it is worth asking the question of the aforementioned members of the judiciary committee: If you have such high praise for Mr. Fine and virtually jumped up and hugged Mr. Holder when he agreed that waterboarding is torture why sirs did you do nothing about it? You’ll get reactions from both and others on the committee that they did in fact work tirelessly to quell the heinously biased activities of Alberto & Co, however, I would contend the filibuster option with respect to Mukasey was available and you chose against it. Why because former Senator Bill Frist said that if you employed it the Republicans would change the law? You know what we should have seen who blinked first on that one gentleman. The filibuster is one bedrock tools of our democracy and when most assured that you were right you coward in the face of Rove’s spin machine, which would have immediately labeled you as unpatriotic. So, you left it up to Mr. Fine’s diligence and lucky for us he had a spine and was not willing to sacrifice his integrity for secrecy and illegal dealings of his colleagues. I hope that when something like this comes up again those in the senate will do the same, because if we can’t depend on them then the next stop is an imperial presidency. Oh yeah that worked real well!

Mission Accomplished Mr. Rove

I was going to use the title “How the Left Was Won” but since the guy on the way out made it known recently that invoking it was one of his only mistakes I thought it would be an appropriate title for a discussion of the neoconservative’s greatest achievements. In the last eight years, and with absolutely no resistance from the former Arkansas governor or congressional Democrats (sans Russ Feingold and Paul Wellstone), Karl Rove et al. have managed to drastically shift perceptions of the American psyche’s Gaussian distribution. In some warped yet brilliant way establish the Bush administration as a the gold standard with respect to toughness, compassion, patriotism, principle, and faith. Mind you the last word is supposed to be separate from policy, toughness is not exactly something that imbues you to multilateral talks, and compassion doesn’t fit with the hate speech oozing out of many evangelical and Pentecostal churches across the land.

I submit that this sea change is evidenced in the sigh of relief Patrick Leahy and the entire judiciary committee let out when Eric Holder agreed that waterboarding is torture and rendition is not an exercise that should be used to usurp US and international law. Is this some sort of admirable quality that Mr. Holder exhibited? Or is it something we should expect of our public officials? Well according to the Democrats it is the latter and this is just another case of Pelosi, Reid, and Co. lowering the moral bar so as to not stir the pot too much for fear of coming across as soft on terror or unpatriotic. I am sure Mr. Holder is a fine man and legal scholar, but his acknowledgement doesn’t strike me as the least bit liberal or conservative, rather it strikes me humane and pragmatic.

Speaking of pragmatism, neocons have managed to shape the energy discussion with the phrase “clean coal” now fashionable and our national security as the top priority for weaning ourselves off of Middle East oil. First let me say that our dependence on Middle East oil is overblown with a preponderance coming from Canada and 9% (1.2 million barrels per day) of that coming from the awfully dirty, inefficient, and ecologically shortsighted oil or tar sands of Alberta (; Ian Austin in The Times recently noted that there are estimated to be 1.7 trillion barrels in these sands of the Canadian boreal region and production geared to ramp up to 3.5 MBPD when (i.e. not if!) we reestablish old driving patterns. Yeah and then what? Will we finally stop making excuses for why Cape Wind is a bad idea or the 300,000 Megawatts of wind-power off the Atlantic Coast is a pipe dream ( Ask James Hansen or Judy Bond of Coal River Mountain Watch or the folks of Harriman, TN or Inez, KY if there is such a thing as clean coal? Well I’ll save you the trouble Judy just sent me an email in response to this issue

“Even if you could get rose petals to come out of the smokestacks, coal is filthy and will never be clean as long as mountains and communities are blasted and streams and communities are poisoned…The entire cycle of coal must be examined. We in Appalachia are blasted by over 3 1/2 million pounds of explosives daily and are similar to a “banana republic”. The coal industry is allowed to simply kill us slowly with toxic waste.”

The government and regulatory agencies are ignoring the destruction of the “cradle to grave” toxic coal cycle and what that cycle is doing to vulnerable children. I think this public relation campaign to clean up coal is much like the “safe cigarette” campaign by similar con artists other public relations companies have used.

As for energy and our national security the options to diversify our energy portfolio are many, “shovel ready”, and geared to employ tons of folks in many of the same places where unemployment is highest (See Flint, MI or Akron, OH) ( This will take someone that is not as concerned with the next election as he/her is with the welfare of the next generation of Americans. We need to stop feeding the beast. Our national security would be best served if Obama and his crew turned to hectoring speeches imploring Americans to stop consuming so much and while he has started down this path further action will require greater haste and agility. Take some accountability America! Stop blaming Afghanistan and South American farmers for your respective heroin and cocaine addictions. Don’t take any solace in knowing that China has surpassed us relative to CO2 emissions its only because there are so many people we still dwarf everyone on a per capita basis w/ China at about 5.5 versus the US >19 tons of CO2 per person annually. This is also not a time for self-hatred but rather reinvention. Let’s be stewards not pillagers of this precious planet’s resources.

Here it is in plain English we have the right to water, food, health care, a decent job, and housing, but we don’t have the right to bottled water from Fiji, year round access to any and all produce, plastic surgery, million dollar bonuses, or McMansions. See the common thread! Responsibility and forethought need to be rewarded not excess and short-term, overly risky, and highly leveraged financial behavior.

Hey you don’t approve of homosexuality, Islam, or abortion? I promise none of them are contagious! Okay fine but do we need laws banning them? Really we do? These are issues a wealthy, highly educated, and arguably[?] atheist at worst and agnostic at best right has framed as divisive instruments. We are being played against each other for the good of a privileged few. According to Fred Magdoff the richest 400 or 1.3% of Americans have a collective net worth of $1.6 trillion which is more than that of the bottom 150 million people. Oh I know they probably worked harder. More likely they were lucky recipients of what Warren Buffett calls ‘The Ovarian Lottery”. Why are we letting this infinitesimal sector of society get between the other 98.7% of us? Because they have convinced us that if we’re good, say our prayers, listen to them, continue to serve our country rather than question its motives, and eat the crusts of our PB & J we can be just like them. Better yet we have been convinced that we want to be like them. Why because money is the great elixir?

I believe Americans know better and will realize that regardless of skin color, sexuality, or religious affiliation the greater good is served when disparities shrink, when we see the residents of New Orleans as members of our extended community and the destruction of Gulf Coast wetlands—to make way for oceanfront living, oil and gas infrastructure—as a crime against humanity and nature. There will come a day when we cease letting consolidation of power and wealth be the norm and turn to nonviolent revolution against such crimes. We will march on DC and our state capitols when our elected officials stop listening to us and demand constant accountability and less backroom deals and redacted transcripts.

The final example of neocon success is their redefinition of the word “elite.” Somewhere between Lee Atwater and now they have managed to transform the word from shorthand for belonging to country clubs, taking weekends in the Hamptons, and three cars to a label for those who engage in iterative discourse on variety of subjects, attend graduate school, spend weekends hiking/biking/or kayaking, and a bike as the primary source of transportation. They have achieved this change by the same legerdemain that values short-term financial gain over foresight and the pursuit of knowledge. They have managed to eliminate nuance from debate and encouraged screaming at rather than talking with in most mass media. We have been told that everything from responding to terror to bailing out AIG and CITI requires swift, decisive, and overwhelming force. Is there honestly no time for thought or research into precedent? Must we act now. Where has this pattern gotten us? We are temporarily alleviating the stress on an overstressed and ill-equipped political and financial system. Yet when it comes to things like health care, education, closing Guantanamo, David Addington et al, and climate change…Well those are complicated issues they’ll take time and maybe more time if need be. Look health care is a human right, Guantanamo is a crime against humanity and is a net source of terrorists/jihadist, because by all accounts men that weren’t terrorist when they arrived in Cuba or Baghram are when they leave, Addington is as much a war criminal as Chuckie Taylor, and climate change is something that if not dealt with now will take more time and money later to deal with and oh yeah it won’t be pretty!

Contrary to Sarah Palin and Karl Rove’s assertions, the media is not made up of liberal folks. If they suffer anything it is fools. The Media Industrial Establishment (MIE) has become about the personality and the physical rather than intellectual picture being streamed out for all to see. They don’t ask enough questions of Rahm Emanuel, Pelosi, or Reid as they never asked the hard question of Dana Perino, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld. What was it about Rummy that was so scary anyway? So what do we do about this quagmire? Well you can start by demanding from all media outlets including Fox, NPR, MSNBC, and Air America that they stop pandering to our base phobias and report just the facts. That’s it no more or less! How about acknowledging the existence of Helen Thomas in the White House press corp for once? That to me along with the praise for Browny and Chertoff in the aftermath of Katrina is one of the arrogant displays of disrespect of the Bush administration. Also demand that they ask tough, substantive, and probing questions of our public officials–it is their job to do this. Ask why Barry R. McCafferey is still considered an objective source for military insight? Ask why we are already seeing kid gloves with Mr. Obama’s cocoon of Clintonites when he is supposed to be an agent of change? Rick Warren? Why must MSNBC and FOX feel constantly inclined to editorialize when that has historically not been nor should it be their charge? If they all spent a little more time asking questions and a little less trying to frame the debate we would all be better off. Oh yeah does the Obama administration really want to compare their appointees to the Bush gang? Is that the new gold standard? God and Allah help us all if it is!

Liberalism is not some evil monster to be feared nor is true conservatism. What is to be feared are those forces whose purpose it is to highlight our differences, obfuscate responsibility and accountability, disenfranchise for the hell of it, and flippantly engage in aggressive, short-sighted, and offensive activities. Finally, overcoming that fear would be well served if we actually gave more than lip service to 3rd, 4th, and 5th party candidates, which would require addressing campaign finance reform (eg How bout giving each candidate $2m and saying go get em tiger!). Watch how fast both parties start attacking that concept and note that the faster and more visceral their reaction the better you can feel about it. Mission accomplished!

Bloodlust & The CIA

During the recent uproar over whether President Obama would pursue legal action against the Bush administration’s actions in and around Guantanamo, Baghram, and the Pentagon it seems like once again we are getting off topic and many are trying to obfuscate the issue. According to a quote from former Bush White House lawyer B.A. Anderson Obama’s “extreme supporters” smell blood and will do anything for a taste of it and this includes the CIA. I for one have no desire to go after the CIA regarding this matter, although their conduct (Yes you Mr. Gates and Negroponte!) in central and south America is worth opening the curtain, and I definitely don’t want anyone to be unjustly hung out to dry. What I do want, what I would hope this president would want, and what this country would want if presented with all of the facts is to prosecute those that congregated in the White House’s Office of Legal Council (OLC) for eight years and I am speaking specifically of David Addington, John Yoo, Monica Goodling, and Alberto Gonzalez…Oh yeah throw Douglas Fife in there for good measure why don’t you! These are the criminals whose greatest concern at this point shouldn’t be Eric Holder but rather a trip to The Hague. While I don’t espouse the belief that the uniformed men and women at these prisons are devoid of responsibility, quite the opposite they will have to live with what they have done for the rest of their lives, I believe that they aren’t the solitary bad apples Rumsfield and his crew painted them to be. This was recently confirmed by a report from Senators Levin and McCain of Michigan and Arizona, respectively. They were doing what was asked of them and aren’t military types inculcated from very early on with the notion that what comes from up high is not to be questioned? David Addington is a man whose contempt for oversight and the rule of law transcends that of many third world dictators and his partner in crime Mr. Yoo has a command of double-speak that if it weren’t used for nefarious purposes would be humorous. The latter actually had the gall to ask congressman Keith Ellis of Minnesota how he defined the word implement when being questioned about these very issues last fall. Meanwhile Mr. Addington spent his time before the same panel making the case for why Dick Cheney’s office is not part of the executive branch but rather an appendix of congress and thus completely removed from any laws applying to said branch, namely those having to do with paper and electronic communications. How do we so flippantly use the 1994 law that allows for prosecution of torture by American citizens in other countries against former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor’s son but not our own government officials? I’ll tell you how a Democratically controlled house and senate that like Mr. Obama want to look forward, build bridges, and establish alliances geared at solving this countries problems. Hey who can argue with that? I know I can’t. However, you do this when it comes to healthcare, social security, banking reform, and campaign finance not torture or illegal wiretapping, both of which threaten the sanctity of the social pact we supposedly have with our elected officials. I don’t like that being associated with warhawks and ideologues like the men and woman mentioned earlier. Do we then say when these techniques are used against our military “Hey that ain’t fair!” How could we in good conscience? Alliances and consensus is great, but if the Democrats don’t stand up to these atrocities committed by the Bush administration there will be many left to wonder what is the difference between them and their colleagues across the aisle?
At this moment it seems appropriate to steal a phrase made famous during “The Surge” by General Patreus and Ambassador Crocker regarding conditions in Iraq. When asked by the senate and house both men said the situation was/is “Fragile and reversible”, which I would contend speaks of the American public’s sentiments regarding their government. Yes Mr. Obama your speeches were captivating, your rhetoric sprinkled with populism, and your intellect something we probably haven’t seen in the White House in oh I don’t know maybe forever. Yet, please don’t mistake bliss for naivete and please don’t mistake our obsession with the economic downturn with a singular obsession as many of us are keeping an eye on the guys leaving town cause they can’t be trusted and their actions probably created more animosity and potential terrorists then they prevented. Look everyone in the intelligence community either on or off the record pretty much agrees that Rumsfeld giving the go-ahead at Abu Ghraib was the proverbial “toothpaste out of the tube”, with such tacit or overt approval the last thing these contentious prison environments needed. We can move forward in due time sir, but for now you need to let us know and let the entire world know that moving on includes addressing the evils perpetrated not by the CIA, although they are by no means saints, but by the OLC, which includes ending this senseless use of redactions, and an explicit definition for “Unlawful alien enemy combatants”, because I know a lot of folks who depending on the time of day or day of week would fit that description. No one wants to see anyone put in the electric chair or escorted to the gallows, but rather these individuals must be made to face the consequences for inhumane, deceitful, short-term, and cowardly acts that only alienate us from friend and foe alike.