Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blagojevich is a canny bastard

I'll grant him that.

http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2008/12/blagojevich-to-name-burris-to-senate.html

IN this case, however, I don't see any reason why the Senate shouldn't seat this man. It seems clear Blagojevich didn't sell the seat to Burris and he's otherwise well qualified.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Just a wish for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

One month to go before the Obama administration takes over

And I hope it goes by quickly.

The wreckage left behind by the Bush years is really something to behold.

Blinded by partisanship, conservatives and GOPers can't really gauge the depth of the disgust of average Americans with the Bush legacy.

It turned out to be a perfect storm of incompetence and ideology. Bush will be remembered for a string of words like Katrina, torture, Iraq, 9/11, bailout, housing bubble, Terry Schiavo, WMDs, Tora Tora, Abu Ghraib and more, with little if any positive feelings associated with any of those.

Indeed, if it wasn't for the exemplary leadership of Gates and Petraeus in their respective spheres and the devotion and talent of many thousands of soldiers and civil servants at lower levels who salvaged something resembling success out of the ill-advised Iraq adventure, we would be in an even worse way.

As it is, President Obama will have no honeymoon as he works full-bore to rescue the economy frmo dire straights while recasting our foreign policy in more sensibl directions.

I, for one, don't see how sinking $10 billion a month or more into Iraq can't have a negative effect on the economy back home. Is it a major cause, no, but that represents several hundred billion dollars of money that wasn't available for dealing with our domestic issues. The nonmonetary costs have been even steeper.

I'm hopeful that the team that Obama has put in place (in record time, by the way) will be able to head off the worst, but I fear that the "better" outcome will still not be anything we'll look back with any fondess.

In particular I'm afraid that the newspaper industry will not survive the coming 12 months. My paper is less vulnerable thatn most, but everyone is at risk. Quite a few major cities may find themselves without a daily newspaper.

There's a need for news gatherers no matter what the fate of the dead-tree media is. The question is who pays for the news gatherers once the dead-tree media expires. I don't think most people undertsand how much that the electronic media, bot old and new, leeches off the print media for stories and information. I've had more than one television reporter admit to me in conversation that they get most of their stort ideas from the newspapers. Very few of the online news sites do any orginal reporting, most also rely on print media and merely aggrgate those stories. At the end of the day there has to be someone attending the meetings, r eading the reports, interviewing sources and walking the beat to generate the news. Otherwise we're left with just press releases and pundits.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The buck begins to stop with Bush

Andrew Sullaivn takes Glenn reynolds (Instapundit) to task (emphasis mine):

When that commander-in-chief has personally authorized such techniques himself, he assumes total legal and moral responsibility for those war crimes. So even if Reynolds' own skewed view of the report is accepted, his conclusion still doesn't follow. Bush is responsible, morally and legally and operationally, for war crimes under his command - war crimes for which Bush refuses to take any responsibility.
But, of course, his view is skewed, as partisan propaganda often is. As the Taguba and Fay and Jones reports found, the importation of the Gitmo techniques to Iraq was directly ordered from the very top. General Geoffrey Miller was directly sent by Rumsfeld to Abu Ghraib to "Gitmoize" it, i.e. to transport the Communist torture techniques honed at Gitmo to a theater of war that even Rumsfeld believed was subject to Geneva. Miller was ordered to take the gloves off and round up thousands of innocents for mass abuse and torture because the Iraq insurgency had taken Bush and Cheney by surprise and they responded in the only way they knew or trusted: by violence, force and torture (which we now know were the pillars of their war strategy from the first). Does Reynolds believe that the mass round-ups of Iraqis into Abu Ghraib jail were not authorized by the commander-in-chief? Does he believe that the order to get intelligence on the insurgency was invented by a few bad apples on the night shift? Does he really think that the exact same SERE techniques authorized by Bush were replicated in exquisite detail by barely literate grunts like Graner and England by some sort of telepathy or "climate"?
Well: this is what you have to believe if you are to keep defending this administration

Sullivan makes an uncomfortable point

Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic online:

The MSM also made torture possible - especially cable news. Even PBS demanded that guests not use the word torture to decribe torture. The issue was barely present in the last campagn; and Bush has not been asked about his war crimes in any single exit interview so far. The AP and the NYT and the WaPo collude in robbing the English language of its plain meaning. This is not to bely that amazing work that many MSM reporters have done - from Dana Priest and Jane Mayer to Scott Horton and Charlie Savage. But so many of their editors seem unable to tell the truth about this country's war crimes in the past seven years.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's official: Bush authorized war crimes

Scott Horton explains:
This week the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a powerful report, released jointly by chair Carl Levin and ranking member John McCain, that received the unanimous support of its Democratic and Republican members. The report concluded that Donald Rumsfeld and other high-level officials of the administration consciously adopted a policy for the torture and abuse of prisoners held in the war on terror. It also found that they attempted to cover up their conduct by waging a P.R. campaign to put the blame on a group of young soldiers they called “rotten apples.” Lawyers figure prominently among the miscreants identified. Evidently the torture policy’s authors then enlisted ethics-challenged lawyers to craft memoranda designed to give torture “the appearance of legality” as part of a scheme to create the torture program despite internal opposition.

The Senate Report summary can be read here: http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/pdf/12112008_detaineeabuse.pdf?sid=ST2008121101970&s_pos=list

Just one of the conclusions of this daming report (emphasis mine):

(U) The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of “a few bad apples” acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shinseki!!!

Gen. Shinseki for VA!

Boy, that is poetic justice.

Obama's good.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Obama's quiet coup

Bush may be the lamest of lame duck presidents, but there's one area where even the lamest duck president could do a lot of mischief if so inclined, Under our system there's little meaningful restraint on the ability of the president to order attacks on foreign countries under the best of circumstances (since 1950, anyways) but what restraints there are lose all their power in the waning days of an administration.

Obama has clearly taken positive steps to exert leadership on the economy, our most pressing issue, even before taking office, but he also has deftly covered his foreign policy flank by keeping Gates on as SecDef.

There are many very good reasons to keep Gates on, and I'm sure they counted most in the decision. But the happy result of this decision has been to essentially remove the ability of Bush to start trouble with Iran. While it's true that Gates still works for Bush officially, he's now also Obama's man and has every incentive to make sure that nothing stupid is done in these last 48 days to screw things up for the new team.

Another well-handled move.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reqium for a Maverick

Excellent Rolling Stone piece on the election

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/24375710/requiem_for_a_maverick/print

The Most Civilized Holiday

A nice essay about Thanksgiving and why it's the best holiday of them all:
http://www.culture11.com/article/33795

This is not journalism

Apparently some "newspaper" person placed a tracking device on Simon Cowell's car. His lawyers warned the press in general about harassment, and I have to say that I think this steps well beyond any bounds of reasonable journalism.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/dec/01/simon-cowell-press-privacy

Now, Simon Cowell is a subject of legitimate public interest, but that interest stops well short of stalking the man. He has less expectation of privacy than the average person, but that doesn't mean he has no expectation of privacy at all. Frankly, I'm surprised that anyone thought this was a good idea. That, of course, is the problem today in many media circles, a lack of judgment about what is newsworthy and what is now.

At the same time that we have celebrities like Cowell being stalked we have serious problems such as the financial mess, the erosion of civil liberties by the government and unexamined questions about war and terrorism. Important stuff gets ignored and we have media overattention to trivia. Really, in the grand scheme of things are Simon Cowell's movements worth tracking by anyone? Who could possibly care?

Slate - Encyclopedia Baracktannica