EVERYBODY IS KEN
April 19, 2008

Presidential campaign tip #375: When you’re trying to explain complicated foreign policy stuff to average Americans, you’re going to want to streamline your point a little bit. The best way to do this is by calling things something different from what they are. What sounds a lot like “lying” or “sounding like an idiot” is actually just a way of simplifying things so that even those dumbass voters can understand you!

Some other analysts do not object to Mr. McCain’s portraying the insurgency (or multiple insurgencies) in Iraq as that of Al Qaeda. They say he is using a “perfectly reasonable catchall phrase” that, although it may be out of place in an academic setting, is acceptable on the campaign trail, a place that “does not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

So, basically, replace “Al Qaeda” with the name “Ken” and John McCain is the retarded guy from this episode of Frisky Dingo.

Cool.

Cheney’s the cigarette smoking man!
April 18, 2008

It’s tempting to say that the White House’s lack of any sort of comprehensive plan for combating terrorism in Pakistan has something to do with the fact that instead of fighting terrorism where it actually exists, America decided to distract itself by inventing a terrorism crisis in a country (Iraq) where it previously hadn’t been a problem. Tempting, but probably inaccurate. Because if there’s one constant in the Bush administration’s foreign policy, it’s their inability to come up with a comprehensive plan for anything.

Did anyone else used to really love The X-Files? That show basically defined my late-elementary school and middle school years. Remember watching that show through its first half and being amazed at how meticulously well-constructed the show’s mythology was? Remember watching the second half and thinking, “Wait a minute, what the hell? They’re just making this shit up as they go along. And there’s no way this is going to get wrapped up in any coherent way.”

The Bush administration is the second half of The X-Files. Not only because everything sucks all of a sudden, and there’s clearly no actual rhyme or reason, but also because its existence validates a lot of that post-Watergate anti-government paranoia that used to get relegated to late-night talk radio.

Unalienable rights: The deluxe package!
April 14, 2008

Founding fathers:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

John McCain:

“I’ve made it very clear, I’ve made it very clear in my statements and in my support of the Detainee Treatment Act, the Geneva Conventions, etc., that there may be some additional techniques to be used, but none of those would violate the Geneva Conventions, the Detainee Treatment Act…. And we cannot ever, in my view, torture any American, that includes waterboarding.”

As an American, I think it’s totally awesome that we have access to certain bonus rights that people in other countries don’t get. We must be on the gold plan!

Interesting here that McCain’s at least admitting waterboarding is torture – but we can still do it to non-citizens because they’re, I don’t know, subhuman or something.

FISA is responsible for 9/11
April 3, 2008

At least according to AG Mukasey.

Last week, during a question-and-answer session following a speech he delivered San Francisco, Attorney General Michael Mukasey revealed a startling and extremely newsworthy fact. As I wrote last Saturday, Mukasey claimed that, prior to 9/11, the Bush administration was aware of a telephone call being made by an Al Qaeda Terrorist from what he called a “safe house in Afghanistan” into the U.S., but failed to eavesdrop on that call. Some help is needed from readers here to generate the attention for this story that it requires.

Whoa! I don’t know how I missed that the first time around, but this is huge. Mukasey’s letting us catch a glimpse of an extremely complicated plot involving people at some of the highest levels of government. For instance:

Critically, the 9/11 Commission Report — intended to be a comprehensive account of all relevant pre-9/11 activities — makes no mention whatsoever of the episode Mukasey described. What has been long publicly reported in great detail are multiple calls that were made between a global communications hub in Yemen and the U.S. — calls which the NSA did intercept without warrants (because, contrary to Mukasey’s lie, FISA does not and never did require a warrant for eavesdropping on foreign targets) but which, for some unknown reason, the NSA failed to share with the FBI and other agencies.

There’s only one logical explanation for this: Not only was the 9/11 Commission infiltrated by terrorists (who covered up Mukasey’s story so that people wouldn’t realize how great having FISA around is for them) but so has the NSA, which decided to withhold crucial information from the FBI.

Now you may ask: If the NSA was performing warantless wiretapping and ignoring FISA in the first place, how could it be filled with terrorists who want to keep FISA in place so as to further embolden their jihadist allies?

It’s called reverse psychology.

Think about it.

Yoo don’t know shit
April 2, 2008

Kevin Drum on the recently declassified torture memo:

Basically, it says that criminal law doesn’t prohibit torture because it doesn’t apply to the military. Treaties don’t prohibit torture because they only apply to uniformed enemy soldiers. Ditto for the War Crimes Act. And federal statutes prohibiting torture don’t prohibit torture because they don’t apply to conduct on military bases.

I’ve got to hand it to Yoo, this does get pretty clever. There are some many legal prohibitions on torture worked into US federal law, the US Constitution and international law that you would need to be an Olympic-level mental gymnast in order to figure out any way to argue that somehow what the United States has been doing to enemy combatants is a-okay. Fortunately, the White House was blessed with John Yoo, esquire, who appears to have had the perfect solution: The presidency is magic!

Basically, the president can authorize any action at all as commander-in-chief in wartime. Congress can’t bind him, treaties can’t bind him, and the courts can’t bind him. The scope of power the memos suggest is, almost literally, absolute.

Nothing that we didn’t already know about the legal theory of the unitary executive (which is a real legal theory in the same way that phrenology is a real medical theory). But it bears repeating: the very existence of this memo is evidence of the Bush administration’s pathological aversion to separation of powers, civil liberties, the rule of law and pretty much everything that a functioning democracy is supposed to be built on.

GOP surrenders to terrorists
April 1, 2008

So let me get this straight. After all of the agonizing and fainting fits from the Republican Party about how even the slightest break away from their plans to further shred civilian privacy would plunge us all into mortal danger, now they’re ready to deal?

Weaklings! Cowards! Terrorist sympathizers! We don’t negotiate! We ram legislation through Congress with our powerful, all-American biceps!

Let this be a lesson to Democrats. If you have the temerity to fight House Republicans on national security, you’ll they’ll respond with a swift, brutal … meek suggestion that you guys sit down and try to work something out.

Of course, if recent history pans out, the Democratic idea of a compromise is probably going to be something along the lines of, “Let’s just pass your version of the bill but rearrange some commas so we can tell our base that we did what we promised.”

Slips of the tongue
March 20, 2008

It’s pretty amazing that John McCain can get away with demonstrating his total ignorance on the biggest issue of his campaign by calling it a slip of the tongue. I mean, this isn’t something he had said just once and then corrected it. He’s been repeating it over and over again. If that’s a slip of the tongue, then we should be able to attribute basically every dumb remark of this campaign to a slip of the tongue.

I mean, Samantha Power only called Clinton a monster once. But McCain gets away with lumping Iran and Al Qaeda together into some kind of fictional League of Evil Mutants?

What the hell kind of curve is DHS being graded on?
March 6, 2008

Alright, I lied about taking a break from politics today. Because this just can’t go without comment.

The United States has successfully lowered the risk of a large-scale domestic terrorist attack in the near future, one of the reasons there has been an increase in attacks by Islamic extremists in Europe, Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said today.

The whole article is about how much of a rousing success America’s anti-terrorism policies are. So unless I’m totally misreading this, Chertoff’s point is that what matters is that there haven’t been any attacks on American soil and as for our allies in Europe, well, they can suck it. Because it’s not like this administration has taken reducing terrorism worldwide as a mission statement or anything.

And never mind that given the frequency of attacks like 9/11 when you look at it from the perspective of all of American history, slapping ourselves on the back for not having another attack like that in the last six years is kind of like congratulating ourselves for never having been invaded by Skrulls.

There oughta be a law
February 28, 2008

Those telecom companies are a bunch of jerks. Republicans fight so, so hard to get them off the hook for enabling the Bush administration’s incursion into your civil liberties, and what gratitude do these corporations show them? None!

Those telecom companies are lucky that the fate of the world rests on making sure they’re immune from prosecution. Because if the Republicans didn’t have such clearly noble intentions, then this might very well be enough to make them give up the fight.

The gift that never, ever stops giving
February 21, 2008

I feel Robin Wright’s pain. She’s written an important story that’s going to get completely drowned out in the next news cycle because John McCain’s been accused of shtupping a lobbyist.

Once a month, Pakistan’s Defense Ministry delivers 15 to 20 pages of spreadsheets to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. They list costs for feeding, clothing, billeting and maintaining 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistani troops in the volatile tribal area along the Afghan border, in support of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

No receipts are attached.

Helping a corrupt despot like Musharraf combat Al Qaeda because it’s the lesser of two evils is one thing. But this is basically handing him fistfuls of money because somebody over at the Defense Ministry knows how to enter big numbers into Microsoft Excel. How much money are we talking here? $5.7 billion. $80 million a month.

So what does the Bush administration have to say for themselves?

“It’s a big job to go through and figure out what the Pakistanis have spent. The State Department doesn’t know the toys,” said the second U.S. official familiar with policy.

He added: “The embassy doesn’t have the manpower or expertise to tell whether an aviator widget doohickey costs 50 or 50,000 rupees, or to find out if they really burned out four aviatics packages in an Apache helicopter and, if so, could we see them because maybe they only need maintenance.”

An aviator widget doohickey?!

Listen, Secretary Rice, I think I can help you out here. See, I’ve got this magical anti-terrorism stick that I’m willing to sell you for the low, low price of $20 million. Hell, that’s less than you give to Musharraf in a week. Anyway, think about it. You have my number.

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