Monday, October 29, 2007

Whistle blown on whistleblowers

The Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives has begun, in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding the dismissal of US attorneys, to collect tips from whistleblowers inside the Justice Dept. Tipsters were promised that the Committee would deal with their information in "strictest confidence", though it would not take into account information submitted anonymously.

Unfortunately, as TPM Muckraker reported last weekend, that anonymity has been blown for many informers. The Judiciary Committee sent an e-mail to all contributers with their e-mail addresses revealed in the "to:" field, instead of using the "bcc:" function.

As if that wasn't bad enough, TPM reports,
[c]ompounding the mistake, the committee later sent out a second email attempting to recall the original email; it, too, included all recipients in the "to:" field, according to a recipient of the emails.
The only thing that could have been worse would have been to send this correpondence, with the full e-mail addresses of all internal critics of the Justice Dept, directly to Dick Cheney himself. Well, not even such spineless and brain-dead idiots as the Judiciary Committee members would have made such a terrible... oh oh:
Some of the email addresses appear to be transparently fake, but there's also, much more troubling, a carbon copied on the email, which is the public email address for Vice President Dick Cheney. In other words, an email containing the email addresses of all the whistleblowers who had written in to the committee tipline was sent to public email address of Vice President Cheney.
N.b., these are the representatives of the people, whom we rely on to function as a corrective to the abuses of executive power by the Bush administration. Unfortunately, the American people seems to be represented by the bastard offspring of the Keystone Kops and the Three Stooges:
The purpose of today's mis-sent email was, ironically enough, to announce careful new procedures about to be put in place by the committee for reviewing the tips received through the committee's website.
The headline for the above article by Paul Kiel says it all: D'Oh. The entire e-mail from the Judiciary Committee can be read on the Talking Points Memo (TPM) website, though minus the incriminating e-mail addresses (not that that makes any difference, as Evil Dick has been cc'd).

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Stasi archives staffed by ex-agents

Wikileaks has published an internal confidential memorandum by the German Federal Government Delegate for Culture and Media, reporting on the permeation of Stasi Archives (BStU) staff by former members of the East German secret service. The authors are concerned about how many former members of the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit are employed by the BStU. They question the constitutionality of the BStU's position within the structure of the German public administration. They also criticize the lack of accountability and of truthful testimony by the heads of the BStU in their information to the parliament, the external authors of this expertise, and to the public.

Among the highlights of this report are the fact that former high-ranking Stasi officers were charged with analyzing the potential Stasi involvement of leading East German politicians such as Lothar de Maizière, Manfred Stolpe, and Gregor Gysi; and the fact that former high-ranking Stasi officers were charged after 11 September 2001 with analyzing the extent of information and training provided by the Stasi to international terrorist groups including the RAF, the Carlos Group, and the Abu Nidal Group in the 1980s. Their conclusion, in classical Socialist dialectical style, was that East Germany only ever supported "freedom fighters" in their "armed struggle", but never terrorists...

Read the entire 114-page report (in German; PDF format) here. A detailed English-language summary/ analysis is available at this page.

Merciful Mongols

John W. Dean, former White House legal counsel to Richard Nixon, was on Countdown with Keith Olberman yesterday to talk about the latest revelations about US government-sanctioned torture. Now, it stands to reason that he didn't do such a great job counselling Nixon on legal matters, or at least his counsel wasn't heard. He was one of the Nixon minions referred to in this quote by the good Doctor Gonzo:
Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.
(Read Hunter S. Thompson's entire obituary for Nixon, if you haven't yet, and bear in mind that the legacy of George W. Bush will be such that he will make Nixon look saintly by comparison.) Dean did jail time, but with a greatly reduced sentence, for his many crimes in connection with Watergate; his sentence was cut back because he turned witness for the prosecution and spilled the beans on Nixon and the Plumbers, and revealed the existence of the White House tapes.

Anyway, Dean has since declared himself an "independent" and has become a darling of the progressive camp in the US, especially since his book "Conservatives Without Conscience" was published. In this work, he charges that the Republican Party has been shanghaied by right-wingers with authoritarian personalities.

In the interview with Olberman on Countdown yesterday, Dean made some interesting points (check out the video at Crooks and Liars). After discussing the recently revealed existence of a new, shameful torture memo from the Bush/Gonzales Justice Department, Olberman and Dean talk about the Republican/conservative tendency to believe that reality can be adapted to their own requirements merely by choosing the right words to describe it: "We're not doing it cause we say we're not doing it"; or even "this is not torture because [the Bush administration] are not the kind of people who torture".

Dean points out that this is not just a matter of deficient perceptions, but that the White House is trying to change the laws that ban torture and other violations of the Geneva Conventions. He calls on Congress not only not to approve these changes, but to extend the Statute of Limitations on such crimes from five to ten years, in order to highlight the fact that "indeed, these are real laws". Of course, that would be very bad news indeed for Gonzales, Rumsfeld and other war criminals who are now or have been involved in policymaking and ordering prisoners to be beaten, waterboarded, and otherwise tortured.

But Dean goes on to make another critical point that is often missed and rarely, if ever, mentioned in the traditional media outlets:
Well, let me tell you, one of the thoughts in conservative thinking and circles today is that they felt very bad when Ronald Reagan left office with a 60 per cent approval rating. They thought: "That's just a waste!" They want their president to not be loved, to not be particularly respected. They want him to drive their agenda. And so Bush, as he heads on down with these kinds of policies that are being revealed, is doing exactly what the core of his party wants him to do. So, I don't... it may get down to single digits, and then he won't "die rich", so to speak.
So much for bipartisanship; what the Democratic Party needs in order to emerge from its present doldrums (and historically low approcal rates for its members of Congress) is the balls to push for flat-out partisanship in progressive issues.

Another example of this kind of Republican thinking can be found in the reasoning underlying Bush's veto against the State Children' Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) on Wednesday. Bush has argued that state support for children's health insurance would put the US budget on a slippery slope towards Communism. This program would be financed through higher taxes on tobacco. So, while SCHIP would be very efficient in providing healthcare for poor children, it would violate at least three mainstays of Republican ideology: No state-funded healthcare; no new taxes; and avoidance of anything that could hurt the tobacco industry, wherever possible.

Again: so much for bipartisanship. Bush's posturing as a fiscal conservative is all the more ridiculous considering he has blown the biggest budget surplus in the nation's history on an illegal war. Note: the US defense budget for FY2007 was increased by 7 per cent to US$439.3 billion, about 13 times the amount that the SCHIP bill would have cost. Look up "Starve the Beast" on Wikipedia for more on the thinking behind this strategy.

What does all of this have to do with the latest torture memo? The overall picture makes a mockery of the concept of "Compassionate Conservatism". It is just a shell of a phrase, a propaganda label used to sell policies that are not conservative in the Goldwater tradition and certainly not compassionate. What "Compassionate Conservatism" does is alliterate; no more and no less. As a catchphrase, it may serve its purpose among lazy thinkers. As a label for current White House policies, it is about as thoughtful, and appropriate, as if Ghengis Khan had promoted his conquest of the West as "Merciful Mongolism" - merely adding insult to injury.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Neocon Tin Man Gets a New Heart

Unfortunately, only in fiction. From The Onion, without any doubt America's finest news source:

New Heart Device Allows Cheney To Experience Love

WASHINGTON, DC—Recovering from minor heart surgery Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney stunned both the medical and political establishments when he mysteriously began to experience love for the first time in his life, sources reported Tuesday.

It is believed to have been the first recorded incident of Cheney exhibiting compassion for his fellow man.


According to Reiner, Cheney left the hospital under his own power, but returned minutes later complaining of unfamiliar chest palpitations and sensations of warmth for others regardless of political affiliation or income.
Read more here.