The case for President Obama: civil liberties

Kevin Drum — Obama is Bad on Civil Liberties, But Romney Would Be Much Worse:

Obama’s track record on civil liberties is poor. At the same time, Obama at least tried to close Guantanamo; Romney wants to double it. Obama and Eric Holder at least made an effort to hold civilian trials for terrorist suspects; Romney is contemptuous of them. Obama banned torture; Romney wants to bring it back. And Obama has been restrained on intervention in Syria and Iran; Romney is eager to set red lines and begin directly arming rebels. Anyone whose vote is based on civil liberties and national security issues ought to be aware of what it means to do anything that makes a Romney victory more likely. As bad as you think things are now, it means implicitly supporting the election of someone who would make them appreciably worse. It’s sophistry to pretend otherwise.


Just 537 votes changed the course of American history

Voiceover: “Five hundred and thirty seven. The number of votes that changed the course of American history.”

Newscast: “Florida is too close to call”

Voiceover: “The difference between what was… and what could have been…”

“So this year, if you’re thinking that your vote doesn’t count.That it won’t matter. Well, back then, there were probably at least 537 people, who felt the same way.”

Announcer: “Make your voice heard. Vote.”

How much do you want to bet that almost every one of those 537 people thought their vote wouldn’t count, that it didn’t matter?

Even if you’re a red state with dedicated electoral votes for president, your vote matters overall (popular vote) but especially down ballot — local, state, and the House and Senate. Throw out the members of Congress who have happily done nothing for the past 2-4 years — all for politics – intentionally harming the country to try and make President Obama a one-term president. 

If you’re able, vote for the other candidate. Clean house.

Because the previous administration’s failures will always be with us

“All of a sudden, this man gets up and says: ‘So how long are you people going to blame the previous administration?’ And I said: ‘Forever.‘” — Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at a campaign rally for Pres. Obama

Morning Bunker Report: TGIF 4.20.2012


MICHELE BACHMANN accuses President Obama of  ‘waving a tar baby in the air’ – “This is just about waving a tar baby in the air and saying that something else is a problem,” Bachmann told Florida-based conservative news organization Shark Tank on Wednesday. “I have never seen a more irresponsible president who is infantile in the way that he continually blames everyone else for his failure to first diagnose the problem and second to address the problem. It’s always everyone else’s fault,” the Tea Party darling added. The term originates from the “Uncle Remus” stories, in which a doll made of tar and turpentine is used to snare Br’er Rabbit. While “tar baby” is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “something from which it is nearly impossible to extricate oneself,” it has long been recognized as a derogatory term for African Americans.

POOF! NRA Scrubs Nugent Video From Website, YouTube — There’s plenty of convention content available on the group’s web page and YouTube channel, but you won’t find any footage of the Sunday afternoon discussion with Nugent — an NRA board member — that led Mitt Romney to distance himself from Nugent and prompted the Secret Service to schedule a meeting with him. “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year,” Nugent told a crowd at the convention. That comment piqued the interest of the Secret Service, who’ll be meeting with Nugent Thursday. The White House did not immediately respond for a comment on whether it or the Secret Service played a role in the deletion of the videos. Nor did the NRA immediately respond to a request for comment. [image: morningamp]

  • BUT DID HE SHIT HIS PANTS AGAIN? Nugent says had solid meeting with Secret Service – “Good, solid, professional meeting concluding that I have never made any threats of violence towards anyone. The meeting could not have gone better,” the 63-year-old singer and guitarist said. …”The Secret Service interview of Ted Nugent has been completed,” agency spokesman Brian Leary said. “The issue has been resolved. The Secret Service does not anticipate any further action.”

IN CASE YOU’RE NOT FAMILIAR WITH DRESSAGE, The Hill helps out: …Romney and his wife Ann co-own Rafalca, a highly regarded 15-year-old Oldenburg mare they have sponsored in numerous dressage competitions including this year’s World Cup Final, which takes place in the Netherlands. Dressage is a highly disciplined form of horsemanship that can appear to look like dancing… revealed in August 2010 Romney also picked music from the soundtrack of the film “The Mission” for Rafalca’s freestyle routine at the National Dressage championships. — Of course, I still have some strains of class resentment from my homeland, but a president who owns horses and whose wife’s horse performs in dressage competitions? That’s a royal family lifestyle. [...] And here is Rafalca in her dressage best: Not exactly great positioning for a candidate campaigning for more tax cuts for the wealthy and massive cuts in aid to the poor. The top hat is a great touch, no? [Andrew Sullivan]

ERIC CANTOR SUGGESTS RAISING TAXES ON THE POOR: ‘You’ve Got To Discuss That Issue’ – Today, response to a question by ABC’s Jon Karl, Cantor made it clear that Republicans are interested in raising taxes on the poor while lowering tax rates for everyone else as part of any comprehensive tax reform plan: CANTOR: We also know that over 45 percent of the people in this country don’t pay income taxes at all, and we have to question whether that’s fair. And should we broaden the base in a way that we can lower the rates for everybody that pays taxes. [...] ThinkProgress has repeatedly explained why many Americans don’t pay income taxes — most either don’t make enough money or are college students or seniors with no yearly incomes. And those Americans are subject to various other forms of taxation, including the federal payroll tax. The richest Americans, meanwhile, have seen their tax rates fall even as their incomes skyrocketed, contributing to rising inequality and exploding federal deficits. As Cantor made plain today, though, none of that matters. In addition to making the poor and middle class shoulder the burden of draconian budget cuts, Republicans want to raise their taxes too.

REP. PAUL RYAN dismisses Catholic bishops criticism of budget plan — “These are not all the Catholic bishops, and we just respectfully disagree,” he said on Fox News after being questioned about the bishops criticism of his budget plan. The USCCB later responded to Ryan’s comment, informing The Hill that they represented “all of the U.S. bishops on key issues at the national level.” Ryan has said that his Catholic faith helped shape his budget plan. But Catholics have questioned his admiration for the libertarian novelist Ayn Rand, who advocated the “virtue of selfishness” and called Christianity the “the best kindergarten of communism possible.” Ryan’s House-approved budget for 2013-2022 would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps, by $133.5 billion over the next decade. Approximately 2 million individuals would be cut off from the program entirely, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. Another 44 million would see their benefits cut.

  • JOHN BOEHNER, a Catholic, said at a press conference Wednesday the cuts were necessary, despite the impact they may have on the poor.

—————————————————————-PRESIDENT OBAMA / DEMOCRATS

Women of all ages and ethnic groups are more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans or Independents. Forty-five per cent of women say they’re Democrats, versus thirty-two per cent of men, according to a 2009 Gallup poll. The reason women are more likely to vote Democratic has less to do with what we generally consider women’s issues than Democrats seem to think. But the real reason means that Republicans will find it difficult to close the gender gap: women tend to support big government. “For more than a decade, women have been more likely than men to favor an active role for government,” said a Pew Research Center report released in March. “And recent surveys show that higher percentages of women than men say that government should do more for the poor, children, and the elderly.” Women advocate strengthening government regulation, especially on health, the environment, and food and workplace safety, much more than men do. [The New Yorker]

WAR CRIMES: Former Congresswoman: Not too late to hold Bush and Cheney accountable –Former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY) told MSNBC’s Martin Bashir on Thursday… “As a former prosecutor and a former member of the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate, I spent a lot of time taking a look at the statues,” she explained. “It’s one thing to abuse power, and it’s one thing not to do the right thing, but it’s another thing to commit a crime.” Holtzman said Bush and Cheney appear to have “knowingly” violated at least three statues. She said Bush and Cheney likely committed conspiracy to defraud the United States, for the “deceptions” involved in going to war with Iraq. Secondly, she claimed they violated federal statues regarding the wiretapping of Americans without a court order. Thirdly, Holtzman said Bush and Cheney violated federal laws prohibiting torture. “What we can’t afford to do is allow a president to say he is above the law,” she remarked.

BUFFETT RULE: Democrats Vow To Keep Pushing Millionaire Tax Despite Expected Failure — Democrats found McConnell’s positions disingenuous, arguing that a GOP-waged filibuster would be the only reason for the Buffett Rule’s failure. “All of their arguments just don’t stand up because they’re so afraid of this issue,” [Chuck] Schumer said. “Are they for it or against it? They say, ‘Well, it won’t pass.’ It won’t pass because they are opposed to it,” he said, adding that Republicans are the ones guilty of chicanery. “The gimmick is when they block something and say, ‘Let’s not pay attention to it because we won’t let it pass,” Schumer said. “If they think fairness is a gimmick, if they think that having people pay their fair share is a gimmick, then they’re just completely out of touch with the American people.” [...] Schumer vowed to keep bringing the Buffett Rule back until Republicans give in, the way they did on the payroll tax cut fight. “We’ll keep pushing this issue all year long, and we think we’ll pick up more and more Republicans,” Schumer said. He added that the idea is not just to score campaign points, but to show people that Democrats are more in line with them on tax policy, and to ultimately pass the bill.

SEN. HARRY REID: Buffett Rule Is A Path Toward Economic Fairness

War crimes of the Bush Administration

Spencer Ackerman reports on a memo he obtained through a FOIA request, written by State Department counselor Philip Zelikow, which advised the Bush Administration that enhanced-interrogation techniques, like water-boarding, were torture and were therefore illegal:

A top adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned the Bush administration that its use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” interrogation techniques like waterboarding were “a felony war crime.”

What’s more, newly obtained documents reveal that State Department counselor Philip Zelikow told the Bush team in 2006 that using the controversial interrogation techniques were “prohibited” under U.S. law — “even if there is a compelling state interest asserted to justify them.”

Zelikow argued that the Geneva conventions applied to al-Qaida — a position neither the Justice Department nor the White House shared at the time. That made waterboarding and the like a violation of the War Crimes statute and a “felony,” Zelikow tells Danger Room. Asked explicitly if he believed the use of those interrogation techniques were a war crime, Zelikow replied, “Yes.”

Zelikow first revealed the existence of his secret memo, dated Feb. 15, 2006, in an April 2009 blog post, shortly after the Obama administration disclosed many of its predecessor’s legal opinions blessing torture. He briefly described it (.pdf) in a contentious Senate hearing shortly thereafter, revealing then that “I later heard the memo was not considered appropriate for further discussion and that copies of my memo should be collected and destroyed.”

At least one copy survived.

Obama’s promises: honest follow-through

“Under Obama, support for marriage equality and marijuana legalization has crested to record levels. Under Obama, a crucial state, New York, made marriage equality for gays an irreversible fact of American life. Gays now openly serve in the military, and the Defense of Marriage Act is dying in the courts, undefended by the Obama Justice Department. Vast government money has been poured into noncarbon energy investments, via the stimulus. Fuel-emission standards have been drastically increased. Torture was ended. Two moderately liberal women replaced men on the Supreme Court. Oh, yes, and the liberal holy grail that eluded Johnson and Carter and Clinton, nearly universal health care, has been set into law. Politifact recently noted that of 508 specific promises, a third had been fulfilled and only two have not had some action taken on them. To have done all this while simultaneously battling an economic hurricane makes Obama about as honest a follow-through artist as anyone can expect from a politician.” — Andrew Sullivan, from his Newsweek cover story on Obama’s critics.

For more see:

The Republican Teaparty: they are Legion

The audience at Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate erupted into applause at the mention of waterboarding, an interrogation technique that is often described as torture.GOP debate audience cheers waterboarding: Raw Story

Add this to the list of other discussions of death that have made this audience / voting base cheer and applaud: Perry’s grand total of 234 executions in Texas, and the idea of allowing sick people to die if they have no health insurance.

Add this to the list of GOP presidential candidates who want the poor to pay more income tax while giving the wealthy even more tax benefits. Add this to those candidates who say the unemployed shouldn’t eat, or who lie and say they make less income than federal workers. To these people, it’s class warfare to question why there is so much income disparity now between the richest one percent and the rest of us.

These are the people who idolize a man who claims to hold marriage sacred, yet left his second wife when she was in the hospital with cancer for his mistress. These are people who want war. Who want war to never stop.

This base is truly unified. We ask who they are and they answer they are Legion, they are many.

And make no mistake about it, they answer to only One. This One:

If waterboarding is an advanced interrogation technique, then rape is an advanced seduction technique

“To call something an ‘enhanced interrogation technique’ doesn’t alter the fact that we thought it was torture when the Japanese used it on American prisoners, we thought it was torture when the North Koreans used it, we thought it was torture when the Soviets used it…. it’s almost the moral equivalent of saying that rape is an enhanced seduction technique.” ~ Ted Koppel (via)


What’s the deal with Dick Cheney doing interviews, profiting off book sales, NOT being investigated?

sarahlee310: ‘Today Show’ Ends Dick Cheney Interview With ‘Investigate Cheney’ Shot – 98.1 KVET. Totally appropriate.

I think most people will agree that the purpose of Cheney’s book was to go full-Orwellian (much like the Bush years, business as usual) using propaganda, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past. It helps the Believers feel better about themselves but mostly ensures that Reality slowly evolves into a difference of opinion rather than a set of known facts. You can’t prosecute an opinion.

Ten Reasons to Move Cheney’s Book to the Crime Section (via)

1.   Cheney lied; Iraqis and U.S. soldiers died. As Vice President, Cheney lied about (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s (nonexistent) ties to the 9/11 attack as a way to justify a war with a country that never attacked us. Thanks to Cheney and company, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and over 4,000 American soldiers perished in a war that should never have been fought.

2.   Committing War Crimes in Iraq. During the course of the Iraq war, the Bush/Cheney administration violated the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and using illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new type of napalm.

3.   War profiteering. U.S. taxpayers shelled out about three trillion dollars for the Bush/Cheney wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—a major factor in our nation’s present economic meltdown. But Cheney and his cronies at Halliburton made out like bandits, getting billions in contracts for everything from feeding troops in Iraq to constructing the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan to building the infamous Guantanamo prison. Cheney was CEO of Halliburton from 1995-2000, leaving for the VP position with a $20 million retirement package, plus millions in stock options and deferred salary. Before the Iraq War began, Halliburton was 19th on the U.S. Army’s list of top contractors; with Cheney’s help, by 2003 it was number one—increasing the value of Cheney’s stocks by over 3,000%.

Read the rest…

Dick Cheney: I don’t think Iraq war hurt U.S. reputation

Cheney defends the Iraq war, says waterboarding “worked” and tells Matt Lauer the greatest achievement of the Bush administration was preventing further attacks on U.S. soil after 9/11.

“… he knew the Texas governor was not steeped in anything but baseball, so he knew he was going to be president and I think he got his dream. He was president for all practical purposes for the first term of the Bush administration.” — Larry Wilkerson [former Chief of Staff to Collin Powell] , Cheney ‘fears being tried as a war criminal’

Ex-Bush Official Col. Lawrence Wilkerson: “I am Willing to Testify” If Dick Cheney is Put on Trial

GLENN GREENWALD: [...] Dick Cheney is not just a political figure with controversial views, but is an actual criminal, that he was centrally involved in a whole variety not just of war crimes in Iraq, but of domestic crimes, as well, including the authorization of warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens in violation of FISA, which says that you go to jail for five years for each offense, as well as the authorization and implementation of a worldwide torture regime that, according to General Barry McCaffrey, resulted in the murder—his word—of dozens of detainees, far beyond just the three or four cases of waterboarding that media figures typically ask Cheney about.

And yet, what we have is a government, a successor administration, the Obama administration, that announced that there will be no criminal investigations, no, let alone, prosecutions of any Bush officials for any of these multiple crimes. And that has taken these actions outside of the criminal realm and turned them into just garden-variety political disputes. And it’s normalized the behavior. …

AMY GOODMAN: Colonel Wilkerson, do you think the Bush administration officials should be held accountable in the way that Glenn Greenwald is talking about?

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: I certainly do. And I’d be willing to testify, and I’d be willing to take any punishment I’m due. And I have to say, I agree with almost everything he just said. And I think that explains the aggressiveness, to a large extent, of the Cheney attack and of the words like “exploding heads all over Washington.” This is a book written out of fear, fear that one day someone will “Pinochet” Dick Cheney.

Glenn Greenwald has been in the firebagger camp for quite some time and, so, his opinions are largely tainted for me. But on this one issue re: the Obama Administration — no criminal investigations of the Bush Administration for war crimes — I have to agree with Greenwald. It’s one of the biggest disappointments I have with Obama. I do wish he’d change his mind.

SIGN A PETITION: Amnesty International – Hold George W. Bush and Dick Cheney Accountable for Torture


John McCain “doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works.”

image: oliverwillis

“[John McCain] doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works. I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative.”Rick Santorum, on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show.

Let’s take a look back at Santorum’s military experiences… oh, wait.


BONUS: Greg Sargent asked McCain spokesperson Brooke Buchanan for a response to Santorum. Her emailed response: “Who?

Rick Santorum gets TeaPartyJesus-ed


Bill Maher to evangelical Christians: “Jesus lays on that hippie stuff pretty thick…”

Bill Maher: “New rule, if you’re a Christian who supports killing your enemies and torture, you have to come up with a new name for yourself…”

“My favorite new government program is surprising violent, religious, zealots in the middle of the night and shooting them in the face — but, you see, I can say that because I’m a non-Christian… JUST LIKE MOST CHRISTIANS.”

Source: brooklynmutt

Torture and Osama bin Laden’s capture

An op-ed in this morning’s Washington Post (emphasis mine):

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.

I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear — true or false — if he believes it will relieve his suffering. Often, information provided to stop the torture is deliberately misleading.

Mistreatment of enemy prisoners endangers our own troops, who might someday be held captive. While some enemies, and al-Qaeda surely, will never be bound by the principle of reciprocity, we should have concern for those Americans captured by more conventional enemies, if not in this war then in the next.

– Senator John McCain

Read it all…

Of course, Senator Flippy-Floppy isn’t running for office right now either…

Sen. John McCain on May 4, 2011, leaving an intelligence briefing for senators by CIA director Leon Panetta and responding to reports that techniques like waterboarding factored significantly in the information gathering that led to bin Laden’s death.

Torture certainly did not help in locating Osama Bin Laden (and it was a war crime then, as it is now)

It seems the GOP and its rightwing noise machine steer us wrong every chance they get — including now.  They are determined to make us believe their torture program was essential in locating Bin Laden, but that’s bullshit.

Further, the Bush / Cheney Administration was not only incompetent with Afghanistan, with Iraq, with torture — but they were criminally incompetent.

Will Bunch discusses how torture certainly did not help in locating Bin Laden:

Indeed, one former senior Air Force interrogator from the Iraq war, who has written two books under the pseudonym Matthew Alexander, told the Daily News last night he believes that the waterboarding of top bin Laden aides in the early 2000s may have actually slowed down the search by a couple of years.

Alexander — author of the recent Kill or Capture: How a Special Operations Task Force Took Down a Notorious al Qaeda Terrorist — said that waterboarding bin Laden aide Khalid Sheikh Mohammed phony leads about the terrorist’s courier, and a second al-Qaeda higher-up gave agents a fake name. “That led to the CIA wasting time and resources,” he said.

Andrew Sullivan talks about war crimes and the war criminals who perpetrated them:

So let us be very clear. The war criminal Dick Cheney presided over the worst lapse in national security since Pearl Harbor, resulting in the deaths of more than 3,000 people. This rank incompetent failed to get bin Laden at Tora Bora, and then dragged the US on false pretenses into a war in Iraq, empowering Iran’s dictatorship, and killing another 5,000 more Americans on a wild goose chase. He presided over the deaths of more than 8,000 Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis during his criminally incompetent years in office.

On the other hand, the man who abolished torture as soon as he took office, Barack Obama, captured and killed Osama bin Laden, and captured a massive trove of intelligence, more than two years later. No Americans died in the operation.

What on earth are we debating? How have these delusional maniacs managed to even get us onto this turf? Because they have to. Because when the full truth of these past years are fully in focus, they will be revealed as some of the greatest criminals ever to have wielded power in America.