Sunday, October 01, 2006

And That's The News From America, Where All The Men Are Strong...

The personal "where is Lapp now" stuff is coming soon, but in the meantime there's a lot of hard and meaty world news to get to, especially the one that sent me drinking last night...

The President Decides Who We Torture -- By Himself

Yeah, Democrats caved big time on the president's torture bill, which I bet none of you thought was even meant to pass. The gory details are here, including who voted for it and what the Dems have to say for themselves about it. A better analysis of what it does to our legal system (basically shits on it) is here. If you read past the bloody awful lede paragraph, you get to this:

In effect it allows the president to identify enemies, imprison them indefinitely and interrogate them — albeit with a ban on the harshest treatment — beyond the reach of the full court reviews traditionally afforded criminal defendants and ordinary prisoners.

Taken as a whole, the law will give the president more power over terrorism suspects than he had before the Supreme Court decision this summer in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that undercut more than four years of White House policy. It does, however, grant detainees brought before military commissions limited protections initially opposed by the White House. The bill, which cleared a final procedural hurdle in the House on Friday and is likely to be signed into law next week by Mr. Bush, does not just allow the president to determine the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions; it also strips the courts of jurisdiction to hear challenges to his interpretation.

And it broadens the definition of “unlawful enemy combatant” to include not only those who fight the United States but also those who have “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” The latter group could include those accused of providing financial or other indirect support to terrorists, human rights groups say. The designation can be made by any “competent tribunal” created by the president or secretary of defense.
Even more frightening:

Even if the Supreme Court decides it has the power to hear challenges to the bill, the Bush administration has gained a crucial advantage. In adding a Congressional imprimatur to a comprehensive set of procedures and tactics, lawmakers explicitly endorsed measures that in other eras were achieved by executive fiat. Earlier Supreme Court decisions have suggested that the president and Congress acting together in the national security arena can be an all-but-unstoppable force.

Public commentary on the bill, called the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been fast-shifting and often contradictory, partly because its 96 pages cover so much ground and because the impact of some provisions is open to debate.
Paul Krugman recently asked the simple question -- behind a pay wall as always with the NYTimes these days -- why is the president so intent on using torture? It's something I don't think people have paused to try to understand. I certainly don't have the answer, and even if Krugman does I'm not paying to find out what it is.

GOP Leaders Knew of Kiddy Fiddler E-Mails Last Year

It seems a little tawdry to jump on the Mark Foley news wagon at this late date, but the headlines just keep on coming. For the uncool, this guy was recently caught sending, shall we say, borderline stalker-quality messages to a congressional page and resigned on Friday, which as usual was the talk of the office. Except Republican leaders knew about this a year ago and did nothing.

GOP leaders admit their offices have known for months that a Florida Republican congressman was sending inappropriate e-mails to a boy who had worked as a page in the House of Representatives.

The office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who earlier said he'd learned about the e-mails only last week, acknowledged that aides referred the matter to the authorities last fall. They said they were only told the messages were "over-friendly."
The silver lining is that this is almost certainly a Democrat pickup in November in a district where Foley was cruising to re-election.

All Your George Allen Racism News Right Here

I didn't realize at first that the whole country wasn't following Sen. George Allen's racist gaffes -- which keep on coming, by the way -- as closely as we here in the political Oz of northern Virginia have been. If you've been wondering what all the fuss is about, The Nation has a great rundown. Go to page 4 to see John McCain kowtow to the Confederate bigot vote. That man hasn't had any respect from me in years.

Cardboard Cutout Soldier Dads Keep Kids Happy

This is not from The Onion, although it reads and looks like it is. You just have to see it for yourself.

A Comprehensive Iraq Lying Timeline

This from Mother Jones is useful and informative, if incredibly depressing, and should be shoved down the throat of any conservative you may happen to know.

A Great Columbia Journalism Review Article on Iraq Reporting

Just for the record, I don't have any ambitions to be a war correspondent and I never really have, but I think that at least some of the people who do it make it a noble profession by being honest and trying to hold leaders accountable for their decisions. This article tells the story of those who make, and decide not to make, that effort.

Gall’s story, it turns out, had been at the center of an editorial fight. Her piece was “the real deal. It referred to a homicide. Detainees had been killed in custody. I mean, you can’t get much clearer than that,” remembers Roger Cohen, then the Times’s foreign editor. “I pitched it, I don’t know, four times at page-one meetings, with increasing urgency and frustration. I laid awake at night over this story. And I don’t fully understand to this day what happened. It was a really scarring thing. My single greatest frustration as foreign editor was my inability to get that story on page one.”

Doug Frantz, then the Times’s investigative editor and now the managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, says Howell Raines, then the Times’s top editor, and his underlings “insisted that it was improbable; it was just hard to get their mind around. They told Roger to send Carlotta out for more reporting, which she did. Then Roger came back and pitched the story repeatedly. It’s very unusual for an editor to continue to push a story after the powers that be make it clear they’re not interested. Roger, to his credit, pushed.” (Howell Raines declined requests for comment.)

“Compare Judy Miller’s WMD stories to Carlotta’s story,” says Frantz. “On a scale of one to ten, Carlotta’s story was nailed down to ten. And if it had run on the front page, it would have sent a strong signal not just to the Bush administration but to other news organizations.”

Instead, the story ran on page fourteen under the headline "U.S. Military Investigating Death of Afghan in Custody." (It later became clear that the investigation began only as a result of Gall’s digging.)
Oil Prices May Not Stay Down (Or Help the GOP)

According to Josh Marshall, who is a great source of information at his blog (the one that actually hired a few reporters and does real reporting), the gas price thing will peter out.

Meanwhile, oil-producing areas like Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela have stayed quiet, at least in the press, according to [oil analyst George] Orwel [not a typo]. Despite U.S. saber-rattling, "[industry] people know the United States won't do anything soon, it's stuck in Iraq," he said.

As oil prices slump, big investors like hedge funds are shedding their oil futures, which they had bought in anticipation of a steadily-climbing oil market, pushing prices down. He added that Iraq is now putting more oil on the market, producing a
post-war high of around 2.1 million barrels of oil a day, and exporting close to a quarter of that. "It's actually doing a lot better."

So maybe the GOP caught a rare break.

Update: Orwel just called to let me know that this, like most lucky breaks, is unlikely to last. "Prices today began to come up again," he noted.
A Soldier's Book on Command Decisions Made in Iraq

This isn't a typical "Look how many confirmed kills my sniper team got!" kind of hack job, or at least it doesn't sound like one from this interview with the author.

DS: You also wrote that in June of '03, shortages and flaws became apparent. What kind of flaws and whose responsible for them in your view?

Lt. PR: Wow. Where do I start? Everything: bottled water, vehicles, batteries, interpreters, body armor, technical workers (to fix electrical grids, water pumps etc), prescription medicines for my soldiers, Military Police, Civil Affairs units, humanitarian aid, a plan for the what hell we were all supposed to do once Baghdad fell.

First and foremost: I was always taught that as a combat leader, that I was responsible for everything my soldiers did and everything they failed to do. Same is true for President Bush. As the President, and more so, as the Commander in Chief, the buck stops with him. The fact that he doesn't take responsibility for his mistakes is a national embarrassment. Rumsfeld, Franks, Wolfowitz, Tenet, Rice, Powell. They are all responsible too. There needs to be accountability for failure at all levels. I write about these issues in the book so people can understand the truth--and understand how unnecessary many of the mistakes were.
And Finally... Bad Congressional Hairdos!

This is even funnier than I though it would be. Guess what they have to say about this one?


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