Neil Cavuto Makes Fat-Jokes About Prisoners

12 August 2009

On June 17, Neil Cavuto had a segment on his show titled "Living Large? Do healthy physiques of ex-Gitmo detainees dispel rumors of mistreatment in the detention facility?"

The obvious answer to Cavuto's question is a simple "no." The Uighur detainees never made any allegations that they were subjected to forced starvation, so the relative physiques of these formerly accused prisoners are completely irrelevant.

On top of that completely obvious point (Neil Cavuto should know better), it should also be noted that these Uighurs were cleared for release by the Department of Defense years ago, and they have lived separately from the other detainees for a very long time. The only reason they were still at Guantanamo was because we couldn't send them back to their home country of China, where they would suffer religious persecution and possibly torture (our treaty obligations prevent us from sending people to countries where they face torture). Therefore, Neil Cavuto's point was misguided on two separate levels. He used an irrelevant point to knock down an imaginary argument.

Rather than working on getting his facts right, Mr. Cavuto apparently prepared for this "news" segment by writing a bunch of fat jokes to make about these men. Here are some Cavuto quotes from the segment:

  • "Uighurs wobble, but apparently they do chow down."
  • "Is it me, or does it look like they've been enjoying the good life for quite a while?"
  • "I'm looking at these guys, and they look like me."
  • "They don't look like they're doing for a lack of visits to the refrigerator"
  • "They can twist it around and say, they forced us to eat all this good food and we didn't really want to." (presumably a reference to the force-feeding some hunger-strike detainees at Guantanamo have endured)
  • "They'll try to turn it around and say, look, you know, we may look like the late John Candy but we didn't intend to."
  • "What about bakery products? Ring Dings? Yodels? Anything?"
That really sums up the Neil Cavuto segment right there.

Neil Cavuto, however, fails to provide any back-story for who these men are, and how they came to be where they are now. Basically, these are ethnically Turkish men who once lived in China, but fled in order to escape oppression. According to Amnesty International, China "continues to brutally suppress any peaceful political, religious, and cultural activities of Uighurs, and to enforce a birth control policy that compels minority Uighur women to undergo forced abortions and sterilizations." Human Rights Watch has put out its own lengthy report on China's abuse of the Uighur people.

This has long been the case, and the United States government has repeatedly recognized the brutal conditions facing the Uighur people under communist China's rule (see here). Furthermore, it has only gotten worse over the past few years, as the United States Department of State has recognized that "[t]he [Chinese] Government used the international war on terror as a justification for cracking down harshly on suspected Uighur separatists expressing peaceful political dissent and on independent Muslim religious leaders."

Given all this, the Uighurs Neil Cavuto is currently ridiculing as fat decided to flee their oppressive conditions and start a new life elsewhere. You can read their own personal accounts of their flight from China, as told to the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, here.

As the Federal Court in Parhat v. Gates, 532 F.3d 834, 837 (C.A.D.C. 2008), explained, the Uighurs that were held at Guantanamo (and recently released) had all fled to nearby Afghanistan. There, in the mountains near Pakistan, they built a village for Uighur ex-patriates from China. The village stood there until October 2001, when it was destroyed by bombs in the war against Afghanistan. The surviving Uighur villagers fled their now-destroyed village into the mountains of Pakistan, where they were taken in by local Pakistanis.

At about the same time, leaflets were "dropping like snowflakes in December in Chicago" that promised Pakistani villagers "wealth and power beyond your dreams" if they turned in Taliban members fleeing across the border. The leaflets promised cash rewards in the "millions of dollars" and "enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life" (these are all phrases that actually appeared on the leaflets). The Pakistani villagers who took in the Uighurs saw these flyers and quickly turned in the Uighurs to Pakistani officials. According to Freedom of Information Act documents later obtained, the Pakistani villagers received $5,000 for each of the Uighurs they turned over.

Once in the hands of Pakistani officials, half of the Uighurs were turned over to China, and the other half were turned over to the United States. The half that went to China were quickly executed. The half that went to the United States were allegedly beaten prior to being sent to Khandahar and then Guantanamo.

Given this unfortunate series of events, and the questionable motives of those who had turned them in, the United States government had decided that some of them were not enemy combatants even before (!) their CSRT hearings. Others were quickly cleared for release, as well. By 2005, fifteen of the Uighurs at Guantanamo had been cleared for release (although some were still held in solitary confinement, and some were being shackled to the floor) by the U.S. Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs). This, in itself, is pretty telling, since the CSRTs have been roundly criticized by human rights groups ("the CSRT relies predominantly on evidence a detainee cannot see; affirmatively prohibits the assistance of counsel; freely admits statements gained by torture and other coercion; and routinely refuses detainees’ requests to call witnesses or present exculpatory evidence"), and have even been called "inadequate" by the United States Supreme Court itself. The Supreme Court's ruling in Boumediene v. Bush, 128 S.Ct. 2229 (2008), allowed the remaining detainees to seek non-CSRT review in a federal habeas corpus proceeding, where they have been ordered to be released. See, e.g., Parhat v. Gates, 532 F.3d 834 (C.A.D.C. 2008) ("It is undisputed that he is not a member of al Qaida or the Taliban, and that he has never participated in any hostile action against the United States or its allies. . . . Accordingly, we direct the government to release Parhat, to transfer him, or to expeditiously convene a new Combatant Status Review Tribunal to consider evidence submitted in a manner consistent with this opinion.").

All of these men have been cleared.

In the end, this is just a sad story. These men were persecuted in China, had their village bombed in Afghanistan, and were sold by bounty hunters in Pakistan. On top of that, they were held for years by the United States government, even after they had been cleared of all charges, due to the fact that they faced near-certain torture and death in their home country (it has been tough to resettle some of the Uighurs even in other countries, due to the fact that China had been "pressuring other countries not to accept the prisoners").

It is also a very complicated story (ending in vindication of the Uighurs by the CSRTs and federal courts), that deserves serious news coverage from serious newscasters. We need intelligent journalists to explain this very clearly and coherently, and to ask tough questions of the government officials who have been involved.

So what does Neil Cavuto do? He cracks fat-jokes, and says, "Uighurs wobble, but apparently they do chow down."

UPDATE: Neil Cavuto, by the way, has three shows on FOX News, is the Vice President of Business News at FOX News Channel, and is the Senior Vice President & Managing Editor of Business News at FOX Business Network.

UPDATE II: Jason Pinney, one of the attorneys for the Uighurs, had some interesting testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, available here (pdf).

UPDATE III: This FBI report (pdf) from 2004 is also pretty interesting:
"The Uighurs are moderate Muslims who occupied East Turkestan, which was taken over by the Chinese and renamed the Xinjiang province of China. The Uighurs were offered land in Afghanistan in order to gather personnel opposing Chinese oppression. They were often inspired by Radio Free Asia, which [redacted] was often a broadcaster for. The Uighurs considered themselves to be fighting for democracy, and they idolized the United States. Although the Uighurs are Muslim their agenda did not appear to include Islamic radicalism. They claimed to have no political connection to Islamic terrorists or the Taliban. However, their camp in Afghanistan was bombed, and they fled to Pakistan. The Uighurs were captured by the Pakistanis, with half being transferred to US custody, and half being remanded directly to Chinese officials. It was alleged that the Uighurs who were transferred directly to the Chinese were immediately executed. At the time of my TDY, US officials were considering whether to return the Uighurs to the Chinese, possibly to gain support for anticipated US action in the Middle East. The Uighur detainees at GTMO were convinced that they would be immediately executed if they were returned to China."
(h/t Hilzoy)

UPDATE IV: For more on the CSRT process, see this report by Mark Denbeaux (who was attorney for two Guantanamo detainees).


18 July 2009

One of the Guantanamo Bay detainees recently had a hearing on a motion to suppress some of his statements as a product of torture. Yesterday, the motion was granted. According to Federal District Court judge Ellen Huvelle, Jawad's "motion to suppress his out-of-court statements is GRANTED as conceded and therefore, the Court will suppress every statement made by petitioner since his arrest as a product of torture [emphasis added]."

I've written previously about Guantanamo detainee Mohammad Jawad (you can read a little bit more about his case here). It's definitely an interesting one. Even the man originally in charge of prosecuting Jawad (Lt. Col. Darrell Vandeveld) has written op-ed pieces and a sworn declaration in favor of Jawad's release.

FOX News Has the Story - Part XXI

08 July 2009

Part I: Sex Robots
Part II: Sex Teachers
Part III: Lingerie Bowl
Part IV: Panty Bandits
Part V: Hooters Haircuts
Part VI: Sexy Stripper Scam
Part VII: Stripper Fitness
Part VIII: Exotic Erotic Ball
Bonus: FOX Attacks
Part IX: Drunk Upskirt Pictures
Bonus: FOX Porn
Part X: Bunny Bar
Part XI: Teens Seen Grinding
Part XII: Porno-Tax!
Part XIII: Sexy Teacher
Part XIV: Sugar Mamas and Boy Toys
Part XV: Sexy Part-Time Job
Part XVI: Hot Cops
Part XVII: Sex Sells
Part XVIII: Playboy Halloween
Part XIX: More Women Turning Towards Exotic Dancing During Recession
Part XX: X-Rated Site?

FOX News Has the Story - Part XX

19 June 2009

Part I: Sex Robots
Part II: Sex Teachers
Part III: Lingerie Bowl
Part IV: Panty Bandits
Part V: Hooters Haircuts
Part VI: Sexy Stripper Scam
Part VII: Stripper Fitness
Part VIII: Exotic Erotic Ball
Bonus: FOX Attacks
Part IX: Drunk Upskirt Pictures
Bonus: FOX Porn
Part X: Bunny Bar
Part XI: Teens Seen Grinding
Part XII: Porno-Tax!
Part XIII: Sexy Teacher
Part XIV: Sugar Mamas and Boy Toys
Part XV: Sexy Part-Time Job
Part XVI: Hot Cops
Part XVII: Sex Sells
Part XVIII: Playboy Halloween
Part XIX: More Women Turning Towards Exotic Dancing During Recession

Jameel Jaffer and David Rivkin Discuss FOIA Lawsuit

10 June 2009

Security Here and Abroad

21 May 2009

Jane Mayer and Philippe Sands Discuss Torture Policy

20 May 2009

Scott Horton: Torture Memos

10 May 2009

This Week's Links: Torture Memos, Prosecution, and Impeachment

20 April 2009

Apologies for the long absence. Things have been pretty busy over here. In the meantime, there is plenty for you to read:

  • The International Red Cross Report on detainee abuse has been made public. It includes, among other things, "Beatings by use of a collar held around a detainees neck and used to forcefully bang the head and body against the wall." [ICRC Report]
  • The ACLU lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act has finally resulted in the release of the OLC memos authorizing torture techniques and abuse against detainees. [OLC Memos]
  • It appears, however, that Obama does not want to prosecute the OLC memo's authors, either. [AP]
  • The Spanish, however, are still seeking prosecution. [The Public Record]
  • Prof. Manfred Nowak, U.N. Rapporteur for Torture, says that refusal to prosecute is a violation of the Convention Against Torture (which compels investigation and prosecution of those accused ot torture). [Der Standard]
  • UPDATE: Now it's not even clear whether or not Obama wants to prosecute those who created the torture policies, walking back Rahm Emanuel's comments from the other day ("[A]dministration officials said Monday that Mr. Emanuel had meant the officials who ordered the policies carried out, not the lawyers who provided the legal rationale."). [The New York Times]
  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said that it's "certainly possible that an impeachment inquiry is warranted" into torture memo author Bybee (currently a federal judge in the Ninth Circuit). I doubt that Whitehouse will step up to the plate, though. [Rachel Madow]
  • Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) says that "grounds for impeachment can be made" against Bybee based on the OLC memos. [Russ Feingold]
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) says that "I would support impeachment hearings for Judge Bybee." [Center For American Progress]

FOX News Has the Story - Part XIX

26 March 2009

Part I: Sex Robots
Part II: Sex Teachers
Part III: Lingerie Bowl
Part IV: Panty Bandits
Part V: Hooters Haircuts
Part VI: Sexy Stripper Scam
Part VII: Stripper Fitness
Part VIII: Exotic Erotic Ball
Bonus: FOX Attacks
Part IX: Drunk Upskirt Pictures
Bonus: FOX Porn
Part X: Bunny Bar
Part XI: Teens Seen Grinding
Part XII: Porno-Tax!
Part XIII: Sexy Teacher
Part XIV: Sugar Mamas and Boy Toys
Part XV: Sexy Part-Time Job
Part XVI: Hot Cops
Part XVII: Sex Sells
Part XVIII: Playboy Halloween

Mark Danner Discusses ICRC Report on C-SPAN

17 March 2009

This Week's Links: Torture, Civil Liberties, and Voting Rights

16 March 2009

  • Mark Danner has written a must-read account of detention and interrogation techniques over the past few years, based on the Red Cross report on torture. [New York Review of Books] [The New York Times]
  • Letting go of the phrase "enemy combatants" isn't really that big of a deal. [The Los Angeles Times]
  • The Washington Post editorial page calls for election reforms. [The Washington Post]
  • Andy Worthington compiles a list of all the Guantanamo Bay inmates ever held, and their ultimate status. This is a great resource. []
  • Jane Mayer wrote a great article on the use of Black Sites back in 2007. [The New Yorker]

Presidential Address to Congress

25 February 2009

Bill O'Reilly's Right to Privacy

10 February 2009

This Week's Links

05 February 2009

  • On Monday, major First Amendment figure Irving Feiner passed away. [The New York Times]
  • Leon Panetta's Senate hearings are posted on the C-SPAN website, for those who care. [C-SPAN]
  • Barack Obama writes an op-ed for the Washington Post about the stimulus bill. It looks like he's going to be taking a more active role in the debate from now on. [The Washington Post]
  • The Department of Justice is changing. [The New York Times]
  • The ACLU debunks a few myths about Guantanamo. [ACLU]. Their website on the topic is worth a read, too. [ACLU].
  • According to Reuters, "Two senior British judges accused the United States on Wednesday of threatening to end intelligence cooperation with Britain if they published evidence about the alleged torture of a Guantanamo detainee." [Reuters]
  • Guantanamo detainee Benyam Mohammad alleges abuse in Moroccan prison. [The Guardian]
  • Debunking some more myths about the effectiveness of torture. [Vanity Fair]
  • Scott Horton discusses the British judges linked above. [Harper's]
  • Don't mess with Obama's French Fries. [Boston Phoenix]

Karen Greenberg on Closing Guantanamo

Karen Greenberg also has a book coming out in March about the first 100 days at Guantanamo.

Rendition Policy Under the Obama Administration

01 February 2009

Under current law (Convention Against Torture), it is illegal to "extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." This has been a controversial process over the past eight years under President Bush, since we have in fact rendered persons in our custody to torture-friendly countries such as Egypt. One man, Abu Omar, was sent to Egypt where he was sodomized and had electric shocks applied to his genitals (he is now a free man, since his initial arrest was apparently just a bad case of mistaken identity).

Thankfully, President Obama issued an Executive Order reaffirming the "obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including . . . the Convention Against Torture." That same Executive Order went even further, establishing a commission:

"to study and evaluate the practices of transferring individuals to other nations in order to ensure that such practices comply with the domestic laws, international obligations, and policies of the United States and do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture or otherwise for the purpose, or with the effect, of undermining or circumventing the commitments or obligations of the United States to ensure the humane treatment of individuals in its custody or control."
So it looks like we'll finally be complying with our legal obligations.

Despite this, the Los Angeles Times has just printed an article ominously warning that Obama has left open the door to the use of "rendition," which it refers to as being "equally controversial" to President Bush's policy of torture, and use of secret prisons (which Obama has also ordered closed, throug Executive Order). However, it seems that this article is susceptible to the common misunderstanding of the difference between "rendition" (a broader term that includes perfectly legal processes, such as extradition) and "extraordinary rendition" (the practice of shipping people off to torture-friendly countries, in violation of our legal obligations). Even though there are some who object to some uses of rendition, "rendition" itself is not nearly as controversial as the use of torture. Therefore, you should take the Los Angeles Times article with a grain of salt, and understand what's actually going on here.

The conservative National Review would do well to take that advice. In a recent column, one of its authors desperately seizes on this article and snidely comments: "Let's give all of the folks who fumed about rendition under Bush a day to voice their outrage over this."

I have a better idea. Let's give the folks at the Los Angeles Times and National Review a day to read up on the topic and correct their mistakes.

UPDATE: Scott Horton at Harper's sees it, too. In this article, he picks apart the Los Angeles Times editorial.

UPDATE II: Glenn Greenwald also commented on the article this afternoon.

UPDATE III: It looks like somebody clued in the National Review. Good for them.

UPDATE IV: Scott Horton discusses the issue (at around the 3:00 mark) on the Rachel Maddow show. Maddow's comments on the Clinton administration aside, it's an okay discussion.

UPDATE V: Scott Horton and Michael Ratner discuss the issue here.

UPDATE VI: Richard Clarke has an article on the topic here.

Lt. Col. Vandeveld Discusses Why He Resigned as a Guantanamo Prosecutor

31 January 2009

Lt. Col. Vandeveld also discusses his role at Guantanamo in this Washington Post op-ed, and in this sworn declaration in support of Mohammad Jawad's habeas petition.

60 Minutes: Time Running Out For A Two-State Solution?

28 January 2009

60 Minutes: Growing Number Of Israelis, Palestinians Say Two-State Solution Is No Longer Possible

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) is a Liar

The title pretty much says it all. It's pretty despicable how Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) is telling outright lies about the stimulus bill. For instance, he lied when he said that it includes "$300,000 for a sculpture garden in Miami." The stimulus bill contains no such thing. He also lied when he said that, "For every dollar that is spent to help small businesses, $4 is being spent to help upkeep the grass on the lawns of Washington." Again, this is demonstrably false.

There's a difference between principled opposition, on the one hand, and disingenuous obstructionism, on the other. Eric Cantor is a liar and an obstructionist. It's really that simple.

"Fisting"? Really?

23 January 2009

Guantanamo Bay Prison Set to Close Within the Year

21 January 2009

President Obama has issued an Executive Order (pdf) ordering that "[t]he detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order." Rather than holding people indefinitely, for years on end, without any available legal recourse to bring a challenge based on innocence, we will now be reviewing each individual detainee's case. On the one hand, I'm glad to see that some detainees "shall be evaluated to determine whether the Federal Government should seek to prosecute the detained individuals." This means that our system of justice will evaluate the evidence against the detainees, and sort out the guilty from the innocent.

On the other hand, however, the Executive Order leaves open the door for torture-obtained confessions to be used against other detainees when it says that for "any individuals currently detained at Guantánamo whose disposition is not achieved under [the subsections dealing with prosecution], the Review shall select lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, for the disposition of such individuals." This line seems to be hinting that they are leaving the door open to military commissions, similar to the awful system in place right now. Maybe I'm just being overly-cynical, due to the Justice Department's behavior over past eight years. Nonetheless, it seems suspicious that this Executive Order would leave room for an option other than (1) releasing/transferring the prisoners to another country, or (2) prosecuting them based on the evidence we have legally obtained.

In case you think that it's okay to create a third option, other than release/transfer or prosecution, I highly recommend reading up on Mohammad Jawad's case (pdf). It will give you a sense of the legal process the Guantánamo prisoners have been through so far. Even Jawad's former prosecutor (Lt. Col. Darrell Vandeveld) has been so disgusted with the man's treatment that he has resigned and written a sworn declaration in support of Jawad's Habeas petition.

UPDATE: Lt. Col. Darrell Vandeveld also wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post recently, titled "I Was Slow to Recognize the Stain of Guantanamo."

UPDATE II: It looks like I'm not the only one to see this. The Center For Constitutional Rights is similarly pleased with the Executive Order, but cautious about the provision I just highlighted:

The government has to charge the rest of the detainees in federal criminal court. There can be no third way, no new schemes for indefinite or preventive detention or alternative national security courts. Any move in that direction would discredit all of the new administration’s efforts in the eyes of the world.
They also provide copies of the recently-issued Executive Orders:
I'm pretty happy, on the whole.

UPDATE III: The Congressional Republicans who support torture and indefinite detention without charge are predictably raising the temperature of their fear-based demagoguery. According to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), "Closing Guantanamo Bay presents a clear and present danger to all Americans"

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Smith voted to authorize the war in Iraq, voted for the USA PATRIOT Act, voted for the Military Commissions Act, and has received dismal ratings from pretty much every Civil Rights organization.

Rush Limbaugh has similarly argued that this was a "political" move, done at the expense of national security, and that "They're going to have to be held accountable in any future attacks as a result of this."

UPDATE IV: Here is video of the signing.

UPDATE V: In the last days of the Bush administration, you may have heard that the Pentagon informally declared that 61 former Guantanamo prisoners "returned to terrorism." Don't believe it. We've actually seen this song and dance before. The Pentagon had previously made the same claim, only to be embarrassed that their claim was faulty. This time around, unless you include "participating in an anti-Guantanamo documentary" and "having your lawyer write a critical op-ed" as "returning to terrorism," this is a pretty weak case to make.

Attorney Mark Denbeaux picks apart the claim here:

UPDATE VI: Michelle Malkin is a classic example of a torture apologist. She has gone so far as to write a horrible book in defense of the mass internment of Japanese citizens we sadly conducted earlier this century (for which, we have since apologized). She has been rightly criticized by historians, civil liberties advocates, and the Japanese American Citizens League for her "desperate attempt to impugn the loyalty of Japanese Americans during World War II to justify harsher governmental policies today in the treatment of Arab and Muslim Americans." Therefore, it's no surprise that she is still an awful human being.

UPDATE VII: According to conservative host Laura Ingraham, "our country is less safe today" because we have decided to actually charge the people we have imprisoned for years on end.

How is it that people like Laura Ingraham have so much faith that we have detained the right people, yet so little faith that we can put together a compelling case in court to that effect?

UPDATE VIII: Once again, that "61" number is flat-out wrong.

UPDATE IX: I have to agree with Steve Benen on this one. I really didn't expect to see this bizarre "NIMBY" talking point to become so prominent.
There was bound to be some pushback against Barack Obama's decision to close the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, but this isn't the one I was expecting.

Fox News personalities argued last week that the Obama would bring dangerous terrorists "to our soil, right here." Karl Rove argued over the weekend that Obama will change his mind about Gitmo because "there will be an uproar in the U.S." about detaining suspects on American soil. John McCain told Fox News yesterday, "I don't know of a state in America that wants them in their state. You think Yucca Mountain is a NIMBY problem? Wait till you see this one."

Elana Schor reports that the most likely facility is the military's maximum-security prison in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas -- which, by the way, is where Candidate McCain wanted to send the detainees when he endorsed closing Gitmo -- but that's facing resistance, too. Sen. Sam Brownback (R) and three House Republicans are pushing a measure that would prohibit the transfer of any suspects from Cuba to Kansas. (We're seeing a similar response from Republicans in South Carolina over the Charleston Naval Brig and Republicans in California over Camp Pendleton.)

I can appreciate the discomfort one might feel in the proximity of a psychotic religious fanatic, but as the Not-In-My-Backyard phenomenon goes, this is pretty silly.

As Glenn Greenwald explained the other day, there are already all kinds of suspected terrorists, including those associated with the 9/11 attacks, in federal detention right here on U.S. soil. As far as I can tell, no one much cares, and there have been no protests from conservative commentators, lawmakers, or activists about moving them out of the country.

I'm not even sure what the complaining is about, exactly. That the Gitmo detainees might break out of incarceration? If conservatives trust federal officials to administer a system of indefinite detention in Cuba, they should probably trust federal officials to keep the bad guys locked up effectively.

Some, meanwhile, have gone so far as to suggest that terrorists could be freed if their allies "crashed a plane into the prison to faciliate [sic] an escape."

Highlights From the Eric Holder Hearings

18 January 2009

Part 1: Senator Patrick Leahy's Opening Remarks (Did you know that Leahy was a voice actor in the animated Batman series, and had a cameo in The Dark Knight?)

Part 2: Sen. Arlen Specter Complains About Time Constraints, and Sen. Patrick Leahy Sets Him Straight (Specter has been trying - and failing - to turn these hearings into a spectacle)

Part 3: "Waterboarding is Torture" (This is pretty obvious, but it's good to see that we will finally have an Attorney General who is not delusional/dishonest on the topic)

Part 4: The Right to Bear Arms

Part 5: Federal Media Shield Law (I don't know much about this one)

Part 6: Pledge to Review Extremist OLC Opinions on Executive Power (I'm glad to see that Dawn Johnsen has been chosen to head the Office of Legal Counsel under Obama)

Part 7: Mark Rich Pardons Under Pres. Clinton

Saying Goodbye...

17 January 2009

On Tuesday, we'll finally be rid of President George W. Bush. On his way out, Human Rights Watch looks back on the past eight years and "places the major responsibility for the decline in human rights squarely on the Bush administration which opted to renege on the Geneva Conventions and use torture, rendition, and illegal detention in the War on Terrorism." The Center for American Progress similarly looks back and compiles a list of the 43 worst political appointments made over the same time period. The list includes Monica Goodling, the woman who graduated from Pat Robertson's dismally-ranked law school and was somehow given awesome powers over the Justice Department, as well as George Deutsch, the college dropout and Bush-campaigner who was somehow put in charge of NASA's press relations (where he promptly downplayed the Big Bang and tried to muzzle climate scientists from talking to the press).

The past eight years have carried scandals over the use of torture, domestic surveillance in violation of federal statutes, war based on lies, a politicized Justice Department, political appointments made in vioaltion of civil service laws, etc. I haven't used this blog to talk about George W. Bush personally over the past few years, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to say "Goodbye."

UPDATE: I'm not a Keith Olberman fan. At all. Also, I'm not 100% on-board for everything in the video below. However, I highly recommend watching this eight-minute segment for some highlights (lowlights?) of the past Presidency.

Department of Justice Report on Bradley Schlozman and Improper Actions at DoJ

13 January 2009

You might have heard something about Bradley Schlozman and the improper politicization of the Department of Justice over the past few years. However, this recently-released inspector-general report (pdf) titled "An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring and Other Improper Personnel Actions in the Civil Rights Division" is pretty incredible. Election law attorney Richard Hasen has some highlights here, including Schlozman's bizarre rants about "libs" and "commies," as well as his sociopathic "need to scream with a blood-curdling cry at some commie, partisan subordinate," and forwarded e-mails about "black and bitter" colleagues.

According to the Department of Justice, Schlozman "violated federal law - the Civil Service Reform Act - and Department policy."

All you can say is "wow." What moron thought it would be a good idea to make Bradley Schlozman the Head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division?

UPDATE: McClatchy has an article on this issue here, titled "Internal probe slams Bush Justice official for illegal hiring."

This Week's Links: Advice to a Future President

12 January 2009

  • Jameel Jaffer and Ben Wizner counsel Obama: "Don't replace the old Guantánamo with a new one." [Salon]
  • Paul Krugman offers some economic advice. [The New York Times]
  • Glenn Greenwald suggests that Obama re-read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. [Salon]

Eric Holder Speaks at American Constitution Society

10 January 2009

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

This is Barack Obama's pick for Attorney General.

Dawn Johnsen on the role of the Office of Legal Counsel

09 January 2009

This is Barack Obama's choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel.

This Week's Links: Intelligence Appointments, Minnesota Recounts and the New Deal

08 January 2009

  • The Wall Street Journal wrote yet another hyperventilating op-ed about the Minnesota Senate recount. Once again, they have filled it with baseless innuendo and allegations of voter fraud. In this link, Nate Silver goes through the editorial "paragraph by paragraph" and tears it to pieces. [FiveThirtyEight]
  • Recount Judge Edward Cleary calls out the Wall Street Journal on its "groundless attack," and highlights the recount board's bipartisan, unanimous votes. A highly entertaining read. [Minnesota Post]
  • Scott Horton and others discuss legal accountability and oversight for the United States torture program. I highly recommend giving it a listen, if you're interested in what happens next. [NPR]
  • Glenn Greenwald discusses Obama's selection of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel. This link has plenty of extended quotes from Johnsen herself, and plenty of comparisons to former OLC member John Yoo (the guy who wrote the infamous torture memo). [Salon]
  • Hilzoy points out that "despite all the brouhaha after the election, it turns out that African-Americans' level of support for Prop 8 was not as high as reported, and is moreover almost entirely explained by their levels of church attendance." [The Washington Monthly]
  • Paul Krugman debunks some conservative myths about F.D.R. and the New Deal (as you may have noticed, "there’s a whole intellectual industry, mainly operating out of right-wing think tanks, devoted to propagating the idea that F.D.R. actually made the Depression worse."). [The New York Times]
  • David Sirota piles on, and also debunks some of the conservative myths about Roosevelt and the New Deal. [The Seattle Times] [The Huffington Post I] [The Huffington Post II]
  • Not surprising anyone, FOX News and Neil Cavuto present some bizarre rants about how "everybody agrees ... that the New Deal failed" because Roosevelt "waged ... a jihad against private enterprise." You can't make this stuff up. [Media Matters for America]

Watch David Shuster Make an Ass of Himself

It's not like there's no news left in the world to cover.

Elizabeth Holtzman Discusses Her Bid For the New York Senate Seat

07 January 2009

From the description:

Elizabeth Holtzman, former Congresswoman (D-NY 16th), and the author of The Impeachment of George W. Bush: A Practical Guide for Concerned Citizens, discusses her bid to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat.
She's also a former Brooklyn D.A., and was in Congress during Nixon's impeachment. It's way past time that some other names were floated out there in the media.


UPDATE II: Here is the transcript and video of a 2005 interview with Amy Goodman.