Obama Acts, Cornyn Whines, Specter Snivels

Barack Obama denounced torture in his Inaugural speech, and now he has signed four executive orders helping to end the practice by US personnel. John Cornyn, on the other hand, is holding up Eric Holder’s AG nomination because Holder won’t swear not to prosecute torturers, or those who gave the orders. Specter is with Cornyn.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Surely it should have dawned on Senator John Cornyn Tuesday that there’s a new regime in town and that Barack Hussein Obama will not tolerate torture. Surely he hard this section in Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

Maybe Cornyn didn’t understand the Inaugural address, and that’s why he’s holding up Attorney General nominee Eric Holder’s confirmation? Well, if Senator Cornyn did not understand Barack Obama’s stand on torture, then the executive orders Barack Obama signed today just might get through Cornyn’s thick skull. Heck, maybe Cornyn needs some help from George Bush to understand this, after all, Cornyn is thought to be one of the stupidest Senators in the Senate. But back to Obama’s executive orders today. He is closing Gitmo within a year, forming a commission to figure out what to do with the inmates at Gitmo, some of whom are dangerous, eliminate torture by US personnel by requiring the strict adherence to the US Army Field Manual, and special circumstances concerning Ali al-Marri. Sounds to me like there’s a new sheriff in town.

But Senator Cornyn wants to leave that sheriff without his chief officer, the Attorney General. Why does Cornyn oppose Eric Holder’s nomination? Holder has yet to say whether he will or will not prosecute cases of torture perpetrated by US personnel. Cornyn is defending those who have tortured on the floor of the Senate. He’s taking up the cause Bush didn’t have the stones to do when he failed to give a blanket pardon to all who tortured in Bush’s name.

Senator Cornyn isn’t the only one who wants the torturers and those who ordered them to go scot free. Here’s a bit from the Washington Post report:

But even as Cornyn was getting out of the way of one appointee to President Obama’s Cabinet, he raised new questions about another. The Senate Judiciary Committee decided yesterday morning to delay a vote to send Holder’s nomination to the full Senate while lawmakers attended the morning National Prayer Service with Obama. The hearing was rescheduled for yesterday, but Republicans then requested a one-week delay on the nomination that Democrats were required to grant under committee rules.

. . .

Holder has generated more controversy than any other Obama nominee and was sharply questioned in an appearance before the committee last week. Many senators, including some Democrats, said they were troubled by his role in the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich in the final days of the Clinton administration.

Led by the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), GOP lawmakers also said they had more questions for Holder about whether he would favor prosecuting Bush administration officials for their involvement in warrantless wiretapping and harsh detainee interrogation practices. Cornyn said he would press for Holder to take a stand on the Military Commissions Act, which the Texas Republican described as providing interrogators with immunity from prosecution if they believed they were acting legally.

So Snarlin’ Arlen is right there with his buddy John Cornyn. I’m sick of Arlen Specter. He may have a reputation for bipartisanship, but Arlen Specter failed to protect us from Bush’s authorization of the use of torture, he failed to protect us from Bush’s politicization of the Justice Department, he failed to prevent domestic spying, and he now looks to be a failure in tracking down just how the Bush Administration instituted its regime of lawlessness. Maybe he’s got a magic waterboarding theory or something that makes everybody immune.

OK, I’m angry at Arlen Specter once again. If there is any man in the US Senate who knows his own complicity in allowing the Bush Administration destruction of the Department of Justice, it should be Specter. And if Specter has a hope in Hell of negotiating his way to victory in 2010 against Allyson Schwartz or Pat Murphy or Joe Sestak, then he needs to show that he understands that the rule of law is important. Murphy and Sestak, at least, will pound him on the issue, and they’ve both got battlefield cred. Any of those candidates will use this opposition to Eric Holder as Specter trying to give one last bone to Bush, who abused the constitution far worse than any President we have had in years. For Specter’s own sake he needs to get behind Holder immediately.

I know someone who is having lunch with Mr. Specter tomorrow. OK, I know several someones, and I just might pass along a question and see if one of the folks, Specter donors all, will ask it. Give me some suggestions, please, but make them politic, something that can be asked in a roomful of people who know the constitution well and are dedicated to defending it.

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Christmas in Baghdad, Shamelessness on Fox News Sunday

Iraq is celebrating Christmas and CNN is making it out like there never was such freedom before the US invaded, forgetting, perhaps, that Saddam did not persecute Christians. This is not an excuse for the US invasion, as it will be played, nor is it an excuse for the excesses defended by Dick Cheney on Fox News Sunday.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

My first reaction to the story on CNN about the first public Christmas to be celebrated in Baghdad was quite wary. A hot air balloon supporting a huge poster of Jesus is not going to go over very well among the Muslims there, is it, no matter whether they are Sunni or Shiite. And I am not often impressed by the kumbaya nature of the depiction of the celebration, with one woman, a Muslim, explaining why she attended.

On a large stage, children dressed in costumes representing Iraq’s many ethnic and religious groups – Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Christians, Arab Muslims not defined as Sunni or Shiite – hold their hands aloft and sing “We are building Iraq!” Two young boys, a mini-policeman and a mini-soldier sporting painted-on mustaches, march stiffly and salute.

Even before I can ask Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf a question, he greets me with a big smile. “All Iraqis are Christian today!” he says.

Khalaf says sectarian and ethnic violence killed thousands of Iraqis. “Now that we have crossed that hurdle and destroyed the incubators of terrorism,” he says, “and the security situation is good, we have to go back and strengthen community ties.”

In spite of his claim, the spokesman is surrounded by heavy security. Yet this celebration shows that the security situation in Baghdad is improving.

Many of the people attending the Christmas celebration appear to be Muslims, with women wearing head scarves. Suad Mahmoud, holding her 16-month-old daughter, Sara, tells me she is indeed Muslim, but she’s very happy to be here. “My mother’s birthday also is this month, so we celebrate all occasions,” she says, “especially in this lovely month of Christmas and New Year.”

I suppose this celebration of Christmas in a country wracked by violence ever since the US invasion seven years ago is going to be touted as a good thing. Heck, Dick Cheney may use this as evidence as to why it was OK to torture, spy on Americans, get hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, etc., etc. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. But Cheney is trumped by the celebrants themselves. On display at the celebration are some dioramas made by school children, and in them you can see the kind of terror and pain Bush/Cheney’s invasion of Iraq brought (from CNN):

In the middle of the park there’s an art exhibit, the creation of 11- and 12-year-olds: six displays, each about three feet wide, constructed of cardboard and Styrofoam, filled with tiny dolls dressed like ordinary people, along with model soldiers and police. They look like model movie sets depicting everyday life in Baghdad.

Afnan, 12 years old, shows me her model called “Arresting the Terrorists.”

“These are the terrorists,” she tells me. “They were trying to blow up the school.” In the middle of the street a dead “terrorist” sprawls on the asphalt, his bloody arm torn from his body by an explosion. Afnan tells me she used red nail polish to paint the blood. A little plastic dog stands nearby. “What is he doing?” I ask. “He looks for terrorists and searches for weapons and explosives,” Afnan says.

Afnan was likely six years old or so when Dick Cheney and George Bush invaded Iraq on the series of false pretexts Cheney is still defending. As I understand it, Christianity was not persecuted in the days before the US invasion, so Cheney and Bush cannot lay claim to having brought freedom of religion. Afnan’s diorama of ethnic and religious violence was brought to her directly from Bush and Cheney. Indeed, in a remarkable performance for its baldfaced defense of wrongdoing, Dick Cheney appeared on Fox News Sunday and laid out a case for Bush Administration successes, a performance stunning in its tenuous grip on reality, at least the reality young Afnan sees. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Cheney, speaking less than a month before he and President Bush leave the White House, was blunt and unapologetic about his central role in some of the most controversial issues of the last eight years, including the invasion of Iraq, warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, and harsh interrogation tactics. Cheney also said he disagreed with Bush’s decision to remove embattled Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2006, saying that “the president doesn’t always take my advice.”

“I was a Rumsfeld man,” Cheney said. “I’d helped recruit him, and I thought he did a good job for us.”

The interview was the second in less than a week for the normally reclusive vice president, and it comes as part of a broad effort by Bush and his aides to focus attention on issues that they consider major accomplishments of their two terms in office. In an interview with ABC News last week, Cheney suggested the administration would have gone to war with Iraq even without erroneous intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction. Cheney also said in that interview that he approved of the administration’s use of coercive interrogation tactics, including a type of simulated drowning known as waterboarding, against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and others.

Dick Cheney seals his reputation for all time as the puppetmaster behind the throne who supported policies of spying on US citiznes, invading Iraq, supporting Rumsfeld’s failed strategies, torture, etc. Perhaps because the performance was on Fox News Cheney’s immediate viewing audience did not sit in shock at the man responsible for the disasters of the last seven years. Perhaps those viewers even cheered. The rest of us know that Cheney’s policies have mangled our constitution, have destroyed our reputation in the world, have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents, and have led to the terror in young Afnan’s art project.

Again, a Republican such as Dick Cheney proves he has no sense of shame.

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

One Leg Raised on the Bush–Cheney Legacy: Deconstructing the Spin and Propaganda

The Republican Party, in the person of its lame duck Chair, Mike Duncan, has already begun its campaign to vilify the supposed leftist Obama government, but the same extremist Republicans ignore their history of trampling on the constitution, of incompetence, of fearmongering, etc. The Party of Honest Abe has lost touch with honesty, opting for distortion as usual.

Commentary By: Walter Brasch

by Walter Brasch

The chairman of the Republican National Committee may have begun an irreversible descent into a future as a fear-bound paranoid victim of functional amnesia, possibly caused by a hysterical post-traumatic event such as the overwhelming victory of Democrats in the 2008 election and the nation’s repudiation of Republican policies.

In a two-page vitriol-loaded letter dated “Friday morning”–he apparently was unable to remember the exact date–Robert M. (Mike) Duncan, RNC chairman, told Americans that the Democrats plan to “impose their radical leftist agenda on America,” and that Republicans “must work vigilantly to guard our country’s freedoms from the inevitable assault [by Democrats] they will face.” He didn’t mention that not one of Barack Obama’s proposed cabinet members nor any of the members of the current Congress is a “radical leftist.”

It’s really sad that Mike forgot that fear-mongering, obstruction of justice, reduction of public information, distrust and resentment of the worker, and curtailment of civil liberties–with the complicity of millions of Americans and much of the Democratic leadership who willingly crumpled under unremitting Neocon assaults–have been the base of the Bush–Cheney Administration and a Republican-dominated Congress for most of the past eight years. Perhaps I can shock what little memory Mike may have left in the hope that some of his brain cells may once again function.

It was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who systematically violated the Constitution, while screaming “The terrorists are coming! The terrorists ar

Sunday, December 21st, 2008 by Walter Brasch |

Jesus Hearts Torture, According to Many Evangelicals

Is there a justification for torture? Maybe there is among evangelicals, the majority of whom when polled think torture is justified. Jesus loves us, I suppose, but does he love us to the extent of forgiving us for torturing others? That is an awfully big sin to forgive, ain’t it?

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Oh, Jesus loves me, yes I know. Heck, the Bible tells me so. But I’m not an evangelical, so I didn’t know the corollary to that, that Jesus, according to many evangelicals, thinks torture is just OK. From a Pew study, via Andrew Sullivan and Human Rights First:

A new poll released Thursday (Sept. 11) finds that nearly six in 10 white Southern evangelicals believe torture is justified, but their views can shift when they consider the Christian principle of the golden rule.

The poll, commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University, found that 57 percent of respondents said torture can be often or sometimes justified to gain important information from suspected terrorists. Thirty-eight percent said it was never or rarely justified.

Oh, I guess it isn’t so bad as this. When reminded of the golden rule, which the evangelicals polled did not, evidently, use to form their decisions, they were quick to change their answers. Hmm, I guess that means their religious beliefs are not so central to their lives or something.

Jesus himself was tortured. He took it well, but he knew he was being tortured for us. I’m thinking he didn’t actually advocate torture, but these evangelicals polled here don’t seem to have everything figured out, so maybe they are identifying with those who tortured Jesus? Could they be as confused as all that?

Monday, September 15th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

How Many Terrorists Does It Take. . .

Homeland Security’s Terrorism Watch List has grown to 1,000,000 entries. Oh, that’s far too big to be effective, but the CEO President, Mr. Bush, has his folks defending the list as one of the most important tools in the War on Terror. Given his advocacy of the War in Iraq, why isn’t Dick Cheney on the list? Has he not shot enough people?

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Oh, this seems like a big joke. The Terrorist Watch List Counter at the ACLU web site just passed one million. As I write this it is 1,000,167. OK, according to Reuters that’s 1,000,000 records on the watch list, and that corresponds to 400,000 people. That’s a freakingly big list, and it is impossible to believe that all the people on it belong on it. Perhaps the Bush Administration thinks we are all criminals. (No comments needed on THAT!) But the Bushies think the list is one of the most important tools in the War on Terror! Huzzah! Here’s a bit of the Reuters article:

The Terrorism Screening Center, which maintains the list, has already put in place several steps to ensure the list is accurate and up-to-date, spokesman Chad Kolton said.

He cited a report last year by the Government Accountability Office that said there was general agreement within the federal government that the watch list had helped to combat terrorism.

“The list is very effective. In fact it’s one of the most effective counterterrorism tools that our country has,” he said.

Let’s see, the subset of this list, the “no-fly” list, has caught Ted Kennedy, John Lewis, and Yusuf Islam, not one of whom, in the wildest demonic fantasy of Dick Cheney, could be called a terrorist threat. No, I don’t imagine the list, as it is managed by the Bush Administration, is an important tool in the fight against terrorism. But I have no problem imagining Bush Administration people thinking so.

By the way, is Dick Cheney on the list? Given his history of violence, I was just wondering why he isn’t on the list. Surely he deserves to be on the list more than this guy.

Monday, July 14th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Bushies Use Snark

The latest hearing for a Gitmo detainee is met by the bush Administration with far, far too little to hold the guy. He’s lost six years of his life. His life. The pro-life Bushies don’t give a little teeny bit of a damn. They also can’t give any evidence that the man is a criminal or an enemy combatant.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

This one is self explanatory. It is a habeas corpus hearing for a man held at Gitmo. Here’s the report of the New York Times:

In the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guant–namo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that accusations against a Muslim from western China held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims. The unclassified parts of the decision were released on Monday.

In the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guant–namo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that accusations against a Muslim from western China held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims. The unclassified parts of the decision were released on Monday.

I’m not sure I can match that snark by the judges involved, appointed by Bush, Clinton and Reagan. I’ll let their opinion stand.

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Criminal? Woman Airline Passenger or Bush Aide?

Which is the criminal, the woman citizen who tried to board a flight while wearing jewelry on her nipples, or the Bush aide who the Center for Free Cuba has alleged to misuse USAID funds? The one most likely to be terrorized at the airport is obvious to anyone who has lived in the USA under Bush.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

You make the call. First up is the woman airline passenger from Texas whose sole problem was she tried to get on an airplane with jewelry on. On her nipple, sure, but it was merely jewelry. They made Mandi Hamiln remove the mipple ring with pliers. From the AP wire:

A Texas woman who said she was forced to remove a nipple ring with pliers in order to board an airplane called Thursday for an apology by federal security agents and a civil rights investigation.

“I wouldn’t wish this experience upon anyone,” Mandi Hamlin said at a news conference. “My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way.”

Hamlin, 37, said she was trying to board a flight from Lubbock to Dallas on Feb. 24 when she was scanned by a Transportation Security Administration agent after passing through a larger metal detector witho

Sunday, March 30th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Genarlow Wilson: GOP DA Distributing Kiddie Porn?

The Genarlow Wilson case got stranger a couple of days ago.
As a refresher, Wilson was prosecuted in a Georgia court for engaging in consensual oral sex with a 15 year old girl when he was 17. If I remember my adolescence (and, I freely admit that those times are quite a distance in my [...]

Commentary By: Richard Blair

The Genarlow Wilson case got stranger a couple of days ago.

As a refresher, Wilson was prosecuted in a Georgia court for engaging in consensual oral sex with a 15 year old girl when he was 17. If I remember my adolescence (and, I freely admit that those times are quite a distance in my rearview mirror) this isn’t a particularly dramatic violation of social mores. Teens have sex. But what the kids in my day didn’t have were cheap digital video recorders to film an entire party.

David McDadeThe Republican DA who prosecuted the case, David McDade, has now released 35 copies of a video showing Wilson engaged in the sex act. The video was the primary evidence used to convict the young horn dog Wilson. Interestingly enough, the act that Wilson engaged in was a felony at the time he was charged (ergo, the 10 year sentence he received), but has subsequently been downgraded to a misdemeanor by the Georgia state legislature. Never-the-less, even though a judge ordered Wilson freed in early June, Wilson remains in jail because DA McDade appealed the ruling to the Georgia State Supreme Court.

When Scooter Libby’s sentence was commuted, Genarlow Wilson became a bit of a cause celeb in Left Blogistan, the thinking being: if George Bush could commute the sentence of a true evil-doer, certainly, he could commute the sentence of a young man doing excessive time for a victimless crime.

Well, to make a long story short, we know what the chances are of that happening.

But in a bizarre twist, in releasing the video, GOP DA McDade may have cost himself his job (at a minimum) and may be facing charges of distributing kiddie porn. While Wilson was “of age of consent” at the time the video was taken, the young woman was not. So, whether or not she consented to the act itself, she was still a minor, and McDade has released a sex video of a minor into the wild (or surely, it will make it into the YouTube wild eventually). Ergo, there are those who are calling for his resignation, and for kiddie porn distribution charges to be brought against him:

Douglas County District Attorney David McDade violated federal law when he distributed a videotape from a rape and child molestation case to legislators and journalists, the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta said Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said in a statement that federal law prohibits the distribution of the Genarlow Wilson videotape because it depicts minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. He warned that people who had received it would be in violation of federal child pornography laws…

I see it a bit differently. In my opinion, the release of the video was done as an act of pure GOP malice, to blunt the comparisons of the Libby and Wilson cases. As I noted, when Libby’s sentence was commuted, Wilson’s became an example of overzealous prosecutors and unreasonable sentences – almost the same excuse that George Bush used to give Scooter a “get out of jail free” card. Wilson had even served time (unlike Libby). Why do I say “GOP malice”?

When the comparisons between the Libby and Wilson cases started to get some traction online and in the media, it’s not a stretch to believe that someone in the Bush regime contacted someone in the Georgia GOP organization, and started sniffing around for something to make the “jailed honor student” and “youthful indiscretion” story go away. (Did I mention that Wilson is black?) So, GOP DA McDade had this great “mandingo” video of Wilson, and either offered it up or was directed by someone to release it in response to a media request. And voila – the specter of the over sexed black man is tossed into the public domain once again. Kind of a reverse Willie Horton, if you want to look at it that way.

It’s clear that McDade didn’t have to release the video. A simple motion could have been filed to seal the video because it contained graphic images of a minor. But no. Once someone like Al Sharpton started making comparisons between Scooter and Genarlow Wilson, it would have been very important for the GOP to rush copies of this video into production in order to discredit Wilson from a moral perspective. The bottom line is that a Republican District Attorney, an officer of the court and an officer of the law, either just didn’t think or made the distribution of the video at someone else’s request.

After doing a bit of research on the case, it seems pretty clear to me that the release of the video was premeditated and well-considered, for reasons that had nothing to do with a media request.

Georgians should be clamoring for McDade’s resignation today, and investigation into the circumstances of release of the video. And then, if warranted, child porn distribution charges should be filed against him. Since McDade has a history of being a strict “law-and-order” type of DA, and wouldn’t give anyone else the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he shouldn’t receive such a benefit either.

Update: I diaried this story at Daily Kos, and one commenter brought up an excellent point:

He may have been legal to have sex, but not to appear in the tape. Federal law and most states have defined minor as 18 yrs of age with respect to child porn images. So Wilson, and anyone else under 18 in the footage is considered a victim, under federal law. Someone will have to check Georgia law to see if it’s the same as federal law.

Everyone in receipt of the tape, with knowledge of its content, are subject to federal indictment, as is McDade and those who conspired with him. This conduct reveals the hypocrital position most GOPers have on this and other issues. Child safety is only important to the point it can’t be used to retaliate against an opponent or to support an agenda. And if I’m not mistaken, the victims could sue under “Masha’s Law”, who is also from Georgia…

“Masha’s Law” was introduced last year by GOP congressman Phil Gingrey (R-Ga). It was attached to H.R. 4472, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. Does that sound familiar? It should.

So, by Masha’s Law, could Genarlow Wilson sue the pants off of Douglas County, Ga. because he was a minor at the time the video was taken? I’m not a lawyer, and don’t play one on TV, but I think there’s a case – and it would probably be settled out of court – at which point, a further civil case could probably proceed against McDade by all parties in the video. This could get very interesting, indeed.

Strange case factoid: The name of Wilson’s attorney in the oral sex case against him is B.J. Bernstein. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

Saturday, July 14th, 2007 by Richard Blair |