Archive for January 9th, 2009
This morning, President-elect Obama announced his selections for top intelligence posts including Leon Panetta for CIA Director and Dennis Blair for Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Surprisingly, Obama also announced that he would at least partially rely on the guidance of the current DNI, Mike McConnell. McConnell will “continue to offer his counsel through my Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board,” Obama said.
In some instances, McConnell has shown himself to be an independent actor, such as in the case of the 2007 NIE that found that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program. In that case, McConnell resisted pressure from the White House to change the NIE’s conclusions. After the NIE’s release, McConnell actively pushed back against right-wing attacks on the intelligence community’s findings.
In other cases, however, McConnell has also been a key defender of some of the Bush administration’s most egregious violations of civil and human rights. Last night on Charlie Rose, for example, McConnell defended the Bush administration’s expanded use of extraordinary-rendition on enemy combatants. He claimed such renditions never resulted in torture:
ROSE: Let me just make one point. Some people believe that renditions are a way for Americans to send people that they want to interrogate to another place, where they will do interrogations that the Americans would not do themselves. … Including torture.
MCCONNELL: [T]hat is not consistent with our law, or our intent or our behavior. … And since 2001, until now, there have been fewer than 100 — fewer than 100 renditions. … Now, you used the word torture. I would not use that word. … I would use the word interrogation.
In fact, as Jane Mayer documented, McConnell cannot credibly argue that rendered terrorism suspects were not tortured. Mayer wrote for the New Yorker, “The most common destinations for rendered suspects are Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Jordan, all of which have been cited for human-rights violations by the State Department, and are known to torture suspects.”
Human Rights Watch found that at lesat 14 individuals have been rendered to Jordan and placed in the custody the Jordanian intelligence service. The Jordanian government beat the detainees severely and threatened detainees with electrocution, dogs, and even rape. Rendered detainees are rarely charged with crimes and on several occasions have been cases of mistaken identity.
Everyone is worried that Obama, in his effort to please the GOP, is cutting back on the amount of financial stimulus required to stop a depression. This article is a must-read. It begins:
Does Barack Obama understand the seriousness of the economic crisis? Yesterday, he laid out his economic agenda, and it was filled with all sorts of important exhortations and proscriptions. He appropriately condemned the “anything goes” policies of the last administration. He declared that government is now the solution to our woes, not the problem. Still, I worry that the president elect is underestimating the problem he and the country faces.
We may not simply be facing a steep recession like that of the early 1980s, from which we can extricate ourselves in a year or two, but something resembling the Great Depression of the 1930s. For starters, the current crisis is global, which means that one part of the world can’t lift the other out of its misery; everyone will go down together, which is what happened in the 1930s. Secondly, the downturn has combined an unusual decline in the real economy–employment in durable-goods manufacturing fell by 21.9 percent from 2000 to 2008–with a financial crash precipitated by the bursting of the housing bubble. The bubble resulted from an attempt to sustain growth and employment in the face of an underlying decline, which, too, is what happened in the late 1920s.
Over the past six decades, policymakers have used some tactics from the Great Depression to quell recessions–such as spending on roads and bridges to create jobs, transferring payments to raise consumer demand, and infusing money into the credit system. But these stopgap measures, which are at the heart of Obama’s recovery program, may prove inadequate.
There’s much to like in Obama’s plan. But there are two important ways he may have to go further…
At one time, the US seemed to believe that if it were discovered that someone broke the law, then they would get a trial and, if convicted, be sentenced. John Mitchell, for example, was Attorney General under Nixon, but when he was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury and sentenced to two and a half to eight years in prison for his role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up, and he did in fact serve time (19 months), which is more than can be said about “Scooter” Libby.
Nowadays, it seems to be that there’s some kind of “immunity” card that allows some people to commit crimes—horrendous crimes, including torture and murder—and yet not be investigated or prosecuted. And our Establishment likes it this way, because being part of the Establishment is worth a lot toward an immunity card.
I find this new aspect of the US very disturbing. We have seen other nations have this attitude, and it never ends well: once a group knows that they have an immunity card, they start to use it.
Glenn Greenwald has a good discussion of this today. I suggest you read this column.
Today, in a vote of 247-171, the House passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which boosts a woman’s ability to bring pay discrimination lawsuits. The bill overrules a Supreme Court decision that workers must file a discrimination claim within 180 days of a pay violation, even though many people don’t learn about the wage disparities for years. In a 256-163 vote, lawmakers also approved the Paycheck Fairness Act, which closes “loopholes that have enabled employers to evade the 1963 law requiring equal pay for equal work.” Watch House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) floor speech in support of both bills:
Turns out there are some very nice photo blogs. MakeUseOf.com has a good list.
Making slow progress. I left a message on the EMC-Dantz Retrospect Forum about needing my license number again. When I had my hard drive replaced, the shop totally deleted all my Retrospect information, possibly as a favor to me, and of course Retrospect now does not recognize the hard drive (different ID). So I need the license number, but the only way to contact support is through their Forum—no email address. Bad show.
In the meantime, using FileHippo I’ve gradually be updating my programs, and when I updated and ran Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware, it found 86 infections (various kinds of spyware, I imagine), and on removing all those, my Firefox’s pause is now gone. In fact, I’ve been able to toggle the browser cache back on, and still it’s working well. So it must have been some spyware thingy, I figure. Knock on wood.
All this takes a lot of time, alas.