Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for June 27th, 2009

Good insight on Obama

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Greenwald has a very interesting column. Read the whole thing, but let me point out this part:

There has now emerged a very clear — and very disturbing — pattern whereby Obama is willing to use legal mechanisms and recognize the authority of other branches only if he’s assured that he’ll get the outcome he wants.  If he can’t get what he wants from those processes, he’ll just assert Bush-like unilateral powers to bypass those processes and do what he wants anyway.  In other words, what distinguishes Obama from the first-term Bush is that Obama is willing to indulge the charade that Congress, the courts and the rule of law have some role to play in political outcomes as long as they give him the power he wants.  But where those processes impede Obama’s will, he’ll just bypass them and assert the unilateral power to do what he wants anyway (by contrast, the first-term Bush was unwilling to go to Congress to get expanded powers even where Congress was eager to give them to him; the second-term Bush, like Obama, was willing to allow Congress to endorse his radical proposals:  hence, the Military Commissions Act, the Protect America Act, the FISA Amendments Act, etc.).

That, for instance, is the precise pattern that’s driving his suppression of torture photos.  Two federal courts ordered the President to release the photos under the 40-year-old Freedom of Information Act.  Not wanting to abide by that decision, the White House (using Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman) tried to pressure Congress to enact new legislation vesting the administration with the power to override FOIA.  When House progressives blocked that bill, the White House assured Lieberman and Graham that Obama would simply use an Executive Order to decree the photos "classified" (when they are plainly nothing of the sort) and thus block their release anyway.  In other words: 

We’ll go to court and work with Congress so we can pretend that we’re not like those bad people in the last administration, but if we don’t get what we want by doing that, we’ll just do it anyway through unilateral Presidential action, using the theories that the last administration so helpfully left behind and which we’ve been aggressively defending in court.

This was also the mentality that shaped Obama’s "civil liberties" speech generally and his "prolonged detention" policy specifically.  In that speech, Obama movingly assured us that some of the Guantanamo detainees will be tried in a real court — i.e., only those the DOJ is certain ahead of time they can convict.  For those about whom there’s uncertainty, he’s going to create new military commissions to make it easier to obtain convictions, and then try some of the detainees there — i.e., only those they are certain ahead of time they can convict there.  For the rest — meaning those about whom Obama can’t be certain he’ll get the outcome he wants in a judicial proceeding or military commission — he’ll just keep them locked up anyway.  In other words, he’ll indulge the charade that people he wants to keep in a cage are entitled to some process (a real court or military commissions) only where he knows in advance he will get what he wants; where he doesn’t know that, he’ll bypass those pretty processes and assert the unilateral right to keep them imprisoned anyway.

A government that will give you a trial before imprisoning you only where it knows ahead of time it will win — and, where it doesn’t know that, will just imprison you without a trial — isn’t a government that believes in due process.  It’s one that believes in show trials.

Written by Leisureguy

27 June 2009 at 11:06 am

Imprisonment for crimes not committed

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Via Greenwald:

Written by Leisureguy

27 June 2009 at 10:58 am

Valerie Plame on the CIA today

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Very interesting interview in Mother Jones:

Mother Jones: What is Bush’s legacy regarding intelligence?

Valerie Plame Wilson: The hardest thing to fix about President Bush’s legacy regarding the US intelligence community will be our ability to objectively assess threats to national security, which has been seriously compromised because of the creeping politicization of the entire intelligence apparatus. The increased politicization undermines our capability to provide unbiased and unvarnished intelligence to senior US policymakers, leads to policy judgments that are not sustained by the facts, and makes us even more vulnerable than we were on 9/11. Although the intelligence community has always been susceptible to the political vicissitudes of the moment, the abrupt and dramatic increase in this drift since 2000 has done serious damage to our collection and analytical capabilities.

Every American, no matter what his political inclination, wants to believe that the intelligence that lands on the president’s desk is completely devoid of ideological taint or political bias. The intelligence presented should be "just the facts." Indeed, that is what most intelligence professionals pride themselves on—the ability to lay out the known facts, regardless of how they might be accepted.

Politicized intelligence undermines the national security mission, degrades morale, and ultimately cheats American citizens. From the unprecedented number of trips by Vice President Cheney and his then chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to CIA headquarters in the run-up to the war with Iraq to meet with analysts, to the leak of a covert operations officer’s identity to satisfy petty partisan aims, we are deep into a period of politically distorted intelligence.

The problems caused by politicization of our intelligence are significant. Some of the most disturbing trends are the current heavy reliance on contractors. It is estimated that some intelligence entities within the IC devote up to 70 percent of their resources to contractors. Allowing the private sector to be so heavily involved in the intelligence business is counterproductive for several reasons. First, it fosters an atmosphere of cronyism and patronage that is unhealthy in a functioning bureaucracy. Unbalanced reliance on contractors erodes institutional knowledge and quality. Also, there is the ideological question of how much of our national security collection functions we believe it is prudent to outsource? To whom are the contractors ultimately loyal—their government or their corporation? Our national security depends upon it.

Another problem is lack of meaningful congressional oversight. Both the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have allowed themselves, like the rest of Congress, to approach their national security issues in a highly partisan manner and, at the same time, have abdicated their responsibility to provide oversight to the intelligence community.

And there’s the failure of Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) as currently written. This 1982 law clearly needs to be edited and tightened to ensure that any future intentional leak of a covert CIA operations officer’s identity can be fully and swiftly prosecuted.

MJ: Any easy fixes to the legacy that Bush has left for the intelligence community?

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 June 2009 at 9:24 am

Focus on the little guys

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For the next while, I’m going to be using my small brushes—like the Simpsons Emperor 1 Super I used today. It did a great job, and I could have gone five or six passes with the lather. I’m beginning to think that small brushes work best with the higher end, tallow-based, triple-milled shaving soaps. I’m going to try them with glycerine soaps as well to see.

The Gillette Tech I would normally say is too mild for me, but put a super-sharp blade in one, and it does a great job. Today’s shave, with the Gillette 7 AM SharpEdge blade (made in St. Petersburg), was a great shave: one of those that leaves you covertly feeling your face from time to time.

Geo. F. Trumper Spanish Leather is a favorite aftershave, and a fine finish to any shave.

Written by Leisureguy

27 June 2009 at 8:18 am

Posted in Shaving

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