Archive

  • The War On Terror Encapsulated In One Case

    U.S. Navy photo showing Jose Padilla in sensory deprivation.
    As we continue to debate the question of whether torture is an abomination or actually a great idea that worked well and should be used whenever we're feeling afraid, I want to point to one case in particular, that of Jose Padilla. The entire deranged history of the Bush administration's War on Terror can be seen in Padilla's story, and now we know even more about it. In case you don't remember, on June 10, Attorney General John Ashcroft interrupted a trip to Russia to hold a press conference announcing that a month prior, the United States had thwarted a major terrorist threat by arresting Padilla, a Chicago man who had travelled to the Pakistan and joined up with al Qaeda. Padilla, Ashcroft said, was plotting to detonate a "dirty bomb" that would release radioactive material over Washington, potentially killing thousands. But we got him before he could carry out his horrific plan. By the time of Ashcroft's dramatic press conference, Bush administration officials had already decided...
  • Did Democrats Get Hosed on the Budget Bill?

    Merry Christmas to me... (Flickr/Speaker John Boehner)
    Once again, Democrats had to step in and save John Boehner from a humiliating defeat that would lead to a government shutdown (67 Republicans voted against the bill; the 57 Democrats who voted in favor pushed it past a majority). There were complicated coalitions facing off; on one side you had Boehner and the White House trying to pass it, while on the other you had liberal Democrats joining with conservative Republicans in opposition. The general conclusion in the press is well summed up by articles like this one , noting that while the liberals failed to stop the bill, this is nonetheless a potentially seminal moment, because they went against the White House, and vocally so. The question is whether this signals an important rift that will have real practical consequences in the next two years and beyond. That is important, but before we get there, there's a substantive matter we need to take note of. This budget bill was cobbled together in haste, but there was time to throw in...
  • Just How Delusional Are Congressional Republicans On Immigration?

    Flickr/Anne
    If you're enough of a weirdo to be following Congress' attempts to pass a budget before tonight's deadline, you've heard about the "CRomnibus," the oh-so-clever combination of bills Republican leaders devised to avoid a shutdown and simultaneously convince their members that they're really, truly going to give it to Barack Obama over his executive actions on immigration. The "omnibus" part is the bill that will keep every department but one operating through the end of the fiscal year (next October), while the "CR" part is the continuing resolution that applies only to the Department of Homeland Security, keeping it operating only until the end of February. At that point, tea partiers in Congress were told, we can have another shutdown fight and we'll really get that Obama, just like you want to. Now that the thing (in whatever final form it arrives) is about to pass, it's time to marvel at just what a bunch of fools those Republicans are if they think that come February they're going...
  • Do Republicans Want to Bring Torture Back?

    A medieval use of stress positions, an oldie but a goodie. (Flickr/Curious Expeditions)
    I'd like to follow up on a question I've raised yesterday and today over at the Post (see here and here ) regarding the torture program. It's pretty simple: what do the program's defenders think we should do now? Or more particularly, since Barack Obama isn't going to change his policy toward torture in the last two years of his presidency, what should the next president do? I've seen almost no one talk about the torture question as though it related in any way to the future. Even the most ardent torture advocates are talking only about the past. But if they're right that the program was perfectly legal and produced vital intelligence that could be obtained no other way, then one would assume they'd like to renew the waterboarding sessions as soon as they have the opportunity, i.e. as soon as there's a Republican president. Which makes it particularly important to get the people who want to be that president on record now about whether they have any plans to do so. When I wrote this...
  • Rick Perry: Tan, Rested, and Ready

    Rick Perry throwing gang signs with some shady character. (Flickr/Ed Schipul)
    Philip Rucker of the Washington Post got some quality time with Rick Perry, and came away with the conclusion that in contrast to the Yosemite Sam we all mocked in 2012, the new Perry "comes across as studious, contemplative and humble." And Perry agrees: "We are a substantially different, versed candidate," he says, though we are apparently not so humble as to realize that speaking in the first person plural is a little weird. But Perry is in a period of intensive presidential campaign preparation, which includes boning up on both presentation and policy: This week, Perry began intensive news media training, as advisers staged mock on-camera interviews with hostile questioning. Perry also has been working with speech coaches at Podium Master , a GOP firm run by an alumnus of the Royal Shakespeare Company, to improve his presentation skills. Perry's advisers acknowledge that he will have little margin for error in next fall's debates. In 2011, he imploded at a debate by forgetting the...
  • Movements for Racial Justice and Economic Justice Could Converge to Form a Powerhouse for Change

    (Photo by Rachel M. Cohen for The American Prospect)
    What happens to a dream deferred? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? T hat was the poet Langston Hughes, in 1951. In that year, more than half a century ago, the most basic dreams of African Americans were deferred. Segregation was mandatory in the old South. Discrimination was legal everywhere in America, whether in housing, education, or employment. Blacks were not just separated, but isolated, marginalized, restricted to the worst jobs and most dilapidated neighborhoods, the most dismal schools. For many, the racism just sagged, like a heavy load. It destroyed hope that hard work would be rewarded. The deferred dreams of that era seldom produced explosions, because the state had a very efficient system of terror. Blacks who resisted were likely to be lynched, jailed, or otherwise destroyed. It is a testament to sheer grit, tenacity and courage that large numbers of blacks managed to get educations, raise families, start businesses, and enter professions at...
  • Torture Gets the 'Only In America' Treatment

    Joe Biden, Bidening. (Flickr/Adam Fagen)
    L et it not be said anywhere, at any time, by anyone, that Joe Biden does not love America. Biden's love for America is high as a mountain, and deep as the sea. In fact, Biden's love for America is so great that he is convinced that all other countries fortunate enough to share this planet with America are populated by nothing but knaves and fools. Or maybe it's just that his love gets the better of him sometimes, as it did in this discussion of the torture report issued yesterday by the Senate Intelligence Committee: "No, I think it's a badge of honor," Biden said when asked at Politico 's Women Rule Summit whether the sharply critical report by the Senate Intelligence Committee is a "black stain." "Every country, every country, has engaged in activities somewhere along the line that it has not been proud of," he added. "Think about it, name me another country that’s prepared to stand and say, 'This was a mistake, we should not have done what we’ve done and we will not do it again...
  • A Taxonomy of Torture Defenses

    (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
    Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a summary of its report on the CIA's use of torture during George W. Bush's administration (this is a 480-page version; the full report runs 6,000 pages), and though previous reporting has revealed much of what the report will contain, there are new details to mull over. And of course, the renewed debate has brought back all the torture advocates from the Bush administration, who will vigorously, even angrily make their case that nothing improper or immoral happened during those dark times. As I argued yesterday, one of the things the torture advocates fear is that this debate will move from the realm of controversy to the realm of consensus, leaving them forever defined by history as the villains of this period. Today we no longer argue about whether Jim Crow or McCarthyism was right or wrong, though at the time they had their passionate defenders. Eventually, the Bush torture program will move to that same ground of consensus. But in...
  • Can Democrats Win In the South by Being More Liberal?

    (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
    I t isn't accurate to call Mary Landrieu "the last Southern Democrat," as one headline after another put it in the days leading up to and following her defeat in Saturday’s runoff election in Louisiana. While it's true that Republicans now control almost all the Senate seats, governorships, and legislatures of the 11 states of the old confederacy (the exceptions are found in Virginia and Florida), there are quite a few Democratic elected officials left in the South—but few of them were elected statewide, and a large proportion of them are black. For years, Democrats have tried to hold on in the South by appealing to the white voters who have steadily drifted away from them. That strategy has failed. Their future in the South—and they can have one—would start with black and Latino voters and work outward from there. It would be almost the exact opposite of how Democrats have been running statewide in recent years. No one expected Landrieu to hold on for a third term in the Senate,...
  • Carnage at The New Republic and Prospects for the Liberal Press

    The New Republic
    A .J. Liebling, the early New Yorker ’s celebrated press critic (he invented the genre) once wrote : The pattern of a newspaperman's life is like the plot of 'Black Beauty.' Sometimes he finds a kind master who gives him a dry stall and an occasional bran mash in the form of a Christmas bonus, sometimes he falls into the hands of a mean owner who drives him in spite of spavins and expects him to live on potato peelings. You might say the same thing of magazine publishers. Political magazines are something close to public trusts—key elements of a robust democracy--but most are privately owned. Like newspapers, they are at the mercy of the whims of owners who are sometimes astute at the publishing business, and sometimes inept; sometimes kind masters, and sometimes capriciously cruel. The New Republic , where I worked for a decade, was once America’s leading liberal magazine of essay, reporting, and criticism. In the past half-century, TNR went through a convoluted odyssey. A chain of...

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