I read this post and was ready to unleash my usual Putin-apologetics, pointing out that it’s genuinely true “that Putin restored Russian strength . . . despite American efforts to isolate the country” and Russian textbooks might as well say so, but when you get to stuff about Josef Stalin being “the most successful leader of the USSR” (at killing people, I guess) we really are in troubling territory.
In October 2006, Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which provided for the continuation of so-called CIA “black sites” for interrogating terrorism suspects and allowed evidence obtained through torture to be used against them. In its lengthy series on the Vice President, the Washington Post reported that the bill gave Cheney everything he wanted:
For all the apparent setbacks, close observers said, Cheney has preserved his top-priority tools in the “war on terror.” After a private meeting with Cheney, one of them said, Bush decided not to promise that there would be no more black sites — and seven months later, the White House acknowledged that secret detention had resumed.
The Military Commissions Act, passed by strong majorities of the Senate and House on Sept. 28 and 29, 2006, gave “the office of the vice president almost everything it wanted,” said [John] Yoo, who maintained his contact with [David] Addington after returning to a tenured position at Berkeley.
Today, the AP reports that President Bush has issued a new executive order “prohibiting cruel and inhuman treatment, humiliation or denigration of prisoners’ religious beliefs.” The order seems to be an effort to bring the administration’s interrogation regime closer to the requirements stipulated in the Geneva Convention.
The new order is intended to apply to CIA interrogators. “The White House declined to say whether the CIA currently has a detention and interrogation program, but said if it did, it must adhere to the guidelines outlined in the executive order.”
The new order does not appear to shut down the “black sites.” Moreover, the text of the executive order suggests that any CIA personnel or others who engage in violations of the new regime will not be subject to any repercussions.
Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) Subject to subsection (b) of this section, this order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, against the United States, its departments, agencies, or other entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.
(b) Nothing in this order shall be construed to prevent or limit reliance upon this order in a civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding, or otherwise, by the Central Intelligence Agency or by any individual acting on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency in connection with the program addressed in this order.
The Post reported that exempting “CIA case officers and other government employees from prosecution for past war crimes or torture” was a “technical provision [that] held great importance to Cheney and his allies.” So while the administration is saying that it will not torture, it appears to be turning a blind eye in the event that it happens.
UPDATE: Marty Lederman provides an interpretation: “[I]f a form of violence is not already prohibited by federal criminal law, and is not ‘comparable’ to the forms of violence prohibited by the War Crimes Act, the CIA is not prohibited from using it.”
UPDATE II: The Center for Constitutional Rights expresses concern over the legal loophole. Via Raw Story:
The Center for Constitutional Rights offered an additional warning about the text of the President’s order.
“In the past, the Bush administration has taken the position that even if some legal restrictions on interrogation methods applied, they were unenforceable in court,” the group’s press release said. “According to CCR attorneys, that problem exists with today’s Executive Order, as the last section states it does not create any rights or benefits that are enforceable in court — except for CIA officers defending themselves from charges of abuse.”
Colin Challen, a member of Parliament and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group, has a good editorial in the latest issue of Science (subs. req’d). He makes a key point that is often missed in the debate:
Not only must we reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, we need a timetable that reduces the risk of positive feedbacks and sink failures that could lead to runaway catastrophic climate change.
We are “playing climate change poker,” as Challen says, fighting not just to avoid the consensus prediction for climate change, but the plausible worst-case scenario, which is far worse. That’s why even a 60% cut in emissions by mid-century may not be enough, and many are pushing for an 80% cut.
The entire editorial is reprinted here: Read more
To pimp the company’s product for a bit, not only did I like Corby Kummer’s online video about knives from last month, but I like this month’s edition — about grilled sardines and other oily fish — even more. I like the gross canned sardines, too, but, obviously, this is a superior fish when cooked properly.
There’s been a lot of hype about YouTube over the past twelve months, but I think the real digital revolution is likely to be things a little bit more like this: Medium-sized organizations capable of mustering a bit more quality in terms of production values moving in on the terrain of television.
Hasn’t been one of the NBA’s better-known officials, but that’s about to change as he turns out to be the one accused of betting on games and slanting his officiating to help cover spreads.
A reader sends a link to this curious article by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, head of the Israel Project, which we met this morning pressing presidential candidates to get hawkish on Iran. Her key thesis — “if I go to yet another synagogue that has a sign about Darfur and nothing about the threat of Iran, I think my heart will break.”
Not that she’s against worrying about Darfur per se: “Worry about Darfur? Yes. But why can’t we worry about Iran — perhaps the greatest threat to Israel ever?” Once again, one is left to wonder why Israel went through all the trouble of building the most powerful conventional military in the region and acquiring a nuclear arsenal if all this actually leaves the country more vulnerable than it was in 1966 or 1948. And, again, we see the wearing pattern continue where failure to manifest dual loyalties makes one a bad Jew, but any suggestion of the existence of dual loyalties is anti-semitism.
I found a lot to agree with in Chris Bowers’ post on identity and ideology in primary politics, but I do think he goes a bit astray in acting as if the “ideology” of a candidate is a simple, easy-to-determine thing. I have nothing better to do all day than to try to figure out which candidate I think would do the best job of handling Iran and . . . I really couldn’t say.
I end up resorting to this kind of tea-reading that, ultimately, doesn’t have a ton of probative value even if done right. It’s perfectly plausible that a candidate with a more hawkish political persona would feel more able to take political risks and de-escalate tensions. It’s perfectly plausible that the campaign rhetoric is totally meaningless — George W. Bush didn’t implement a “more humble” foreign policy and Bill Clinton didn’t take on the “Butchers of Beijing.”
Most people aren’t going to take the time to figure out exactly where the candidates stand, and even people who do take the time to try to figure it out tend not to be all that successful. By contrast, it’s easy to determine someone’s basic socioeconomic background pretty easily with a great deal of accuracy. Identity also seems like a not-entirely-terrible proxy for a person’s priorities. Politician behavior is kind of unpredictable, especially when you’re talking about someone moving into a new office, so I think it’s totally understandable that people don’t put tons of weight on trying to scrutinize where people stand on the issues.
Marisa Katz reports that Mark Lippert, the key foreign policy guy on Barack Obama’s Senate staff, is getting called up as a Naval Reservist.
Last year, former New York City mayor Ed Koch attacked war critics for their attempts to “weaken the president“:
There is something terribly wrong with people seeking to demean and weaken the president in war time, thereby strengthening our country’s enemies. As a result of the language and tactics of those opposed to our presence in Iraq, our enemies have been emboldened, believing the American public to be sharply divided on the war, and in fact at war with itself.
But in the Politico today, Koch bails out:
I’m bailing out. I will no longer defend the policy of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq to assist the Iraqi central government in the ongoing civil war.
Hell and High Water: Global Warming–the Solution and the Politics, Joe Romm. This work might be called the work to read after seeing An Inconvenient Truth. AIT provides the hopeful future, a muted discussion of many of the risks and difficulties facing us/US in turning the tide on Global Warming. Romm hits us in the face, hard, with a terrifying future and doesn’t mince words about the challenges ahead. In many ways, Hell and High Water might be the Global Warming work of most interest to the politically engaged (Democratic and/or Republican). Romm lays a strong case as to how Global Warming could be the death sentence for the Republican Party as reality becomes ever blatantly at odds with Republican Party rhetoric (or, actually, that Republican denial is ever more apparently at odds with facts staring us all in the face). Romm also highlights how, in an ever more difficult world in the years to come, either the United States figures out how to lead in dealing with mitigating/muting Global Warming and its impacts or risks becoming a pariah nation, with dire implications for the Republic and its citizens. Romm has been working literally for decades to try to move the globe toward a more energy efficient, renewable energy path, with experience working with the Rocky Mountain Institute and directing Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy in the Department of Energy during the Clinton Administration. Romm can be found blogging at Climate Progress.