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GOP Runs to Defend Goldman Sachs, Wall Street

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 22:16

Wall Street's best friends, the Republican Senate, are stepping up to protect Wall Street from the mean Democrats. Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, still not fessing up on what they promised Wall Street execs in their backroom meeting are making no secret of their intent to obstruct reform. Even Susan Collins is going to filibuster.

But it takes some chutzpah to suggest that maybe the case against Goldman Sachs isn't really about the massive fraud they committed on investors, but perhaps about politics. I give Orrin Hatch:

"This whole Goldman Sachs thing, isn't that a little odd that all of a sudden, right at the height of this legislative period, we suddenly have the SEC filing suit against Goldman Sachs?" Hatch asked.

"I think the timing is very suspect," he said....

"There's something terribly wrong here and I don't know what it is, but to do that right at this particular time, you know, the timing is very suspect in my eyes."

Leave Goldman Sachs alloooooonnnnne!!!!

This is pretty astounding. Republicans didn't even stand up to defend WellPoint when they chose to raise premiums through the roof in the middle of the health insurance reform debate, so that they're throwing their lot in with Wall Street now is baffling. But more of this, please. The more blatant Republicans are about which side of this fight their on--Wall Street's or Main Street's--the better.


An Evil Monstrosity: Thoughts on the Death State

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 22:15
In connection with certain minor themes in some essays I'm planning, I forced myself to listen to a few minutes of Stephanie Miller's radio show this morning. At one time, I had listened to Miller fairly regularly; I found her a welcome change, at least as compared to the proudly, bombastically ignorant conservatives who abound on Los Angeles airwaves. She was bright and quick, and occasionally actually clever. I disagreed with her on a wide range of issues, but she was still an improvement of sorts, at least on certain subjects. (Please note that I carefully couch this in comparative terms; I always viewed Miller as light years from my preferred listening in a world even slightly closer to the one I imagine. And there was one earlier example of deeply awful commentary from Miller, on the subject of the tasering of Andrew Meyer while John Kerry calmly stood by and did absolutely nothing. I discussed that at length in "Obey or Die"; Miller's observations are the fourth example of commentary that I analyze in the final section of that article.)

But until this morning, I hadn't listened to Miller since shortly after Sarah Palin was selected as the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in the 2008 election. One other aspect of Miller had been of interest to me: her perfect recitation of the major liberal-progressive talking points of any given moment. The hatred and contempt she hurled at Palin was nauseating in the extreme. This is hardly to say that I agreed with Palin in substantive terms; I did not, as I repeatedly made clear, and I would never have voted for her or McCain. (I will not vote for war criminals, which both McCain and Obama were and are, along with most other members of the national political class, nor will I vote for those who refuse to acknowledge the war crimes endlessly perpetrated by the U.S. government, but instead justify, support and further those crimes in countless ways.)

But the loathing of Palin (and similarly of Hillary Clinton, another vile politician for whom I would never consider voting) proceeded in most significant part not from their policies -- and I emphasize that their policies are more than sufficient reason to condemn both of them to the hottest regions of hell -- but from the fact that they are women. I wrote about this at length in, "Kill That Woman!" Miller's ongoing celebration of Palin-loathing coincided at every major point with the hatred which spewed from many liberal-progressive writers and bloggers. It was unforgivably contemptible and stomach-churning. I found it impossible to hear to one more word from Miller, so I hadn't listened to her for over a year and a half.

But I steeled myself this morning and, after having to do some quick searching on the internet for the L.A. station that carried her (I'd forgotten in the time that had elapsed), I tuned in to Miller's program. I lasted about ten minutes.

Miller was interviewing a Democratic Congressman, whose name I've mercifully blocked out. As is so sickeningly typical of her, Miller was dutifully parroting what is perhaps the single most common theme of the moment for all good liberals and progressives -- that is to say, for all dedicated propagandistic hacks, whose lack of consistency, principles, conscience and simple decency is close to perfect in its approach to nothingness. You should include in this category all "leading" liberal-progressive voices (Atrios, Digby ad nauseam); in fact, I insist that you do so. You certainly must do so if you seek to describe such writers and bloggers in minimally accurate terms.

For I learned from Miller and the despicable Congressman that the greatest threat to peace and liberty -- for U.S. citizens as well as for millions upon millions of innocent human beings around the world -- is not a government that commits an endless series of war crimes abroad as it increasingly brutalizes and oppresses its own citizens at home. Oh, my, no: the single greatest threat to peace and liberty -- a threat which is inconceivably monstrous in its scope and lethality, one which necessarily leads to destruction on an unimaginable scale -- is a comparatively inconsequential number of people who employ (allegedly) ill-advised and, much more significantly, disfavored rhetoric.

Yes, you innocent lambs, who woefully lack all understanding of the true significance of events: what is going to destroy you is some individuals who speak in ways that great thinkers like Stephanie Miller find displeasing, or, which is incomprehensibly worse, upsetting. Without the wisdom of people like Miller, we'd all be dead by the weekend at the latest.

For the benefit of Ms. Miller and those of like mind (here, I use "mind" only to designate human beings who still breathe), I repeat a few words I first wrote at the beginning of 2009, and which I reprised in an essay some months later:For more than a hundred years, the foreign policy of the United States government has been directed to the establishment and maintenance of global dominance. To this end, violence, overthrow, conquest and murder have been utilized as required. (See "Dominion Over the World" for the sources and development of this policy [the earlier essays in that series are listed at the conclusion of that article].) More and more, oppression and brutalization have become the bywords of domestic policy as well. Today, the United States as a political entity is a corporatist-authoritarian-militarist monstrosity: its major products are suffering, torture, barbarism and death on a huge scale.I repeat the fundamental point to make certain there is no misunderstanding as to where I stand on this question: as a political entity, the United States is an endlessly destructive monstrosity.

The overwhelming majority of people -- including, I regret to say, even many of those who are severely critical of the United States government -- fail to understand this point in anything close to the thorough and consistent manner required. This failure is the result of an earlier one: an inability to grasp fully what it means to revere the sacred value of a single human life. I have a great deal to say about these two ideas, and these related failures on the part of most people, and I shall endeavor to explore this subject in detail very soon.

I abhor violence, and I condemn it without reservation, excepting only those instances where violence is directly, demonstrably required to resist preceding acts of violence undertaken by others against oneself. My contempt for those who minimize or seek to justify the monstrousness of the U.S. government is perhaps equalled only by my contempt for those who romanticize violence in the name of "resistance." At one time (when I still followed such developments with what I now view as an unhealthy curiosity), I saw fairly regular comments on various blogs to the effect that the time had come to "rise up" against the Evil State. Invariably, those who urged this course of action offered various excuses for their own planned absence from the field of action: they were too old, too infirm, or otherwise occupied. But those who are young and strong -- and who are, such commenters insisted, genuinely moral and committed -- should and even must arm themselves to the teeth and take up the battle forthwith.

Urgings of this kind are detestable and close to unforgivable morally. First, and this for me is the critical and even determinative issue, all people, but perhaps young people most of all, are fully entitled to live their lives and seek their own happiness as best they can. It is monstrous to suggest that they have some kind of obligation to invite their own deaths in service to some cowardly armchair revolutionary's fantasy of a glorious uprising. Beyond this is the very consequential fact that, with no exception in history that I can think of, violent revolutions on any scale lead to a state of affairs which is no better and frequently worse than that which the rebels seek to replace. If you think the American Revolution is the notable exception, I urge you to reconsider the question. In your effort to do so, I suggest you read this essay, and focus in particular on the discussion of Albert Jay Nock's argument that, with the adoption of the Constitution, the revolution was concluded -- and lost. I hope to have more on this topic as well in future.

Here's a repellently ignorant and nauseating example of a progressive's dreams of holy violence. The blood-drenched, subhuman mutterings of casual monsters of this kind will be the death of many of us. Tragically, as history has proven far too many times, that observation is all too likely to be literally true.

Let's return to my characterization of the United States. In addition to my description of the U.S. as a violence-ridden monstrosity spitting death and destruction in every direction, and to make unmistakably clear to people like Miller that I should unquestionably be shipped off to the nearest reeducation camp without delay, I will tell you my new moniker for the glorious United States government: in its essence, and in all its most significant manifestations, it is nothing more or less than a Death State.

As I noted, Miller is the perfect transmitter of conventional liberal-progressive wisdom. I'm sure Miller herself is thrilled that the disgusting Bill Clinton shares her concerns. I've seen a few reactions to Clinton's New York Times op-ed, but you probably won't find a better or more comprehensive single piece about the phenomenally dishonest arguments put forth by Clinton (and many others) than an article by one of the handful of writers I most admire.

I urge you to read Jim Bovard's piece in its entirety: "A Lethal Hypocrisy." Set aside the time to read it with care, and more than once. Bovard announces part of his judgment with admirable clarity and brevity in his opening paragraph: "The article settles any doubts about whether Clinton was one of the most talented demagogues of modern times."

Here are some highlights:Clinton declared that "we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way."

Unless you’re the government.

The four million Americans arrested for marijuana violations during Clinton’s reign were victims of government violence and government threats of violence. The "fact" that Clinton never inhaled did not prevent the drug war from ravaging far more lives during his time in office. The number of people arrested for drug offenses rose by 73% between 1992 and 1997. The Clinton administration bankrolled the militarization of local police, sowing the seeds for a scourge of no-knock raids at wrong addresses and a massive increase in efforts to intimidate average citizens in big cities around the country.

During Clinton’s reign, the IRS seized over 12 million bank accounts, put liens on over 9 million people’s homes and land, directly confiscated more than 100,000 people’s houses, cars, or real property, and imposed over 100 million penalties on people for allegedly not paying sufficient taxes, paying taxes late, etc. The IRS knew that millions of citizens were assessed taxes and penalties that they did not owe. A 1997 audit of the IRS's Arkansas-Oklahoma district found that a third of the property seizures carried out violated federal law or IRS regulations. Former IRS district chief David Patnoe observed in 1998: “More tax is collected by fear and intimidation than by the law.” The Clinton administration fought tooth and nail against a law Congress passed in 1998 to curtail IRS depredations against innocent Americans.


Clinton’s op-ed mentions, almost as an aside, that the Oklahoma City bombing occurred on the second anniversary of the final assault at Waco. In 1995, Clinton denounced the Branch Davidians as “murderers” for their response to the 1993 Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms attack on their home. Clinton used that label even though a Texas jury found no such guilt - and even though the BATF apparently shot first and did not have a proper warrant for its no-knock, military-style raid.

Clinton was commander-in-chief when the FBI 54-ton tanks smashed into the Davidians’ home, collapsing 25% of the ramshackle building on top of residents before a fire commenced that left 80 people dead. His administration did almost everything it could to cover up the details of federal action at Waco, spurring the widespread distrust which Clinton later denounced.
Bovard writes about Clinton and Iraq:Clinton’s Iraq policy relied on systemic violence. The U.S. was the lead country in enforcing and perpetuating the blockade on Iraq that resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dying. U.S. planes carried out hundreds of bombing runs on Iraq, and volleys of American cruise missiles slammed [that] country during his reign.You can read many more details about the devastating effects of Clinton's sanctions policy in some of my earlier essays. Here's an excerpt from one of them, focusing on the Obama administration's unfathomably awful Iran policy:It is at this point that I must remind you of one issue which most people remain determined to deny, even as the world plunges into agony and death:A sanctions regime is not an alternative to war: it is the prelude to attack or invasion. Moreover, sanctions murder a hideous number of innocent people as surely as more overt acts of war.This is the exact pattern that unfolded with Iraq, where the Clinton administration's loathsome sanctions regime inevitably and necessarily led to the invasion in 2003. And now, possibly encouraged by this obscene Nobel Prize, the exact same pattern is likely to be repeated with Iran.Follow the links for more, as is said.

Bovard also writes about Clinton's policy in Yugoslavia, which rested on a series of stupendous lies which most liberals and progressives will never give up, damn their souls. Here is Bovard:Bill Clinton has often acted like his 78-day bombing assault on Serbia in 1999 was his finest hour. The State Department was referring to the Kosovo Liberation Army as a terrorist group until 1997. After Clinton decided to attack Serbia, the KLA officially became freedom fighters. The fact that both Serbs and ethnic Albanians were up to their elbows in atrocities was simply brushed aside or denied. After surviving a Senate impeachment trial, Clinton was hellbent on starring in an old-time morality play.

Clinton’s bombing campaign killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Serb civilians. From intentionally bombing a television station, Belgrade neighborhoods, power stations, bridges (regardless of the number of people on them at the time), to “accidentally” bombing a bus (killing 47 people), a passenger train, marketplaces, hospitals, apartment buildings, and the Chinese embassy, the rules of engagement for U.S. bombers guaranteed that many innocent people would be killed.

In his anniversary op-ed, Clinton declared that “without the law there is no freedom.” But the law did not stop, or even slow, Clinton from raining death on Belgrade. Clinton brazenly violated the War Powers Act, the 1973 law which required the president to get authorization from Congress for committing U.S. troops to any combat situation that lasted more than 60 days. The House of Representatives refused to endorse Clinton’s warring. But, on Serbia and many other issues, Clinton acted as if his moral mission exempted him from all restraints, legal and otherwise.
I've written a number of pieces about Clinton's monstrous Balkans policy and the lies upon which it depended. See, e.g., here, here and here.

Here's another example of monumental liberal hypocrisy on the subject of disfavored speech and the danger it allegedly represents: "Tribal Politics: Principles, Liberty and Peace Need Not Apply."

Please keep in mind the two critical ideas I mentioned: first -- always, always first -- profound reverence for the sacred value of a single human life; and second, the monstrosity that is the United States government today, a government which is unquestionably a Death State in every way that matters, and in numerous ways that diminish the value of your own life each and every day. (I've written numerous essays on that subject; as one example, try: "The Normalization of Violence, Torture and Annihilation.")

We can hope that we will be able to continue our discussion, provided the Death State does not conclude that speech of this kind is so fearsome a danger that it must be ended. Yet, when I am completely honest, I must acknowledge how painfully obvious it is that an individual who insists on the reverence due an individual life and who profoundly abhors violence of all kinds (actual or implied) represents a mortal danger to a State which can utterly destroy his life -- or yours, or those of an untold number of innocent human beings -- at a moment's notice.

Bill Black Testimony on Lehman Bankruptcy – Transcript and Video

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 21:59

FDL Contributor Bill Black scorched everyone with his testimony on the failure of Lehman Brothers  before the House Financial Services Committee today. His prepared remarks can be found here (PDF).

CHAIRMAN KANJORSKI: And now we’ll hear from Mr. William K. Black, Associate Professor of Economics and Law, the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law. Mr. Black.

BILL BLACK: Members of the Committee, thank you.

You asked earlier for a stern regulator, you have one now in front of you. And we need to be blunt. You haven’t heard much bluntness in hours of testimony.

We stopped a nonprime crisis before it became a crisis in 1991 by supervisory actions.

We did it so effectively that people forgot that it even existed, even though it caused several hundred million dollars of losses — but none to the taxpayer. We did it by preemptive litigation, and by supervision. We broke a raging epidemic of accounting control fraud without new legislation in the period of 1984 through 1986.

Legislation would’ve been helpful, we sought legislation, but we didn’t get it. And we were able to stop that because we didn’t simply consider business as usual.

Lehman’s failure is a story in large part of fraud. And it is fraud that begins at the absolute latest in 2001, and that is with their subprime and liars’ loan operations.

Lehman was the leading purveyor of liars’ loans in the world. For most of this decade, studies of liars’ loans show incidence of fraud of 90%. Lehmans sold this to the world, with reps and warranties that there were no such frauds. If you want to know why we have a global crisis, in large part it is before you. But it hasn’t been discussed today, amazingly.

Financial institution leaders are not engaged in risk when they engage in liars’ loans — liars’ loans will cause a failure. They lose money. The only way to make money is to deceive others by selling bad paper, and that will eventually lead to liability and failure as well.

When people cheat you cannot as a regulator continue business as usual. They go into a different category and you must act completely differently as a regulator. What we’ve gotten instead are sad excuses.

The SEC: we’re told they’re only 24 people in their comprehensive program. Who decided how many people there would be in their comprehensive program? Who decided the staffing? The SEC did. To say that we only had 24 people is not to create an excuse — it’s to give an admission of criminal negligence. Except it’s not criminal, because you’re a federal employee.

In the context of the FDIC, Secretary Geithner testified today that this pushed the financial system to the brink of collapse But Chariman Bernanke testified we sent two people to be on site at Lehman. We sent fifty credit people to the largest savings and loan in America. It had 30 billion in assets. We had a whole lot less staff than the Fed does.

We forced out the CEO. We replaced the CEO. We did that not through regulation but because of our leverage as creditors. Now I ask you, who had more leverage as creditors in 2008? The Fed, as compared to the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, 19 years earlier? Incomprehensible greater leverage in the Fed, and it simply was not used.

Let’s start with the repos. We have known since the Enron in 2001 that this is a common scam, in which every major bank that was approached by Enron agreed to help them deceive creditors and investors by doing these kind of transactions.

And so what happened? There was a proposal in 2004 to stop it. And the regulatory heads — there was an interagency effort — killed it. They came out with something pathetic in 2006, and stalled its implication until 2007, but it ’s meaningless.

We have known for decades that these are frauds. We have known for a decade how to stop them. All of the major regulatory agencies were complicit in that statement, in destroying it. We have a self-fulfilling policy of regulatory failure
because of the leadership in this era.

We have the Fed, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, finding that this is three card monty. Well what would you do, as a regulator, if you knew that one of the largest enterprises in the world, when the nation is on the brink of economic collapse, is engaged in fraud, three card monty? Would you continue business as usual?

That’s what was done. Oh they met a lot — they say “we only had a nuclear stick.” Sounds like a pretty good stick to use, if you’re on the brink of collapse of the system. But that’s not what the Fed has to do. The Fed is a central bank. Central banks for centuries have gotten rid of the heads of financial institutions. The Bank of England does it with a luncheon. The board of directors are invited. They don’t say “no.” They are sat down.

The head of the Bank of England says “we have lost confidence in the head of your enterprise. We believe Mr. Jones would be an effective replacement. And by 4 o’clock that day, Mr. Jones is running the place. And he has a mandate to clean up all the problems.

Instead, every day that Lehman remained under its leadership, the exposure of the American people to loss grew by hundreds of millions of dollars on average. Auroroa was pumping out up to 300 billion dollars a month in liars’ loans. Losses on those are running roughly 50% to 85 cents on the dollar. It is critical not to do business as usual, to change.

We’ve also heard from Secretary Geithner and Chairman Bernanke — we couldn’t deal with these lenders because we had no authority over them. The Fed had unique authority since 1994 under HOEPA to regulate all mortgage lenders. It finally used it in 2008.

They could’ve stopped Aurora. They could’ve stopped the subprime unit of Lehman that was really a liar’s loan place as well as time went by.

[Kanjorski bangs the gavel]

Thank you very much.


Fox too liberal for you? Kelsey Grammer backs upstart right-wing TV network, RightNetwork

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 21:39
Nothing is ever enough for these folks. It's why you can't appease them, ever.Actor Kelsey Grammer is one of the names behind The RightNetwork, a new operation that is being targeted at "Americans who are looking for content that reflects and reinforces their perspective and world-view."

The network is expected to launch this summer and is hoping to be available to on-demand cable offerings, online and mobile phones.

"There's wrong, and there's right, right network, all that's right with the world," Grammer says in a video clip on the network's Web site.


Gutierrez: immigration reform, or we stay home

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 21:30

Rep. Luis Gutierrez is right:

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) member has strongly criticized the administration’s policy on deportation and questioned its commitment to far-reaching reform.

Some Democrats have felt little urgency in pursuing the controversial issue, partly because they see no risk that Hispanic voters will bolt the party for the GOP. But Gutierrez says they are missing the real political consequence of inaction.

“We can stay home,” Gutierrez said in an interview with The Hill. “We can say, ‘You know what? There is a third option: We can refuse to participate.’ ”

Democrats are suffering from an intensity gap, and it can ill afford to have one of its key constituencies stay home because the party welched on a key campaign promise.

In our last weekly State of the Nation poll, we found that Democrats still faced a disturbing intensity gap:

In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?

     Def      Vote   Not Lik   Def Not  Not Sure

REP   31       38       12        3       16
DEM   27       34       23        4       12

Among Latinos:

     Def      Vote   Not Lik   Def Not  Not Sure

      20       27       23        7       23

If Democrats fail to make a push for immigration reform, not only will those "not sure" slot in under the non-voters, but we'll lose a chunk of the 47 percent of still say they will vote. And in a close election, where getting Democrats to the polls will mean the difference between massive losses and holding our ground, we can't afford to lose any of our base.


The Abu Zubaydah Document: CIA Claim of Torture Approval Now in Black and White?

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 21:09

graphic: Lance Page, Truthout.org; Adapted From: bright-political via Flickr

One of the most curious documents turned over in last week’s FOIA dump is the last one, titled “The CIA Interrogation of Abu Zubaydah” (PDF 110-122). While these are just wildarsed guesses, I suspect it may either have been a summary developed for the CIA Inspector General’s office for use in its review of the torture program or a summary to prepare Stan Moskowitz, then head of CIA’s Office of Congressional Affairs, to brief the Gang of Four in early February 2003.

The Timing

This document must have been written between January 9 and January 28, 2003. On PDF 117, the document describes CIA’s Office of General Counsel completing its review of the torture tapes; that report was finalized on January 9. The same page describes the “Guidelines on Interrogation Standards,” which was ultimately signed by George Tenet on January 28, as not yet having been approved. The document makes no mention of the Inspector General’s plan to review the torture tapes impacting the decision on destroying the torture tapes, that decision was initiated in early February. It also refers to the need to brief Congress on the torture tapes in the future.

The Structure

The document includes a long Top Secret section, followed by a short summary of the document classified Secret. That suggests that the audience of this document might in turn have its own audience with which it could use the Secret summary. So, for example, if the IG were the audience, it might be permitted to use the summary description in its final report. If Gang of Four members were the audience, they might be permitted to keep the Secret summary but not to see the Top Secret report.

The Top Secret section of the document has the following sections (each section has its own classification mark, which shows in the margin, which is how we know where redacted titles appear):

  • Abu Zubaydah: Terrorist Activities
  • Injuries at Time of Capture
  • Highlights from Reporting by Abu Zubaydah
  • [Completely redacted section]
  • Interrogation Techniques Used on Abu Zubaydah
  • [Redacted title and page and a half, though this section includes discussion of videotapes and training, which suggests the section describes the management controls on the torture]
  • [Completely redacted section]

The Hand-Written Notes

Curiously, this document showed up in the January 8, 2010 Vaughn Index but not–as best as I can tell–in the November 20, 2009 Vaughn Index (or, if it showed up in the earlier Index, John Durham had not yet protected it under a law enforcement privilege). That means that the document existed as an electronic document. Yet, as the Vaughn Index tells us, this document has “handwritten marginalia” on it. These are presumably what the redactions are to the right of the main text on PDF 111 and 112. The redactions on PDF 113 are also wider than other sections, suggesting there is marginalia there, too.

In other words, the reader of this document made notes in response to the following claims (in addition to whatever appears in the long redacted section on PDF 113):

  • [AZ] was heavily involved in al Qa’ida’s operational planning, and had previously been an external liaison and logistics coordinator.
  • Abu Zubaydah was provided adequate and appropriate medical care.
  • Abu Zubaydah identified Jose Padilla and Binyam Muhammad as al-Qa’ida operatives who had plans to detonate a uranium-topped “dirty bomb” in either Washington DC, or New York City.

The first and third of these claims, of course, are somewhat dubious (though the first is more restrained than the CIA was publicly making at the time). So the reader may have been questioning these claims. And the notation next to the claim about AZ’s “adequate” medical care reminds me of the Ron Suskind report that George Bush got enraged when he learned AZ had been given pain killers. In any case, these notations suggest the reader of this document may have had a very high level of information on AZ.

The Contents

Here are notable contents, by section:

Abu Zubaydah: Terrorist Activities

As I said above, the claims made in this section are more restrained than the CIA was making publicly in January 2003. Rather than call AZ the number 3 guy in al Qaeda, it calls him a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden (a claim that is still incorrect, however). The description of AZ as “an external liaison and logistics coordinator,” however, is a much more accurate description of AZ’s true role than CIA has traditionally given.

Injuries at Time of Capture

The report describes two bullet wounds: one, in his leg. The description of the second is redacted (but I believe this was a gut wound, though it might refer to him losing a testicle, which AZ described in his CSRT). There is a separate bullet point describing another physical issue; I wonder whether this is a description of the lingering effects of his 1992 head wound?

Highlights from Reporting by Abu Zubaydah

There are seven bullet points of information here. Perhaps most telling is the admission that “Over time, he had become more willing to cooperate on many issues.” You’d think someone might have questioned whether AZ’s cooperation increased as he got further from his torture?

First redacted section

This section would be the logical sequitur between AZ’s past interrogation and the techniques used to interrogate him. I wonder whether they discussed either inaccuracies in his information, or described the things he had not yet revealed (such as the location of Osama bin Laden) that they thought he knew? Alternately, it might describe what they had planned for his interrogation going forward.

Interrogation Techniques Used on Abu Zubaydah

By far the most interesting detail in this section is the redaction in the section on which torture techniques they’ve used on Abu Zubaydah:

The Agency sought and received Department of Justice approval for the following [redacted] enhanced techniques. [Four and a half lines redacted] the waterboard.

What should lie behind those redactions are the word “ten” and the names of the techniques approved in the Bybee Two memo. The fact that the passage is redacted must mean that that’s not what this passage says–which suggests that this document claimed DOJ had approved techniques they had not actually approved (or, that DOJ approved techniques verbally that were not ultimately approved in the Bybee Two memo). Given that we know this document is one John Durham considered important to his investigation, it may support the notion that some things shown on the videos–perhaps things like mock burial–were one of the things CIA was trying to hide by destroying them.

Also, as I noted earlier, this passage suggests how AZ’s sleep deprivation got out of control in the early days. But it doesn’t admit how long they did use sleep deprivation with him.

This section makes the ludicrous claim that AZ “is the author of a seminal al Qaida manual on resistance to interrogation methods,” presumably referring to the Manchester Manual. (Though AZ would describe “the Encyclopedia” in interrogations in June 2003.)

I find this description of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen laughable:

Agency employees engaged in the interrogation are complemented by expert personnel who possess extensive experience, gained within the Department of Defense, on the psychological and physical methods of interrogation (SERE) and the resistance techniques employed as countermeasures to such interrogation. These expert medical personnel were present throughout the interrogations.

I find it curious that this passage makes no mention that Mitchell and Jessen developed the torture program, nor that they were contractors. And I’m amused that they are described as “medical” personnel, as if they had any concerns for AZ’s medical condition.

I find it really telling that this passage boasts of having done medical examinations before and during the torture, but not psychological evaluations before and after.

Medical evaluations were conducted on Abu Zubaydah before and during the interrogations. In addition, a psychological profile was conducted on him before the interrogation began.

You’d think someone at CIA would order up a psychological evaluation after all this torture, huh? But what this passage seems designed to do, instead, is spin the medical monitoring that was part of the experimental side of AZ’s torture as good medical care (which is also what the description of Mitchell and Jessen as “medical personnel” seems designed to do).

Which may be what the following section is designed to do, too:

It is not and has never been the Agency’s intent to permit Abu Zubaydah to die in the course of interrogation and appropriately trained medical personnel have been on-site in the event an emergency medical situation arises.

Let’s unpack this. First, the denial that the Agency ever intended to let AZ die suggests perhaps the denial itself is untrue. I’m curious why this passage describes these personnel as “appropriately trained medical personnel” and not something like “doctor,” “nurse,” or “medic”? Is it a way to try to explain away the presence of people collecting medical research information, to suggest that they had to have that kind of training? And the reference to “an emergency medical situation,” when we know that they had real concerns about AZ’s injuries and were closely tracking whether torture caused severe pain, is just cynical. The whole passage is one of the creepiest in the entire document!

This section describes the terms of approval for torture from DOJ. But it never once mentions the Bybee memos (perhaps because it might lead someone to discover that the ten techniques in the Bybee Two memo don’t match the techniques listed in this section)?

Finally, look at how underwhelming this claim about the effectiveness of torture is:

The use of enhanced interrogation techniques proved productive; Abu Zubaydah provided additional useful information.

It’s telling, too, that they make this claim in an entirely different section from where they boast of all the good intelligence AZ provided. They chose not to tie the specific pieces of intelligence he gave to the techniques use.

Redacted title–probably on management controls on interrogation

As I said, the title of the section that includes the videotapes and training is redacted, along with three primary and two secondary bullet points (which span a page and a half) before the videotape section, and two more after the training section (which take up another half page). I’m wondering if this redacted section talks about the reporting from the Field to HQ?

The section on videotapes makes a claim that–from what we see of the McPherson interview report–appears to be false.

The attorney concluded that the cable traffic did in fact accurately describe the interrogation methods employed and that the methods conformed to the applicable legal and policy guidance.

At the time of his interview, it appears that McPherson said he’d have to review the guidance again before he could say whether the torture portrayed in the videotapes matched the guidance (which, the IG team concluded, it did not). And here’s how this document describes the state of the discussion on destroying the torture tapes.

After his review, the General Counsel advised the DCI that OGC had no objection to the destruction of the videotapes, but strongly recommended that the new leadership of the committees first be notified about the existence of the tapes and the reasons why the Agency has decided to destroy them.

Boy, I guess Jane Harman really screwed up their plans when she objected, in writing, to the destruction of the tapes? This passage is one of the things that makes me wonder whether this document wasn’t written to fill in Stan Moskowitz before he briefed Congress; though I’m inclined to think CIA wouldn’t give the Gang of Four this much information, even though it is very deceptive in parts.

The Summary

The Secret Summary section covers the following four areas:

  • AZ’s nationality
  • His role in AQ (again using the “external liaison and logistics coordinator” language)
  • The intelligence he gave
  • His physical condition

Of note, the intelligence section includes this language, which is either redacted or not present in the Top Secret description of the intelligence he gave.

[AZ] has provided information on Al Qa’ida’s CBRN program and on individuals associated with that program.

Also compare how the Top Secret report refers to AZ’s intelligence on Padilla and Binyam Mohamed…

Abu Zubaydah identified Jose Padilla and Binyam Muhammad as al-Qa’ida operatives who had plans to detonate a uranium-topped “dirty bomb” in either Washington, DC, or New York City. Both have been captured.

…to how the Secret summary refers to it:

Information from AZ was instrumental in the capture near Chicago of Jose Padilla, a “dirty bomb” plotter, explosives expert, and terrorist trainer at Qandahar.

Other Details

I’m interested, then, in what this says about Durham’s investigation. Obviously, it provides a great snapshot of what CIA claimed it believed at the time it first planned to destroy the torture tapes. It may show CIA claiming it had approval for torture techniques it did not have approval for. Oddly, the document doesn’t appear to explain why the tapes were first made–it appears that the first mention of them comes in the description of McPherson’s review.

This document has three sets of Bates stamps on it: the five-number series, the six-number series, and the IG series from 2007. So it has been reviewed several times in a legal context.

Who is Still Chummy with Goldman Sachs?

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 20:46

Yesterday, Illinois GOP Senatorial candidate Mark Kirk announced that he would return contributions from Goldman Sachs.

Mark Kirk of Illinois's campaign spokeswoman, Kirsten Kukowksi, said he would voluntarily return campaign contributions made by Goldman employees not accused of wrongdoing. ... The US Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil suit Friday accusing Goldman of "defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts" about a financial product based on subprime mortgage-backed securities.

That doesn't make Kirk a better candidate, and he's not returning money he got from Goldman employees during his Congressional race, but at least it makes him smart enough not to roll in the mud while the cameras are running.

But cheer up, Goldman. You still have one friend.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said Tuesday she won't return contributions she's received from Goldman Sachs employees.

Lincoln, who's authoring a section of the Wall Street reform bill that regulates derivatives markets, said she'd hold onto contributions from employees of the company, which was charged last week with fraud.

Doesn't it make you feel better to know that the reform bill is being written in part by someone who's more than willing to take money generated through playing Goldman's customers for fools?

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Marijuana Legalization Supported by 55% of Western US

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 20:19

illegal pot in North Cascades National Park

In honer of 4/20, CBS News has released a new poll on the nation’s opinions about marijuana legalization. The poll found that, across the country, marijuana legalization is opposed by just a slim majority of Americans, and that support for legalization has been steadily growing over time:

While 44 percent of Americans support the idea of making marijuana use legal, 51 percent oppose it, according to the poll, conducted March 29 – April 1.

The percentage supporting legalization is similar to what it was last summer, but it has grown from 30 years ago when just 27 percent thought the use of marijuana should be made legal.

The interesting thing is looking at the regional breakdown of opinions:

SHOULD THE USE OF MARIJUANA BE MADE LEGAL?

Yes No Don’t Know Northeast 44% 52 4 Midwest 36% 54 10 South 40% 55 5 West 55% 41 4

In the Western part of the US, legalizing cannabis is supported by a solid majority, 55%, and opposed by only 41%. This is important because citizens of California will be voting on a state ballot initiative to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in November. Groups in Washigton state and Oregon are also working to gather the necessary signatures to get similar marijuana legalization initiatives put on the ballot in those states as well.

Not unexpectedly, there is a serious age divide on the issue of legalization. 54% of American under 35 support legalization while only 29% of Americans over 65 share the same view. With a strong majority of people on the West coast in favor marijuana legalization, the success of the California ballot initiative (and possibly in Washington and Oregon) will likely hinge on the demographics of who turns out for the midterm election.

Midday open thread

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 20:08
  • NY-23 may become a three-way battle again, with Doug Hoffman reprising his role as spoiler.
  • PG&E is providing a clinic in why the California ballot initiative process is broken.

    Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has put another $6 million into Proposition 16, its self-funded ballot initiative that would require the approval of two-thirds of local voters to create new local electricity districts.

    The latest contribution, reported Friday, brings PG&E’s contributions to $34.5 million – the entire amount of reportable donations to the campaign.

    All of the nine donations listed in state financial disclosure documents came from PG&E. Four of the donations were in seven figures, and there was one eight-figure donation -- a $13 million contribution on Feb. 26.

    The opponents of Proposition 16, The Utility Reform Network consumer group, have raised about $36,000.

    In short, the PG&E monopoly is tired of municipalities trying to create their own public electricity operations, so it's pushing this ballot initiative, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, in order to essentially block cities from opting out of their monopoly.

    The company believes it was strategically better to try to resolve the issue in a single ballot measure, rather than fight the same battle over and over again each time a local municipality seeks to create a new public-power authority. In a March 1 conference with shareholders, PG&E’s CEO Peter Darbee and President Chris Johns discussed the issue, according to a transcript.

    “The idea was to diminish (it), rather than year after year different communities coming in and putting this up for vote and us having to spend millions and millions of shareholder dollars to defend it repeatedly,” the company said. “We thought this was a way we could diminish that level unless there was a very strong mandate from voters that this is what they wanted to do.”

    Fucking sleazebags. If I could afford it, I'd go solar today, just to deny them my little bit of money.

  • The fastest internet in the world is in the United States -- but only on college campuses:

    When all of the company's speed data was sorted by city, three US locations top the list before South Korea and Japan begin to dominate.

    Those three spots are Berkeley (average speed: 18.7Mbps), Chapel Hill, North Carolina (average speed: 17.5Mbps), and Stanford, California (average speed: 17.0Mbps). The next US city on the list is Durham, North Carolina (average speed: 13.6Mbps) in eighth place, followed by Ithaca, New York; Ann Arbor, Michigan; College Station, Texas; Urbana, Illinois; Cambridge, Massachusetts; University Park, Pennsylvania; and East Lansing, Michigan.

    If you're not from the US, you might not see the pattern: each of these cities houses a major research university. Akamai obtained these results by filtering out all cities with less than 50,000 unique IP addresses, to make sure that the averages weren't affected by outlying small cities. The result was that "so-called 'college towns' are some of the best connected in the United States."

  • What Digby said.
  • What Steve Benen said:

    [W]hy make the [Supreme Court] selection based on a bipartisan "consensus" that won't materialize anyway? If a mainstream, center-left jurist will be labeled a "wild-eyed liberal radical" by conservatives, why try to placate conservative hysteria?

    Because Obama remains obsessed with his "bipartisanship" magic pony. Republicans know this, and continue to use that obsession to their advantage. Whether it was watering down health care reform, or watering down financial services reform, Obama and his congressional allies will continue giving concessions to obstructionist Republicans with zero reciprocity.

    I don't mind concessions in exchange for votes. But concessions in exchange for nothing more thatn continued GOP lies and smears? I can't, for the life of me, understand why Democrats keep doing this.

  • Amanda explains why conservatives won't get more of their tripe on TV:

    It’s hard therefore to imagine much in the way of Hollywood products that wouldn’t seem “biased”, aka liberal, to conservatives, since the official values of our society are liberal.  Programs promoting intolerance openly would be horrific.  Even conservatives would blanch at a character making a speech supporting the idea of colonist war for the hell of it.  Greedy CEOs exploiting the working classes are so commonly regarded as villains, it would be hard to reposition them as heroes.  Imagine trying to portray a group of young men beating the shit out of a gay person as heroes; it can’t be done.  I’m trying to imagine a show like the one that Big Hollywood seems to want, where a major religious figure is portrayed as a hero for helping rapists elude justice, and I’m guessing that even they wouldn’t be happy with the results.

    It’s not like there are no right wing plots in the standard Hollywood fare.  Hollywood has managed to repackage a lot of reactionary stuff in liberal-sounding arguments to that it can sell it to the public without audiences turning away in disgust.  Vigilantism or authoritarianism is an easy sell, as long as the hero’s motivations are fundamentally about justice, which means wrapping it up in a liberal package.

  • McConnell REALLY doesn't want to talk about his soiree with bankers, does he? Perhaps that's why he's suddenly gone all wobbly on filibustering financial services reform.
  • I agree with this:

    You know what would be really great? If all the fantastic (and they are fantastic) liberal/left Christians would spend five minutes a day writing angry letters to the Christian right wing about how unchristian they are instead of complaining to atheists about how much bad press you all are getting from the overt bad actions of your co-religionists.

  • A photograph of Albert Einstein's Princeton desk a few hours after he died. Is that an actual inkwell on it?


Family Research Council releases electoral hit list

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 19:16

The Family Research Council, James Dobson's operation, claims in its mission statement that it...

shapes public debate and formulates public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family. Believing that God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FRC promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society."[

To be clear, their "Judeo-Christian worldview" doesn't refer to the real Biblical Jesus, but to Conservative Jesus, who would fight to the death for the right of Wellpoint to increase its health care premiums by 39 percent, while rejecting care to millions of others via rescissions and pre-existing conditions. Conservative Jesus would carry an AK-47, and tell the poor to go fuck themselves. He'd waterboard Obama until Obama admitted he was actually born in Kenya. He and Glenn Beck would be tight.

Anyway, the crazies at FRC are frothing mad about the health care law, because Conservative Jesus doesn't want people to have health care because it infringes on the liberty of Blue Cross Blue Shield to rake in obscene profits. And they're going to do something about it.

The Family Research Council has included a handful of pro-life Democrats in its political action committee's list of 20 Congressional targets for the 2010 election season. The move is the latest one from a pro-life group seeking to defeat those members whose votes resulted in the pro-abortion health care bill.

On their list:

Representative Chris Carney (Pa. 10th)
Representative John Boccieri (Ohio 16th)
Representative Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa. 3rd)
Representative Steve Driehaus (Ohio 1st)
Representative Gabriel Giffords (Ariz. 2nd)
Representative Baron Hill (Ind. 9th)
Representative Paul Kanjorski (Pa. 11th)
Representative Mary Jo Kilroy (Ohio 15th)
Representative Ron Klein (Fla. 22nd)
Representative Betsy Markey (Colo. 4th)
Representative Walt Minnick (Idaho 1st)
Representative Alan Mollohan (W.Va. 1st)\
Representative Glen Nye (Va. 2nd)
Representative Tom Perriello (Va. 5th)
Representative Earl Pomeroy (N.D. AL)
Representative Carol Shea Porter (N.H. 1st)
Representative Ciro Rodriguez (Texas 23rd)
Representative John Spratt (S.C. 5th)
Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz. 1st)
Representative Alice Titus (Nev. 3rd)

I don't know who Alice Titus is. I wonder if that's the sister or cousin of Rep. Dina Titus, who actually represents NV-03? And FRC should be ecstatic about Minnick and Nye, since they both voted against the health care reform bill. Heck, Minnick is such a whackjob, that he's the only Democrat to have earned the endorsement of the crazy teabaggers.

Of course, as we've noted ad infinitum, the health care law was not "pro-abortion". Aside from the fact that the original Hyde Amendment prohibition of public funds is in the law, fact is that universal health care tends to cut the abortion rate. Even Conservative Jesus should be interested in that.

But apparently the only thing that matters is "freedom".

"As pro-life and pro-family voters, we must work together to change the Congress, state governments and ultimately the White House in 2012. We cannot afford to put hard earned dollars into campaigns of people who 'grow in office' or cannot see their way under the pressure of party politics. It's time to replace this Congress, repeal the government takeover of health care and restore our Constitutional freedoms," she said.

Freedoms like the freedom to die from lack of health care, and the freedom to not have freedom of choice.

In other words, freedom -- American Taliban style.


Six vets handcuff selves to White House fence to protest Obama's inaction on Don't Ask Don't Tell

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 18:50


And to make things even more fun, the leader of the protest, Robin McGehee of GetEqual, saw Robert Gibbs walking back from lunch, ran over, and had a little chat with him! More on AMERICAblog Gay. Oh, and if anyone asks "why are the gays so upset with Obama over Don't Ask Don't Tell," read this.


FDL Celebrates 420: Join Us for “Name Our Pot Campaign Contest” Tonight for Late Nite

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 18:45

photo by Dey

If today’s drug laws were in force during the 1970s, Barack Obama might not be President.

In his autobiography, Obama admitted to experimenting with marijuana during his high school years in the ’70s. He then went on to college and law school with the help of student loans.

Last year, New York City arrested and jailed 40,300 people for possessing small amounts of marijuana — mostly teenagers and young people in their twenties. Whites represent over 35% of the city’s population, but only 10% of those arrested for marijuana possession. Latinos were arrested at four times the rate of whites, and African Americans at seven times the rate.

And thanks to a 1998 law authored by Rep. Mark Souder that denies financial aid to any student convicted of even a misdemeanor drug offense, over 200,000 students have lost their access to student loans over arrests like these. They produce a permanent criminal record, easily accessed on the internet, that can also keep applicants from getting a job, a loan or even an aparement. As the Drug Policy Alliance notes, “Given the racially disproportionate enforcement of drug laws, the Souder-amendment has a greater impact on people of color than whites.”

What if Barack Obama had been one of those 200,000 students? And how many future Barack Obamas have been robbed of their chance to achieve their full potential?

The time has come to change our antiquated drug laws, the relics of the culture wars which no longer serve the country’s needs. As former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper writes today at the Seminal:

Look at what’s happening across the country. Formerly timid state legislatures, admittedly driven in some instances by economic hard times, are actually considering the legalization of marijuana. Cannabis is, after all, the biggest (untaxed, unregulated) cash crop in the country.

Congress has announced it doesn’t intend to do much for the next year, but there are active efforts at the state level to change drug laws across the country. Marijuana-related ballot measures have already qualified in California and South Dakota. Arizona needed 153,000 signatures to get a medical Marijuana measure on the ballot, and last week submitted over 250,000 signatures. The Arizona Senate just passed a bill in anticipation of its passage that would tax medical marijuana. Even the Alabama Senate is getting in on the action — they just passed a measure that would legalize medical marijuana for patients in serious pain.

At a time of serious budget concerns, it’s time to assess our national priorities. Do we want to end the educational careers of young people of color, or do we want to use our resources to hire teachers and create jobs? According to Harvard Economics Professor Jeffrey Miron, if marijuana were taxes at the same rate as alcohol, it would yield $6.4 billion in tax revenue and save $13.7 billion in law enforcement expenditures.

Marijuana legalization would also devastate the drug cartels. As Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune observes, “Criminal organizations would no longer be able to demand huge premiums to compensate for the major risks that go with forbidden commerce. . . . So the drug cartels would see a large share of their profits go up in smoke. Those profits are what enables them to establish sophisticated smuggling operations, buy guns and airplanes, recruit foot soldiers and bribe government officials.”

But there is still a terrible stigma surrounding the marijuana conversation. We think we can help. There are many of the fine groups that are organizing around drug policy reform, including DPA, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and others. We’ve been talking to many of them and learning how we can help them in their efforts, not only by getting their message out, but also with the online tools and organizational skills that we have.

We’re kicking off our campaign with a “name our Pot Campaign” contest tonight during Late Nite, which starts at 11pm ET. We haven’t done anything like it since the Dick Cheney Poetry Contest of 2006. It’s a return to the “FDL Late Nite” of old, hosted by yours truly. So, please join us.

Gates, Holder Subpoenaed

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 18:32

Guess who just discovered he has subpoena power as a committee chair?

The leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee subpoenaed Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday provide more information about the events leading up to the Ft. Hood shooting.

Last week, Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ranking Republican Susan Collins of Maine said the administration has for months stymied their attempts to fully investigate the gaps that may have enabled the murder of 13 people at the Texas Army base on Nov. 5....

Pentagon officials are reviewing the subpoena before determining their next step, spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters Monday.

The Defense Department, he said, believes that it has responded to requests from Congress, “in keeping with the need to protect the integrity of the criminal prosecution and longstanding privacy practice.”

“We will continue to cooperate with the committee in every way, with that caveat, that single caveat, that whatever we provide does not impact upon our ability to prosecute,” he said, echoing comments made by Gates last week.

Defense officials add that as members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, both senators can view Nidal Hasan's personnel files, which seems to be at the core of what Lieberman is trying to get. Additionally, they note that they are still pursuing Hasan's conviction for mass murder, and that the public release of materials relating to this case might actually jeopardize it.

In case you're wondering, no, Lieberman didn't use his subpoena power as committee chairman while he held the seat under the Bush administration. Steve Benen:

Questions arose, for example, into internal White House deliberations from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and senators were prepared to subpoena the administration. Lieberman rejected the effort. When his House counterpart, Henry Waxman, delved into the Pentagon's propaganda operation, Blackwater's activities in Iraq, and the controversy surrounding missing emails from the Bush White House, Lieberman chose not to do any oversight at all.

But he's with us on everything but the war.


Mark Halperin on Republican talking points: "I cannot defend what they're doing"

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 17:52

Credit where credit is due. Today on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Mark Halperin of Time Magazine not only refused to defend the Republican party's anti-finance reform talking points, he calls them out:

Via The Plum Line:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Just this once, defend the Republican position.

MARK HALPERIN: I cannot defend what they’re doing.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Oh, please.

SCARBOROUGH: Look at you! Look at you!

[CROSSTALK]

HALPERIN: They are willfully misreading the bill or they are engaged in a cynical attempt to keep the president from achieving something.

Exactly right. As was pointed out later in the show by White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee:

Everybody knows a consultant just handed them that line and they’re just reading it. It doesn’t matter what’s in the bill. It could be a bill about breakfast cereal and they’re going to say this is a bailout bill.

Everybody does know it. It's just refreshing to see a journalist report it.

Watch:


AIG reviewing possible legal action against Goldman

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 17:38
And here we all thought they were getting along so well. Young love can be so emotional sometimes. If this gets traction, the general love affair with Goldman could get dicey. CNBC:AIG, the US government-controlled insurer, is considering pursuing Goldman Sachs over losses incurred on $6 billion of insurance deals on mortgage-backed securities similar to the one that led to fraud charges against the US bank.

AIG’s move over the deals that caused it a loss of about $2 billion is a sign that Friday’s decision by the Securities and Exchange Commission to file civil fraud charges against Goldman could spark actions from investors who lost money on mortgage-backed securities.

If AIG and others discover that their transactions had disclosure issues similar to those alleged in the SEC charges, they would be able to complain to the SEC, file a private lawsuit, or both, lawyers said.


Compare and Contrast: Rubio vs. Crist, Lamont vs. Lieberman

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 17:30

Pictured: who weeps for Charlie Crist?

Anyone remember the endless Village/wingnut concern-trolling about how Ned Lamont running against Joe Lieberman was going to destroy the Democratic Party?

On ABC’s This Week, Cokie Roberts asserted that it would be “a disaster for the Democratic Party” and would lead to “chaos” if businessman Ned Lamont were to defeat Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary on August 8, thereby “pushing the party to the left” and sending a message to other senators that “[t]he only smart thing to do here is play to your base.

I certainly do.

Funny how that stuff never seems to apply to Republicans, isn’t it?

De facto GOP White House favorite Mitt Romney endorsed [Marco] Rubio yesterday, and, as Josh Green noted, Romney got beat up over this: it’s easy to endorse Rubio now that he leads his Senate primary against Gov. Charlie Crist, the former frontrunner, by more than 20 percentage points. What about when Rubio was a mere conservative upstart, trailing Crist by 20 last fall–when his biggest backers were the influential blogger Erick Erickson and the free-enterprise DC interest group the Club for Growth? This morning, another big-time Republican hopped on the Rubio train: House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.

I’m so looking forward to hearing how Republicans are on a purity witch hunt, how they’re following their extreme right-wing base off a cliff, how they’re pandering to a bunch of stupid bloggers who don’t know anything about how the “real world” works, how awful it is that they’re throwing a popular, talented and honorable two-term Republican governor under the bus, and in the process, hurting their party with moderates — not only in Florida — but nationally.

Should be coming any time now, right?

Likely voter screen doesn't explain Rasmussen "house effect"

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 17:08

Nate Silver debunks the widely held view that Rasmussen's GOP-leaning "house effect" is a result of its use of a likely voter screen earlier in the cycle than other polling outfits. He observes:

The bottom line is this: the sample included in Rasmussen's polling is increasingly out of balance with that observed by almost all other pollsters. This appears to create a substantial house effect, irrespective of whether Rasmussen subsequently applies a likely voter screen.

It also appears to be a relatively new facet of their polling. If one looks at the partisan identification among all adults in polls conducted in September-November 2008, Rasmussen gave the Democrats at 6.5-point edge, versus an average of 8.7 points for the other pollsters; their house effect was marginal if there was one at all.

It's interesting that the gap between Rasmussen's 2008 generic ballot polling and everybody else's was fairly small at the tail end of 2008, but it might not prove that the "house effect" we're seeing today is new. I haven't looked at generic ballot data, but I have looked through McCain-Obama polling and it appears that the gap between Rasmussen's polling and everybody else's narrows as election day approaches.

For example, from February to April of 2008, Rasmussen showed John McCain leading by an average of 2.6%. Meanwhile, every other poll of likely voters during that time period showed Barack Obama with a 2.6% lead. So from February to April, there was a 5.2% gap between Rasmussen and everybody else.

From September through election day, however, the gap was significantly smaller. The average Rasmussen poll taken during that time showed Obama leading by 3.8% while the average of all other polls of likely voters showed Obama leading by 5.8%, resulting in a gap of 2%.

So in the early months of 2008, the gap between Rasmussen and everybody else was 5.6% compared with 2% late in the cycle. Another important point here is that early in the cycle, Rasmussen's polling accounted for a far larger share of overall polling, meaning that their results played a more important role in shaping horse race narratives in the early stages of the campaign than they did in the latter stages of the campaign.

The shifting size of the "house effect" is certainly something worthy of additional exploration.


420: Put Down That Joint and Pick Up a Pen

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 16:38

[Ed. note: Norm Stamper, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com), served as Seattle's chief of police from 1994-2000. He is the author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing.]

[additional Ed. Note: You can join us during Late Night tonight (8pm PDT/11pm EDT) when we pick up our pens, or, at least, our keyborads, and kick off FDL's Cannabis Campaign naming contest! Please stop by for fun, fun, pot, and fun.]

illegal pot in North Cascades National Park

A year ago I wrote a piece on 420, contrasting legalized booze and illicit pot. It generated a good deal of reader feedback. A common thread:

“The war against drugs is a money making business. Prisons are a money making business. How are you going to replace all those jobs for the DEA…prisons, prison officers, other suppliers?”

“This is America, people. Europeans are socially enlightened, we are not. Europeans are progressive, we are not…frustrating, sure, but it’s not going to change in my lifetime…”

“We Americans love to talk the talk, but never seem to have the time or energy to walk the walk.”

“…it won’t change any time soon. As long as the majority of people are ignorant and vote accordingly, our politics and laws will reflect that ignorance.”

“I would not expect a sitting President or Senator to take up your cause until there is a MASSIVE public cry for it.”

In other words, say these readers, no matter what common sense and science have to offer on the subject it’s not going to happen. The willful inflexibility of special interests (namely those profiting from the drug war: drug cartels, drug warriors, Big Pharma, prison industrial complex, et al) is simply too powerful to overcome.

Given slavish governmental allegiance to the drug war (over the course of eight presidencies), skepticism is understandable. But unwarranted.

Look at what’s happening across the country. Formerly timid state legislatures, admittedly driven in some instances by economic hard times, are actually considering the legalization of marijuana. Cannabis is, after all, the biggest (untaxed, unregulated) cash crop in the country.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco — before the recession hit with full force, and with only three months on the job — introduced a bill in the California State Assembly that would have allowed adults to grow, buy, sell, and possess cannabis. While it passed the assembly’s public safety committee, by a 4-3 vote, AB 390 died when the health committee failed to act on it by January of this year. Reintroduced as AB 2254, the identical bill, in its current or a future incarnation, promises to get continuing play at the state capitol and in the national media.

We’ve witnessed a veritable explosion of cannabis law reform in other states and local communities: medical marijuana; decriminalization; pot as a city’s lowest law enforcement priority.

But the eyes and the imagination of the nation remain fixed on California. As lawmakers wrestle with conscience and courage, the voters of that state are taking matters into their own hands. “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis 2010,” the brainchild of Oaksterdam University founder Rich Lee, has qualified for the November ballot. Support is polling at 56 percent.

Enthusiastic editorial backing from across the country, along with the endorsement of a vast array of trade unions, professional associations, and drug policy reform organizations bodes well for the connected causes of liberty, justice and economic recovery: According to the State Board of Equalization, California’s tax collector, the initiative will net the state a cool $1.4 billion a year.

The campaign is meeting pitched resistance from opponents, which will only intensify as election day nears. Conventional wisdom suggests a softening of support as undiscerning voters succumb to the scare tactics of forces determined to keep pot illegal.

We all know that the federal government trumps the states when it comes to drug laws, and that against all concepts of sanity, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug (in the company of PCP and China White) — and therefore a top enforcement priority. But Attorney General Eric Holder, with the blessings of President Obama, has promised to honor the will of lawmakers in the individual states, whether those lawmakers be legislators or citizen activists.

You don’t have to be a Californian to strike a blow for freedom and justice. As a voter and/or a toker, perhaps at 4:20 on 4/20/10 you’ll pick up a pen and compose a letter to the editor and/or write a check to the campaign. What happens in the nation’s largest state will certainly reverberate throughout the other forty-nine.

Norm Stamper, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com), served as Seattle’s chief of police from 1994-2000. He is the author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing.

Veterans of Wikileaks Video Incident Release "Letter of Reconciliation"

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 16:30

Ethan Mccord and Josh Stieber, Iraq veterans, were in the Army unit responsible for the incident in the WikiLeaks "Collateral Murder" video have released an open letter to Iraqis injured in the attack.

Ethan was on the ground at the scene of the shooting, and is seen on the video rushing one of the injured children to a U.S. Vehicle; "When I saw those kids, all I could picture was my kids back home". Ethan applied for mental health support following this incident and was denied by his commanding officer.

Josh Stieber was not at the scene of the shooting but says similar incidents happened throughout his 14-month tour; "The acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war."
 Josh states that these casualties demonstrate the impact of U.S. military policy on both the civilians and the soldiers on the ground.

From the letter:

There is no bringing back all that was lost. What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize we have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused.

We have been speaking to whoever will listen, telling them that what was shown in the Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.

We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and what we carried out in the name of "god and country". The soldier in the video said that your husband shouldn't have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.

More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.

The value of the WikiLeaks video is just this: bringing to light the nature of war and what the men and women fighting it experience. The value in the release of the video is the value in these veterans being able to talk about what they witnessed, what they participated in openly. It's truth that we as an entire nation needs to face, if nothing else than to understand what these scarred veterans experienced as we welcome them home.