Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, November 09, 2007

  Everything I know, and then some

So many neglected stories, so little time to comment. Let me point you toward some links you might want to check out:

For starters, here’s the White House’s “fact sheet” on Michael Mukasey, newly confirmed by the Senate as Attorney General. Half of the “facts” here consist of statements in praise of the man by people or groups whose favorable opinion is scarcely surprising and in any case not worth having.

The remaining facts fall into two categories: (a) summaries of his judicial experience; (b) excerpts from his op-eds. Notice that both categories highlight Mukasey’s views on terrorism and national security, and really nothing else. It’s as if the job of the US Attorney General involved cases only in those areas. What this lopsided “fact sheet” really shows us is that Mukasey was selected by Bush on the basis of his willingness to take the hardest possible (Bush/Cheney) line on any matters of national security. His viewpoint on any other law-enforcement issues? Whatever…

If by chance you never understood why so many have described Mukasey’s national-security views as horrifying, here are his responses to written questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee (large PDF). You might start with the fourth question submitted by Sen. Durbin (about two-thirds of the way into the PDF). Durbin asks whether foreign powers might be permitted to abuse American citizens in the ways that captives at Gitmo and elsewhere have been treated (waterboarding; forced nudity; mock executions; etc.). Mukasey, in response, hemms and haws and refuses to rule out the possibility. In that respect, at least, Mukasey is almost indistinguishable from Alberto Gonzales.

No doubt that explains why several Democrats in the Senate voted to confirm Mukasey yesterday. If Gonzales was good enough for the job, then whyever would Democrats object to Mukasey?

First, let’s be crystal clear about how the Democrats threw a vote they would have won on Michael Mukasey and torture -- and let’s be clear why this happened…

At a minimum the filibuster could have forced President Bush to accept a ban on waterboarding and torture as a condition of Mukasey's confirmation.

Democrats had 40 votes against confirmation on Thursday night plus the four presidential candidates who did not vote. In other words, Democrats had 43 or 44 “no” votes, if you add the presidential candidates. If the Democratic senators had the conviction to filibuster, they would have won…

Thursday was a new low for Democrats, who surrendered the fight they would have won and were morally obligated to make, on torture

Ah, but Democrats always have an explanation when they cave in:

Senate Democrats on Friday downplayed their decision not to wage a filibuster to derail the nomination of Michael Mukasey as attorney general, arguing it would have been a fruitless endeavor that would have set a dangerous precedent if a Democrat wins the White House in 2008…

Democrats on Friday argued that votes on a procedural motion, like cutting off a filibuster, should not be equated with a vote on an underlying nomination or bill. A Democratic leadership aide said there likely would have been enough support to cut off a filibuster, making it frivolous to schedule a time-consuming procedural vote to end debate. The aide also said that “filibustering a Cabinet nominee is a bad precedent,” given that there is a possibility a Democrat may occupy the White House in 2009.

More graphically, from Democracy in Action:

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Want to give vent to your frustration by doing something useful? No, don’t commiserate with the cowards of Congress. Donate to Secrecy News. Steve Aftergood is a dynamo and we’d be much more poorly informed as a nation without him.

Speaking of Secrecy News, Steve has posted quite a few new PDFs of Congressional Research Service reports (which CRS declines to make public as a matter of policy). This report in particular caught my eye: "Renditions: Constraints Imposed by Laws on Torture". Unfortunately, it’s going to continue to be relevant. Might as well link to this one too, just in case it should become relevant: National Emergency Powers

Also, this post ought to be mulled over by the actual lawyers among you: AIPAC Court Adopts Silent Witness Rule

Last week, Judge Ellis approved limited use at trial of the so-called "silent witness rule," an unconventional tactic that permits prosecutors to withhold evidence from the public and to disclose it only to the parties, the witnesses and the jury. Because this amounts to closing the trial, it runs the risk of infringing on constitutional guarantees that trials will be public.

The cone of silence slowly descends over our system of justice, all in the name of national security.

This morning WH spokesman Gordon Johndroe held a press conference in which he insinuated that Pervez Musharraf was no more responsible for the political/judicial crisis in Pakistan than were the thousands of people he’s been arresting.

Q Why is your statement not putting the onus on General Musharraf? It seems fairly even-handed, when it's General Musharraf who is the one who is arresting all the lawyers, who's arresting the human rights activists. He's the one who's caused the current crisis, so I'm just kind of curious why the statement does not take some more even-handed, balanced approach to what's causing the problem there.

MR. JOHNDROE: Well, I would say that our position with regards to President Musharraf has been very clear. We've talked to him about having elections soon, ending the state of emergency, removing the -- removing his uniform. So our position is clear to him and to everyone in Pakistan.

But I would also say there are a lot more people involved on the ground than just one person, and the point is that all of these people need to work together. There needs to be a dialogue among all the various political parties, and that is the best way to end this situation.

Q You don't agree then that he is the cause of the current crisis?

MR. JOHNDROE: I believe that there are a lot of factors on the ground.

Just when you thought the Bush administration’s response to Musharraf’s declaration of martial law couldn’t get any more bizarre.

Q Gordon, what does it say about the President's phone call to Musharraf if, the day after, or is it two days after that, Benazir Bhutto is basically in house arrest? I mean, so what impact did President Bush's phone call actually have?

MR. JOHNDROE: You know, I don't think it's for me to be the political scientist or the pundit on what impact the President's phone call had. I read in the papers this morning it had a particular impact that led to an announcement, and now I hear this afternoon that perhaps it's led to another impact.

Peggy Noonan is daffy and makes things up. Cernig at Newshoggers has the goods on her latest nonsense. If you’re a fan of the old British show “Spitting Image”, you’ll want to take a look.

Marc Lynch at Abu Aardvark is always worth a read. Today he discusses the triumphalists who are desperate to declare victory in Iraq…but don’t seem to have any workable ideas about how to achieve reconciliation among Iraqis or how to get American troops out of the country. Predictably, the more Nuri al Maliki thinks his position is secure, the more abrasive he becomes to fellow Iraqis.

Those who study colonial empires will recognize the phenomenon.

crossposted from

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  • Mock executions are not necessarily torture unless they take place in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. If waterboarding is torture, then torture is not constitutional.

    Hooray for our chains!

    By Blogger Shimmy, at 9:24 PM  

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