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Commuters’ Hell

I just love it when I get on my commuter bus at 5:30 AM to find that every pair of seats is occupied by a single person with their bags piled on the seat next to them. Some are even sitting in the aisle seat as if to block entrance to the adjacent and empty window seat. Others are wearing silk, probably scented, eyemasks, or their Bose “Conscience Cancelling” Headphones. Everyone pretends to be asleep, which belies the fact that some of them just got on the bus a few blocks away, or even in the line just ahead of me!

There are no smiles or eye contact as I fumble in the dark having to ask people to move their bags, which they didn’t pay for; so that I can have a seat, which I did pay for, only to find myself having walked into what is apparently a contest to determine the World’s Soundest Sleeper!

I actually have to tap someone on the shoulder to get his attention, and that person inevitably looks up at me as if I were The Grim Reaper, with an expression that screams “With all these other people, why oh why did you have to pick me to be one to give up the comfort of my two adjoining seats?”

Not wanting to begin my day with a confrontation or disrupt an entire busload of people, I must decide whether to move on in vain hope of finding a friendlier face, or persist and sit next to this person who appears to be trying to get me to spontaneously combust!

I sit.

But at that moment, every time it happens, I can’t help but ponder how nice it would be if I really was The Grim Reaper, and that I was only there to cause a bus accident!

Must Read Smackdown of "Dick Cheeny"

This post by David Rees has got to be one of the funniest, most appropriate, reactions to Dick Cheney’s recent speech on national security his own insecurity that I’ve seen anywhere.

My favorite line:

As far as I could tell, his speech was actually some weird kind of mouth-yoga where you keep returning to “9/11” position every thirty seconds


I Suspect That Dick Cheney Loves International House Of Pancakes!

For a long time, it’s been considered somewhat unacceptable, even among prominent critics of the Bush administration, to suggest anything remotely resembling a conspiracy theory regarding 9/11.

No elected Democrat will touch the issue. Liberal talking heads on cable TV and left leaning columnists in mainstream publications routinely go out of their way to avoid even pondering the possibility of anything more insidious than a massive coordinated effort by radical Islamic terrorists.

In fact, on Daily Kos – which is usually considered to be one of the most liberal of the progressive political blogs – mentioning the mere presence of questions about the cause of the terror attacks on 9/11 is enough to get you banned from posting on the site.

But as more and more information trickles out about the extreme lengths the Bush administration, and particularly Dick Cheney, were willing to go in order to try to create a justification for war in Iraq, somebody has to at least ask this:

If you’ll torture people to get false confessions to justify a war, what else would you do – or not do, despite ample warning that you should – to get justification to start that same war?

With all due respect to the serious liberals who don’t want to be lumped in with the “tin foil hat” crowd in trumpeting the political equivalent of alien abductions stories, at some point in the stream of revelations about our despicable use of torture, we must at least recognize that every actual conspiracy, and in fact every crime, that is ever solved – begins with a theory!

Note: For those unfamiliar with the acronym, LIHOP stands for the theory that, when faced with warnings about an imminent terrorist attack that might have prompted preemptory action, members of the Bush administration let it happen on purpose! It’s not quite as dramatic as the various “inside job” scenarios that are widely thrown around on the Internets, but it also doesn’t require the same kind of “headgear” to imagine, particularly after hearing more and more evidence regarding how torture was actually used!

Why Cheney Speaks!

There’s lot’s of discussion and speculation lately over the fact that after spending eight years of secretly running the government from an impenetrable bunker, Dick Cheney is now all over the television defending his torture program.

Many people are scratching their heads and wondering why the most unpopular member of the previous administration wouldn’t just fade off into the sunset and hope to be forgotten as the country looks “forward and not backward” with it’s charismatic new President.

If I had to venture a guess as to why Cheney keeps talking, it’s this:

The only thing standing between Dick Cheney and criminal prosecution is the facade that torture was a policy decision, and that prosecution represents the “criminalization of politics.” In order to maintain that facade, there must be a continuous debate over whether or not it was “good policy” – that is, whether or not it helped to “keep Americans safe.”

To Cheney, it doesn’t matter whether or not people think that argument has merit. What matters is that both sides are continuously being aired, because in his mind, this means that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress have to prioritize it among all of the other policy debates; and with the wide range of stated goals put forward by the Obama administration, investigating and prosecuting torture will never move to the top of the “to do” list.

On the other hand, if public opinion is allowed to crystallize around the idea that the Cheney/Bush torture policies were illegal and immoral, as might happen without Cheney’s constant bleating about how proud he is of those very policies, then it becomes much more feasible to investigate and prosecute without getting in the way of other priorities.

And it becomes more likely that the conversation shifts from the debate about policy, to a discussion and eventual public understanding of what really happened, which increasingly seems to have been something like this:

At the time when Cheney/Bush were in charge and had plenty of warning about an impending terrorist attack, they did not “keep Americans safe.” Instead, they were too preoccupied with the politics of trying to create “a permanent Republican majority!”

After the 9/11 attacks, instead of going after the terrorists who were actually threatening the safety of Americans, they immediately began to line up all the ways they could use fear of terrorists to rationalize and gain acceptance for policies that were criminal! Torture, the war in Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, rushed no-bid contracts to political cronies, were all rolled out immediately, using the pretext of being the only policies the President thought would “keep Americans safe.”

And they did it all with the expectation that they could always avoid prosecution by forcing the debate into being about policy, if ever the debate started to turn toward being about criminality!

So that’s why Cheney feels he has to keep yapping about how torture was good policy. He knows he’s not convincing anybody, but he’s keeping the fire burning on the appearance of a political debate, because that’s the only thing keeping him from being frog marched to prison!

Specter Switch Could Backfire Almost Immediately! [Updated]

With Arlen Specter’s party switch prompting a huge welcoming embrace from both the Democratic Caucus and the Obama White House, you have to wonder what kind of late game strategy might be on the drawing board to make up for the apparent initial setback when it comes to Obama’s first Supreme Court nomination.

At this point, all indications are that Specter will retain his status on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will force the removal of one current member – presumably Ted Kaufman, who recently was appointed to fill Joe Biden’s seat in Delaware and has the lowest seniority among the Democrats on the committee.

The GOP has already announced that Jeff Sessions (R-KKK,) will succeed the moderate Specter as Ranking Minority Leader on the committee. That leaves another GOP slot on the committee, and there is no reason to think they are inclined to appoint another moderate to replace Specter.

This means that, in addition to the distinctly rightward shift from Specter to Sessions as the head of the minority contingent, the ultimate outcome will likely be to swap Kaufman – the Senator selected to replace Obama’s own VP – for whomever the GOP decides to add to the committee to replace Specter – which could be someone as odious as Saxby Chambliss (R-Slimepit), or James Inhofe (R-Delusionville)!

Let’s hope Specter is worth it!

[Update] According to David Waldman at Congress Matters, the Dems apparently used some leverage over the Specter switch to get the GOP to agree to allow Specter to change sides of the aisle in his committee assignments without bumping another Dem and getting a GOP replacement (essentially building a bigger Dem majority on those committees). Waldman thinks the real concession came because the GOP “reeeeeeeeeelly didn’t want to give an inch on seating Al Franken!”

In addition, the Dems decided to strip Specter of his seniority on those committees until the end of the current congress, creating a situation where he presumably needs to earn the seniority back – which he won’t accomplish very easily if he keeps saying stupid things like wanting Norm Coleman to prevail in his legal battle to overturn the Minnesota election!

At the current rate, Specter may find getting elected as a Democrat to be a particularly rocky path, with the Netroots gearing up to, in the words of Jeff Lieber, “go Full Lamonty” on him in the primary; as well as the growing possibility that Pat Toomey, the scary monster who chased him from the GOP primary, will lose to another moderate like Tom Ridge and make the general election about which of two moderate conservatives is the most trustworthy!

Once You Boil It All Down . . .

Paul Krugman summed it up in three simple sentences:

Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

There’s a word for this: it’s evil.

And the evidence has begun to filter out that the perpetrators not only knew it was evil, but tried to cover it up!

First, there’s the Zelikow memo objecting to the legal basis used to justify torture that he says was deliberately rounded up and destroyed.

Then there’s Janis Karpinski, who is outspoken in her disdain for high level Bush officials who allowed U.S. Military personnel at Abu Ghraib – whom they now maintain to have been following orders deemed to be legal and justifiable – go to prison, rather than stick up for them at the time the abuses at Abu Ghraib first became public.

In my earlier post on this topic, I suggested that one of Obama’s multiple goals was to maximize the ability to “shake the trees” and bring out whistleblowers in order to build widespread public support for any future prosecutions.

At least one expert, former federal prosecutor Elizabeth De La Vega, agrees – explaining in this piece how appointing a special prosecutor now might cause those with important information about what actually occurred at the highest levels of the Bush administration to clam up.

For the torturers, I’m afraid the genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no way they are going to force it back inside . . . and fortunately for the country, it’s not the torturers’ three wishes the genie is going to grant!

To put it bluntly, with all the evidence that the Bush administration carefully assembled a set of “legal” documents to justify “harsh interrogation techniques,” how can they possibly stick to their story when they were willing to let U.S. soldiers rot in prison to avoid telling it four years ago?

And for Dick Cheney, who remains the leading voice of belligerent defiance regarding Bush torture policies, and who now wants to declassify documents that would save his ass when he was perfectly happy to let them stay classified when they might save the asses of the enlisted men and women who went to prison for performing techniques he now says were “necessary,” the response is both completely reprehensible and completely transparent!

Dick Cheney is a grown man, behaving like a child who would let his own dog be beaten, or even euthanized, for repeatedly “eating his homework!”

Image Credit: Vanity Fair, May, 2008