Yoo'll be sorry ...


We've got a new Think Again column here called "New Orleans After the Storm." And we did a really long article in The Nation on the consequences of the media's continuing love affair with John McCain, titled "Loving John McCain," here.

How to be a Washington pundit: Joe Klein writes that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates should be at the top of Obama's list, if Obama wins the presidency: "It is no small irony that if Obama really wants to make a clean break from his predecessor, he should start by retaining George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense." Here.

George Zornick writes:

McClatchy has done a piece about the "War Council" that took shape in the months and years following 9-11. One should really read the whole thing, but the story outlines how five lawyers operating at the highest levels of the Bush administration -- from the White House, Pentagon, and Justice Department, including Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, and John Yoo -- crafted the policies that led to indefinite detention and abuse of detainees in Guantánamo and Afghanistan.

The take-away is that the horrors of Guantánamo and Bagram were not the work of a few bad apples but, rather, were the result of policies that were carefully and specifically designed in the White House and Pentagon. The implications of this cannot be understated -- McClatchy also reports today that retired Maj. Gen Anthony Taguba has now accused top administration officials of war crimes, making him the highest-ranking former official to do so. "The commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture," he wrote in a report by Physicians for Human Rights. "After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

But back to the War Council. What also becomes apparent in reading the piece is that these officials did not treat American law as sacred, but rather just an inconvenience. The lawyers constantly battled much of the military legal community, which was gravely concerned that negating centuries of American and international law would come back around and become a danger to U.S. troops themselves. But the War Council disregarded their concerns, relying at times on absurd legal precedents like this:

"John Yoo wanted to use military commissions in the manner they were used in the Indian wars," [former Army judge advocate general Thomas] Romig said. "I looked at him and said, 'You know, that was 100-and-something years ago. You're out of your mind; we're talking about the law.' "

The military commissions that the U.S. used against Native Americans during the mid-19th century were often ad hoc and frequently resulted in natives being hanged or shot.

"As they viewed it, due process is legal mumbo jumbo," said Romig, who's now the dean of Washburn University's law school. "They wanted to get them, get the facts and convict them. ... If you're caught as a terrorist, you're presumed guilty and you have to prove you're innocent. It was crazy."


"The people who pursue that sort of academic, intellectual pursuit," said [Lt. Col. Bryan] Broyles, who represents Qahtani, "don't understand the effect it has on the people (soldiers) who only see the end result."

These stories are part of a weeklong series McClatchy is doing on detainee abuse, here. Try reading these stories, and then turning on a cable news station of your choosing for the rest of the day. The dissonance is just amazing -- the White House is found to be trashing American law, is being accused of war crimes by former administration officials, and you just don't hear about it. Really, try it, if you have the time. Each mention of white working class voters or late television journalists will drive you just a little battier.

Take a look at this piece by Newsweek associate editor Andrew Romano, titled "Why McCain Wouldn't Be Bush III (Sorry, Barack)." Note the absence of the following things:

  • Any discussion or even mention of John McCain's stated policy on Iraq
  • Any discussion or even mention of John McCain's stated policy on taxes
  • Any discussion or even mention of John McCain's stated policy on health care
  • Any discussion or even mention of John McCain's stated policy on Social Security
  • Etc.

What you will find is the argument that, while there may be a "shred of truth" in the argument that McCain supports Bush policies, he couldn't possibly govern like Bush, since the Congress will almost certainly be controlled by Democrats, and so McCain "would undoubtedly deviate from Bush's divide-and-conquer playbook." And of course McCain's "bipartisan" record would mean he'd be even more willing to seek compromises and not govern like Bush.

I enjoy psychic journalism, don't you?

Yesterday we mentioned Talk Radio Network, syndicator of many right-wing radio haters. Two addendums: one of their clients, Michael Savage, has just added this nugget of insanity to his resume: responding to a caller who said, "I had to explain to my young son why these two men were holding hands the other day," Michael Savage stated, "You've got to explain to the children ... why God told people this was wrong." He went on to say, "You have to explain this to them in this time of mental rape that's going on. The children's minds are being raped by the homosexual mafia, that's my position. They're raping our children's minds."

Also, Media Matters' Terry Krepel wrote a piece in 2006 with a lot more background on the company, here. WorldNetDaily has ties to TRN's empire, too.

This really happened:

A Westchester county eighth grader was denied credit for answering a question on a social studies test with "Jimmy Carter" rather than the more official sounding "James Earl Carter" that the teacher was demanding.

Here's the subsequent exchange the kid had with the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library:


On an 8th grade Social Studies test regarding U.S. Presidents that I recently took in school, my teacher refused to give me full credit for a fill in answer of "Jimmy Carter". My teacher says that Mr. Carter's name is "James" not "Jimmy". My Encylopedia, parents, and other information (including his recent book) I have obtained all indicate that Mr. Carter prefers to go by the name of "Jimmy". Can you provide me with any resources, letters, etc. that support my position?

Most appreciatively,

[kid whose father is a lawyer and so his name is not here, not even his first name....]


Dear [kid whose father is a lawyer and so his name is not here, not even his first name...]

It sounds like your teacher is a real loser. I had a lot of losers as teachers by the time I got out of high school, but they were never able to destroy my love for the study of history. I hope that you persevere and become a better person than your teacher is.

It's been my experience that arguing with a person like your teacher is like arguing with a mule. All it accomplishes is angering the mule and frustrating you.

However, if you want to pursue this, I would use the following two arguments.

1) Jimmy Carter has expressed the desire to be known as Jimmy rather than James throughout his entire life. In 1976 he sued the Federal Election Commission in order to be listed on the presidential ballot as Jimmy Carter rather than James Earl Carter, Jr.

2) In this country, the Library of Congress establishes the name authority file for all personal names referenced in books published in this country. They use rules developed by the American Library Association to establish these authority files. Jimmy Carter is the LC name for Jimmy Carter, not James Earl Carter, Jr. Just as Mark Twain is the authorized name, not Samuel L. Clemens.

I hope this helps.


[Guy We Don't Want to Get In Trouble]
Jimmy Carter Library and Museum
441 Freedom Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30307

From TomDispatch:

This has been energy crisis week at TomDispatch. First, Michael Klare asked what the Pentagon's garrisoning of the global gas station has had to do with American security. Then John Feffer wondered whether, when it came to that lethal combo of soaring energy prices, soaring food prices, and extreme weather, we were all now North Koreans. Today, environmentalist Chip Ward, whose last essay for TomDispatch on homeless library users is now being made into a movie by actor/director Emilio Estevez, takes up the energy crisis in our increasingly arid western backyard and the speculative uranium frenzy that turns out to go with it.

The West, of course, already went through a round of "uranium frenzy" back in the 1950s and the environmental and health results were ugly. Now, as the heat and aridity in the region are rising, its radioactive déjà vu all over again. Last year in Colorado, for example, 10,730 uranium mining claims were filed, up from 120 five years ago. Ward writes:

Unfortunately, it's not only the heat that's hitting us hard out here. One of the "solutions" to the crisis of climate chaos is about to kick the citizens of the West right in our collective gut before we even have a chance to go down for the count from heat exhaustion. Nuclear power -- once touted as a "solution" to other problems and recently resurrected -- is now being pushed hard as an alternative to carbon dioxide-emitting coal for keeping the lights on. And, unfortunately for us, its raw material, uranium, is right in our backyard."

In the rest of the piece, he discusses just why nuclear power is not an alternative to coal power, but "Big Carbon's mad-scientist cousin" and just what it means for Westerners to be guinea pigs in an uncontrolled experiment whose deleterious results we already largely know. He concludes: "Nuclear, coal, gas, or oil: 'same old same old,' as they say. It's getting hot out here in the West and we need a new story."

This week on Moyers:

This week, as many Americans celebrate "Juneteenth," a special day of recognition commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, Bill Moyers Journal examines racial inequality in America through the prisms of the legacy of slavery and the current socio-economic landscape. Bill Moyers interviews Douglas Blackmon, the Atlanta bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, about his latest book Slavery by Another Name, which looks at an "age of neoslavery" that thrived from the aftermath of the Civil War through the dawn of World War II. And Moyers get perspective from historical and cultural sociologist Orlando Patterson and Glenn C. Loury, an economist and expert on race and social division.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: John Martin
Hometown: Chicago

Dear Mr. Alterman,

Thank you for reading and posting my 6/16/2008 letter regarding my concern about the quote Bret Stephens attributed to a Hussein Ali al-Shalan. I was able to find a reference on a blog to a person that I believe may be the person Stephens quoted. This gentleman may very well have been a member of the Iraqi delegation that visited the U.S earlier this month.

He is Hussein al-Shaalan (notice the different spelling) and his name will be on the ballot for the upcoming October provincial elections in Iraq. I guess my suspicions were unduly aroused by Mr. Stephens incorrectly naming a Mr. al-Awani as al-Alawi in his piece.

There was indeed a Sheik Hussein Ali al-Shaalan from Diwaniyah that was killed in 2007, and coincidently the very much alive candidate, Hussein al-Shaalan, is from the same place.

I offer my sincerest apologies to Mr. Stephens for casting doubt on his integrity, and to you for bothering you with my unfounded suspicions.

Name: Prof. T
Hometown: Denton, TX

Hi Eric, longtime reader but my first e-mail. I received my PhD in Communication Studies at LSU, and now teach rhetoric & media criticism, so imagine my disgust when Rush Limbaugh compared Iowa to the Gulf Coast. And not a whimper of reflection much less condemnation from the MSM. I'm sure you've already seen it, but I felt compelled to vent.

Name: Rick
Hometown: Lisle, IL

The recent coordinated calls by Bush and McCain to open up offshore and ANWR drilling is a classic case of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. Nothing like a gas-price "crisis" to provide the smoke screen so that the Petro Pimps can advance a long-sought, but totally unrelated agenda.

Name: John B
Hometown: Des Moines, IA

Today I've been thinking a lot about the most recent "Bill Moyers Journal" program on the subject of rising economic inequality in America, as well as the constant reporting on the price of oil. At this point every report on that subject mentions speculation, limited refinery capacity, or both. Which ignores the fact that massive speculation is made possible by massive concentration of wealth at the top, and refinery capacity is limited BY DESIGN as industry consolidation has taken place in many cases for the express intent of limiting capacity. A comment on NPRs "All Things Considered" 6/17 indicated that 10-17% of jobs are eliminated in a typical merger.

It reminds me very much of a beef packing company in Omaha which was shut down a few years ago. Everything from the boilers to the refrigeration machinery was deliberately scrapped specifically to make sure that facility would never operate in competition with the company that closed it. It's worth noting that the machinery could have been sold at significantly higher prices intact than as scrap. A couple of years later the company was put out of business when their flagship plant hit the network news due to one of those food contamination stories that happen all too frequently these days. Apparently cleanliness was sacrificed right along with the jobs of hundreds of workers.

Some time afterward I spoke with one of my customers, an office worker at a steel mill in Ohio. The company was sold and the new owners outsourced his department. Moreover, a year before that the work rules were changed to prevent anyone from that department from "bumping" into jobs elsewhere in the company. Figures, these were highly desirable jobs and therefore staffed by senior union members. "What am I going to do", he said, "I've never worked anywhere else and I'm only three years from retirement."

The culture wars are real. We're losing.

Name: Joanne
Hometown: Santa Barbara CA

My violin teacher, who is 92 years old and recently retired as a studio musician, has a great line about Bush. "He is a superlative president -- the worst ever."

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