Browsing the blog archives for November, 2009.


As Governor, Huckabee Found Some Prisoners More Pardonable Than Others

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criminal justice, Religion, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

I’ve just learned the man being sought in connection with gunning down four Lakewood, Washington, police officers is an ex-convict who was freed by then Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Maurice Clemmons, the 37-year-old Tacoma man being sought for questioning in the killing this morning of four Lakewood police officers, has a long criminal record punctuated by violence, erratic behavior and concerns about his mental health.

Nine years ago, then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee granted clemency to Clemmons, commuting his lengthy prison sentence over the protests of prosecutors.

Several people have noted that Clemmons didn’t have a record of homicides; his convictions were for burglaries and aggravated assaults. Even so, why would a governor go out of his way to give clemency to a convict over the protests of prosecutors? (I have a theory, which I’ll get to in a minute.)

Josh Marshall points out,

Those with long memories will remember that this is not the first Huckabee commutation with a bad ending. The case of Wayne Dumond got a good deal of attention in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Wayne Dumond was a convicted serial rapist whom Huckabee arranged to be released. After his release, Dumond raped and murdered at least one other woman and possibly others.

I wrote about Dumond and another Arkansas convict, Frankie Parker, almost two years ago in “A Tale of Two Prisoners.” For reasons explained in the earlier post, Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, was pressured by the Christian Right into pardoning Dumond.

But the Christian Right kept silence on Frankie Parker, who was executed in 1996 over the objections of Mother Theresa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In fact, Governor Huckabee was so keen to execute Frankie Parker that he intervened to move the execution date up by six weeks so that Parker could be executed sooner. He was so keen to execute Parker that moving up the execution date was Huckabee’s first official proclamation as Governor of Arkansas. Clearly, this was an itch that Huckabee was rarin’ to scratch.

It is true that Parker was convicted of committing two murders while under the influence of drugs. He admitted he had done this. He wasn’t asking for a pardon; just life.

What made Frankie Parker’s life so untenable? In prison, he had acquired a copy of the Dhammapada, which inspired him to convert to Buddhism. He corresponded with a Zen priest and also worked with a Little Rock Buddhist group to learn the practice. He became a spiritual leader within the prison. A Buddhist spiritual leader. Can’t have that.

So if people are wondering why Mike Huckabee took it upon himself to grant clemency to Maurice Clemmons, look for a religious angle. I don’t know that there is one, but I’ll be surprised if there isn’t.

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Report: Bush Let bin Laden Get Away

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Bush Administration, Terrorism

A Senate Foreign Relations Committee report says the Bush Administration got soft and let bin Laden get away.

Tina Moore, New York Daily News:

Osama Bin Laden was within military reach when the Bush administration allowed him to disappear into the mountains of Afghanistan rather than pursue him with a massive military force, a new Senate report says.

The report asserts that the failure to get the terrorist leader when he was at his most vulnerable in December 2001 – three months after the 9/11 attacks – led to today’s reinvigorated insurgency in Afghanistan. …

… The report calls then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks, the top military commander at the time, to the carpet and asserts the U.S. had the means to mount a rapid assault on Bin Laden with several thousand troops.

Instead, fewer than 100 commandoes, working with Afghan militias, tried to capitalize on air strikes and track down the ragged band of terrorists.

I like this part:

At the time, Rumsfeld expressed concern over the backlash that could be created by a large U.S. troop presence,

It never occurred to him to apply the same concern to Iraq?

On or about Dec. 16, 2001, Bin Laden and bodyguards “walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan’s unregulated tribal area,” where he is still believed to be, the report says.

Scott Shane, New York Times:

The report, based in part on a little-noticed 2007 history of the Tora Bora episode by the military’s Special Operations Command, asserts that the consequences of not sending American troops in 2001 to block Mr. bin Laden’s escape into Pakistan are still being felt.

The report blames the lapse for “laying the foundation for today’s protracted Afghan insurgency and inflaming the internal strife now endangering Pakistan.”

Here’s the punch line: Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, actually has an op ed in the current issue titled “Why Dick Cheney Should Run in 2012.” I don’t think it’s a spoof. Meachem doesn’t exactly say Cheney should be president, but he somehow thinks Cheney’s ideas should still be taken seriously.

A campaign would also give us an occasion that history denied us in 2008: an opportunity to adjudicate the George W. Bush years in a direct way.

Or, we could engage in lots of investigations followed by lots of public hearings.

As John McCain pointed out in the fall of 2008, he is not Bush. Nor is Cheney, but the former vice president would make the case for the harder-line elements of the Bush world view.

And we need to revisit the “Bush world view” why, exactly?

Far from fading away, Cheney has been the voice of the opposition since the inauguration. Wouldn’t it be more productive and even illuminating if he took his arguments out of the realm of punditry and into the arena of electoral politics? Are we more or less secure because of the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Does the former vice president still believe in a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda? Did the counterterror measures adopted in the aftermath of the attacks go too far? Let’s have the fight and see what the country thinks.

Or, let’s not. Instead, let’s round up the turkeys and send them to The Hague. The Bush world view would get thoroughly and objectively aired there, I suspect.

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Domestic Terrorists Don’t Count

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Terrorism, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Dave Neiwert wants to know why national news media aren’t jumping all over the story of an Ohio man named Mark Campano who turned his apartment into a bomb factory.

Police found 30 completed pipe bombs in his apartment along with components to make more, plus 17 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Campano is in an Akron hospital with injuries received when one of the bombs exploded.

Neighbors called Campano an anti-government whackjob, so it’s not much of a leap to suspect Campano might have been planning domestic terrorism. But you know the drill — terrorists don’t make the news unless they’re named Mohammed.

The predictably stupid R.S. McCain writes about this incident, titling his blog post “Incompetent dopehead pipe-bomber as dangerous as al-Qaeda, lefty implies.” That wasn’t Dave’s point, but let’s run with it.

Who is more dangerous — Mark Campano, a whackjob with an apartment full of real pipe bombs and guns, or —

Each of those cases were taken very seriously, and the plotters pretty much were all convicted of something. But a guy with 30 pipebombs doesn’t need to be taken seriously, according to R.S. McCain. To R.S., a right-wing whackjob with thirty real pipebombs is less dangerous than jihadist whackjobs with lots of non-operational plots but no bombs.

Note to R.S.M., if he drops by here: I was in lower Manhattan on 9/11, so don’t you dare tell me I don’t understand terrorism or appreciate how awful it is. I suspect I appreciate how awful it is better than you do. That’s why I take someone with pipe bombs very seriously.

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There Is No Climategate

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environment, science, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

As you know, when it comes to facts righties operate with the mother of all double standards. A rightie can pull completely fabricated “facts” out of his (and her) ass with impunity, but if anyone they don’t like is even a tad imprecise, the Right flames it into a scandal that never dies.

So it is with “Climategate.” As you probably have heard, a few days ago more than 3,000 private emails and other documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) were published on the Internet, allegedly by hackers. (I read an argument yesterday that CRU wasn’t necessarily hacked, but in any event emails that were meant to be private were made public.)

By misconstruing scientific colloquialisms — for example, the use of the word “trick” — and seizing upon peer-review type criticism of a few research papers, the Right has managed to misinterpret the emails into “proof” that global climate change is not just a mistaken idea, but a deliberate hoax — a conspiracy so immense it includes most of the world’s earth scientists, including 97 percent of climatologists. Amazing.

The reason this non-scandal will not go away anytime soon is revealed in a Wall Street Journal headline: “Cap and Trade Is Dead.” In other words, vested interests are involved. Vested interests trump truth every day of the week and twice on Tuesday.

A blogger at RealClimate grumbles,

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

At The Guardian, George Monbiot calls on scientists to stop waiting for the screeching righties to shut up and move on to the next non-issue. Monbiot has been on the front lines battling climate-change deniers and knows how crazy — and how obsessed — they are. But, he says, it is true that a few sloppily researched papers were published that should not have been published, a point that was the topic of many of the emails. The fact that this happened is genuinely damaging. The deniers have lied with impunity for years, Monbiot says, but that is all the more reason for science to be much more careful.

Of course, in Rightieworld Monbiot’s article was interpreted to be an admission that climate change might be a hoax. Never forget that these people have the reading comprehension level of turnips.

I know it can be exhausting to deal with righties; while you are correcting one lie, they’ve thought of ten more. There is no more point in “debating” issues with them than in explaining physics to an anthill. But I think it is important to get facts out for the public record, if only because the world is full of lazy hack journalists who don’t bother to check facts, either, unless you do it for them and then rub their noses in the facts so they notice.

I also think Monbiot is right in that care must be taken not to give whackjobs any molehills they can turn into a mountain. For example, one of the several reasons I stopped giving money to the National Abortion Rights Action League several years ago, in spite of my being adamantly pro-choice, is that sometime in the mid-1990s I observed NARAL spokespeople stupidly and unnecessarily handing ammunition to the troglodytes.

This was in the 1990s, when the fetus people seized upon so-called “partial birth” abortions (more accurately called a “D&X” procedure) as an issue to crusade against. NARAL released some figures on the number of such procedures done in the U.S. each year. Unfortunately, the NARAL numbers were only of third-trimester procedures, and the spokespeople didn’t make that clear. Since D&X was mostly performed in the second trimester, the actual number of D&X procedures in total was at least three times higher (the total was between 1,500 and 3,000, depending on who you asked, so it still was a small number). Further, NARAL spokespeople said the D&X was only performed when medically necessary, which was true of third trimester procedures but not always of second-trimester procedures.

I realize the NARAL people probably were taken in by the Right’s incessant yapping about “late-term abortion” and conflation of “late-term abortion” and “partial birth abortion” to be the same thing. To most sane people, a second-trimester abortion is not late term. Still, there is no excuse for being sloppy when presenting data.

Not surprisingly, the abortion criminializers seized upon this discrepancy, and for several months after the opinion section of nearly every newspaper in America was given over to denouncements of the lies of NARAL. And it became an article of faith among “pundits” that pro-rights activists were just as likely to lie as anti-rights activists, never mind that the criminalizers couldn’t string together two truthful statements in a row if they tried. Not that they ever try. From “rapes don’t cause pregnancies” to “abortions cause breast cancer” (they don’t, btw) it would take encyclopedias to catalog all of the misinformation that has come out of the Right on abortion. But NARAL trips up just once, and we never hear the end of it.

So it is with “climategate”; we’ll never hear the end of it. Unfortunately, this will likely slow our response — already too slow — to global climate change.

Update: Talk about a tool — this guy goes on and on about the glory of truth and the wonders of science, then sides with the liars. Amazing. But to really plum the depths of this guy’s critical thinking skills, check this out:

The concept of honor comes from the base of truth and is why it is so prominent in the military and also explains why the vast majority of people in the military come from Judeo/Christian backgrounds.

Yes, in nations in which the vast majority of people are either Christian or Jewish to one degree or another, it’s a safe bet that most people in the military come from Judeo-Christian backgrounds. Hysterical. And the idea that the concept of “honor” is unique to the Abrahamic religions reveals a grotesque ignorance of other religions and cultures. (See, for example, the Code of Bushido).

The phony climategate non-scandal does reveal a divide, but it’s not so much a cultural divide as a social-psychological divide. But we’ve had this discussion before, so I’ll stop now.

Update: The Economist has a good backgrounder on the “Climategate” mess.

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Set the Iraq Record Straight

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Bush Administration, Iraq War, Obama Administration

As we settle into collective amnesia over Iraq, the Brits actually are holding a public inquiry into how they got themselves into that misbegotten adventure. In today’s news we learn from Sir Christopher Meyer, former ambassador to Washington, that at least some people in the British government had realized before the invasion they had no solid proof of weapons of mass destruction hidden in Iraq.

The UN weapons inspectors were not given time to finish their jobs, Sir Christopher said. This was no secret. Blix’s briefing to the UN Security Council in February 2003 basically said, Ladies and gentlemen, we’re inspecting up a storm, but we haven’t found WMDs. We need more time to know what’s going on. The Bush Administration’s response, even before that report, was to undermine Blix.

The problem, Sir Christopher said, essentially is that the Bush and Blair administrations had gotten themselves so solidly committed to war that when evidence for a cause didn’t turn up, they had to fabricate one.

Sir Christopher Meyer said the “unforgiving nature” of the build-up after American forces had been told to prepare for war meant that “we found ourselves scrabbling for the smoking gun”. … Asked about Tony Blair’s meeting with Bush at Crawford, Texas, in April 2002, where, some observers believe, the decision to go to war was made, Meyer said: “To this day I’m not entirely clear what degree of convergence was signed in blood at the Texas range.”

Again, this is not news to most of us who followed events closely at the time. However, it’s important to rub the nation’s nose in the truth about how we got into Iraq. If you young folks will indulge me, let me draw your attention to the aftermath of Vietnam.

With Vietnam, once the Paris peace accords were signed in 1973 the American public didn’t want to hear about Vietnam. Attention was paid to the fall of Saigon in 1975, of course, but that was an exception. Once the U.S. was out of Vietnam, few people wanted to talk about it or think about it. We were tired of it.

This was understandable, but the problem with not talking about it is that there was no processing of what had happened. Everyone’s opinions, impressions, and knowledge of the war remained frozen in place as they were in 1973. And the problem with that came to light during the Bush II Administration. People talked about the “lessons of Vietnam,” and it became apparent that entirely different sets of lessons had been learned.

For some of us, the lesson of Vietnam was that you don’t commit to a foreign war on trumped-up reasons, and without clear (and essential!) goals and an exit strategy.

For others, the lesson of Vietnam was that it’s wrong to dissent against war because it will lead to defeat. Therefore, war dissenters have to be shut up and the military effort supported without question.

The latter position, of course, is held by the same people who whine incessantly that liberals want to take away their “freedoms.” But I digress.

I realize the Obama Administration probably figures it can’t afford to stir up more hard feelings on the Right by making them admit they screwed up while he’s trying to push through health care reform and other vital issues. But I don’t see what difference it would make. The people who would be worked up into a snit over facing facts about Iraq are the same ones fighting the Administration already. How crazier can they get? What trouble could they possibly stir up that they aren’t stirring up?

In a just world, Bush, Cheney, Rove et al. would be too ashamed to be seen in public, if not serving time. We cannot sweep this under the memory rug, or else in a few years the Next Generation of evildoers will be staging a comeback. And that comeback will be built on the uncorrected lies of the Bush Administration.

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Happy Turkey Day

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Obama Administration

For turkeys and other assorted creatures.

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Today’s Headlines

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Obama Administration

Stuff in teh nooz:

President Obama actually thinks before making decisions. The Right calls this a sign of weakness, of course.

Rumors say Lou Dobbs is planning to run for President. That’s funny enough, but here’s the punch line: He’s reaching out to Latino voters.

Mandated insurance probably is not unconstitutional.

Michelle Obama wears great dress to state dinner.

Why the Senate sucks
.

Update: Sarah Palin supporters — dumb as socks.

Thanks to joan16 for this one — Dana Perino says there were no terrorist attacks in America while George W. Bush was president.

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Obama’s China Trip Failed Everywhere But China

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Obama Administration

A follow up to “How the Liberal Media Behaves With Abject Obsequiousness to Barack Obama” — now some fellow at Spiegel is jumping into the “Obama’s China trip a failure” pool. Apparently Chris Matthews (and we know how sterling his judgment is) is calling Obama “Carteresque,” meaning weak. Conventional wisdom is saying that Obama is a sock who doesn’t now how to behave around those tough Chinese.

However, people who actually know something about China, especially those living there or who have lived there, are saying just the opposite.

Richard at Peking Duck writes, “The townhall was a triumph, and it is beyond comprehension why the media is determined to brand it – and all other aspects of the trip – a failure.” Well, it’s because that’s what our media does — somebody feeds them a narrative, and they write their news stories around the narrative. And the narrative they settled into is “the China trip failed.” What actually happened is irrelevant.

The townhall event was a live broadcast that went to 100 million Chinese. This is remarkable, because the Chinese government really doesn’t like live broadcasts. But they caved in. Obama spoke to an audience of young people — Communist Party youth, yes. James Fallows quotes a Mandarin speaking businessman who was in China at the time:

But the comment from President Obama that I think will have the most impact inside the firewall was not the one about US principles that you quoted in your followups. It was this one:

‘Now, I should tell you, I should be honest, as President of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time. I think people naturally are — when they’re in positions of power sometimes thinks, oh, how could that person say that about me, or that’s irresponsible, or — but the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear. It forces me to examine what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.’

“Wow! As a resident of China for two decades and a Mandarin-speaking China-watcher for three decades, I can say without any doubt that those words will resonate far more deeply — and potentially more “subversively” or “destabilizingly” — than any overt thumb-in-the-eye hectoring that any foreigner or foreign leader might muster, in public or private. Those words are ***precisely*** the kind that Zhongnanhai [Chinese term equivalent to “the Kremlin”] fears the most, and rightly so.”

This was reported in the U.S. as a failure. The Communist government outmaneuvered the Obama advance team by allowing him only a local broadcast (that went to 100 million Chinese), and Obama backed off from saying anything about human rights.

You see the disconnect. Obama’s words are not remarkable to an American, but apparently they had an entirely different effect in China.

Fallows quotes some other people who had a closer look at the China trip than most of us did, and they were far more positive toward the trip than anyone watching from here.

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Some Things Are Certain

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Democratic Party, Republican Party

After any Democratic Party legislative accomplishment, even an accomplishment that’s not really an accomplishment yet, such as last night’s Senate vote, there are some reactions you can count on.

Someone on the Right will explain why the accomplishment was not, in fact, an accomplishment, but a failure. Or a sign of weakness. Or a portent of failures to come.

Someone on the Left will explain that Harry Reid (or Rahm Emanuel, or Chuck Schumer, or Barack Obama, etc.) isn’t really one of us and has been planning to sell us out all along.

I’m still waiting for the third reaction, although it will no doubt be all over the Sunday talk shows — A majority of “pundits” will solemnly declare that whatever the Dems want to do will have no chance of success unless progressives adopt the wiser, more temperate positions of “moderates.”

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60 Votes

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Congress, Health Care

Reid haz them.

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