14 January, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

There's no way I can't enjoy this:

I've been engaged in Democratic politics for quite a while, and I honestly can't remember the last time they did something this clever.

First, a little history. For the first time in nearly 140 years, Republicans are the majority party in the Tennessee House, enjoying a 50 to 49 edge in the 99-seat chamber. State Rep. Jason Mumpower (R), anxious to pursue a far-right agenda, was excited about becoming the first Republican House Speaker since Reconstruction, and had already secured the support of his caucus.

But this morning, when state lawmakers met to elect the Speaker, something amusing happened.

When lawmakers returned from break, now an hour into session, they tackled the Speakers position. Representative Jason Mumpower of Bristol received the first nomination. Republicans hoped to end the nomination process there, but after more political wrangling, allowed Democrats to submit a candidate.

What happened next some may describe as the political play of the decade as all 49 Democrats backed Kent Williams, a Sophomore Republican from Carter County, a district just miles from Mumpower's hometown.

During the voice vote on the Speaker's position, the House clerk called every Democrat first, then every Republican, except Williams. The 49 to 49 split was then decided by Williams.

Williams accepted the position amid cheers and boos, prompting state troopers to enter the House chambers ready to respond to an outburst.

Amazing what we can do when we all work together, now, innit? Watching the GOP get derailed like this just absolutely made my day. I'm certain the screaming fits that ensue will be all kinds of entertaining.

Alas, we must now move on to more depressing subjects, such as Dick Cheney, who believes 4,500 dead soldiers is a small price to pay for his lies:

In an interview airing tonight on PBS’s Newshour, host Jim Lehrer asks Vice President Cheney about the U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives in the war in Iraq. Cheney shows little remorse:

Q: But Mr. Vice President, getting from there to here, 4,500 Americans have died, at least 100,000 Iraqis have died. Has it been worth that?

CHENEY: I think so.

Q: Why?

CHENEY: Because I believed at the time what Saddam Hussein represented was, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, was a terror-sponsoring state so designated by the State Department. … He had produced and used weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological agents. He’d had a nuclear program in the past. … And he did have a relationship with al Qaeda. […]


The United States did not invade in Iraq because Saddam “had a nuclear program in the past,” nor did he have a relationship with al Qaeda. We went to war because Bush administration officials made everyone believes that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction at that time and an active relationship with al Qaeda. The Iraq war has decimated the readiness of the U.S. military, radicalized insurgents in the Middle East, and strengthened many of America’s enemies. As David Sanger of the New York Times notes, the war also “occupied so much of the attention and the resources of the top levels of the U.S. government that we ignored much bigger threats, short-term and long-term.”

A lying asshole to the bitter end.

It must also be noted that Bush and Cheney's torture policies are causing severe problems when it comes to prosecutions. Namely, "evidence" acquired by torture is proving inadmissible:

By some measure, we already knew that Mohammed al-Qahtani -- perhaps best known as "Detainee 063" after the Time cover story detailing his interrogation -- had been tortured. Attempts to prosecute him have repeatedly been delayed after officials were forced to concede that the evidence against him had been gleaned through "coercive interrogation."

But for all of the White House talk about how the United States "does not torture," it's occasionally helpful to learn that Bush, Cheney, and others have been lying, and it's precisely why al-Qahtani can't be charged.

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."
"We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.


Intelligence officials had evidence that Qahtani was planning to be the 20th hijacker on 9/11, and the prosecution against him, as Philip Carter noted last year, "should have been an opportunity for the government to prove its case against this defendant and al-Qaida -- and to confer some legitimacy on America's war on terrorism through the legal process."

But we can't, because we tortured him. The Bush administration thought it would get "tough" with suspected terrorists, but instead, it got a bunch of evidence we can't use, while undermining the nation's moral standing, breaking the law, and arguably committing war crimes.

So much for keeping us safe by playing Jack Bauer, eh? Funny how that Hollywood stuff doesn't actually work in the real world.

I'm sure Cons will cry that it's just those pesky legal niceties that keep us from procecuting the bad guys, but considering the questionable quality of evidence derived via torture, it's impossible to use it to prove guilt. We can't even use it to pursue actual terrorists:

Experts widely believe that torture fails to provide reliable intelligence. In an article for Vanity Fair last month, the counterterrorism officials with whom David Rose spoke were “unanimous” in their belief that torture does not work:

Their conclusion is unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts

Newsweek’s recent claim that torture is effective fails to consider the consequences of its usage. Not only has torture caused the United States to lose standing in the world, but the perception that the U.S. tortures “directly and swiftly” helps terrorists recruit..

Which all seem to me to be great reasons not to use it, but to people with a Jack Bauer complex, those are just irrelevant details.

Have I mentioned lately I'm glad we've got less than a week left with these fucktards in charge? And they ain't exactly leaving popular:
The final Gallup poll on George W. Bush's approval ratings was released this morning, and thanks to some 11th-hour goodwill from Republicans, the president will leave office with a 34% rating. That puts him near the bottom of modern presidents, but not quite at the very bottom.

In one sense, Bush's final rating is worse than either Carter's or Truman's, because his disapproval score is significantly higher. Whereas Bush and Carter share identical 34% final job approval ratings, 61% of Americans disapprove of the job Bush is doing, compared with 55% who said they disapproved of Carter in December 1980. Similarly, whereas Bush's final approval rating is slightly higher than Truman's 32% in 1952, his disapproval rating is also higher (61% vs. 56%), resulting in a lower net approval rating for Bush.

Only Richard Nixon was explicitly less popular at the time of his exit than Bush is today. Gallup's final approval polling on Nixon, in which 24% of Americans said they approved of the job he was doing, was conducted Aug. 2-5, 1974, less than a week before Nixon resigned from office over the Watergate break-in political scandal. [...]

Bush has what most would consider the unwanted distinction of registering the lowest final job approval rating of any modern president leaving office at the natural end of his term.

Bush sez he doesn't care. The fact he's got an army of legacy polishers out buffing as hard as they can claims otherwise.

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