CIA torture report: some good sources

You can find good coverage of the CIA torture report at https://www.emptywheel.net and www.andrewsullivan.com today. I’m not sure what to say exactly.

It seems clear that:

  1. Some CIA employees tortured people
  2. It was a terrible method of getting useful intel
  3. Some psychologists made a shitload of money
  4. The program was largely kept secret from oversight

I mean, this isn’t new information really. The specific report is new, and it’s damning to see the CIA’s own conclusions in black-and-white. I like to hope most CIA employees are horrified by this report, and do not condone torture. I imagine most CIA employees have good intentions. But damn. It’s not just the torture, but the coverup.

And I mean. I’m a liberal, I voted for Obama. Shocker I know. But he seems intent to “look forward, not backwards” on this. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I say I want to see some prosecutions for this.

One of my senators, John Cornyn, is busy arguing that torture saved lives. I don’t know what to say. As far as I can tell elected Republicans are OK with literally any policy, no matter how brutal or unscientific or unethical, if it will secure them votes. I know, I know–Republican officeholders often seem to treat “getting elected” as the end goal in and of itself, instead of “governing well”–but what the hell, guys?

This isn’t about protecting the CIA, or protecting people who made bad choices after 9/11. This is about appeasing the “any means necessary” voters who don’t have the slightest fucking clue what US national security policies should be other than, apparently, as brutal as possible. Regardless of whether it’s actually good for American citizens, or the US government, or citizens of the rest of the world.

This torture defense is about satisfying the desire for revenge in some sick, sick people. Some of whom are voters. Some of whom held high office. Some of whom may currently be holding high office now.

Chris Hughes: or, liberalism isn’t just gay marriage

I read this story at Salon in light of The New Republic resignations.

Consider a troubling anecdote in a new column from the Post’s Dana Milbank. This fall, Alec MacGillis, a senior editor who resigned in last week’s mass exodus, proposed a piece on Apple’s tax avoidance schemes. MacGillis pitched the story shortly after Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, came out as gay. In an email exchange, Hughes shut down MacGillis’ idea, declaring that “Apple has acted squarely within the law” and that such a piece would be “tone deaf” after Cook’s “incredibly heroic” announcement.

And

Hughes’ statement reflects the fundamental bankruptcy of a liberal cast of mind which holds that enlightenment on social issues is the defining feature of modern liberalism; economic injustices and inequities are secondary or tertiary concerns, if they are concerns at all. This liberalism — more precisely, neoliberalism — makes its peace with the plutocracy.

See, this is why Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee makes me nervous. Per this poll it appears that most voters regard Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street as a fundamentally good thing. I do not.

Those close ties to Wall Street are good if you accept that the economic system that produced so much wealth for such a small group in New York is fundamentally fair and just. American capitalism is fundamentally OK, it just has a few minor hitches. Wealth inequality in the US is not a problem compared to say, gay marriage.

Which is to say that once whatever social issue of concern has been fixed for these Democrats (gay marriage, immigration, abortion rights, whatever) then the status quo becomes perfectly OK. Chris Hughes can marry whom he likes, so the fact that American wealth distribution is so skewed isn’t a problem. Hillary Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street are OK because, well, she’s probably more liberal on abortion than the Republican nominee will be.

So in this troubling view, liberalism only applies to social issues. Economic issues? Nope, everything is fine here. There are rich liberal people, so you can all go home now.

Fuck that.

Liberals should work towards helping the poorest in society. If we see inequality we’re supposed to say, “Gosh, I wonder WHY there’s so much inequality? Is it just?” We’re just not supposed to have one pet issue and then, once that’s fixed, pack our bags and go home. OK, we have a black president, we can ignore the problem of African-American incarceration. We can ignore the Eric Garner killing. Everything is OK now.

If you’re only a social-issues liberal, or a one-issue liberal, I’m not sure we’re really on the same side.

Ferguson, political involvement

Ferguson got me thinking. I want to be more involved, politically, in the world around me. I want to get these thoughts out of my head and into the “real” world.

I live in a red part of a red state. I have crap health. Am I SOL? Am I making excuses? Probably. Seeing people marching, getting arrested, etc. makes me think damn, at least they’re engaging with the world politically. Folks like @deray on Twitter are making their voices heard, changing the world a little bit, maybe making white folks think gosh, maybe America isn’t the post-racial harmonyland we thought it was.

A lot of changes are going on in my life lately. This is one I’d like to stick. I don’t want to look back in 10 years and think, huh, I was a hippie and I tried to support people of color and minorities and trans people and everyone, and I did in my head, but man I didn’t do a fucking thing in real life.

The sky is falling, Democrat edition

Charlie Cook has a story about why the Dems lost so hard in 2014, and Digby posted a rebuttal of sorts.

Cook:

There are many reasons for this decline in support for Democrats among certain groups. But an argument can be made that it is because Democrats have subordinated their traditional focus on helping lower- and working-class Americans move up the economic ladder in favor of other noble priorities, such as health care, the environment, and civil rights.

David Atkins at Digby, summarized:

Voter turnout was awful in 2014. People are discouraged and angry, and the economy is still only really working for the already-wealthy. This was a blow against incumbents, an unusually unfortunate set of Senate races, and was basically just going to happen. This doesn’t excuse the Dems, but does explain what happened.

I’m not sure. I’m unhappy with how poor the Democratic Party is at campaigning, in general. The Democratic Party always seems to be reeling from punch after punch, stumbling its way through elections despite representing the interests of (in my opinion) the majority of the American people. The Republican Party meanwhile manages to somehow come out a winner much of the time, despite pushing policies that often seem to me to be frankly dangerous. This is especially true for me in Texas, where I swear oil and gas could frack next to schools and houses if they found oil there.

Oh wait, that really happened in Denton until voters put a stop to it.

I don’t know what made 2008 and Obama different besides his substantial personal charisma, and GW’s poor leadership over eight years. Maybe that was all it was. Maybe the Democrats need to continue figuring out what went wrong, and maybe they need to stop beating themselves up. Time will tell, I suspect. If the Democrats go into 2016 still on the ropes, we can talk larger strategy. Until then I think we just need to calm down and see what Obama and our new Republican House and Senate do.

Suggested reading: How to win as a Democrat, Elizabeth Warren edition.

Eric Garner: no indictment

http://www.vox.com/2014/12/3/7329659/vox-sentences-eric-garner

The only good news from this mess is that it’s about as clear-cut as you can get. Even die-hard conservative Charles Krauthammer stated that “[f]rom looking at the video, the grand jury’s decision here is totally incomprehensible.”

Black lives shouldn’t be a left/right issue. Maybe Michael Brown’s case was too ambiguous. But this sure as hell isn’t.

The Plight of the Southern Democrat

Written about at CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/03/politics/southern-democrats/index.html?hpt=po_c1

“I can’t remember it being any gloomier for Democrats in the South than it is today,” said Curtis Wilkie, the longtime journalist and observer of Southern life who lectures at the University of Mississippi. “The party has been demonized by Republicans. It’s very bleak. I just don’t see anything good for them on the horizon.”

That about sums up the 2014 elections here in the South, sure. Some measure of hand-wringing and naval-gazing is inevitable. Figuring out what went wrong is important, and this piece tries to answer that question a bit. In a nutshell:

  • Obama: Unpopular, dragged down the Dems. Standard for a midterm.
  • Decreased importance of African-American voters (compared to white and Hispanic ones)
  • The GOP controls a lot of state legislatures, which makes things difficult for Democrats chiefly via gerrymandering but other ways as well

#2 and #3 are worrisome to me. Realistically the Democratic Party is going to have to secure a broader foundation beyond winning a minority of many groups (white voters being the largest bloc) and relying on 92%+ of the African-American vote to capture elections. Some liberal issues have been successful lately, the most significant being gay marriage and marijuana legalization in some states. But this hasn’t really translated to electoral success for liberal candidates.

The Democrats need to build a bigger bench. Its candidates have got to start focusing on more local issues or else they’re going to have more years of wondering why they’re getting eviscerated nationally. This is going to be especially rough in the South–at this point I am fairly sure that Satan could run and win as a Republican in my district–but it’s the most necessary here. If you can’t demonstrate to Texas voters (for example) that Democrats can run a competent local government, you’re not giving traditionally-Republican voters a reason to change over.

If Democrats tuck their heads down and mutter about how Republican voters are hardheaded bigots, they’re going to see a lot of repeats of 2014.

Update: Obama’s immigration announcement is a hit among Hispanic voters. A sane, ethical policy that also wins over voters? Hooray.

Just Texas things

In Texas tonight, the state is planning to kill a schizophrenic man, Scott Panetti. http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/02/opinion/powers-texas-execution/

Unusually, the state parole board has taken the step of recommending his sentence be commuted to life in prison, which means Rick Perry can stop this if he wants. There is a petition to stop this madness, but… if we’re relying on a petition I think we already lost.

We’ll see.

Update as of 11:27AM: The Fifth Circuit Court has temporarily stopped the execution.

Hillary Clinton, Dems, etc

I’m uncomfortable how inevitable it appears that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for POTUS. I know, Elizabeth Warren is a goddamn hippie and those people never win elections, I’ve heard it.

But the Democratic Party, with rare exceptions like Obama, seems to have difficulty campaigning nationally. I am comfortable saying as a whole, the Democratic Party couldn’t campaign its way out of a paper bag. Shit, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi probably couldn’t persuade me to leave a burning building.

And that’s a problem. Anointing Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee 18 months early… seems like it’s perpetuating the problem. Obama wasn’t weaker because he fended off Clinton in the primaries. He had to work his ass off for that nomination, he did, and then he beat McCain and Romney later on.

I assume campaigning is like anything else: practice makes perfect. It’s why my writing is crap now; I didn’t practice. What was the last election that Clinton won? 2006? That was eight years ago. What were you doing eight years ago?

I don’t care if she was the Secretary of State. I don’t care if she was the goddamn Empress of Atlantis. The Democratic Party and liberals in the US need to make sure that she has what it takes to win an election, and right now we just seem to be hand-waving it because all the Republican contenders seem like goddamn morons. Guess what, they probably are, but if there’s one thing Republicans are good at it’s winning elections on a local, state AND national level.

Sometimes I feel like there’s a dichotomy here: Winning Elections versus Governing Well, where Democrats seem to focus on the latter. Guess what. It doesn’t matter one bit how well you might have governed if you lose your election. Al Gore might not have invaded Iraq? Tough shit, because he lost his election. He lost under shady circumstances? Again, tough shit.

“Thugs”, black lives

Something I’ve noticed with regard to the ongoing mess in Ferguson: the constant description of Michael Brown as a “thug.” Now, there’s nothing new about this, but look too at the case of poor Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot by police in Cleveland, OH. A few hours after he’s shot and this story comes out: his father had a history of domestic violence, apparently.

That may be. But his father wasn’t the one shot. Why is it relevant?

These sorts of events don’t occur in a vacuum. There is a larger narrative being written. The narrative here is “Tamir Rice was born to a violent abuser and his life therefore isn’t worth as much as a 12-year-old white boy’s life.” He was born into the thug caste and that is how he died.

This is the same reason that Obama’s birth certificate mattered. Nobody gave a shit that John McCain was actually born in the Panama Canal area. His dad was in the Navy. He was white. It was OK. But Obama? He’s from Kenya, because why the hell not. He doctored his Hawaii birth certificate, knowing that in a few short decades he would be a Manchurian Candidate POTUS. Elaborate.

I’m not being particularly brave here in saying that black lives matter. It’s a blindingly obvious point. I just want people to be aware of what labelling someone a “thug” really does. If you think Michael Brown got himself killed because of his actions, okay, I can work with that. But if you start talking about black people or Tamir’s dad or black-on-black violence, you are coming damn close to saying that their lives inherently just were not as worthy as others.

Update: Stacy Patton of the Chronicle of Higher Education:

America does not extend the fundamental elements of childhood to black boys and girls. Black childhood is considered innately inferior, dangerous and indistinguishable from black adulthood. Black children are not afforded the same presumption of innocence as white children, especially in life-or-death situations.