Saturday, June 16, 2007


Sometimes you gotta call a spade a spade. Sometimes you gotta call it a fucking shovel:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will meet Iraqi leaders for talks in Baghdad on Saturday after criticizing what he called their disappointing progress in passing laws Washington views as critical to ending violence.

Gates, who flew into Baghdad on Friday night, met U.S. military commanders on Saturday to assess a troop build-up designed to buy time for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government to win over disaffected Sunni Arabs, who form the backbone of the four-year-old insurgency.

His visit and frank criticism was a sign Washington is growing increasingly worried about what U.S. officials see as foot-dragging on laws on distributing oil revenues, control of regional oil fields and holding provincial elections.
Does anyone see an oil field anywhere in this picture? Does anyone see a voting booth in this picture?

As gun mongers are quick to point out, it's not the lack of laws, it's the lack of enforcement. From a certain point of view, they're right: you can pass all the laws you want, impose all the curfews you want, but unless you've got the people capable of rooting out those who would violate them, you got nothing.

The simple fact is, sending more American troops to Iraq was a failed policy from the start. One could have made the case that an additional 20,000 (now thirty thousand) troops sent in support of our forces already there might have made sense if the job was to secure strongholds that American forces could expand into larger areas, to then protect civilians, but more important, to train replacements.

It's clear that the now-concluded surge has merely made more American troops targets, despite its limited success in some regions of Baghdad. Naturally, the administration response to this is, "give it more time," that the troops need to be integrated into combat. Oh, and to blame the Iraqis.

Some of those troops have been there since February. That's more than three months. Seems to me they should have received better training here before rushing them over there. If you're going to take a long view of victory, then there's no reason to scurry to implement an escalation, particularly since your stated aim is to fall back and secure your holdings. You rush troops into battle because you feel time is an element in victory.

As to the second point, blaming the Iraqis, it also seems clear that this is a way to buy time for Bush to figure out Plan B, but on its face, it's pretty stupid. Yes, revenue sharing and oil rights are important to Iraq and a way of sharing them needs to be discovered (personally, I think they should do what Alaska does and hand out a stipend to the people directly, but what do I know?), but there are far larger issues to be addressed. Throwing money at this problem was never a real solution in a country that was used to being fairly well-off financially for centuries.

This is blood-warfare, kanly to you Dune fans, will not go away anytime soon, ay any price. Look at our own history. The Civil War effectively ended what had been a near one hunded year struggle by the South to impose its will on the nation, and yet the Civil War never really ended. It echoes even today with the Rebel flag controversies, with the glee that secessionists view how "liberal policies and East Coast elitists" have been severly hampered by their obstructionist, reactionary, recessive-gene-induced efforts. Kanly, indeed.

But not defeated. It wouldn't be a civil war if only one side fought, of course. That Sunni, Shi'a and Kurd have come to blows is not surprising, given the tumultuous history of Iraq in the 20th and 21st centuries. That things will only get worse is a no-brainer.

But then I forget who's running this an added bonus, Iraqis also have the chance to perform kanly on any American they see.

Laws about oil revenues will not stop the conflict. Our best hope for peace in Iraq is to turn it into the Koreas, and that will involve a commitment of fifty plus years (and counting), tens of thousands of troops, and the stomach to make one man's egregious blunder a national commitment.

And who the hell wants the Bush family to suck even more money from the national teat? We ought to declare kanly on the House of Bush.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Music Blogging

Sevara Nazarkhan - from the Uzbeki film Bir Kam Dunyo

Peter Gabriel toured with her in 2003. I was blown away by her voice and her sweetness.

Friday Kitten Blogging

OMG! Taht pigjun just mooned me! BURDS!

Nobody Asked Me But...

1) Apparently, Bush will receive a new infusion of testosterone shortly: The grind's almost over to forge two perfect balls. "Perfect" is about how he needs to be in order to survive with what shread of historical legacy he has in place.

2) NASA used to be the most highly regarded agency in the government. It seemed as though, if you asked them to do something, they got it done. Now, decades after defunding and belittling by conservative budget hawks intent of "war-ifying" America has whittled the budget and manpower to the bare minimum, even problems that we know about have become intractable.

3) Contrast this with the Scooter Libby sentence. Contrast this with the Paris Hilton sentence.

4) Father's Day is Sunday. I have a swim meet to attend with my daughter. What's wrong with this picture?

5) Thirty years ago? Try seven!

6) The best advice my dad ever gave me? Never mix scotch and Coca Cola.

7) Bet you knew nothing about this tragedy. Bangladesh is a critical element in subcontinental affairs.

8) How likely is it that this bill will pass Congress, and that Bush will veto it? I give it about a 75% chance, nearly intact.

9) Lesson for the day: Don't fuck with Mother Nature.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Nathan Thurm, Redux

You may recall the wonderful Saturday Night Live send up of nearly any corporate executive you've ever seen interviewed on 60 Minutes, as well as many of the producers of SNL, that Martin Short created, Nathan Thurm.

That was the first image that struck me as I read this story this morning:
Amid unrelenting bloodshed in Iraq and scant signs of progress by the Iraqi government in meeting political benchmarks, the White House sought to temper expectations of rapid strides resulting from a security crackdown begun at the start of this year.

"I have warned from the very beginning about expecting some sort of magical thing to happen in September," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters on Wednesday.

"What I would suggest is, rather than it's, sort of, a pivotal moment, it is the first opportunity to be able to take a look at what happens when you've got (the troop increase) up and running fully for a period of months," he added. "It is naive to think, suddenly -- boom -- you snap a finger and you've got an instant change in the situation."

One might think, Mr. Snow, about checking the State department website before running yo' mouf, beeyatch:
One reporter asked Petraeus whether the September assessment would be truthful if the general and ambassador determine troop levels should be reduced because the mission is not succeeding.

Petraeus replied, “I have an obligation to some wonderful young men and women in uniform, and a lot of civilians by the way, who are serving in Iraq and who deserve a forthright assessment from the folks at the top about the situation on the ground, and that’s what I’m going to provide them.”
But hey, don't let that harsh your mellow, Mr. Snow. I'm sure that when September comes, and you start losing Republican Senators to the antiwar movement in Congress, you'll find some way to frame it as an encouraging sign, just as the administration has done all along with its abject failure to impose a new government in Iraq.

Now, admittedly, Petraeus has backed off that statement in recent weeks. I can't imagine why, other than the fact that the surge is clearly not working and the good folks at Acme War College have to come up with yet again another delaying tactic for the 2008 election that doesn't include troop reductions (at least, not superficially).

Bush tried laying the groundwork for a positive assessment of the surge two months ago after meeting with Petraeus:
"There's been some progress," Bush said during a press briefing after his meeting. "There's been some horrific bombings, of course. There's also been a decline in sectarian violence."
Yeah. Say it with me, children...Oops!

As Nathan Thurm would say, "I know that! Why wouldn't I know that? I'm well aware of that!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Robin Williams explains why the Bush administration is so fucked up

Why You Need To Give A Shi'ite

Two stories, seemingly only tangentially related, share something in common:
GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas Islamist gunmen pressed on with their Gaza offensive on Wednesday, killing eight fighters loyal to Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas in a Palestinian supremacy struggle escalating steadily into civil war.

"What is happening in Gaza is madness," Abbas, the Fatah leader, told reporters in the occupied West Bank after meeting a foreign diplomat.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Suspected al Qaeda militants blew up two minarets of a revered Shi'ite mosque in the Iraqi city of Samarra on Wednesday, targeting a shrine bombed last year in an attack that unleashed a wave of sectarian killing.

Fearing renewed bloodshed, Iraq's government imposed an indefinite curfew in Baghdad as Shi'ite and Sunni political and religious leaders called on their followers to remain calm.

A grim mood descended on the capital as people hurried home before the start of the curfew. Police said gunmen set fire to a Sunni mosque in Baghdad's southwestern Bayaa district.
The internal struggle in Gaza (Palestinian) and the internal conflict in Iraq are both pitting Sunni versus Shia. Hamas is Sunni. Abbas, and by extension, Fatah (which despite being led by terrorists in its own right, is considered moderate) is also Sunni, but is more tolerant of Shi'a, having been educated mostly in Syria and Egypt with large Shi'a and Sufi populations.

And of course, the Iraqi attacks yesterday hearken back to a year ago, when another mosque in Samarra, the Al Askari mosque, was devastated by Sunni attackers, setting off the sectarian violence of the past year.

We here in America have long been focused on the internal conflict between Sunni and Shi'a in Iraq (the Kurds have been fortunately content to sit and wait it all out), but the trouble in Gaza, as well as last year's siege by Israel of Lebanon, speak of a broadening of this internal religious struggle into a full-blown regional war.

Good for the US? Maybe, but probably not. Remember, we still have Israel to protect for its strategic value as a toehold in the Middle East (especially now that Iraq is disintegrating before our eyes), Saudi Arabia would undoubtedly be called upon to reinforce the Sunni side, being very strict Sunni Wahabists. Iran would then be forced to shore up the Shi'a forces, putting Iran in conflict with Saudi Arabia, effectively cutting off Middle Eastern oil to the west by closing down the Persian Gulf.

Hm. Not good. We would at the very least be called into to keep the combatants apart, and more likely, take on Iran directly as proxy for the Sauds.

Really not good.

A year ago, I might have suggested that cooler heads will prevail, but with the cracked and broken US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the failure of the Army to meet already pretty liberal recruiting goals even before Gates implements his increase in the size of the army, we're pretty fresh out of manpower to fight Iran, and Iran knows this. We might still be able to stem the tide diplomatically.

If we actually had an administration that had a diplomat available.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Military Drilling

Pentagon Confirms It Sought To Build A 'Gay Bomb'

(CBS 5) BERKELEY A Berkeley watchdog organization that tracks military spending said it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting.

Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 that military leaders had considered, and then subsquently rejected, building the so-called "Gay Bomb."

They Be Stealing His Watch!

Check it out...about 1:07 in, you can see a guy take Bush's watch off his wrist in the upper right sector of the video! (h/t MissC for the heads up)
With friends like this, who needs an enema? Looks like we may be Wagging The Dog soon!

A Novel Approach

One thing I value in my quest to seek the office of NotPresident (see sidebar to the right to make campaign contributions) is novel ideas to solve stubborn or impopsing problems. As you are no doubt aware, I've put you to sleep bored you to tears spent many days talking about mortgage defaults and the plight of the middle and working classes who are loaded up with debt and have very shaky incomes to pay them off with.

So when the latest Democracy Journal was delivered to my inbox this week, I found an amazingly simple idea from Elizabeth Warren, the nation's premier expert on middle class bankruptcies: a Financial Products Safety Commission
I t is impossible to buy a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house. But it is possible to refinance an existing home with a mortgage that has the same one-in-five chance of putting the family out on the street–and the mortgage won’t even carry a disclosure of that fact to the homeowner. Similarly, it’s impossible to change the price on a toaster once it has been purchased. But long after the papers have been signed, it is possible to triple the price of the credit used to finance the purchase of that appliance, even if the customer meets all the credit terms, in full and on time. Why are consumers safe when they purchase tangible consumer products with cash, but when they sign up for routine financial products like mortgages and credit cards they are left at the mercy of their creditors?

The difference between the two markets is regulation. Although considered an epithet in Washington since Ronald Reagan swept into the White House, the "R-word" supports a booming market in tangible consumer goods. Nearly every product sold in America has passed basic safety regulations well in advance of reaching store shelves. Credit products, by comparison, are regulated by a tattered patchwork of federal and state laws that have failed to adapt to changing markets. Moreover, thanks to effective regulation, innovation in the market for physical products has led to more safety and cutting-edge features. By comparison, innovation in financial products has produced incomprehensible terms and sharp practices that have left families at the mercy of those who write the contracts.
Sharp practices such as raising your interest rate on one credit card because you were a day late on another one, and raising it to some usurious rate of near 25%, only because some states in the nation allow that (most do not, but it's based on the state where the card company operates. Hullo, South Dakota!).

Why do people go into debt? Basically, debt is an advance on your income, with the promise to pay it back over time. Usually, you do this when you need to buy something, like a house or a car, that will last a long time and costs a lot of money.

But credit is also a trap, more so for people who get addicted to the feeling of wealth one gets from being flush with cash and able to buy things.
Consumers can enter the market to buy physical products confident that they won’t be tricked into buying exploding toasters and other unreasonably dangerous products. They can concentrate their shopping efforts in other directions, helping to drive a competitive market that keeps costs low and encourages innovation in convenience, durability, and style. Consumers entering the market to buy financial products should enjoy the same protection. Just as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) protects buyers of goods and supports a competitive market, we need the same for consumers of financial products – a new regulatory regime, and even a new regulatory body, to protect consumers who use credit cards, home mortgages, car loans, and a host of other products. The time has come to put scaremongering to rest and to recognize that regulation can often support and advance efficient and more dynamic markets.
Isn't my credit rating at least as important as the fact that my house might burn down from a faulty toaster?

Particularly given the recent changes to the bankruptcy law that make it less likely that a consumer will ever be discharged from his debts if he gets in too deep over his head, this proposal is now more vital than ever. Things are only going to get worse for people as banks compete harder in a tighter mortgage and credit market for consumer dollars.
Americans are drowning in debt. One in four families say they are worried about how they will pay their credit card bills this month. Nearly half of all credit card holders have missed payments in the past year, and an additional 2.1 million families missed at least one mortgage payment. Last year, 1.2 million families lost their homes in foreclosure, and another 1.5 million families are likely headed into mortgage foreclosure this year.

Families’ troubles are compounded by substantial changes in the credit market that have made debt instruments far riskier for consumers than they were a generation ago. The effective deregulation of interest rates, coupled with innovations in credit charges (e.g., teaser rates, negative amortization, increased use of fees, cross-default clauses, penalty interest rates, and two-cycle billing), have turned ordinary credit transactions into devilishly complex financial undertakings. Aggressive marketing, almost nonexistent in the 1970s, compounds the difficulty, shaping consumer demand in unexpected and costly directions. And yet consumer capacity–measured both by available time and expertise–has not expanded to meet the demands of a changing credit marketplace. Instead, consumers sign on to credit products with only a vague understanding of the terms.
Indeed. To most of us, the language in a credit card agreement may as well be Sanskrit, for all we understand of it. The Schumer box, which is supposed to summarize the rates included in the agreement in plain English, can't possibly cover all the contingencies that are spoken about in the small print in which those rates may change.

Will this proposal ever see the light of day? I doubt it, without a concerted effort on the part of consumers and advocacy groups. Banks and other financial institutions make enormous contributions to politicians of both parties, precisely to keep regulations as lax as possible.

But something needs to be done and soon. Consumer debt to the United States is as big a problem as global warming is to the planet: it could cause the entire meltdown and collapse of the US economy, which is run on the fuel of consumer spending. For sure, the economy is going to take massive hits over the next several years as the mortgage market contracts, which will create opportunities for the fleecing of Americans, both legally and fraudulently, by legitimate financial concerns and, to put it politely, shady lenders and Nigerian princes whose money is trapped in Lagos.

It currently costs the American consumer $89 billion just to make the interest payments and fees on credit card debt. That doesn't include auto loans and mortgages, you'll notice. That's money that could be spent on shoes, books, clothing and laundry. Pretty essential stuff, and I chose those because they rank only slightly higher, in toto, than credit card servicing costs to the average Amerian family.

Yet, most people can tell you who makes quality clothes and shoes, or writes books worth reading.

We need an agency, not to protect Americans from falling into bankruptcy, that would be way too hard to do, but to help Americans understand what they are getting themselves into long before they get into trouble. Loan and credit language is deliberately obtuse, and that's the equivalent of putting rat poison into a teddy bear.

And poison is precisely what this language is designed to sugar-coat, or at least obscure. Most card companies will do as they damned well please, no matter how much you beg or complain, and the legal recourses you have are usually stacked in the lenders favor. You can't take them to court, you have to go to an arbiter that they get to choose. And so on.

I could go on, but Ms. Warren states the case more plainly than I could. What troubles me most about this is, its such an obvious solution to a pressing problem that it should be getting much more attention than some backwater webjournal and blog.

Spread the word, folks. We need this. Now.

Monday, June 11, 2007

An Open Letter To Joe Klein

...Fury begets fury. Poison from the right-wing talk shows seeped into the Republican Party's bloodstream and sent that party off the deep end. Limbaugh's show—where Dick Cheney frequently expatiates—has become the voice of the Republican establishment. The same could happen to the Democrats. The spitballs aimed at me don't matter much. The spitballs aimed at Harman, Clinton and Obama are another story. Despite their votes, each of those politicians believes the war must be funded. (Obama even said so in his statement explaining his vote.) Each knows, as Senator Jim Webb has said repeatedly, that we must be more careful getting out of Iraq than we were getting in. But they allowed themselves to be bullied into a more simplistic, more extreme position. Why? Partly because they fear the power of the bloggers to set the debate and raise money against them. They may be right—in the short (primary election) term; Harman faced a challenge from the left in 2006. In the long term, however, kowtowing to extremists is exactly the opposite of what this country is looking for after the lethal radicalism of the Bush Administration.
Your fears are not unjustified, Mr. Klein. What I think you miss as a point is the anger of Blogtopia (© Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo, who's hosting a "No Funds For Dems" rally at his place), and while that anger could, should and is being correctly directed at Clinton, Obama, and Harman, you have justified your own petar' hoisting.

Let's take your case, in particular, before we look at Obama et al. You write in your print column this week:
A strange thing happened to me the day the House of Representatives voted to pass the Iraq-war-funding bill. Congresswoman Jane Harman of California called as the debate was taking place. "Look, I would love to have cast a vote against Bush on this," she told me. "We need a new strategy, and I hope we can force one in September. But I flew into Baghdad [with 150 young soldiers recently]. To vote against this bill was to vote against giving them the equipment... they need. I couldn't do that." I posted what Harman said on Swampland, the political blog at, along with my opinion that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had changed their positions and voted against the funding for the worst possible reason: presidential politics.

And then Harman changed her position. After we spoke, she voted against the funding. The next day, I was blasted by a number of left-wing bloggers: Klein screwed up! I had quoted Harman in the past tense—common usage for politicians who know their words will appear after a vote takes place. That was sloppy and... suspicious! Proof that you just can't trust the mainstream media. On Eschaton, a blog that specializes in media bashing, I was given the coveted "Wanker of the Day" award. Eventually, Harman got wind of this and called, unbidden, to apologize for misleading me, saying I had quoted her correctly but she had changed her mind to reflect the sentiments of her constituents. I published her statement and still got hammered by bloggers and Swampland commenters for "stalking" Harman into an apology, for not checking her vote in the Congressional Record, for being a "water boy for the right wing" and many other riffs unfit to print.
(emphasis added) They is none so blind as he who will not see.

Let me describe this from where I, a moderate to liberal Democrat who often gets accused of the same things you do: apologizing for a dysfunctional system, see this. Let's use Harman's quote as the underpinning of this description, but you and I both know you've screwed up like this before, and I could substitute any number of topics here. You raised this one, however.

As a blogger, I understand the value of being "firstest" with a story. I haven't broken any stories on my blog, but when I find a tidbit that I think may become a story shortly, I write about what I've found. This often means going back later and realizing I made a mistake when things didn't turn out the way I predicted they might.

Which is, in effect, what you did with Harman's statement: published it, but got the story wrong. Nothing wrong with that. Should you have waited to check her vote in the CR? I think so, but I'm not paid to be first (or right...I just prefer it that way).

But think about this for a second: your idea of a breaking story is to tell us what a politician told you.


True, you are not a beat reporter on the police desk, trying to dig up the facts around a murder, or an investigative journalist hellbent on uncovering the bribe that allowed a Hormel plant to package bad meat.

Neither, and this is the important bit, are you the mouthpiece for any politician whom you have access to, which is what annoys us most of all about you, as well as Tim Russert, or Chris Matthews, or anyone who appears on TV on a regular basis pontificating about "the news".

We bloggers are asking the right questions, questions that demand answers. We don't have the access or influence to truly press a politician about those questions.

You have the access, yet you don't ask the right questions. Can you imagine how frustrating that is?

Admittedly, some of the questions can range from vitally important to pretty ridiculous. No one's saying you should be our mouthpiece either. But when a Jane Harman talks about "supporting our troops," the legitimate question of "why do we even have troops in the field any longer and isn't voting for this bill an endorsement of that policy?" has to be asked. If you had, it sure wasn't evident from the story you posted (I should note here that, while I do not know Marcy Winograd, Harman's primary challenger in 2006, I do regularly correspond with a family member of hers).

Neither did you explore this issue in your print piece I've linked to, and I'd like you to do that: explain why, when you have this access, you aren't asking tougher questions.

I can think of several reasons on my own: the Bush administration has been very tough on journalists who don't tow the line, for one; for another, you won't get invited to the cool parties in Georgetown if you're viewed as an adversary.

These are rather weak excuses, if you ask me: my freedom depends on your reporting and the reporting of hundreds of others in Washington. In toto, you're collectively failing to do your jobs. Joe, your small "gaffe" is a tiny piece of it, but as with global climate change, every atom of carbon adds up to the crisis.

With global climate change, if we can't stand the heat, there's nothing we can do about it, except look to our own lives and hope we can make a difference. With your reporting tho, we can. We can call attention to our dissatisfaction with your efforts, and hope you'll do better next time. We can ask you to keep a more critical eye on the reporting of others, to stop sucking at the teat of the cocktail circuit and go back and start recalling the lessons you learned in Journalism 101.

As Izzy Stone put it, "Report the news so that no story is a surprise to anyone." You don't want us on your butt about getting the Harman story wrong? Then make sure it's right.

Let me talk about the politicians here, as well. Part of the problem we on the left (even us moderate lefties) have with Obama, Clinton, and Harman, amongst nearly all the others (even Mike Gravel), is that they serve two houses: us and mammon. We, the people, feel we ought to come first, but let's face facts. We, the people don't any longer. When a politician is elected on November 3rd, let's say, and by November 4th has sent out her or his first contribution solicitation (don't laugh, I've gotten them), it's annoying to me, but it also speaks volumes about who really has a Senator's ear in DC.

And YOU, Joe, ought to be calling them on that! Instead of enabling them by transcribing what they say (and boy, does Stephen Colbert have the DC media by the balls when he talks about this!) you ought to be asking who benefits from their talking point, and looking into that. And this goes for Democrats as well as (and in particular with) Republicans.

We would cut Clinton and Obama slack if we thought you and your journalist buddies weren't going to go roll over for the next flavor politician. We can't trust you to do your jobs, so we have to do it for you.

Frankly, I'd be happy to hand this back over to you. I'd prefer that you wrote the stories, and me and Duncan and Kos and everyone over at My Left Wing could say "Gee, that Klein guy really got a story out of Hillary over her war vote!"

We do it for Olbermann. We do it for Stewart. We did it for Dobbs at CNN when he talked fact and not propaganda, and for Jack Cafferty. Hell, we did it for Imus when he asked the tough questions, and look where he ranks on our radar now!

Since it's up to us to defend our right to know, I'm sure you can understand that some of us are justifiably panicked by this assault on our freedom, and we'll overreact.

Really. People get scared when the impending image of our future is a world where corporations and government tag-team us, and the only referee is owned by AOL, or General Electric, or Disney, or Viacom. We might, just maybe, view the deck as stacked against us and get a bit pissed off.

Were the overall criticisms of you fair? Joe, I've read your column for years now, and I find you to be fairly even-handed, middle-of-the-road (sorry, you're not that liberal), but willing to take an honest look at issues. But an honest look at issues means going out and testing the information you have, and if you don't do it, that bothers me. A lot.

Quoting a general on the ground in Iraq is fine. But Knight Ridder made a lot of news by actually getting on the ground and seeing what the captains and colonels thought. We need you to do the equivalent of that when it comes to a self-serving statement by political phonies who deign to allow you to quote them because it might distort their record in a way that massages their chances for re-election.

In effect, using you as a tool.

I'd feel pretty ugly about that, if I was in your shoes.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nothing beats habeas

Olbermann guest: Suspending habeas corpus has made us less safe

David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Friday June 8, 2007

Keith Olbermann reported Thursday on the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, calling it "a historical restoration project, the reconstruction of one of the cornerstones of American democracy."

The Military Commissions Act, passed last year by the Republican Congress, stripped away the fundamental Constitutional right of habeas corpus. Now the Senate Judiciary Committee, in voting for the Restoration Act, has taken the first step in restoring it. Olbermann asked constitutional law scholar Jonathan Turley about the argument by supporters of the Military Commissions Act that habeas corpus has been suspended before in times of war without destroying the Republic.

Turley responded to that argument in three different ways, saying first that the nation's survival of previous suspensions of habeas corpus "says more about the Republic than the actions of the earlier presidents. This is a system of government that was designed to be idiot-proof -- and God knows we've tested that through the years. ... This was one of the most disgraceful moments of the last Congress, and it will be equally disgraceful to see many Republicans vote to fight the effort to bring back the Great Writ."

Turley went on to explain that habeas corpus is not a dangerous luxury or some sort of lawyer's trick to get crooks out of jail, but "is actually the foundation for all other rights. When the government throws you into a dungeon for what you say or who you pray to, it's habeas corpus that's the right that allows you to see the enforcement of the other rights."

Finally, Turley emphasized that suspending habeas corpus has actually made us less safe: "The greatest irony of the Bush administration is that his legacy will be to show the dangers of walking away from those rights that define us. We're very much alone today. ... We're viewed as a rogue nation. And it is a dangerous world to live in when you're alone."

The video from MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, broadcast on June 7, is at the link contained in the title.