TORTURE AND PELOSI

TORTURE AND PELOSI

Sometimes listening to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can be torture. It is right now as she tries to explain what the CIA did or did not tell her about torture policy or practice.  She says that she was not briefed about actual use.  The Republicans are trying to make a big deal about her supposed knowledge of the use of torture. However, what difference does it make?

Torture is a crime. It is a violation of our treaty obligations. We engaged in torture.  The only question is who should be held to account and to what extent.

Whether Ms. Pelosi knew of actual or only intended use is of no consequence. Whatever the Republicans think she should have done about it applies in either case.

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com

As the Republicans push this diversion, thinking that somehow inaction by Pelosi excuses their defense of torture, they are just prolonging their losing strategy ofdefending actions that are against American values and against the law.

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COMEDIAN-IN-CHIEF

COMEDIAN-IN-CHIEF

The White House Correspondents' Dinner has generated much comment about the performance of the speakers.

First, we have President Obama, who got great reviews and little criticism. I agree, but with a quibble and a comment. His delivery, his timing, and his material were top notch. My quibble is that he was too much of a stand up comedian. Better a more general talk leavened with humor and a few great lines.

Comment. I loved his lines about Rahm's difficulty with "Mother" being followed with the word "Day", and about Hillary's warm greeting immediately upon her return from Mexico. But I thought his comment about Cheney was undignafied for him; better it should come from Wandy Sykes.

Wanda - Her wish for Limbaugh's death was over the line, but most of her material was quite good. I particularly liked her caution to Sarah Palin about her last minute pull out from this event.

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com

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SPECTOR SWITCHES PARTIES

SPECTOR SWITCHES PARTIES

President Obama received a 100th day present of sorts as Pennsylvania's moderate Republican Senator, Arlen Spector, announced that he is joining the Democratic party. In theory this gets him closer to the 60 votes needed to forestall a Senate filibuster.

Senator Spector is no stranger to switching sides. He started in Philadelphia politics as a Democrat, switching to Republican when District Attorney there. More recently, after opposing the Bush warrantless wiretapping he did an about face on the issue, betraying those who praised him for protecting civil liberties.

Although his support is never certain, The Democrats will undoubtedly welcome Spector into their party. However, it is unlikely that they will ever bestow on him the Congeniality Award.

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com

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NEWS AND COMMENT

The Sebelious nomination for HHS Secretary has been stalled by the Republicans in a time of great need to respond to the swine flu crisis.

On MSNBC, Pat Buchanan has been attributing the incidence of swine flu and other ills to the steady influx of Mexicans immigrating to the U.S. across our porous borders.

To respond to this serious problem, let's have Mr. Buchanan and Lou Dobbs go to Mexico now for an extended fact finding mission.

homer  www.altara.blogspot.com

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TORTURE INVESTIGATION

TORTURE INVESTIGATION

Although I have said that prosecution of those responsible for instituting a policy of torture would be good, I'm really not that sure. What I do favor is a full investigation by congressional committee or commission.

We need this for two main reasons. Exposing the truth and renouncing the actions helps to restore our moral standing in the world. Acknowledging mistakes is worthwhile and is good preventative medicine for the future. Secondly, the truth will perhaps reduce the spread of the constant right wing claims that are contrary to the truth.

Chances are that the investigation will expose improper demands by Cheney and Bush that the Department of Justice approve the methods they wished to use. These two, and probably others, may well be guilty of war crimes and crimes unde U.S. laws. And DOJ investigation may well lead to the same conclusion and implicate those lawyers who succumbed to political pressure.

However, I do not favor prosecution and would hope that prosecutorial discretion and congressional forbearance will prevail. The reasons may be a bit flimsy, such as the tnen 9-11 fervor or the current economic travails, but the alternative of a years of trials with a former president and vice president in the dock is unthinkable.

Let the congressional investigation conclude with a Resolution of Condemnation and then we all move on.

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com

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THE TEXAS SECESSION


THE TEXAS SECESSION

Ever since Texas Governor Rick Perry suggested that his state might well secede in protest against oppressive federal policies, pundits have pointed out that secession has been discredited since the 1860's and that the agreement upon Texas' entry gave it no right to secede. (The agreement did give Texas the right to morph into five separate states, but no one wants that)

I say, let Texas secede. Not only would secession rid us of those annoying Dallas Cowboy fans and obnoxious politicians such as Tom Delay, but it would help with the illegal immigration problem.
Texas may well become once again part of Mexico, but even if not we no longer have to monitor that long southern Texas border. We'll find it easier to seal the border with Arkansas. And if Texans try to sneak across, they'll be easier to catch since they're larger and louder than Mexicans.

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com

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HAPPY TEABAG DAY! - April 15, 2009

HAPPY TEABAG DAY! - April 15, 2009

Gay marriage again. Recent legislation and court decisions upholding same-sex marriages in Vermont and Iowa (yes, Iowa) have brought this issue into political contention again. So I'm posting again the view I noted many years ago. One positive development is that I recently heard one politician voicing the same thought.

The solution - take marriage off the table. Get the word "marriage" off the statuate books.

Let marriage be the private commitment that it really is. Those who wish can choose marriage, and label it as such, in accordance with their faith, spiritual values, ethics, or other personal beliefs. It may or may not be church or religion related; that depends of the tenets of the church and the wishes of the couple.

On the other hand, the state should have nothing to do with the institution of marriage. Its concern should only be civil union and the regulation of the legalities of formation and dissolution, basic rights and obligations of the parties, and economic benefits attendant to the union. The state's role as protector of children remains unchanged.

homer  www.altara.blogspot.com

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"War on Terror" Comment

Obama Scraps 'Global War on Terror' for 'Overseas Contingency Operation'
So, no more of President Bush's "war on terror". It was a stupid phrase, saying that we had a war against extreme fear. But it was effective, helping to bestow on Bush the status of a wartime president and leading him to claim extraordinary executive powers, such as engaging in illegal wiretapping. And the phrase persevered even as the Iraq invasion devolved into an occupation.

The proposed new phrase, "overseas contingency operation", is not a whole lot better. What contingency, a hurricane? Running out of fuel? A hooker strike in Amsterdam?

Admittedly, it is difficult to find the best words for our current course. If it's described as a war against extremism, or radical Islamists, we may offend the moslem world. And it is not wise to call it a war. We need a word such as the Cold War's "containment" Best I can come up with is "Operation Global Security". But not "securitization".

homer  www.altara.blogspot.com

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AIG - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

The Republicans are unduly exploitive, but the AIG situation has been mishandled.

Surely, someone (Paulson or Geitner?) should have known about the compensation contracts that has resulted in this bonus mess and required their unraveling before the bail out money was released.  Negotiation: The employees could well have been persuaded to negotiate because of the alternative might have been bankruptcy and loss or drastic reduction of bonuses.

It is a mess and an embarrassing distraction for the Obama administration. It is, however, important to realize that these sordid payments total a relatively small sum when compared to aggregate bail out money. Also, the bail out is not really forAIG but for the counterparties to is unwise insurance contracts, and for the financial system as a whole. The government owns 80% of AIG so the stockholders have been losers. (But why not 100%?)

Negotiation: It seems that the counterparties are getting full payment under their contracts. Why?  Reductions would be in order given that otherwise they could be dealing with a company in bankruptcy.

I don't know if these contracts can be broken, but I would say let them sue for their money. Wouldn't incompetence and causing company ruin be a defense?

Question: Much is being made of the mysterious deletion of a legislative provision that, it is said, would have prevented unreasonable bonuses. But, according to what I've seen in the media, all this provision did was to tax at 35% bonus compensation in excess of $100,000. But wouldn't such a bonus, on top of a salary, already be taxed at this rate?

A related point. Many say, and it is true, that Wall Street contracts are being treated differently from blue collar union contracts in Detroit. And that is unfair. The difference is that any individual contract makes little difference whereas the requested changes in the union contracts may well save thousands of jobs.

homer  www.altara.blogspot.com

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THE CHENEY INTERVIEW

THE CHENEY INTERVIEW

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs generated some criticism when he was a bit glib when questioned about former Vice President Dick Cheney's interview with CNN's John King. He drew laughs when mentioning Rush Limbaugh and Cheney as the least popular members of the "Republican cabal".

At least one correspondent, and also Pat Buchanan, felt that Gibbs was not showing proper respect for a former vice president. Gibbs seemed to acknowledge this point but I wish that he would have responded that he would have been more respectful if the Vice President had shown more respect for the facts and the truth.

Today, Adrianna Huffington had a great column on the Cheney interview. She illustrated how much more informative it would have been had Jon Stewart conducted the interview. Stewart would have confronted Cheney on the spot when he made spurious claims and accusations.

It should also be pointed out that Cheney showed no respect for the tradition under which former Presidents and Vice Presidents refrained from criticism of their successors. By contrast, Cheney went so far as to accuse President Obama of placing our country in more risk of terrorist attacks.

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com

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