Andrew Sullivan's Defense of Presidential Assassinations

Andrew Sullivan’s defense of presidential assassinations


During the Bush-era torture debates, I was never able to get past my initial incredulity that we were even having a “debate” over whether the President has the authority to torture peopleAndrew Sullivan has responded to some of the questions I posed about his defense of Obama’s assassination program, and I realize now that throughout this whole assassination debate, specific legal and factual issues aside, my overarching reaction is quite similar:  I actually can’t believe that there is even a “debate” over whether an American President — without a shred of due process or oversight — has the power to compile hit lists of American citizens whom he orders the CIA to kill far away from any battlefield.  The notion that the President has such an unconstrained, unchecked power is such a blatant distortion of everything our political system is supposed to be — such a pure embodiment of the very definition of tyrannical power — that, no matter how many times I see it, it’s still hard for me to believe there are people willing to expressly defend it.

MORE AT SALON

Obama One-Ups G.W. Bush With Assasinations of Americans; Using "State Secrets" Once Again Last Night

GLENN GREENWALD

SALON


At this point, I didn’t believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record.  In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki’s father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration late last night, according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims.  That’s not surprising:  both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality.  But what’s most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is “state secrets”:  in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate their legality. Continue reading Obama One-Ups G.W. Bush With Assasinations of Americans; Using "State Secrets" Once Again Last Night

It's a Cruel, Cruel Summer For The Professional Left

The rats are feasting and the brakes are squeaking here in the cruel epicenter of the Professional Left-NYC…

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Marine Generals to Cheney: Quit the Scare Tactics, Bub

images

Thomas Ricks

Foreign Policy

Tue, 09/15/2009 – 11:11am


Former Marine commandant Charles Krulak and former Marine general Joseph Hoar, who succeeded Schwarzkopf at Central Command, dress down former VP Cheney on the issue of torture. Good for them.

… we never imagined that we would feel duty-bound to publicly denounce a vice president of the United States, a man who has served our country for many years. In light of the irresponsible statements recently made by former Vice President Dick Cheney, however, we feel we must repudiate his dangerous ideas — and his scare tactics.

This is an issue, they remind us, of both leadership and law and order. They might have added self-discipline, a characteristic that I think Dick “Fuck you, Leahy” Cheney seems to lack.

What leaders say matters. So when it comes to light, as it did recently, that U.S. interrogators staged mock executions and held a whirling electric drill close to the body of a naked, hooded detainee, and the former vice president winks and nods, it matters.

The Bush administration had already degraded the rules of war by authorizing techniques that violated the Geneva Conventions and shocked the conscience of the world. Now Cheney has publicly condoned the abuse that went beyond even those weakened standards, leading us down a slippery slope of lawlessness.

Doing the right thing, Krulak and Hoar conclude, “makes us all safer.” This was the best article I read on the eighth anniversary of 9/11.

(Hat tip to www.G2mil.com)

Glenn Greenwald Waterboards Chuckie Todd

S A L O N

Glenn Greenwald


roveyYesterday, I voiced several criticisms of comments made earlier this week by NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd regarding potential torture investigations by the Obama Justice Department.  Shortly thereafter, he emailed me to say that he wished I had contacted him before posting.  In response, I invited him to participate in a podcast discussion with me of the issues raised by his remarks and my analysis of them, and, to his credit, he accepted.

This morning, I spoke with Todd for roughly 30 minutes about the relative significance of torture investigations, the implications of failing to prosecute high-level political officials when they break the law, the role of the media in these matters, and whether Todd was expressing his own views or merely repeating what the White House believes (the polling data I reference, along with the media’s routine distortion of it, is documented here and here).  The discussion can be heard by clicking PLAY on the recorder below (it can be also downloaded by MP3 here or by ITunes here).  A transcript will be posted later today.

UPDATE:  The transcript is now available here.

Gawker Claims Mancow Waterboarding Was Fake

G A W K E R

mancow

THE CAJUN BOY

Yesterday we showed you video of Erich “Mancow” Muller, a Chicago-based right-wing shockjock, appearing as a guest on Keith Olbermann‘s show to discuss his being waterboarded. He claimed it led to an ideological conversion! But now a tipster has provided information that suggests the whole thing may be a hoax.

[Update: Mancow tells us on Friday morning: “‘Hoax’ is probably not the right word, but we did think it was going to be a joke.”]

The information provided to Gawker by our tipster came in a series of emails and is somewhat layered, so we’ll try to lay it all out as unconfusingly as possible. Where the story begins is last Thursday afternoon, the day before Mancow was scheduled to be waterboarded, when the person slated to do the waterboarding suddenly backed out, sending Mancow’s publicity team into a mild frenzy to find someone to replace him. A chain of emails followed, emails that were subsequently forwarded to Gawker by our tipster.

There are three main players in the following sequence of events:

-The first is a Chicago-based publicist named Linda Shafran whose clients include the Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos shows, in addition to Erich “Mancow” Muller. In describing Shafran our tipster added:

“Linda Shafran is Springer’s current publicist until the show starts shooting in CT. Since Springer is her primary source of income, she’s now trying to help promote Mancow nationally as a shock jock alternative to Howard Stern.”

-The second person involved in this is a man named David Kupcinet. He runs a Chicago-based foundation for veterans called Kup’s Purple Heart Foundation. He is the grandson of Irv Kupcinet, a somewhat legendary Chicago gossip columnist who wrote a column for the Chicago Sun Times for over 60 years. At the behest of a friend, Linda Shafran contacted Kupcinet on Thursday hoping that his relationships with Chicago-area veterans and military personnel could help her find a replacement waterboarder.

-The third person involved here, to a much lesser degree, is another Chicago-based publicist named Kathy Posner. According to our tipster, Posner is Jerry Springer’s former flack and a friend of both Linda Shafran and Erich “Mancow” Muller. According to one of the emails we were forwarded, it was Posner who suggested that Shafran contact David Kupcinet to find a replacement waterboarder.

Now, with all of that background established, here are some of the emails that followed between Shafran and Kupcinet, the first being the initial contact between the two on the matter:

From: [redacted]
Date: Thu, May 21, 2009 at 1:15 PM
To: [redacted]
Subject: URGENT

Don’t shoot the messenger

Mancow has been promoting all week that he is getting waterboarded tomorrow between 8-9am on-air. We have camera crew shooting it for WGN

The swat guy he had to do the waterboarding now can’t do it. Do you know any military guy that might come down to WLS radio tomorrow (190 N. State Street) to waterboard Mancow????

Kathy said you know lots of military guys that might do it…or a policeman or fireman or EMT.

HELP

Linda Shafran
Jerry Springer Show
454 N. Columbus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60611
PH: [redacted]
cell: [redacted]
Email: [redacted]

Kupcinet, or “Kuppy,” responded a few minutes later:

From: [redacted]
Date: Thu, May 21, 2009 at 1:28 PM
To: [redacted]
Subject: Re: URGENT

What exactly do you mean? You mean really tortured? What exactly would it consist of and do they need to bring gear or does Cow have what he needs or what?

Get back to me quick an ill find u a guy.

Kuppy

(P.S. Love you)

Sent from my iPhone

Now, here’s the key email in the exchange, with Shafran saying in no uncertain terms that the whole thing is being staged as a hoax:

From: [redacted]
Date: Thu, May 21, 2009 at 1:38 PM
To: [redacted]
Cc: [redacted]
Subject: Re: URGENT

You are a ROCK STAR!!!

It is going to have to look “real” but of course would be simulated with Mancow acting like he is drowning. It will be a hoax but have to look real. Would be great if they could dress in fatigues and bring whatever is needed. We will supply the water

xxxx

Linda Shafran
Jerry Springer Show
454 N. Columbus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60611
PH: [redacted]
cell: [redacted]
Email: [redacted]

After getting this email from Shafran, David Kupcinet suggested she contact Marine Sgt. Clay South, the person who eventually carried out Mancow’s waterboarding. We include this next email only because we find the compensation offer extended to South from Mancow via Shafran to be somewhat amusing:

From: [redacted]
Date: Thu, May 21, 2009 at 2:02 PM
To: [redacted]
Subject: MANCOW WAS ALL OVER IT

I tried to call you but got voicemail. I talked to Mancow and he said “Are you kidding – of course he can mention the charity and talk about his experiences over there”

I am going to call Klay now. Mancow will pay gas and parking.

Linda Shafran
Jerry Springer Show
454 N. Columbus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60611
PH: [redacted]
FX: [redacted]
Email: [redacted]

We contacted Linda Shafran last night for a statement about this and she emailed us back with an emphatic denial that anything was faked:

It was NOT a hoax. Early on when we were looking for someone to waterboard, an email was sent out looking for someone to do it and I mistakenly said it would be staged. That was my mistake and a misunderstanding.

But that was early and NOT TRUE AT ALL. It was not staged. NOT AT ALL. When it happened several days later, it was real, honest, actual, not staged.

Any info you have was my mistake. THE WATERBOARDING OF MANCOW WAS REAL!!!!!!

The glaring discrepancy in Shafran’s statement to us is that her emails to Kupcinet are dated Thursday, May 21st, the day prior to Mancow’s waterboarding, while she now claims that these emails were sent out “early on” and that the waterboarding took place “several days later.” Additionally, she even mentions that Mancow “is getting waterboarded tomorrow” in her first note to Kupcinet.

Regarding the emails between Safran and Kupcinet, our tipster also informed us that they were shared with Keith Olbermann’s producers prior to Mancow’s appearance on his show. We were told that they were beyond livid when they found out about them and expressed their extreme displeasure for the whole situation with Linda Shafran over the phone, but went ahead with the planned segment anyway, making no mention of the fact that they’d received advance word that the whole thing may have been staged. However, we were unable to confirm this with anyone at MSNBC.

Now, we’re obviously no experts on the art of waterboarding, but we’ve done a bit of research on it and also went back and watched the video of Christopher Hitchens‘ waterboarding in 2008 to compare and contrast his waterboarding against Mancow’s, and we couldn’t help but notice some rather striking differences.

In the Hitchens video, everything is carried out pretty much according to universal waterboarding protocol as we’ve come to understand it. His limbs and torso are tightly bound by restraints. The platform on which he lays appears to be tilted slightly downward so that his head is positioned below his heart. His head is also completely covered and the water used looks as though it’s poured directly into his breathing passages.

In contrast, Mancow isn’t bound by restraints at all, he doesn’t appear to have his body positioned at a decline, only a portion of his face from the nose up is covered, and the water is being poured on him inappropriately.

In short, when we watched the Mancow video for the first time it struck us in a “well that doesn’t look TOO awful” sort of way. For a brief moment it even made us want to call some friends over so we could all waterboard each other and see what all the fuss is about. On the other hand, the Hitchens video is somewhat nightmarish, making us want to never have anything to do with a waterboarding, ever.

In our post yesterday we actually praised Mancow for having the courage to undergo the infamous interrogation technique AND then going so far as to appear as a guest on a show hosted by television’s shoutiest liberal to proclaim how wrong and misguided he’s been all along. Here’s part of what we said:

We suppose it’d be easy to mock and ridicule “Mancow” here, as he does seem to be an extraordinarily massive tool, not even taking into consideration that he was one of the main guys spreading the “Obama is a closet Muslim” rumors during the election, but there’s something truly admirable in a) being sufficiently curious and willing to undergo the procedure personally to truly see what it was like to be on the receiving end of a waterboarding, and b) appearing on the air with arguably the most unabashedly liberal host on television to profess how horribly wrong he’d been previously.

Despite the emails indicating that the whole thing may have been staged, there’s a small part of us that still wants to extend Erich “Mancow” Muller the benefit of the doubt, despite his being no stranger to controversy, but our skepticism at this point is pretty dang high, and we can’t help from feeling as though we, along with a host of others, have been duped by a cheap publicity stunt.

How Modo Lost Her Mojo ~ Maureen Dowd and the Myth of the Parasite Bloggers

Glenn Greenwald in S A L O N

06_dowd_lgl

The myth of the parasitical bloggers

(updated below)

Maureen Dowd’s wholesale, uncredited copying of a paragraph written by Josh Marshall (an act Dowd has now admitted) — for what I yesterday called her “uncharacteristically cogent and substantive column”– highlights a point I’ve been meaning to make for awhile.  One of the favorite accusations that many journalists spout, especially now that they’re searching for reasons why newspapers and print magazines are dying, is that bloggers and other online writers are “parasites” on their work — that their organizations bear the cost of producing content and others (bloggers and companies such as Google) then unfairly exploit it for free.

The reality has always been far more mixed than that, and the relationship far more symbiotic than parasitical.  Especially now that online traffic is such an important part of the business model of newspapers and print magazines, traffic generated by links from online venues and bloggers is of great value to them.  That’s why they engage in substantial promotional activities to encourage bloggers to link to and write about what they produce.  Beyond that, it is also very common — as the Dowd/Marshall episode illustrates — for traditional media outlets and establishment journalists to use and even copy content produced online and then present it as their own, typically without credit.  Many, many reporters, television news producers and the like read online political commentary and blogs and routinely take things they find there.

Typically, the uncredited use of online commentary doesn’t rise to the level of blatant copying — plagiarism — that Maureen Dowd engaged in.  It’s often not even an ethical breach at all.  Instead, traditional media outlets simply take stories, ideas and research they find online and pass it off as their own.  In other words — to use their phraseology — they act parasitically on blogs by taking content and exploiting it for their benefit.

Since I read many blogs, I notice this happening quite frequently — ideas and stories that begin on blogs end up being featured by establishment media outlets with no credit.  Here’s just one recent and relatively benign example of how it often works:  at the end of March, I wrote a post that ended up being featured in many places concerning the unique political courage displayed by Jim Webb in taking on the issue of criminal justice reform and the destruction wreaked by our drug laws.  The following week, I was traveling and picked up a copy of The Economist in an aiport, which featured an article hailing Jim Webb’s political courage in taking on the issue of criminal justice reform and the destruction wreaked by our drug laws.

Several of the passages from the Economist article were quite familar to me, since they seemed extremely similar to what I had written — without attribution or credit:

Salon

America has easily surpassed Japan — and virtually every other country in the world — to become what Brown University Professor Glenn Loury recently described as a “a nation of jailers” whose “prison system has grown into a leviathan unmatched in human history.”

Economist

“A Leviathan unmatched in human history”, is how Glenn Loury, professor of social studies at Brown University, characterises America’s prison system.

Salon

Most notably, Webb is in the Senate not as an invulnerable, multi-term political institution from a safely blue state (he’s not Ted Kennedy), but is the opposite: he’s a first-term Senator from Virginia, one of the “toughest” “anti-crime” states in the country (it abolished parole in 1995 and is second only to Texas in the number of prisoners it executes), and Webb won election to the Senate by the narrowest of margins, thanks largely to George Allen’s macaca-driven implosion.

Economist

Mr Webb is far from being a lion of the Senate, roaring from the comfort of a safe seat. He is a first-term senator for Virginia who barely squeaked into Congress. The state he represents also has a long history of being tough on crime: Virginia abolished parole in 1994 and is second only to Texas in the number of people it executes.

Salon

Moreover, the privatized Prison State is a booming and highly profitable industry, with an army of lobbyists, donations, and other well-funded weapons for targeting candidates who threaten its interests.

Economist

Mr Webb also has some powerful forces ranged against him. The prison-industrial complex (which includes private prisons as well as public ones) employs thousands of people and armies of lobbyists.

Salon

That is an issue most politicians are petrified to get anywhere near . . . .[T]here is virtually no meaningful organized constituency for prison reform. To the contrary, leaving oneself vulnerable to accusations of being “soft on crime” has, for decades, been one of the most toxic vulnerabilities a politician can suffer.

Economist

Few mainstream politicians have had the courage to denounce any of this. People who embrace prison reform usually end up in the political graveyard. There is no organised lobby for prison reform.

I don’t consider that at all similar to what Dowd did, since there wasn’t wholesale copying.  In fact, since there wasn’t really full-on copying, I don’t think there’s any ethical issue involved in this example.  I don’t think the writer of that article did anything wrong at all.  And anyone who spends any time writing a blog, or anything else for that matters, should consider it a good thing when their work is used, with or without credit.  Nobody would engage in that activity in the absence of a belief that they have something worthwhile to say and a desire that it have some impact on political discussions.

I raise this only to illustrate how one-sided and even misleading is the complaint that bloggers are “parasites” on the work of “real journalists.”  Often, the parasitical feeding happens in the opposite direction, though while bloggers routinely credit (and link to) the source of the material on which they’re commenting, there is an unwritten code among many establishment journalists that while they credit each other’s work, they’re free to claim as their own whatever they find online without any need for credit or attribution (see here for a typical example of how many of these news organizations operate in this regard).

It’s difficult to quantify, but a large percentage of political reporters, editors, television news producers, and on-air pundits read political blogs or other online venues now.  Many do so precisely because blogs are a prime source for their story ideas.  Contrary to the myth perpetrated by establishment media outlets, there is substantial original reporting, original analysis and the like that takes place on blogs.  That’s precisely why so many journalists, editors and segment producers read them.  And while some are quite conscientious about identifying the online source of the material they use — The New York Times‘ Scott Shane recently credited Marcy Wheeler for a major, front-page story on torture and previously wrote an article hailing FireDogLake as having the best coverage of any news organization of the Lewis Libby trial — credit of that sort is still rare enough that it becomes noteworthy when it happens.

The tale of the put-upon news organizations and the pilfering, parasitical bloggers has always been more self-serving mythology than reality.  That’s not to say that there’s no truth to it, but the picture has always been much more complicated.  After all, a principal reason for the emergence of a political blogosphere is precisely because it performed functions that establishment media outlets fail to perform.  If all bloggers did was just replicate what traditional news organizations did and offered nothing original, nobody would read blogs.  And especially now, as bloggers and online writers engage in much more so-called “original reporting” and punditry, the parasitical behavior is often the reverse of how it is depicted.  The Maureen Dowd/Josh Marshall episode is a particularly vivid and dramatic example of that, but it is far from uncommon.

UPDATE: A blogger who writes on TPM’s open blog site, Boyd Reed, reacted to the Maureen Dowd story today by randomly entering some of his own posts in Google, and found that a reporter at Salem News, Dorsett Bennett, copied several paragraphs of Reed’s post on Michelle Bachmann verbatim for Bennett’s column on the same topic.  Reed writes about his discovery today here (h/t Liberal Artist).  Compare Reed’s February 20 TPM post with Bennett’s February 27 Salem News column.  The copying is extensive and shameless.  Parasitical indeed.

— Glenn Greenwald