Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Republicans: Good for the Wealth; Bad for National Security

Greg Sargent writes at the Plumline:
If anything, that position is made worse by the new study’s finding [that increasing income inequality is driven by the shift of wealthy peoples' income from wages to dividends and capital gains]. After all, Republicans are openly conceding the sequester will damage our national security, even as they refuse to avert it by agreeing to the closing of loopholes benefiting the wealthy — even though this would likely be part of a deal in which they got more in spending cuts than they’d be conceding in new revenues! As the new study shows, those benefiting from GOP opposition to any new revenues are doing extremely well indeed — lending more ammo to the Democratic argument that Republicans would sooner damage our military and economy than ask for a penny in new revenues from the very rich.

You can find the study to which he refers here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

DCExile's 2013 State of the Union Drinking Game

We shall from time to time create a drinking game . . .

Yes, dear Reader, it is that time of the year again.  The invitation has been sent.  The speech is in its final draft.  All that remains is the delivery itself (and the pre-game show, the pre-pre-game show, the introduction by the Sergeant at Arms, the handshakes, the standing ovations, and doubtless some display of incivility on the part of Tea Party members of Congress).  With that in mind, we humbly submit to you our annual rules (see 2012, 2011 rules) for consuming alcohol while viewing that Constitutionally-mandated presidential rite: the State of the Union.

- Pre-game show rules: one shot of bourbon, one blow to the head from a ball-peen hammer each time Erin Burnett appears on screen.

- “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States!”  On that statement, drink one flute of champagne. After all, we’re still celebrating it’s BHO again and not that other guy.

- Speaking of the other guy, drink a carton of milk. That joke will never get old.

- Each time the President says "immigration reform," pour a half shot of tequila into a half shot of bourbon. It'll all be American soon.

- Each time the President says "nuclear arms" shake up your beer can and try to drink it without any spillage. 

- Each time the camera shows a shot of the Al Green(TX-9) take a drink while attempting to howl

- Each time a Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justice is on camera, do a slammer shot and yell, "Order in the court!"

- Each time the President says “bipartisanship” pull out a clump of your hair, put it into a shot glass of 151, and set the whole thing on fire. Drink at your peril--and the country’s.

- Each time there's a camera shot of Sen. McConnell take a shot of Kentucky Gentleman and say "Hello Clarice."

- Each time John Boehner tears up, do a waterfall. You don’t stop until he does. God help us all.

- Each time the camera shows Michelle Obama drink a Cosmo and do a set of curls.

- Each time the President mentions infrastructure, chug one can of American beer (your humble authors suggest Dale’s Pale Ale or Pabst Blue Ribbon), place it intact on your coffee table, and construct a pyramid.  If you can still see the TV over the pyramid by the end of the State of the Union, consider the speech a missed opportunity.

- Each time a Republican is rude, uncivil, or otherwise disrespectful of the President, take one shot of tequila mixed with sugar because somethings aren’t improved by any amount of sugarcoating. 

- If the Pope is mentioned, eat a saltine and enjoy a glass of Carlo Rossi. Bonus: write your own name on a piece of paper, set it aflame, and wait pensively for the smoke to turn white.  It’s going to be a long couple of months, folks.

- If the President mentions or otherwise hints at the possibility of one of his nominees being held up or otherwise filibustered, take (Article) Two shots of rye whiskey and shout, "j'accuse!" at the television. Bonus: If at this point the camera pans to Lindsey Graham (R-SC), throw a copy of the 9/11 Report at the screen.

- If the President mentions Afghanistan, drink an entire bottle of Johnnie Walker Red: Keep Walking.

- If the President mentions health care reform, drink one shot of mouthwash. To your health!

- If the President mentions Syria, eat one spoonful of humus mixed with shards of glass.

- If the President mentions voting or election reform, enjoy one tall glass of Budweiser because, although it used to be made in America, it's done right by the Belgians anymore.

- Each time the camera pans to Ted Nugent, take one long pull off a bottle of vodka and air guitar "Cat Scratch Fever."

- Each time the camera pans to the First Lady's 102 year old guest, set aside one sip of sweet vermouth to be consumed two hours hence. Don't forget to drink . . . I mean, vote.

And that's all for the State of the Union, folks. Our only advice to you for the post-game shows is take all remaining booze, beer, shards of glass, humus, mouthwash, and sugar, blend over ice, and hope it's strong enough to knock you out for the next six months. We'll wake you when the political capital is spent and we're in much the same place we are today.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Rendition vs. Rendition or Adjectives Matter

On New Year’s Day, Craig Whitlock reported in the Washington Post an August 2012 arrest by local authorities of three Somali men transiting Djibouti in August who were then interrogated by FBI agents and transferred to U.S. custody to face charges in the United States in Article III courts.  After this depiction, Whitlock concludes that “the Obama administration has embraced rendition,” declaring that they have “tak[en] on renewed significance because the administration and Congress have not reached agreement on a consistent legal pathway for apprehending terrorism suspects overseas and bringing them to justice.” He clearly links the Obama administration’s practice to the Bush administration practice, impliedly asking us to see this as yet another example of Obama carrying on his predecessor’s counterterrorism tactics (and getting away with it without criticism):
The men are the latest example of how the Obama administration has embraced rendition — the practice of holding and interrogating terrorism suspects in other countries without due process — despite widespread condemnation of the tactic in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.  (emphasis mine).
 But the practice Whitlock describes through the August 2012 vignette is not the practice as he defines it in the emphasized quotation above.  Whitlock describes the arrest of suspects, their transfer apparently without extradition or other judicial process to the United States, and their subsequent indictment and trial. The Bush-era practice—the one subject to “widespread condemnation . . . in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks”—involved detaining individuals in one country, transporting them to a third country, and then torturing them. These individuals were not indicted, they were not provided attorneys, in fact there was little expectation that these individuals would be heard from again. Examples of the Bush-era practice include the abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr in Milan in 2003 and his subsequent transfer to Egypt to be tortured—26 Americans have been convicted by an Italian court in absentia forthis incident—and the 2003 mistaken arrest of Khalid el-Masri by Macedonian police, his transfer to U.S. authorities, and his being held or tortured in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2004, after the U.S. realized that el-Masri was mistakenly detained, he was flown to Albania and deposited on the side of a road at night.

If these practices—the ongoing Obama administration practice described by Whitlock and the Bush-era practice—sound substantially different to you, that is because they are. The Obama administration is engaged in a practice Whitlock correctly identifies as rendition. The Bush-era practice Whitlock invites us to remember is known as extraordinary rendition. The adjective matters a great deal.

Rendition is a practice greatly predates September 11, 2001—see, for example, this 1934 BU law review article on the practice. It is also exactly as Whitlock describes it: “The return of a fugitive from one state to the state where the fugitive is accused or convicted of a crime.” 8 ed. Black’s Law Dictionary. Rendition allows states to avoid the normal legal procedure of extradition when there are barriers to extradition like the absence of an extradition treaty, or the absence of a similar crime in each jurisdiction, or when extradition might be unfeasible for political reasons. Rendition is certainly not the normal mode of business between states, and it may circumvent due process rights the accused is entitled to, but it is not uncommon and its purpose is to expose the rendered individual to judicial process: either trial or the execution of a sentence for conviction.

What makes extraordinary rendition extraordinary is that its purpose is not to bring the target before a court for trial or to otherwise subject the target to judicial process. No, the point of extraordinary rendition is to avoid judicial process altogether—to cause an individual to disappear, be held incommunicado, and extract intelligence not evidence from that individual. What made the practice so heinous in the Bush administration is not merely its lack of transparency or accountability but rather that its opacity facilitated torture.

So, yes, the Obama administration is using ordinary rendition. Is this shocking? No. Is it in anyway similar to the abduction, black sites, and torture used in the Bush administration? No. Adjectives matter.