Meh Culpa

Take that, Peggy Noonan!

Some things in life need to be mysterious.  Sometimes you need to just keep walking. –Peggy Noonan

Unlike Peggy Noonan and the stable of pundits who have decried the outing of the USA’s use of torture this weekend, I’m glad about the publication of those torture memos and I hope there’s more daylight where that came from.  We’ve paraded our alleged superiority and exceptionalism for way too long.  What has happened in other countries–such as, Nazi Germany or Rwanda or Turkey or Serbia–can happen here.  Every human being is capable of appalling behavior.  Not all of us follow through, but that’s not the point. None of us are exempt from the capacity to do evil and we shouldn’t forget it.  Rather, we must be en garde, and all those words imply, against our moral and ethical frailties.

Did you miss me?  Yeah, maybe not.  I’ve been busy finishing up my last course and frankly I’ve felt loathe to discuss the subject because I was so angry and disappointed at Obama for wanting to let bygones be bygones, and for opining that he’s against prosecuting CIA operatives who doled out torture.  I didn’t think I could pull off a less than rage fueled post without giving myself an aneurysm.  But maybe I can now.  For the record, I think any prosecution should be from the top down, but I don’t believe the CIA should get off the hook so easily.  We didn’t tell Lt. Calley that we totally empathized with him for “following orders” at My Lai by ordering the massacre of 500 Vietnamese villagers in 1968, and we shouldn’t do anything similar now.  Not even close.

But  I digress.

Today  I’m happy.  Breaking News a la Jennifer Loven at HuffPo: Obama has said he’s open to prosecuting Bush administration for torture.  The article says “officials responsible for devising torture” but I doubt that means we’ll let officials who approved waterboarding off the hook.  There’s always gong to be someone’s who’s going to say, “Oh, well. We didn’t know the CIA was waterboarding Abu Zubaydah 183 times  in a month. That’s not our fault now, is it?”  Uhhh, yeah it is.  The Bush administration opened the floodgates by approving despicable acts, so th Bushies are to blame if entire towns and cities are washed away.  (Sorry, I got carried away with the water metaphor.)

I hope Congress is nervous, too, especially those politicians who were on the Senate Intelligence Committee during the era of torture.  I have a feeling that one of my personal faves, Di Fi (a.k.a., Diane Feinstein, a Democrat from California*), knew all along about the torture being perpetrated in our names and I think she may have gone along.  I don’t have any evidence. What I do have is suspicion: Di Fi has long been big on harsh punishments. I think she was influenced by the assassination of Harvey Milk as well as the shooting at the law firm of of Pettit & Martin at 101 California St. while she was there. The business with anthrax in DC shortly after 9/11 probably didn’t help any either. Anyone would have a case of PTSD after the first two incidents, if not the third.  At the very least, she’s entitled to feel afraid.

But Di Fi opposed Leon Panetta for head of the CIA and promoted Stephen Kappes for the job. Panetta kept Kappes on as one of his deputies, probably at Feinstein’s behest. Unfortunately for Kappes and maybe for Feinstein, “[a]t the time of the worst torture sessions outlined in the ICRC report, Kappes served as a senior official in the Directorate of Operations — the operational part of the CIA that oversees paramilitary operations as well as the high-value detention program.”  It’s unlikely he was kept in the dark.  And for that matter, the same goes for Di Fi.  After all, the Bushies liked to co-opt members of Congress by letting them in on the administration’s dirty laundry.

That’s precisely why Jane Harman, another California Democrat, couldn’t be approved for CIA director.  I believe it wasn’t so much that she’s a rival of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, although their poor relations might have contributed to the loss of Harman’s desired appointment, but that Harman knew about the administrations surveillance program when it was illegal, and she said nothing. And she criticized the NYT for revealing the program. Harman was also the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee from until 2006 and she was briefed on the ” harsh interrogations of terrorist suspects by the CIA,” but again said nothing.

Di Fi may not be culpable of anything, but  30 members of Congress have been briefed about CIA operations since 2002. I’d like to know who those 30 members are.  And specifically, what did Di Fi know and when did she know it?


* I was a lifelong Democrat until I became an Independent a few years ago.  Di Fi’s actions were responsible for my leaving the party.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Abu Ghraib, Bush administration, California, Congress, Democrats, Executive branch, Guantanamo, Intelligence Committee, National Security, Obama, Obama administration, politics, Senate, torture, war crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be Still My Beating Heart: Another Quickie

No, this post is not about sex.

Ha.

Gotcha.

Actually, I’ve been off writing a  paper and taking an Anatomy & Physiology  final.  I’m between classes right now, so I thought I’d pop in for a short chat.  (I’m not like some of my friends who can multitask.  I can walk or chew gum, but not do both at the same time.)

I’ve got to say I am not surprised by Jake DeSantis’ resignation from AIG’s Financial Products division.  I rather liked his letter detailing his reasons for leaving the company, too.  When I heard that the House had agreed to impose a 90% tax on bonuses, I thought the amount was excessive.  Forty-five or fifty percent I could see, but not ninety.  That was just counterproductive, knee-jerk politics at its worst.  I also can understand why DeSantis and other members of AIG-FP view AIG CEO Ed Liddy with distrust after he trembled before Congress, and I think DeSantis is  right to say that Congress is going after the wrong people.

The Man in Orange--a prohpetic color

The Man in Orange--a prophetic color

We should be tracking down The Man in Orange, Joe Cassano.  Just haul him in!  After all, he’s the one whose [alleged] shenanigans brought down AIG, so he should give back the money he made–$280 million during the last eight years.  That’s $35 million every year! (Who really needs that kind of money?)  Cassano  also should return the $1 million consulting retainer AIG paid him for five or six months after he “left” the company.

And another thing: don’t imagine Americans are only enraged about AIG bonuses.  Such salaries and bonuses, of the sort American companies have paid for ages, are egregious, and they don’t seem to be ending anytime soon.  But they should.

No one else in the world pulls in as much compensation as high profile American executives and Wall Streeters.  I keep wondering why.  We hear the bit about the need to pay insane prices to retain the best talent–as if these guys have their bosses in a choke hold.

What are those bosses afraid of?  Aren’t those the same scare tactics the last administration used when peddling the Iraq War?  Ooooh: We’ve got to be afraid, very afraid, and do everything these overpaid execs dictate, even when what they tell us nearly bankrupts our economy.

I mean,  let’s just say it: there is speculation abroad that we’re pretty close to falling in the pit with Iceland,  so close the Chinese are watching the Fed print more money,  seriously worrying about their investment and the nosedive their own currency may take as a result of all that American paper floating around.   Hence, the suggestion of a new international currency that’s not based solely on the economy of one nation.  A pretty good idea that was, too.

I think Obama and Congress should consider limiting executive pay like the Brits are planning to do.  It’s not as if these executives know anyone else in the world willing to pay nearly as much in compensation.  They’d have to be like everyone else, and take what the market can bear.  Right now, the market can’t bear a whole lot.  But that’s capitalism for you!

Besides, think of the money we taxpayers would save.  😀

March 25, 2009 Posted by | AIG, bailout(s), borrowing, Congress, Economy, Executive branch, Federal Reserve, House of Representatives, National Security, Obama, Obama administration, politics, recession, Treasury | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Slapdown: Cramer gets pwned

If you haven’t seen the Jon Stewart episode from last night, do. It’s clear Cramer sunk to the level of mere entertainer.

What’s unfortunate: he pretended he couldn’t have known the Bernie Madoff scandal was coming. (No one makes 30 percent a year for all those years. It’s just not possible.) He also pretends that he couldn’t do a tough interview with CEOs or with Hank Paulson, whom, Cramer claimed, lied his fool head off.

There’s just so much of “Whaddaya want me to do?” that I (or anyone, for that matter) can tolderate.

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more about “Slapdown: Cramer gets pwned“, posted with vodpod

March 13, 2009 Posted by | bailout(s), Economy, National Security, recession | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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