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The Hague Cites Qaddafi for War Crimes. What About US Officials?

8:57 am in Executive Branch by Scarecrow

The New York Times Reports that the International Criminal Court at the Hague has issued arrest warrants for Libyan Leader Qaddafi and his son for alleged crimes against humanity, citing the killings and persecutions of unknown numbers of Libyans during the uprisings there. The story is here.

In a world subject to the rule of law and the principle that government leaders who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity should be held accountable, we would applaud the existence of an international court to prosecute alleged criminals and serve as a warning and deterrent to would be criminals. And if that system applied its rules uniformly and fairly across nations, it would be a hopeful sign civilization can make progress towards a just society.

We are a long way from that ideal, and a primary reason is the fact that the US Government, including its recent Presidents and the most senior officials of the Defense Department and intelligence agencies routinely violated international laws against aggression, kidnapping, rendition, torture, and other prisoner mistreatment.

They invaded sovereign nations based on false premises and continue to attack or occupy them, reserving the unilateral right to conduct military hostilities, kill, arrest and imprison their citizens, or render them to Guantanamo or still secret “black sites” where they can be interrogated, tortured and held indefinitely, in violation of all civilized standards.

And against all efforts to hold responsible officials accountable for these crimes, the government insists courts have no right to question, inquire or prosecute, and victims have no legal redress. There is no law.

Since the Obama Administration chose to ignore its legal obligations under treaties America has signed to investigate and prosecute such crimes and instead chose to continue some of these crimes on its own watch, it has forfeited the right to applaud the Hague for initiating the prosecution of any other country’s alleged criminals.

You’d think that all lawyers and decent members of this Administration would be profoundly ashamed and embarrassed by this, but don’t hold your breath waiting for any spokesperson to say so. Appalling.

How to Steal $6.6 Billion and Not Get Caught

12:00 pm in BP oil disaster, Economy by Scarecrow

Suppose the US decided it wanted to invest $6 billion or so in the economy by paying people to fix stuff and rebuild the infrastructure of a destroyed economy. How would you do it?

Well, supposedly the people who understand these things would start with an account in an established, honest bank. Let’s call it the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The US Treasury would direct the Feds to credit that account with the $6 billion or so, and then disburse money from the account as directed.

The Fed would then follow the instructions it was given, with electronic transfers accomplished through recorded debits here and credits to the accounts of the bank of the intended recipients, or those authorized to make the dispersants. There would be electronic records to account for every dollar. None of this would require a single actual dollar or hundred dollar bill to be created, deposited or transferred. That is not how it’s supposed to work in this millenium.

As the recipient bank received instructions for disbursements, it would in turn credit the accounts of the ultimate recipients, who could then use those credited accounts to pay the workers and providers of ultimate goods and services. The workers would have their own bank accounts, and their paychecks could even be credited to them directly, still with no actual dollar bills being required and all transactions fully recorded and traceable.

But that’s not how the Bush Administration did things in Iraq. Instead, they had the NY Fed literally stack up cash, $6.6 billion of it, into several truckloads of $100 bills, haul them to an AF base, where these huge bundles of cash were loaded onto AF planes and flown to Iraq. Once there, the bundles were thrown in sacks and distributed somehow to. . . . Uh, we have no clue. We can’t find the money and have no idea where it went.

This is mostly old news, but good grief!! It is as though they deliberately designed a plot to make it easy to steal $6.6 billion. And everyone who had anything to do with planning or approving this mindless action turned scandal should be named, shamed, and banned from any government position, forever. Many should be under arrest, or held as material witnesses to possibly the most reckless plan or egregious bank heist in history, at least until the 2008 bailouts.

What is the matter with these people?

Sec. Gates Lectures NATO: Render Unto Caesar . . .

8:05 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

I’ll leave it to foreign policy wonks to explain the strategic rationale for having your outgoing Secretary of Defense deliver a very public rebuke to our NATO allies on the duties they owe to maintaining US hegemony. I’m sure it’s more complicated than a mere scarecrow could possibly imagine.

I’ll just limit myself to note how preposterous it is, never mind arrogant and cluelessly not-self-aware, for an American official to pretend that it’s Europe, and not US taxpayers and their elected Congress, who have steadfastly refused to pay the cost of US foreign adventures.

No doubt we will hear from those who remind Mr. Gates and his boss that it was the US President and his serial fabricators, including Tony Blair, who knowingly lied about WMD and misled the coalition of the duped, bribed and cynical to invade and occupy Iraq and literally remove its head of state. I guess our allies owe us big time for not talking us out of that disaster.

Two US Presidents similarly conned NATO and others into occupying and trying to pacify an ungovernable Afghanistan on the grounds that they need to help us fight those who dislike us in their countries over there so they only bomb European subways and not our own. The families of Canadian and European soldiers killed and maimed there must be wondering about that.

And why is Gates, the man who clearly warned it was folly to pretend a no-fly zone over Libya was an easy or sufficient strategy, sent forth to admonish skeptical NATO Allies that gave up their empires long before the French and British? (Greenwald has more on US motives.)

But what must rankle Gates’ targets more is the sheer hypocrisy of the Americans complaining about US taxpayers bearing the burdens of American hegemony while ignoring the fact that US taxpayers have done nothing of the kind. Both Bush and Obama Administrations have repeatedly demanded supplemental funding of our wars outside the normal budget process and have never once asked the American tax payers to pay more in taxes to support the wars.

Today’s Tea-GOP would rather default on our debts than raise a dime in taxes to support government, even these misadventures. So to whom is Gates credible?

Instead, we’ve been funding our wars via bonds sold to Wall Street and foreign investors, including the Chinese who find it a convenient way to deal with their large trade surpluses against the US. And Congress has been perfectly fine with this.

If the Congress and the Administration go to the country, explain what our war policies are and why taxpayers should pay for them, and then pass the tax increases to pay for them, then perhaps Gates might have a point. In the meantime, the expected NATO response will be, “stuff it, America.”

Reagan and Bush Are Driving the Stimulus Bill

5:57 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Yesterday, the House voted by 224-199 to move the "stimulus" bill to the floor, where it will be debated along with almost a dozen possible amendments. The margin of victory was short by 24 economic know-nothings, mostly "Blue-Dog" Democrats, who extracted a promise that Congress will return soon to "pay-as-you-go" budgeting.

That was predictable. It’s often helpful to assume that support for doing something really good, or stopping something really bad, is usually between 30%-40%, so the rest of the votes needed have to be bought for a high price.

The WaPo has a helpful article today, Democarts Among Stimulus Skeptics, describing the different expectations different groups have for this bill.

– Is this bill the "big one," so we need to cram everything we always wanted to do in it, because this may be our best/only chance? Or is it just a down payment on more to come?

– Is it relief for those most hurt by the worst recession since WWII? Or is it meant to get us out of the recession?

– Is it just making up for the last eight years of underfunding of worthwhile programs, a collection of pet projects? Or is it supporting new initiatives that will be transformative?

The answer seems to be "yes, all of the above," Read the rest of this entry →

Why Throwing Shoes Is Not Enough

6:41 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

In keeping with his final Farewell, I Screwed You All Tour, our President has, according this Times article, directed his henchmen to leave President-Elect Obama a set of crisis warning briefings about potential trouble spots around the world. The Times interviews sympathetic experts who proclaim what a thoughtful gesture this is.

On which planet? The only useful warnings Bush could leave Obama are ones he can read on the front pages of the nation’s/world’s newspapers:

Allow me to write the Executive Summary of the new Bush Report, Watch out for the Shoes!:

“Dick and I, and our two ‘national security’ teams [ha, ha, ha, ha] have made the world more dangerous; we’ve angered just about everyone, and it will take you years to turn that around, if ever. Ha, ha, ha, ha ha, [smirk, smirk].”

Other highlights:

– After turning Afghanistan over to a corrupt regime, we’re desperately trying to save it from being overrun by a totally resurgent Taliban. The Afghanis hate us for bombing them.

– We supported a dictator over democracy in Pakistan and left that nuclear region a dangerous mess; they hate us.

– We’ve destroyed much of Iraq, killed hundreds of thousands, turned millions into refugees; most Iraqis want to throw shoes at us. Read the rest of this entry →

Wanna Save US Auto Industry? Pay Congresspeople $1 per Year

7:57 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow


The last of the American auto industry was forced to grovel before the last-of-the-Bush-era Congress today to explain why Congress should loan the heart of America’s manufacturing base enough money to survive while the banking system is frozen and the economy is tanking. To state the question is to show how irresponsible this Congress and the Administration are (more from Jane and Marcy). So I have a modest proposal for fixing this.

Let’s accept the standards Congress and the Administration are imposing on Detroit and apply them equally to Congress and the Executive Branch.

Congress is pretending to embrace the principle that those who lead large organizations should be held accountable for the catastophic consequences they produce. Executives and oversight boards should either be replaced or be forced to take massive cuts in compensation, even down to $1 per year. And compensation incentives should be restructured to encourage long-run viability in the public interest, rather than short-term gains.

Labor, of course, should be humbled and forced to give up jobs, wages, collective bargaining, absord large increases in health care costs, forego retirement assurances and so on. After all, America’s workers must be responsible for the state of our economy, because they failed to share in its gains.

So what would that mean if we applied these principles to Congress and the Executive Branch? Read the rest of this entry →

Bush Is Still President; Hold Him Accountable and Demand He Confront His Mess

8:24 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

A growing concensus is concluding that January 20, 2009 cannot come fast enough, because we need a new President, a new Congress, a new New Deal to confront the enormous problems demanding government’s immediate attention. But we can’t change the calendar. What should we demand from our current government until then?

There’s no doubt that when it comes to facing the nation’s most serious problems, the ones Bush’s crew created, ignored or exacerbated, Bush and his team have checked out. And there’s almost zero confidence that this Administration can competently or honestly address any of the major economic challenges we face. But that’s not the point.

I’m sure the Times Gail Collins, speaking "seriously," is not alone in wishing that Bush would just resign (after getting Cheney to resign first — "we’re not crazy"). It’s time for him to go," she concludes, and we’ll figure out the details of putting the Obama Administration into power.

Tom Friedman picks up the chant, though presumably tongue in cheek: Read the rest of this entry →

Baker, Krugman, Roubini, 375 Economists Agree: We Need a Massive Economic Stimulus

8:41 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Dean Baker, whose earlier excellent post provides a compelling argument for a bridge loan to the auto industry, reminds us (via TPM) that the economy needs much more to keep a likely deep recession from becoming another depression.

Baker’s plea joins those we’ve seen from Paul Krugman and Nouriel Roubini (video at right — h/t Stoller) as well as 375 other economists signing a letter organized by the Center for Economic Policy Research. From Dean Baker:

We know how to keep the economy from collapsing. We didn’t have this information 80 years ago. The secret is to spend money, lots of it.

CEPR just circulated a letter that garnered 375 economists’ signatures arguing for a stimulus between $300 billion and $450 billion. This might be too small given all the bad news that we are seeing. We may need to spend $500 billion or $600 billion a year to get the economy back on its feet, possibly more. The key point is that we can get the economy back on its feet; we just have to spend the money to do it.

So where are Congress and the Administration? Read the rest of this entry →

PowerLine Advises Obama to Imitate Bush’s Careful Speaking Style

4:25 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Via John Amato and Crooks & Liars, we learn one of the right’s most thoughtful pundits is offering helpful advice to President-Elect Obama on how to improve his obviously deficient speaking abilities:

The Importance of Being Careful

Obama thinks he is a good talker, but he is often undisciplined when he speaks. He needs to understand that as President, his words will be scrutinized and will have impact whether he intends it or not. In this regard, President Bush is an excellent model; Obama should take a lesson from his example. Bush never gets sloppy when he is speaking publicly.

He chooses his words with care and precision, which is why his style sometimes seems halting. In the eight years he has been President, it is remarkable how few gaffes or verbal blunders he has committed. If Obama doesn’t raise his standards, he will exceed Bush’s total before he is inaugurated.

What a gracious gesture. Knowing how thoughtless Obama usually is, this seems an excellent idea. So I thought I’d ask folks here to suggest familiar Bush expressions that Obama could memorize that would help him communicate with the American people.

Here’s my initial Read the rest of this entry →