And So If I Seem Broken And Blue

Looks like we are going to take the advice of Nooners when it comes to torture prosecutions:

A special prosecutor has recommended a criminal probe into the deaths of two prisoners in CIA custody but cleared U.S. interrogators of wrongdoing in 99 others, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

“I have accepted his recommendation to conduct a full criminal investigation regarding the death in custody of two individuals,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. “Those investigations are ongoing. The department has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted.”

The special prosecutor, John Durham, examined the treatment of 101 prisoners in U.S. custody, not all of whom were held by the CIA. In a message to employees, outgoing CIA chief Leon Panetta said the agency will “cooperate fully” in the remaining cases — but said they already had been reviewed by career prosecutors who did not pursue charges.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one of the cases is the 2003 death of the “ice man,” Manadel al-Jamadi, an inmate who died after being interrogated in Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Among the photos at the heart of the 2004 scandal over the abuse of Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib were snapshots of U.S. soldiers posing over al-Jamadi’s remains, which had been packed on ice.

Some things in life need to be kept mysterious.








They’re Coming For Your Pension

I simply don’t understand how this is legal:

Judges in Colorado and Minnesota have dismissed court challenges by retired public workers whose pensions had been cut — developments that may embolden other states and cities to use pension reductions as a tool to help balance their budgets.

The two lawsuits sought to reverse reductions in the cost-of-living adjustments that Colorado and Minnesota had previously promised to retired public workers. Generally speaking, once lawmakers have agreed to provide certain pension benefits to public workers, it is difficult, if not impossible, to roll them back because of protective language in state laws and constitutions and years of court interpretations.

Public pensions are considered so bulletproof that when the city of Vallejo, Calif., recently restructured its finances in bankruptcy, it cut other costs but left worker pensions intact.

The two court decisions, issued Wednesday, suggest that the legal tide may be changing for public pensioners. The political tide has already turned in some places — in addition to Colorado and Minnesota, South Dakota and New Jersey have also cut cost-of-living benefits for current retirees, and other states have been awaiting legal guidance before doing the same.

In their court filings, retirees in Colorado and Minnesota had argued that their benefits were contractual in nature, and therefore protected by state and federal constitutional language barring the impairment of contracts.

However, in his ruling dismissing the Minnesota case, Judge Gregg E. Johnson of the state’s Second Judicial District Court wrote that the retirees in that state “have not met their burden to show unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Look, I am very sensitive to the argument that some of the pensions promised to people were unreasonable- we have all heard the stories of people retiring at 50 and drawing ridiculous pensions for 20-30 years. The solution to that, though, is to not make those promises to current and new workers. But it is simply beyond my understanding how you can agree to a contract, the worker defers salary and income for the promise of a pension that both parties agree upon, and then, after the worker has fulfilled his end of the bargain, you simply say “Fuck it, your pension costs too much and we can’t get our house in order and our Galtian overlords don’t want to pay taxes. Eat a bag of dicks, old man.” Because that is what is happening.

What are these retirees, who made financial decisions their entire lives, supposed to do? If you thought for 40 years as you worked that you had X amount of money coming in retirement, it would substantially change your investment strategy and portfolio. You can’t recover when the government just yanks it all away. You don’t get a do-over to go back and invest more.

This is just insane.








Roger Ailes, Dogging the Wags

Actual journalist John Cook at Gawker has a jaw-dropping report on “Roger Ailes’ Secret Nixon-Era Blueprint for Fox News“:

Republican media strategist Roger Ailes launched Fox News Channel in 1996, ostensibly as a “fair and balanced” counterpoint to what he regarded as the liberal establishment media. But according to a remarkable document buried deep within the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, the intellectual forerunner for Fox News was a nakedly partisan 1970 plot by Ailes and other Nixon aides to circumvent the “prejudices of network news” and deliver “pro-administration” stories to heartland television viewers.
__
The memo—called, simply enough, “A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News”— is included in a 318-page cache of documents detailing Ailes’ work for both the Nixon and George H.W. Bush administrations that we obtained from the Nixon and Bush presidential libraries. Through his firms REA Productions and Ailes Communications, Inc., Ailes served as paid consultant to both presidents in the 1970s and 1990s, offering detailed and shrewd advice ranging from what ties to wear to how to keep the pressure up on Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the first Gulf War.
__
The documents—drawn mostly from the papers of Nixon chief of staff and felon H.R. Haldeman and Bush chief of staff John Sununu—reveal Ailes to be a tireless television producer and joyful propagandist. He was a forceful advocate for the power of television to shape the political narrative, and he reveled in the minutiae constructing political spectacles—stage-managing, for instance, the lighting of the White House Christmas tree with painstaking care. He frequently floated ideas for creating staged events and strategies for manipulating the mainstream media into favorable coverage, and used his contacts at the networks to sniff out the emergence of threatening narratives and offer advice on how to snuff them out—warning Bush, for example, to lay off the golf as war in the Middle East approached because journalists were starting to talk. There are also occasional references to dirty political tricks, as well as some positions that seem at odds with the Tea Party politics of present-day Fox News: Ailes supported government regulation of political campaign ads on television, including strict limits on spending. He also advised Nixon to address high school students, a move that caused his network to shriek about “indoctrination” when Obama did it more than 30 years later….

Seriously: Even if Denton’s iPad-friendly formatting makes your teeth hurt, it’s worth clicking over and reading the whole piece. No matter how cynical we bloggers think we are, it’s… instructive... to find out just how much the current GOP regards voters as nothing more than an audience, and “governing” as something that bears the same resemblance to government as a Pringles chip does to a potato.








Mining With the Invisible Hand

This is what corporations do WITH regulations:

Massey Energy Co. could have prevented the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 workers last year and the company failed to disclose some hazards in reports it provided to government inspectors, federal safety officials said Wednesday.

Patricia Smith, the U.S. Labor Department’s top lawyer, said not recording hazards where required was a potential criminal violation of the Mine Act and “we have notified the U.S. attorney of that.”

The Justice Department’s probe of the accident is continuing, it said recently. Its investigation has so far resulted in a criminal indictment against the former head of safety at the Upper Big Branch mine for allegedly attempting to destroy evidence. He has pleaded not guilty.

The April 2010 explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va., was the worst U.S. coal-mining disaster in 40 years. It resulted in several wrongful-death lawsuits against Massey and led to the resignation of the company’s chief executive and the sale of Massey to Alpha Natural Resources Inc. of Abingdon, Va.

At a briefing Wednesday in Beaver, W.Va., Kevin Stricklin, coal administrator for mine safety and health at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said, “We found there to be two sets of books” kept by Massey.

Clearly if we got rid of these pesky regulations, corporations would do a better job managing themselves.








Sticking the landing

I know, blah, blah, Halperincakes.

However, while acknowledging that the relevant points being made are much the same all over our side of the internets – Halperin is a douchenozzle, but perhaps we might want to concentrate more on him being a useless hack than his (not very) naughty words, and by the way has anyone in the media noticed that Republicans are holding the entire world economy to ransom? – I think some people deserve a front page mention for the sheer number of style points earned.

Steve Benen wins for plain speaking …

Let me say this as plainly as I know how: Republicans are threatening to deliberately cause a global recession. The president is willing to strike a deal that leans heavily in the GOP’s direction, and Republicans are refusing. Who, in this scenario, is being dickish?

Halperin’s choice of words pales in comparison to the fact that he’s offended by the president’s mild rebuke of political recklessness the likes of which American hasn’t seen in generations.

… while Alex Pareene at Salon just wins my undying devotion forever:

I don’t care what Halperin calls Barack Obama. But for the record, President Obama did not really act like a dick yesterday, which is unsurprising, because Mark Halperin is a horrible political analyst who is wrong about everything. (Also for the record, it takes one to know one.)

Being a professional observer of the “horse race” is bad enough, but Halperin doesn’t even understand the horse-race element of politics. He fails at being a hack. He’s too dumb to correctly parrot conventional wisdom. He is pretty sure Sarah Palin and Donald Trump are 2012 front-runners. He thought “suspending his campaign” to fix the economy and not knowing how many houses he has were both huge messaging victories for John McCain. He wrote a book about how to win in 2008 that predicted everything Hillary did, but in his world it all worked. He thought Bush’s political comeback would come any day now throughout the entirety of the years 2006-2008. He can’t interpret polls or see through the spin of GOP consultants who are much smarter than he. If I were revising the Hack list I’d put him above No. 1.

H/ts: Valvida and MattR

ETA: Just sticking a gratuitous “David Brooks is a dickhead” tag in there because DougJ left it off his post for some unconscionable reason.

EATA: Commenter ThatLeftTurnInABQ quoted for truthfulness:

From 2000-2004 we tried sticking forks, knives and spoons in whatever 110 volt outlets we could find around the house. That didn’t work so well, so from 2006-2008 we tried washing our hair. Then in 2010 the teabaggers decided that the problem with 2000-2004 was that it wasn’t enough, so now we are unplugging all the major appliances in the house so we can really get our freak on, starting with having sex with the 220 volt outlet behind the fridge.

Meanwhile, the backyard is on fire and robbers are hotwiring the SUV in the driveway, into which they’ve already loaded all of our clothes and money.