Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Night Round-Up

Any opposition to Michael Mukasey's nomination on the grounds of his refusal to say that waterboarding is torture is moot now:

Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced this afternoon that they will vote in favor of confirming Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general, effectively ending a growing revolt by fellow Democrats that had threatened Mukasey's confirmation.

By announcing their support, the two Democrats virtually guarantee that Mukasey, with support from the nine Republicans, will be narrowly approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Anyway, guess what? Waterboarding has hardly even been used at all by the C.I.A.:
For all the debate over waterboarding, it has been used on only three al Qaeda figures, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials.

As ABC News first reported in September, waterboarding has not been used since 2003 and has been specifically prohibited since Gen. Michael Hayden took over as CIA director.

Officials told ABC News on Sept. 14 that the controversial interrogation technique, in which a suspect has water poured over his mouth and nose to stimulate a drowning reflex as shown in the above demonstration, had been banned by the CIA director at the recommendation of his deputy, Steve Kappes.

Hayden sought and received approval from the White House to remove waterboarding from the list of approved interrogation techniques first authorized by a presidential finding in 2002.

The officials say the decision was made sometime last year but has never been publicly disclosed by the CIA.

Waterboarding? It's not so. For the gub'mint tells us so.

Paul Krugman blasts Giuliani for using a false statistic about prostate cancer survival rates in Britain to argue against national healthcare:
“My chance of surviving prostate cancer — and thank God I was cured of it — in the United States? Eighty-two percent,” says Rudy Giuliani in a new radio ad attacking Democratic plans for universal health care. “My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England? Only 44 percent, under socialized medicine.”

It would be a stunning comparison if it were true. But it isn’t. ...
You see, the actual survival rate in Britain is 74.4 percent. That still looks a bit lower than the U.S. rate, but the difference turns out to be mainly a statistical illusion. The details are technical, but the bottom line is that a man’s chance of dying from prostate cancer is about the same in Britain as it is in America.

The Bush administration says the NSA warrantless surveillance program is necessary to catch would-be terrorists. But well before 9/11, the government asked to see Qwest's customer records -- giving a different reason, of course:
Beginning in February 2001, almost seven months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the government's top electronic eavesdropping organization, the National Security Agency, asked a major U.S. telecommunications carrier for information about its customers and the flow of electronic traffic across its network, according to sources familiar with the request. The carrier, Qwest Communications, refused, believing that the request was illegal unless accompanied by a court order.

After terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, the NSA again asked Qwest, as well as other telecom companies, for similar information to help the agency track suspects with the aim of preventing future attacks, current and former officials have said. The companies responded in various ways, with Qwest being the most reluctant to cooperate. However, in February 2001, the NSA's primary purpose in seeking access to Qwest's network apparently was not to search for terrorists but to watch for computer hackers and foreign-government forces trying to penetrate and compromise U.S. government information systems, particularly within the Defense Department, sources said. Government officials have long feared a "digital Pearl Harbor" if intruders were to seize control of these systems or other key U.S. infrastructures through the Internet.

Finally, Steve Benen finds yet another example of how near-impossible it is to satirize the right these days:
Last week, The Onion, which is a satirical publication, ran a very amusing editorial cartoon, mocking right-wing attitudes. The cartoon asked, “Halloween: What is it teaching our kids?” It depicted a kid trick-or-treating with a bag that read, “Something for Nothing,” under the caption, “Everyone deserves hand-outs!”

Proving once again that today’s right is practically impossible to satirize, Fox News’ Sean Hannity actually made the same argument, on the air, in the hopes of labeling Halloween a “liberal holiday.”
On the October 31 edition of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity claimed that “Halloween is a liberal holiday” and “is teaching our kids to be liberals.” Hannity explained that “we’re teaching kids to knock on other people’s doors and ask for a handout.” Co-host Alan Colmes responded by asking if that meant that Christmas is a “liberal holiday.” Colmes asserted that Halloween represents “the act of giving,” and asked: “Isn’t that a Christian thing, to give, to share with your community?” Hannity replied: “Not to teach your kids to beg for a handout.”

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