A good part of the reason I started blogging was because I went to a history conference at a UT branch up between Dallas and Fort Worth and found that, contrary to belief, many well known academic historians have found community history projects to be invaluable because of their focus and details. Photos rated high. Photos with details rate high. Interviews with participants in events rated high. Interviews with older people rated high if you cover their experience and perspective.
- Prairie Weather

“Protest works. Just look at the proof”

Free MP3 sites

Be your own program director. Venture off the beaten path. Live a little.

2dopeboyz: Hip hop. (RSS)

3hive: Sharing the sharing. Free and legal MP3s from over 600 underground and undiscovered artists — new ones added daily. (RSS)

Amazon MP3 Download - Frequency: Weekly. Get the latest on Amazon MP3 music downloads - new releases, freshly ripped hits, and special deals.

Audio Drums - A blog for rare, possibly overlooked, maybe forgotten gems of music with a slight emphasis on electronic and indie genres. (RSS)

Common Folk Music - A blog about music, not just folk music, but all music ranging from indie to alt-country to bluegrass, because music is for the “Common Folk”. (RSS)

Discobelle.net (RSS)

Fiddlefreak Folk Music Blog - Folk, bluegrass, Celtic, and other music of the people. (RSS)

Fingertips Music - Free and legal music. (RSS)

Gorilla Vs Bear (RSS)

Hillydilly: Simply Good Music. (RSS)

I Rock Cleveland: Indie Rock, College Rock, Alt Rock, Modern Rock, Cleveland Rock, and Rock. (RSS)

KEXP Song of the Day: KEXP 90.3 FM - where the music matters (RSS)

Kick Kick Snare (RSS)

Line Of Best Fit - TLOBF.COM | Music Reviews, News, Interviews & Downloads (RSS)

Lipstick Disco - Deep House & Disco music blog fronted by Females (RSS)

Minnesota Public Radio Song of the Day: Music lovers from 89.3 The Current share songs with you each weekday. (RSS)

Muruch (RSS)

Music Like Dirt: Music in all its many forms, mp3’s, live reviews and photography. (RSS)

My Old Kentucky Blog - a music blog that parties with unicorns. (RSS)

Nah Right. (RSS)

ninebullets.net. (RSS)

Rollo & Grady: Los Angeles Music Blog, LA Music Blog (RSS)

Said the Gramophone: a music weblog (RSS)

She Makes Music: She Makes Music focuses on the most exciting and impressive new music created by brilliant and talented female musicians. (RSS)


Sounds Better With Reverb (RSS)

Stereogum: All the MP3s on Stereogum.com (RSS)

their bated breath (RSS)

Women of Hip Hop (RSS)

YouKnowIGotSoul (RSS)

Mourn ya till I join ya

The Wheel’s Still In Spin: Focusing on new music releases and reviews of individual albums as original, fictional short stories (RSS)

A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz - This site is just a way for me to have a little fun and share a little music. I’ll highlight some of my favorite artists that I play on the radio and try to expound upon their music in ways I can’t always do on the air. (RSS)

Aminal Sound

Audiofile: Music Blog, Music Articles - Salon.com

Crossfade: The CNET music blog

Direct Current New Music - Adult pop, rock, singer/songwriters, folk, Americana, alt-country, adult alternative, soul, world music, crossover jazz and simply those artists that make us go “hmmm.”(RSS)

GarageBand.com Folk top tracks (RSS)

GarageBand.com Hip Hop top tracks (RSS)

Flawless Hustle: Urban culture blog featuring artist interviews, music reviews, legal music downloads, street art, graffiti and more! (RSS)



The Jon Swift principle: “I will add anyone to my blogroll who adds me to theirs.” Email or leave a comment to let me know.


The Hunting of the Snark

Sites participating in blogroll amnesty day

Jon Swift aka Al Weisel, may he rest in peace. Co-originator of Blogroll Amnesty Day

skippy the bush kangaroo (Co-originator of Blogroll Amnesty Day) (2012)

Vagabond Scholar (2012)
Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety. Keeper of the Jon Swift Memorial Roundup (The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves)

Notes From Underground (2012)

Redeye’s Front Page (2012)

Wisdom of the West (2012)

Zen Comix (2012)

pygalgia (2012)

Mikeb302000 (2012)

The Agonist (2012)

Brilliant At Breakfast (2012)

Bacon and Eggs (2012)

Regulation and the Depository Trust Clearing Corporation

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

On Wednesday lambert pointed me to a Bloomberg article by Robert Schmidt and Jesse Westbrook claiming the Obama administration will call for moving some of the powers of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to the Federal Reserve. While the SEC has come under fire for its reluctance to aggressively monitor Wall Street, the solution (as lambert points out) is to give the agency the resources, incentive and mission to do so, not to transfer authority elsewhere. Schmidt and Westbrook note that it “still has powerful supporters, including a number of Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee who aren’t likely to support having an agency they oversee cut back,” so maybe this is just a trial balloon. Either way it doesn’t deserve to make it past the rumor phase.

Whenever the news turns to the world of financial services, though, it seems like the path grows dark very quickly. (If so, that probably is by design.) I read stories like this and think, Congress oversees the SEC which is as it should be - and the SEC should be regulating…what? One of the most interesting reports I have read this year is The Story of Deep Capture by Mark Mitchell (pdf). First published last year, it is a 69 page report alleging corruption and collusion among hedge funds, regulators and financial reporters. It is tempting to dismiss it as tin foil hat conspiracy paranoia, but Mitchell is a former editor of the Columbia School of Journalism. Maybe he went off the rails after working there or maybe he was a bad hire in the first place, but that is something that should be backed up with evidence. All I have seen so far are ad hominem attacks from targets of his investigation.

The problem with establishing anything with confidence is wrapped up in one of Mitchell’s main contentions: That the world of financial journalism is relatively small; limited - at the time of his reporting, anyway - to one network (CNBC), a couple of newspapers (New York Times, Wall Street Journal) and a handful of magazines (Forbes, Barron’s, Fortune). If the economic news cycle is almost entirely determined by such a tiny group then it is possible to court and capture the prime movers. Even more importantly, the scope of respectable topics and people can be so strictly defined and narrowed that those marked for ostracism can be almost entirely silenced.

This puts the ordinary reader who encounters Deep Capture in a bit of a bind. Anyone coming to it from the world of politics will probably not need to be persuaded that an insular and self-reinforcing elite can decide what is and is not within the bounds of acceptable discourse. It is entirely possible to see a subject like the naked short selling of phantom stock marked as verboten and simply ignored by the most influential outlets. Anyone looking for independent confirmation of Mitchell’s allegations will necessarily be pushed to the fringes of financial journalism, and going there with no prior experience makes it impossible to weigh the credibility of what one finds. You have to go based almost entirely on your intuition and what seems reasonable.

Which is a real shame, because there are some fascinating elements to the story. Sometimes the web he weaves seems a little too sprawling, but other parts ring true. The idea of having a company like Gradient Analytics appear on the scene and almost instantly be hailed as an unimpeachable source of sound research looks a little fishy. So too is the role of an institution I had not heard of before (emphasis in original):

It is also important to recognize the role of The Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC), an organization headquartered in New York City. DTCC is where stock trades are processed - more than $1.5 quadrillion worth of them every year. That’s 30 times larger than the entire gross product of the entire planet.

Which brings us back to the SEC. It ostensibly regulates the DTCC, but according to Mitchell that amounts to little more than walking in a couple times per year, kicking the tires and asking, “so how’s everything going?” When I read about moving SEC oversight to the Fed I immediately thought, would they do a better job? Would we know more about how the DTCC operates, and what role it might have played in the meltdown of the financial services industry? What would it take to get some light shining in there? With all due respect to the president, spending time and energy trying to yank pieces of authority out of Congress’ orbit and closer to his helps prevent discussions like that from even starting.

This Week In Tyranny

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

What has come to seem like the normal exposure of gruesome new torture details may now be metastasizing into truly horrifying. And even that might not be the worst of it. Human rights researcher John Sifton pointed out that roughly 100 people have died from torture, and memos establishing the chain of command for torture are much more important from a legal standpoint than the photos president Obama doesn’t want released:

“These are operational cables showing the interrogations’ methodologies, what was approved, who knew about them, showing the notes of meetings in the White House between the principals group, people like Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld,” he told Goodman. “These are important documents. I mean, the photographs are important, because they show viscerally what happened, but the memos show who ordered what happened to happen.”

Amazingly, Sifton actually went on to name a CIA interrogator believed responsible for the death of Manadel al-Jamadi, a prisoner who was suffocated to death by hanging.

“And that’s an interesting death, because that was a case where the CIA inspector general referred the case to the Department of Justice for prosecution, possible prosecution, and yet the Department of Justice never took any action,” said Sifton. “The name of the CIA interrogator in that case is actually publicly known: Mark Swanner. […] And he’s, for all I know, still walking around in the United States, even though he is implicated in this homicide.”
Maybe not so amazingly - see last item.

I thought the 9/11 commission was an anemic investigation (real ones don’t need to bargain to secure testimony, they just issue subpoenas and enforce them),and ultimately a whitewash. As it turns out, the information it does contain is tainted by torture as well.

Here is this week’s best reason why I always stop by Avedon’s place to see what she has to say:

I think Eric Martin’s point - that torture is morally indefensible whether it works or not - is a good one, but I think he is too easy in giving in to the “sometimes torture works” argument. I am certain that if torture were in any way a reliable means of getting good information, the anti-torture argument would have been lost a great deal earlier in human history. (Just look at this shameless comment by Harold Ford, for example.) Morality, as we have seen in every other area, disappears pretty quickly when there’s a buck to be made or an enemy to be spited, but this has always been the trump card in the argument: Torture doesn’t work to get good information. Trouble is, it has always been a good way to terrorize people or to get false confessions. It “worked” for Cheney in the same way it worked in the Soviet Union - to get people to say things that weren’t true but were what he wanted to hear.
I don’t like entering into the “is it useful?” discussion because to me that means getting sucked into a utilitarian argument where it seems like you’re bargaining with the devil. I mean, if you can show that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, then it’s great right? And of course you’ll never get a direct smoking gun 1-to-1 correspondence for complex social policy issues (even something like the dispute over the correlation between smoking and lung cancer lived on a lot longer than it should have because it isn’t precisely true that smoking leads to cancer). Going there feels like getting sucked down a rabbit hole; I prefer to stick with the position that torture is wrong, evil and not something that a civilized nation engages in. Avedon provides the always useful reminder that not everyone thinks like me, and practical arguments have to be engaged at some level. Dammit.

The changed position on the abuse photos wasn’t the only egregious mistake by the president this week. Military commissions once again entered the picture as well. I believe he takes these positions because he believes them. It’s the simplest and most sensible explanation. Andrew Sullivan says Obama is playing a long game and that it helps him to “have symbolic spats with those of us who believe we have no choice but to confront the war crimes of the last administration.” Even if Obama is playing some kind of super smart inside game there is a big problem with it: Doing so validates conventional wisdom in Washington. By not releasing the photos and reviving the commissions he validates the talking points about this being a dispute between his hard left civil libertarian base and thoughtful, serious centrists who see both sides of torture and extrajudicial hellholes. It reinforces the lazy thinking of amoral monsters like David Ignatius and allows the David Gregory types to, well, continue being David Gregory types. That is decidedly not helpful.

I made my thoughts on Nancy Pelosi clear last week, but the developing focus on her in the torture debate is insane. It’s about the principals of the Bush administration. Any thorough investigation will probably bring down some pretty high profile Democrats but the primary architects were in the GOP. It would be lovely for the media pack to not so reliably chase after every single rubber ball tossed by Republican strategists.

Valerie Plame was celebrated by the left when she and her husband were going after George Bush. The CIA was seen as thrown under the bus - providing responsible intelligence estimates that were ignored or cherry picked, and hounded by unscrupulous politicians who wanted agency validation of their demented imaginings. Now liberals feel a little differently since the CIA is going after Democrats. First, some thoughts from Spencer Ackerman, whom I don’t read or quote as much as I should:

It’s been my experience that any attempt to generalize about the CIA is wrong. It’s not an organization of liars and it’s not an organization of torturers and it’s not an organization of liberals and it’s not an organization of barbarians and it’s not an organization of brave truth-tellers and it’s not an organization of risk-averse bureaucrats and it’s not an organization of lawbreakers and it’s not an organization of whiz kids and it’s not an organization of mediocrities. But come on. The greatest intelligence officer the CIA ever produced was convicted of lying to Congress. I regret that I don’t have my copy of Tim Weiner’s definitive Legacy of Ashes handy to document quickly how routinely the CIA lied to Congress throughout its history.
Great stuff. Also, here’s why liberals aren’t contradicting themselves on their change of position: The part of the CIA that plows through reams of data and formulates its best analysis based on available information is terrific. We like it a lot and want for it to continue to excel at that. The part of the CIA involved in fomenting coups, assassination attempts and torture…not so much. Stay away from the Mission Impossible stuff and we like you just fine.

Watch for this. Not news yet, but will be.

Sometimes it is the clowns who get most directly at the truth:

What conservatives must try to hide all the time, causing spectacular screw-ups and flame-outs, and ensuring the doom of any sincere effort to ‘reinvent the party,’ is that their core motivator, once you cut through the bread-and-circuses issues like gay marriage, immigration, and abortion, is the removal of governmental and societal checks on the power of private interests, in order to funnel off the wealth collected and held since World War II by a large and prosperous middle class.

UNPACKING JANE: Mayer names Mark Swanner for the first time on page 250, and writes this on 258:

Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel of the CIA who handled numerous national security cases in his private practice, said it was possible the Office of Legal Counsel’s memos had succeeded in indemnifying CIA interrogators such as Swanner even in cases of homicide. The lawyers may have opened too many loopholes, Smith said, “making prosecution somehow too hard to do.” Smith added, “But even under the expanded definition of torture, I don’t see how someone beaten with his hands bound, who then died while hanging - how that could be legal. I’d be embarrassed if anyone argued that it was.
These actors have been publicly named for a while. Nothing amazing about hearing about them now.

The Biggest Threat To Newspapers is Newspapers

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

Journalistic solipsism requires that outside phenomena be treated with clinical detachment but those within the industry be screamed with lights and sirens. For instance, enormous nationwide job losses are dispassionately reported but high double digit layoffs in a newsroom are greeted with bold, caps, updates and overheated rhetoric. It also explains the myopia over what troubles the industry. We are in a recession, so it seems obvious that newspapers would be in the doldrums too. Yet the internet is the focus of their ire. Why? Nothing is on the scene now that wasn’t around five years ago. If the economy tanks then looking at your online operations should be part of weathering the storm, but why make it the primary focus?

In typically self-centered fashion news organizations only focused on the web’s “information wants to be free” ethos and expanded competition now that they are feeling its effects. It is nothing that travel agents, computer programmers and real estate agents have not already experienced. But newspapers observed changes in those industries without understanding their eventual impact on them. In fact, for all the distaste they have for bloggers, the latter have spent more time pondering it. Some, like Allison Hantschel (aka Athenae of First Draft) have a foot in both worlds. She has been posting over and over again for months about how newspapers’ wounds are largely self inflicted; that, for example, they consider a 16.7 percent profit margin cause for layoffs. (Ask someone in the airline or retail industries if they could make do with that.) As she points out:

If there was no Internet, if Craigslist disappeared tomorrow, if nobody ever blogged again, the greed, shortsightedness and selfishness that looks at a 40 percent profit margin and cries poverty - as was the case at some Gannett newspaper properties this year - would still smother newspaper journalism eventually.

Business concerns aside, the deeper problem is with content. Papers have gotten smaller and smaller. Last year I finally decided my local paper was too small to justify a subscription, and others may feel similarly. If you remove stock and mutual fund prices and point people online for them, can you be surprised if they begin to migrate? Also, sometimes the remaining content is shoddy. Bill Kristol offered consistently faulty takes on foreign policy and was rewarded with one of the most prestigious jobs in journalism - where he promptly phoned in more lazy and incorrect commentary. There is no room for a Daniel Larison who might offer a view of conservatism even slightly at odds with received wisdom. Similarly, Richard Cohen can identify himself as at least a tentative liberal but then claim Dick Cheney “poses a hard, hard question: Is it more immoral to torture than it is to fail to prevent the deaths of thousands?” Couldn’t the Post employ a fully self-identifying liberal like digby who both writes brilliantly AND understands that torture is a war crime?

The biggest problem is with the hard news though. Frank Rich issued this caution on Sunday: “without their enterprise, to take a few representative recent examples, we would not have known about the wretched conditions for our veterans at Walter Reed, the government’s warrantless wiretapping, the scams at Enron or steroids in baseball. Whatever shape journalism ultimately takes in America, make no mistake that in the end we will get what we pay for.” But as Walter Pincus points out many investigative pieces are done with an eye on winning journalism awards, not serving the public interest. Even worse than indulgent reporting is that which is flatly wrong. The Iraq war utterly destroyed the credibility of not just the newspaper industry but news outlets in general. Every organization not named Knight-Ridder was more interested in working sources for access than independent reporting. The Bush administration was able to create links in the public’s mind between Iraq and 9/11 only - ONLY - because outlets refused to challenge the self-interested spin of government officials.

The elephant in the room for the industry is that on the most important issue of the last generation it routinely and wildly misinformed its audience. It is a systemic deficiency, not an isolated accident. It wasn’t just Judy Miller then, and it didn’t stop with the Iraq war. The Paper of Record still cannot bring itself to describe torture as torture when Americans do it. On this important issue papers continue (via) to mislead. (For hundreds of years and across all cultures nobody ever suggested waterboarding was not torture until George Bush became president; its defenders are the flat earth lunatic fringe of humanity and need no accommodation.) Subscribers are paying for that too, Mr. Rich. The biggest problem facing newspapers is a well earned skepticism that they will accurately inform their readers.

This Week In Tyranny

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

Andy Worthington posted a list of all Guantánamo prisoners a couple of months back and I didn’t notice. Good on him for what must have been a fairly large undertaking. Getting a list like that together is just the first step, of course, but just having a first pass is a big deal.

Say what you will about torture, actual death is even worse.

I’m not sure if there are Jerk Wheaties but if so Lindsey Graham had himself a big ol’ bowl every day for breakfast this week. First he and Joe Lieberman asked the president to ignore a FOIA lawsuit by the ACLU (W. ain’t president anymore, boys. Why do I think there is already great nostalgia for him in Washington?), then (via) he and John McCain teamed up to sing the praises of extra-constitutional detention and call for the continued trashing of habeas corpus.

A couple of reports implicated Nancy Pelosi in CIA torture briefings. Marcy and bmaz promptly went bananas dissecting the lies and half-truths. I like to think of the two of them living in something like the Bat Cave, and whenever a particularly terrible report gets released they see some kind of blogger version of the Bat Signal (maybe a blinking Cheeto) and they swing into action, grabbing their keyboards and methodically dismantling the story. I leave the costume designs for each to your imagination.

A big part of the debate seems to be whether or not Pelosi had been told torture had been used or was just approved to be used.  Chris Matthews of all people hit the nail on the head Friday on MSNBC: That’s akin to someone who voted for the AUMF being shocked that it quickly led to war.  When you approve the prospective use of something, you approve its use.  If it doesn’t get used the way you want then you are either naive or disingenuous.  I’m more receptive to the argument that she was constrained by classification requirements and an anemic briefing/oversight process.  I definitely would like to see more attention to that.  It still doesn’t get her entirely off the hook, mind you.  For an issue as urgent as this maybe you go public even if it means breaking the law.  But the idea that she is blameless because she was told it was on the table but not actually in use yet is deeply, deeply unpersuasive to me.

Some Republican senators were trying to discredit Democrats as well. Larisa Alexandrovna jumped into the fray:

Where are you willing to draw the line Mr. Alexander/Mr. Shelby? Can we go all the way to Iran Contra as well or further? Or how about BCCI or even to Operation 40? Because I sure as hell don’t mind. Let’s rip it all open then, shall we? In fact, how about we keep going after the Jack Abramoff scandal which should have nabbed Mr. Shelby already, but for some reason did not (perhaps a Canary had something to do with it?).

My first impulse is, sure - let’s hear all of it. I don’t think Eric Holder should be above criticism for his role in renditions during the Clinton era. I’ve written before that I’m opposed to the Clinton-era rendition program, so if we’re going to revisit it that’s just fine with me. And I’ve never been satisfied with the Iran Contra investigation either, so I’m good with revisiting that as well. Let’s line them all up in reverse chronological order and go through them one at a time. Let’s throw open all the doors and windows.

I just love that Dick Cheney cannot shut up. Mr. Evil Genius is too dumb to realize that his mouth is a shovel these days, and every word is another little pile of dirt thrown out of the hole he’s dug for himself. He just keeps advancing the story, and the story gets ever more interesting.

Donald Rumsfeld isn’t really digging his hole any deeper, he’s just providing outstanding entertainment value by having his proxies say things like “Between the New York Times and the Pentagon’s inspector general office, it’s pretty clear which is a more credible and non-partisan source” exactly one day before the Pentagon withdraws its report because it “did not meet accepted quality standards for an Inspector General work product.” On a serious note, is that really where the story should end?

A cautionary tale for bloggers. A TV station reported that the FBI raided a North Carolina family’s house, arrested the sixteen year old son living there, whisked him away to South Bend, Indiana, and detained him on a terrorism charge - all with a lack of due process rights because of the USA Patriot Act. Then Kevin Poulsen reported that the Patriot act had nothing to do with it, and followed up with a post detailing allegations of the boy’s history of prank phone bomb threats. In other words, it very quickly went from Police State Horrors to a drama queen mother (Happy Mother’s Day!) overstating the reasons for her son - who has a suspicious history - being arrested. Now, it looks like the main problem is a reporter uncritically passing along the overwrought claims of a worked up source, but a number of sites I respect picked this up and ran with it as well. I can’t claim any special powers of discernment either; if I posted more often I probably would have jumped on it as well. It’s human nature to gravitate towards those stories that conform to our worldview. Sometimes that means they don’t get the skeptical treatment they deserve.

Since I’m issuing warnings I should also point out (to me as much as anyone) that Jay Bybee and John Yoo are presumed innocent unless a conviction is returned against them. Paul at Power Line points out that the leaking of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) report on wrongdoing at OPR. He claims “the draft was leaked before Bybee, Yoo, or their lawyers had an opportunity to comment and before the Department of Justice determined that the preliminary report should become final,” which may or may not be true - both may have already happened, just not publicly - but it’s definitely a legitimate issue. There may well be enough smoke to warrant an investigation of whether the Privacy Act was violated.

The GOP established that it is still fully committed to scaring the hell out of the country this week, but the ground has (stop me if you’ve head this before) shifted beneath them. From the halls of Congress to Hardin, Montana folks are deciding to confront the fear being thrown at them by neoconservatives and their supporters instead of shrinking away from it. It won’t take too many examples of people standing up, squaring their shoulders and saying “let’s deal with this already” for the Republicans’ bedwetting hysterics to become universally scorned, ridiculed and despised.

Linda Sanchez, please stop the demagoguery.

Avedon pointed me to this by Rude Pundit: “Here’s where we stand as a nation: Right now, it is more likely that someone or some entity will be punished for the split-second exposure of Janet Jackson’s naked titty during the 2004 Super Bowl than for authorizing the torture of detainees at our prison in Guantanamo Bay.” Mark Kernes then followed up with “it’s more likely that Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski will be punished for having a website with (mostly softcore) porn on it than will Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Jay Bybee be punished for writing legal opinions detailing how to torture prisoners without (supposedly) violating the Geneva Conventions.” We have curious standards for obscenity, don’t you think? I know which I’d rather have my kids exposed to.

This really pissed me off:

But executives at the Big Four broadcast networks are seething behind the scenes that President Obama has cost them about $30 million in cumulative ad revenue this year with his three primetime news conference pre-emptions. Now top network execs quietly are hoping that Fox’s well-publicized rejection of the president’s April 29 presser will serve as precedent for denying future White House requests for prime airtime.

Those are public airwaves. Show the press conferences. The shows getting pre-empted suck anyway. While there’s no formal requirement for the president to hold prime time press conferences it seems to be a useful way to get him answering questions before the public. Folks can decide whether they think he’s full of crap for themselves, but just showing the damned thing helps to create a more informed and engaged electorate. Get over your precious selves already, and by the way you’ve lost orders of magnitude more money from illegal and unethical behavior on Wall Street. If you really want to protect your stock price start a continuous drumbeat for the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act

UNPACKING JANE: On page 223 (and also here) Mayer describes this scene between general counsel of the Department of Defense William J. Haynes II and his subordinate, Navy general counsel Alberto Mora. On December 2nd, 2002 Donald Rumsfeld issued a memo approving tactics forbidden by the Army Field Manual.

Mora drew Haynes’s attention to a comment that Rumsfeld had added to the bottom of his December 2nd memo, in which he asked why detainees could be forced to stand for only four hours a day, when he himself often stood “for 8-10 hours a day.” Mora said that he understood that the comment was meant to be jocular. But he feared that it could become an argument for the defense in any prosecution of terror suspects. It also could be read as encouragement to disregard the limits established in the memo. (Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired military officer who was a chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, had a similar reaction when he saw Rumsfeld’s scrawled aside. “It said, ‘Carte blanche, guys,’ ” Wilkerson told me. “That’s what started them down the slope. You’ll have My Lais then. Once you pull this thread, the whole fabric unravels.”)

Rumsfeld is a terribly clever man, isn’t he?

Coming to Grips With Appendix M

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

This week may have foreshadowed the kind of twists and turns we can look forward to as more information about the US torture program becomes public. Jeff Kaye took note of a Washington Times story about how Jonathan Fredman, the top CIA lawyer for the agency’s interrogation program, disputes the record of an October 2002 interrogation meeting. According to the minutes this is where Fredman uttered the immortal words about interrogation, “If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.” It seems he or an ally does not wish for that to be the lasting impression of him because the Times article rather remarkably disputes the notes themselves.

Meeting notes seem to me to be fairly uncontroversial things. It certainly is rare for contemporaneous notes of one to spark debate. The usual procedure is basically: Have someone scribble down the main points people are making during the meeting, then afterwards type them up and send them out. Maybe something needs to be sharpened or modified in some way, but according to the Times “Mr. Fredman says the writer of the 2002 memo misconstrued enough of his points that the memo is unreliable.” That gets my antenna up. While I suppose it is possible for someone to get huge swaths of a meeting fundamentally wrong it does not seem very likely. It sounds more like a somewhat desperate and implausible attempt to rewrite history.

Fredman’s efforts to reshape an already-settling record is not what really interested me in Kaye’s post, though. It was his description of how the Army Field Manual (AFM) was lurking below the surface of the torture debate and will sooner or later emerge as yet another large knot to untangle. I had been under the impression that the military had a much stricter standard for interrogations, and once president Obama put the CIA under the AFM we had at least ensured torture would not be an issue going forward. It will not be quite so simple. Kaye pointed out in another post that in September 2006 Donald Rumsfeld ordered the overhaul of the AFM. The revised edition contained a section, Appendix M, which may have been initially intended to be classified. (Given what it contains this is yet another reason to be extremely skeptical of classification claims, for national security or other reasons.) It authorizes a set of interrogation procedures that go by the euphemism Separation. Kaye analyzes them, then arrives at the following commonsense formulation: “The inclusion of a procedure that so obviously needs medical monitoring should be a red flag that it violates basic humane treatment.”

It turns out the whole “get it under the AFM=problem solved” calculus doesn’t work. The AFM is not what it used to be, and we now have to look forward to the prospect of people who performed interrogations under what had previously regarded as an unassailably legal set of guidelines now finding themselves on the wrong side of the Geneva Conventions. We can look forward to defenses such as this from Decline and Fall:

If you’re concerned about Appendix M, I suggest working toward an update of the Geneva Convention on Torture to reflect the changed face of combat in the 21st Century. The Army Field Manual is not the problem, the outdated definitions (and only the outdated definitions, in my opinion) of the GC are.

This is the kind of framing I expect to see once the issue becomes more prominent (which I think it will). It puts adherence to the AFM above our treaty obligations, and implies that violating the Geneva Convention is acceptable if policymakers conclude its definitions are outdated. The use of the term “detainee” to specifically avoid Geneva terminology - and the humane treatment such a designation carries - is not a willful effort to violate the law but a legal black hole that those quaint Geneva Conventions are inadequate to address. Expecting for us to formally withdraw from such archaic agreements prior to violating them, or inquiring as to legal jeopardy for those who do so, is a vengeful exercise in criminalizing political differences.

We will probably continue to see issues like this; be prepared for more unpleasant surprises. For as nice as it would be to believe the systematized torture program begun during the Bush years is a thing of the past, key pieces of its infrastructure are still in place. Sometimes they are not in plain view. But if they are not dismantled when brought to light they will make it that much easier for a similar program to be reconstituted at the flip of a switch. We have to deal with them - and the arguments that support them - before the political winds shift again.