Today's Blogs

Torturous Debate

Bloggers are buzzing about reports that Vice President Cheney is fighting restrictions on torture. Others are upset that the FBI is examining the records of ordinary Americans. And tomorrow’s special election in California is getting attention.

Torturous debate: Despite the criticism the administration has endured regarding the mistreatment of terror suspects, Vice President Dick Cheney has been lobbying to stop the adoption of more restrictive rules on the handling of terror suspects, the Washington Post reported. Today, President Bush declared that “We do not torture,” a statement greeted with derision by some bloggers.

“Why would they want an exception to a torture ban unless they want to unleash some torture?” writes administration critic Rough Ol’ Boy. “There is one spot of hope,” writes Todd Johnson at The Politics Blog, a group blog, “and that is the fact that the Republican-controlled Senate defied Bush in passing the torture ban.”

Following on the heels of last week’s report that the CIA has been holding terror 
in secret prisons, the story is just another in a disturbing trend to bloggers. “The avalanche of embarrassing CIA leaks in the last couple of weeks is a sign that within the Bush administration, the proponents of torture are finally losing the debate,” writes conservative Andrew Sullivan, long a critic of the administration’s stance on torture. “They are losing the debate because torture is morally wrong, deeply damaging to the United States, terribly dangerous for U.S. servicemembers and counter-productive in the war against Islamist terrorism.”

Indeed, there is growing speculation that Cheney’s camp is, as one State Department official put it, “a shrinking island.” Political science professor Daniel Drezner says I told you so. “One of the mantras on this blog from day one has been the excessive influence that Vice President Richard B. Cheney has played in the foreign policymaking process,” he writes. “This is not to say that a Vice President should have no influence – merely that Cheney had his thumb so hard on the scale that the interagency NSC process was fatally compromised.”

Read more about Cheney and the torture debate here. In Slate, Daniel Benjamin examines Cheney’s role in formulating national-security policy.

Spying at home: The FBI, empowered by the Patriot Act has been issuing substantially more “national security letters” to U.S. residents and visitors in the hunt for terrorists. The letters, originally created in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, compel businesses to surrender customer information that would otherwise be protected by privacy law.

Many in the blogosphere are concerned—Chris Dykstra at liberal group blog New Patriot  among them: “Our leaders and legislators have made it possible to gather information secretly, without a warrant, arrest a citizen without due process of law, and house citizens indefinitely in secret prisons. In essence, we have granted our government permission to make us dissapear.”

The FBI is issuing upward of 30,000 letters annually, but Ohio blogger Jeff Hess at Have Coffee Will Write says it isn’t just those 30,000 who should be concerned: “It is possible for hundreds, maybe thousands of innocent citizens to be swept up in these scavenger hunts without notification or the protection provided by our Constitution as regards reasonable search and siezure.”

TalkLeft   dissects several points of the issue, including this noteworthy fact: “What 
happens to your information after the investigation is over and establishes that you have done nothing wrong? Does the FBI destroy its data file on you? No. It used to, but former Attorney General John Ashcroft changed the rules.”

Read more about national security letters.

Judgment day: Proof of just how far Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s star has fallen may come tomorrow in California’s special election. The four measures that he’s backing are trailing in the polls and his popularity remains on the wane.

Proposition 77 is a redistricting measure that liberal Daily Kos contributor UTBriancl points out that even former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey is against. But on Angry Bear, left-of-center Kash argues that Democrats actually should support the redistricting measure. “(N)on-partisan redistricting probably won’t result in a large net loss in Democratic seats, and might even result in a gain,” he writes in a detailed argument. “Why not? Because the redistricting would only result in fewer Democratic seats if Democratic voters in CA end up more intensely concentrated they already are.”

Proposition 75, a measure that would require unions to annually obtain members’ permission to use dues for political campaigns, has the governor’s support—as well as ex-LAPD cop Clark Baker on his blog ex-Liberal in Hollywood. “Proposition 75 is about control: Democrats need the media to indoctrinate, handlers to lead, and union bosses to enforce, populate, and control their disaffected base,” he writes. “They rely on Freedom’s foreign and domestic enemies to help them perpetuate the corporate greed mythology. And as long as the media convinces individuals of their powerlessness, Democrats will control their constituency.”

Read more about Arnold. Read a synopsis of the state propositions on California’s ballot hereCalifornia Conservative’s “Carnival of Arnold” offers links to several election-related blog entries.