Comments Posted By John Burke
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"You mean the ones who are all for holding anyone the president decides is a terrorist indefinitely without regard for rule of law or the Geneva convention, torture them if we like, beating and freezing some of them to death (Dilawar), send innocent men to be brutalized via rendition (Maher Arar) and then have a gigantic fainting spell when it comes time to bring some of them to trail in the city they attacked."

The Military Commissions were created by Congress to meet the requirements set out by the courts and the Geneva Concventions. They are entirely consistent with the rule of law. Obama and Holder have embraced them and intend to try other detaineees before them. Thus, there is no reason whatsoever to try KSM and four others in federal courts in New York or anywhere else.

As for a "gigantic fainting spell," I've addressed that spurious isue so go sit on a tack.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 14.11.2009 @ 20:39

I apologize for the typos in the above comment, particularly in the firsts sentence, which should have read:

Michael Reynolds appears to be rummaging about in his history books looking for examples of other nation’s presumably more courageous and admirable treatment of terrorists — such as “The UK held IRA terrorists.”

Comment Posted By John Burke On 14.11.2009 @ 19:20

Michael Reynolds appears to be rummaging about in his history books looking for examples of other nation's presumably more courageous and admirabel -- such as "The UK held IRA terrorists."

Uh, yeah, they sure did. First, the Brits interned without trial thousands of suspected Irish nationalists in Ulster. Then, under the do-called Special Powers Act of 1973, it organized new star chamber procedings known as Diplock Courts where thousands more were accused of terrorist crimes and many tried before a single all-powerful judge and no jury. Not surprisingly, many were convicted, often based solely on confessions beaten iout of them by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. For many more years, the Brits relied on the supposedly temporary Prevention of Terrorism Act which basically suspended due process rights and allowed authorities to detain anyone. More than 5,000 people were so detained, only a tiny proportion of whom were ever charged with any crime.

Nothing -- repeat, nothing -- that we have done in response to the 9/11 attacks, which in an instant dwarfed all the casualties caused by IRA violence over decades, compares to these draconian measures imposed on ITS OWN CITIZENS (!) by the UK -- not the Patriot Act, not Guantanamo, nothing.

One more thing for Reynolds: it's pathetic to keep trying to characterize people -- and they are by no means all conservatives -- who want to act aggressively, yet prudently to prevent future terrorist attacks on US soil as nervous nellies and cowards. It is not a badge of courage to fail to do what is necessary to protect your country, home and family; it's a badge of dishoner and shame. I live in New York and I know not a single person who is pleased with this decision except Jerry Nadler and other politicians (and most of teh people I know are Democrats; that includes me).

Comment Posted By John Burke On 14.11.2009 @ 19:18


I think you and many others are setting up a false choice between a fringe that thinks the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim (who in this ongoing debate has said that?) and wide-eyed naifs deluded by PF fantasies (not really so many of them around either). And what does the internment of Japanese in WWII got to do with it? In what way have we come remorely close to that since 9/11?

The troubling thing about Hasan is that even many of his medical and Army colleagues could see plainly that the guy was, at a minumim, ill-suited to his job, but everyone pussyfooted about because of the likelihood of being tabbed as anti-Muslim. After all, we have people involved who have gone on the record saying that that is exactluy what happened. Is it really hard to imagine Hasan being pushed out of the Army and reappearing as a CAIR-ACLU plaintiff in a lawsuit? I don't think so.

All that said, the more serious issue is not what his colleagues did or didn't do, because all such matters are inevitably muddled to some extent. The real issue is why the Joint Counter Terrorism Task Force, run by the FBI, did not pursue the clues apparently unearthed by intelligence communciations intercepts. I doubt that PC figured into it, because the FBI and the intelligence community have been probing one after another potential Muslim suspect or Islamist plot since 9/11. They are, to say the least, used to investigating Muslims.

None of us knows the answer right now. But we should nto let the FBI's leaks casting blame on a DoD analyst to be the end of it. Someone -- most likely the FBI -- dropped the ball. This cannot be tolerated because people get killed -- maybe a lot more than 13 the next time. A Congressional inquiry is essential and the sooner it starts, the better. We should not put up with any baloney about how Congress can't probe because Hasan is being prosecuted.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 12.11.2009 @ 20:19


Hey Rick -- it seems to me that you're doing what you're knocking left and right bloggers for doing. One of many examples from your post: how do you "know" that Hasan joined the Army out of "duty?" Because some relative told some reporter that and you read it somewhere online? If I had to guess, I'd guess that he joined to get a free college and medical education -- but I'd only be guessing. Maybe he thought the uniform would attract girls. Isn't your whole point that we -- you and I -- don't know?

Anyway, all this speculation to boost one's own preferred narrative is hardly confined to bloggers. Most of it is driven by the MSM. For example, the NYT -- hardly before the blood dried -- put up a big prominent story online to the effect that Hasan had been "harassed" for being a Muslim and was "mortified" about being deployed to Afghanistan?

How did the Times know this? The harassment thing did not come from Hasan or any witness to such harassment. It came again from a relative, who might just have a reason to throw up excuses for Hasan.

As for being "mortified" about deploying because of the horror he heard about from patients -- wait, would Major Hasan, the psychiatrist, have had to dig into a firebase in Helmand? Would he be on the firing line? Frankly, at a big US base in Afghanistan, he'd be as safe as I am, iF he did not want to go, perhaps it was because he opposed the war, but it certainly wasn't because he feared combat or killing.

You'd have been better off not hitting the publish botton.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 6.11.2009 @ 19:18


Interestingly, while NY-23 was grabbing all the media attention, national endorsements and money, a Republican running on an anti-tax platform ousted the Democratic County Executive in NY's Westchester County -- NYC's northern suburb where Democrats have a 2-to-1 registration margin and have won almost every race for every office in recent years. And Rob Astorino won with a 16-point margin! He's not all that conservative -- certainly no tea partier -- but not Dede-style liberal, so I guess that makes him a moderate with a conservative bent on taxes.

In any case, alongside Christie's win in NJ, Astorino's shows that GOPers can win in the supposedly "blue" northeast. They just need to be attractive candidates who "connect" (a cliche, but a useful one) with their voters and the issues troubling them.

I'm not sure what Hoffman's race tells us besides the obvious: that the Democrat beat him in a district where Obama also won last year. So doesn't that make it a true swing district -- regardless of the fact that a staunch Republican won the seat repeatedly in prior years? And Owens is a fairly moderate guy who may reflect the temper of the district pretty well.

Also, Hoffman's "outsider" status was a burden when seen by voters in combination with his apparent disinterest in critical local issues. The 23rd is a vast area that has struggled economically for years. Virtually every significant segment of the local economy depends on federal and state policies and budget outlays. So while the local folks may be at heart conservative, they may not have responded so well to all of the anti-government talk from the Club for Growth, Dick Armey and Sarah Palin.

Finally, I have to say that I saw Hoffman a few times on Fox shows and he came across to me as a very dim bulb. I've posted more about these races on my blog at:

Not incidentally, I think I'm right that the district reapportionment based on the 2010 census will not take place until 2012, so Owens will be running for a full term within the same borders next year. Post-reapportionment, if New York loses another Congressional seat as expected and with the state legislature under Democratic control, the new district almost certainly will be bigger geographically and might embrace more Democratic areas in the direction of Syracuse or Albany. But its' also possible that lines will be drawn so as to make the district just south of the 23rd a safe Dem seat and roll all the more rural parts into one big likely GOP seat.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 5.11.2009 @ 01:45


Rick is very perceptive about this issue. Dede is not all that different from a bunch of NY GOP elected officials in the period defined by Al D'Amato, George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani. She is a "bridge too far" for a district where being a conservative is a plus (she could ahve got away with being pro-choice or voting for the stimulus or pro-card check or for gay marriage -- but not all of them!). If a Dede-like candidate were to run against John Hall who snapped up a heavily Republican district in the far north NYC suburbs due mainly to anti-war hysteria), he or she would fit right in -- and a third-party alternative would not get far.

The bigger issue is that the New York GOP is institutionally moribund, There is no reason that Republicans could not compete for any statewide office next year, and they really ought to take back three of four Congressional Districts. But the people running what's left of the party (post-Pataki) are snooks; there are no fresh candidates; and no one wants to give money to a bunch of losers. "Tea-party" activist conservatives would do well to move in on local GOP organizations and take over. Whatever harm they might do as a result of being too right wing is surely no worse than what's happening now -- which is loss and decay.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 2.11.2009 @ 16:54


In my post above, I got too bogged down in the details surrounding Scozzafaza's support by the SEIU-Working Families Party forces and failed to make my point directly:

It strikes me (from a distanca way downstate) that Dede's relationship with the WFP (always described by righties as an ACORN outfit) is some sort of scarlet letter. But the fact is that the prime mover behind the WFP was Denis Rivera and his 1199-SEIU healthcare workers union (with 300,000 members, one of the biggest unions in the country). Rivera (who is now the guy doing the outreach to docs, hospitals and insurers on behalf of labor and Obama) delivered his union's support to George Pataki in 2002 and helped boost some GOP legislative candidates too (through SEIU or the WFP) because the governor and legislature control so much of what benefits his members or their private employers.

The New York GOP has often done business with folks like Rivera -- throughout the era of former Senator Alphonse D'Amato and his pal, former Gov. Pataki. GOP legislators, like their Dem counterparts, have for decades worked to maintain ties with various segments of labor -- public employee unions, construction trades, and others like 1199, despite its otherwise liberal leanings.

None of this is to say that Dede isn't a lot less conservative than Hoffman. She is but the link to the WFP -- which has been stretched to mean a link to ACORN -- doesn't really reflect much, if anything, ideologically. As anothert poster noted, Rudy Giuliani had many stands in common with Dede and would never have been elected mayor without the support of the now-defunct Liberal Party.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 27.10.2009 @ 18:07

A lot of people (unfamiliar with NY politics) are surprised that Dede had the support of the Working Families Party, which has become known to non-New Yorkers only recently because of its connections with ACORN. But it's not ACORN that's behind the WFP; it's the SEIU that's behind both the WFP and ACORN. In New York, the SEIU is primarily the huge (300,000 or so members) hospital and health care workers union known for decades as "1199." 1199 was once a district of the retail workers; then of the UAW; and for some time, of the SEIU. It's long-time leader, Denis Rivera, forged poltical alliances of convenience with the GOP to protect and enhance the clout of his members and not incidentally their employers (mainly private hospitals and nursing homes). On the other side of this alliance stood the always pragmatic Alphonse D'Amato and his most famous protege, George Pataki. Go here to read about the culmination of Rivera's hard work in 1199's endorsement of Pataki (

(Rivera is no longer at 1199; he's now SEIU's and Big Labor's national health care guy.)

Rivera and the WFP were never dumb. Gaining a permanemt ballot position for the WFP was a big deal, requiring both clever politics and hard work. Like the Liberal Party before it (now defunct), the WFP has always tried to endorse a few Republicans (in the suburbs and upstate where they're going to win anyway) so as to maintain the perception of a truly separate, independent party. This was easily enough done in Dede's case, since she had close ties to the labor movement and a moderate profile.

Thanks for the primer on NY politics. I don't pretend to understand the nuance of it but I knew that Scozzafava was no "radical leftist."


Comment Posted By John Burke On 27.10.2009 @ 13:38


I had read the Democracy Corps report on these focus groups before and found it interesting but not particularly surprising or instructive. After all, if you put together a group of people who identify themselves as died-in-the-wool conservative Republicans, you're certain to find they have views that are staunchly right wing. And another group of GOP-leaning independents will be both more moderate or centrist, less predictable, less strongly partisan and more likely to reflect differences among themselves. Anyone want to guess what a focus group of Nation subsribers or Think Progress readers would say?

The important thing -- which Moran and most people miss is this: what makes the rightie group the GOP "base" -- and the Koz-reading lefties the Democratic base?

Using rough figures and acknowledging that these things change over time and differ a biy from poll to poll, the political complexion of reliable US voters is something like this:

-- 15 percent are both strong ideological conservatives and staunch GOP voters.

-- Another 20 percent are staunch GOP voters whose views are generally conservative but less ideological and more flexible.

-- 5 to 10 percent are weak Republicans or GOP-leaning independents. They aren't ideological at all but still inclined to tempermental conservatism on many issues but rarely all.

On the othe end of the spectrum, there are 40 percent who can be counted on to vote Democratic virtually always (with similar divisions among them) and perhas another 5 percent Democrat-leaning independents who are the low-hanging fruit for the Dems in most elections.

That leaves between 10 and 20 percent of the electorate who are the true "gettable" swing voters (which is why most elections are decided well within a 10 point spread and a 60-40 split is the outer limit of a national landslide.

These basic facts about the electorate are obscured whenever anyone talks about a "base." In what sense is the most conservative 15 percent of the 40-45percent likely to support the GOP any more the GOP "base" tha any other part of it? The same should be asked about the 15 percent hardcore liberals as the Dem "base."

The GOP "base" is actually the 40-45 percent, not the 15 percent. Most GOPers have no problem supporting GOP candidates who reach out to the center to win.

Excellent analysis. I might quibble with your percentages but you have accurately identified a rough idea of the breakdown.

The question is will the tactics and worldview of the base hurt the GOP? I think it will which is why I write about it so much.


Comment Posted By John Burke On 17.10.2009 @ 17:12

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