10 Years of emptywheel: Key Non-Surveillance Posts 2008-2010

Happy Birthday to me! To us! To the emptywheel community!

On December 3, 2007, emptywheel first posted as a distinct website. That makes us, me, we, ten today.

To celebrate, over the next few days, the emptywheel team will be sharing some of our favorite work from the last decade. I’ll be doing probably 3 posts featuring some of my most important or — in my opinion — resilient non-surveillance posts, plus a separate post bringing together some of my most important surveillance work. I think everyone else is teeing up their favorites, too.

Putting together these posts has been a remarkable experience to see where we’ve been and the breadth of what we’ve covered, on top of mainstays like surveillance. I’m really proud of the work I’ve done, and proud of the community we’ve maintained over the years.

For years, we’ve done this content ad free, relying on donations and me doing freelance work for others to fund the stuff you read here. I would make far more if I worked for some free-standing outlet, but I wouldn’t be able to do the weedy, iterative work that I do here, which would amount to not being able to do my best work.

If you’ve found this work valuable — if you’d like to ensure it remains available for the next ten years — please consider supporting the site.

2008

We Are All Flint, MI Now

During the bailout, I did a post trying to imagine the worst that could happen if GM went bankrupt. One of my biggest worries — that China would start importing Buicks, making it far harder for US manufacturers to compete, has already happened.

This was, of course, before Republican mismanagement poisoned the entire city of Flint, MI. Perhaps the post is even more true now.

2009

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Was Waterboarded 183 Times in One Month

While most of DC was busily engaged in both sides journalism on the impact of Obama’s decision to release the torture memos in 2009, I (and readers here!) was reading closely. Which is how I noted the reference to the 183 waterboards CIA administered to KSM in one month.

“Affordable” Health Care

Bill Supporters Still Can’t Say “Affordable”

In a series of posts at the end of 2009, I laid out how ObamaCare still required participants to spend too much of their income on health insurance and care, which would lead to lots of people to not use it. That has turned out to be one of the biggest problems with ObamaCare (and one of the reason it wasn’t all that popular until Trump tried to take it away). If Democrats ever wrest control from the Republicans again, this is a problem that still needs to be fixed.

2010

Abu Zubaydah’s Torturers Relied on July 13 Yoo Fax, not Bybee Memo

I found a lot of things (including Gul Rahman’s ID, but I waited on that to protect the identity of the CIA officer who oversaw his killing) in the Office of Professional Management report on John Yoo’s torture memos released in 201. One that remains important — and poorly understood — is that the first torture actually operated under authorization from a freelance fax from Yoo issued weeks before the famous August 1 Bybee memo, rather than the full OLC memo itself.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Steven Rattner, Author of Overhaul

There were two or three of Bev’s badly missed book salons I hosted that I particularly enjoyed (Bob Woodward is another). But none was better than hosting Steven Rattner, for his very blinkered view of his own role in the auto bailout. The comment thread in it was epic, too, but sadly gone.

Hatfill and Wen Ho Lee and Plame and al-Awlaki and Assange

After a panel on the Scooter Libby case, I meditated on how those with the secrets increasingly use journalists as a stand in for due process. This is not a post I’ve returned to a lot, but particularly given everything that has transpired since, particularly given where Assange has gone since, it strikes a nerve.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

25 replies
  1. harpie says:

    Wow!
    Ten years of lucid, illuminating, brilliant and dogged commentary from Marcy and her Team; one of the most informative, funny and engaged communities around.

    Thank you Marcy and everyone who contributes, and 
      Congratulations and many happy returns!
    -harpie

  2. Peacerme says:

    You deserve more than I have. I will make another donation in the coming weeks. I wish I could give more. With that said, I remember the day I found you online. I was so tired of Bush not being held accountable. With his history of addiction, as a mental health therapist, I knew a duck is a duck, and the character defects that come with addiction. I couldn’t find anything but “cover up” in the mainstream news. So one day, in frustration, knowing I was cherry picking, out of frustration, I googled “Bush illegal behavior”. I just needed validation for what I knew had to be true of Bush. O’Reilly was at the beginning of his growing success and was flabbergasted at the lies. On that day I found Daily Kos, Firedoglake and MTWheeler (is that what is was called? I swear it had MT in it?). Your blog has morphed and changed over the years but I know I can always trust the details and logic on your site. I marveled at how you deduced, and sussed the truth out of the coverage on Plamegate. The comments section always illuminating. There were commenters I got to know over the years that felt like family. Bmaz, definitely one of those voices. So many delurk occasionally and cause a feeling of warmth in my heart. I haven’t got any great wisdom to share on many of these topics today, but I always come here for a slice of truth and sanity. Thank you Marcy! If I ever win the lottery you’d be on my list of people who made my life worth living in dark times. You are worth so much more than my expendable income would allow me to spend. Thank you! I’ll donate with my next big pay check. I don’t know how I would have made it through those years without you and the whole team.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    An island of sanity, where you can believe your lying eyes instead of those doing the lying.  Thank you, Marcy.  Even the MSM is a little better because of you. In a world in which the loudest and most well-fed voices belong to neoliberals and right wing authoritarian owners, and those afraid of them, that’s something.

  4. lefty665 says:

    Congrats on a decade of weedy analysis and sanity on the innertubes, and for putting up with all us rubes out here. Just sent a contribution. Best wishes for the next decade. Lefty

  5. Peterr says:

    There were two or three of Bev’s badly missed book salons I hosted that I particularly enjoyed (Bob Woodward is another). But none was better than hosting Steven Rattner, for his very blinkered view of his own role in the auto bailout. The comment thread in it was epic, too, but sadly gone.

    Gone? Gone? Gone???

    I think not.

    You’re welcome.

    One of my favorite exchanges:

    Steven Rattner October 30th, 2010 at 2:52 pm  81

    In response to dakine01 @ 76

    I think we saw clearly in Lehman’s case that it would not be a good think, anymore than having GM or Chrysler liquidate would be a good thing. THERE WAS NO POSSIBILITY OF REORGANIZING BANKS IN BANKRUPTCY UNDER EXISTING LAW. IF YOU DON’T LIKE THAT (AND I DON’T) YOU NEED TO CHANGE THE LAW!!!

    * * *

    Jane Hamsher October 30th, 2010 at 2:55 pm   86

    In response to Steven Rattner @ 81

    Yeah! Welcome to blogger-dom. All caps before we’re even at a hundred comments!

    * * *

    Steven Rattner October 30th, 2010 at 2:56 pm   88

    In response to Jane Hamsher @ 86

    This is my first (and maybe last) experience with this. It would be a lot easier to discuss in person!

    * * *

    emptywheel October 30th, 2010 at 3:01 pm  98

    In response to Steven Rattner @ 88

    You’re doing great: we’re a rowdy bunch but you’re doing far far better at engaging than, for example, Mark Penn or Bob Woodward (and Woodward has joined us twice).

    Thanks for the effort.

    Proof once more that authors who came to FDL Book Salons thinking this was going to be “just another appearance” were sadly mistaken, and found themselves caught rather firmly by commenters unwilling to be given sound bites, headlines, and fluff in place of substance.

    Given a choice between football (college on Sat, NFL on Sunday) and an FDL Book Salon, I’d take a Book Salon any time.

      • Peterr says:

        The Wayback Machine is a wonderful thing. It sometimes takes a bit of tinkering to find some of these threads, but there was a lot said in those discussions that is absolutely worth digging out to unearth again.

    • CTuttle says:

      Ahh, Good times indeed, Rev…!  ;-)

      John Dean’s Book Salons were my fave…!

      Kudos to ten years of blogging excellence, Marcy, bmaz, Ed, Jim, Peterr, Rayne and crew..!  :-)

      • Peterr says:

        From John Dean’s book salon:

        Peterr September 3rd, 2006 at 2:59 pm 81

        Mr. Dean,

        As I listened to Keith Olbermann’s takedown of Don Rumsfeld, I thought of you and this upcoming book salon conversation. Much of KO’s comments seem to resonate with your picture of CWC in the book. I’m curious about what you thought of Olbermann’s remarks, and (given that you and Rumsfeld were both part of the Nixon White House) how you think Rumsfeld and the Bush White House might be preparing to react to them.

        Thanks!

        * * *

        J. Dean September 3rd, 2006 at 5:13 pm 265

        At 80[sic: 81]: “I’m curious about what you thought of Olbermann’s remarks [re Rumsfeld.]”

        Keith Olberman is the most intelligent anchor in America, and he actually uses his God given talents to inform Americans. (Jon Stewart also plays in this league, even though he does comedy.) Slowly, steadily, people are discovering Olberman’s not only smart and savvy, but he can have fun as well. He knows what to take serious, however, and he was the first news person to recognize the seriousness of Rumsfeld’s insidious comments.

        Rumsfeld came to the Nixon White House in 1970 some five months after I arrived. At the time, I asked White House chief of staff Bob Haldeman what Rummy was going to be doing. “Nothing,” Haldeman told me, explaining that they were placing him on the White House staff (giving him a sinecure) to bolster his chances to win a Senate race in IL.

        In time, Haldeman — not to mention — Nixon came to distrust Rumsfeld. Many thought Nixon appointed him Ambassador to NATO as a promotion. In fact, they wanted to get him out of the White House. Haldeman called Rumsfeld “slimmy” in his contemporaneous diaries, and Nixon is heard on his tapes discussing Rumsfeld in less than flattering terms.

        Most ironic, given Rumsfeld’s current position on Iraq [Sept 2006, stay and fight], Rumsfeld argued that Nixon should get the hell out of Vietnam. Rummy was a cut and run guy back then.

        Keith Olberman should be given a Pulitzer for his commentary on Rumsfeld’s remarkable behavior. It is because Keith is such an intelligent and stand-up person that I enjoy doing his show.

        Elsewhere in this thread or another one, Dean commented on his poor typing skills, so I think “slimmy” should be “slimy.” Coming from Haldermann of all people, that is quite the slam.

        [And God knows that tyops typos were part of the fun of FDL and the book salons, too.]

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I concur with earlier comments that the site seems to be having hiccups and losing comments. It’s possible that ISPs are prematurely restricting access.

  7. Petrocelli says:

    After TNH and 10 years of Emptywheel, we are still in awe at the depth and breadth of your intelligence. Most important is how you dissect complex and often contradictory thoughts of the Brain Trust, so that we can understand all of it.

    Now more than ever, your insights are required to navigate out of the swamp. That and the well stocked Likker cabinet.
    Cheers to Marcy, Bmaz, Jim and all contributors!🥂

  8. P/K says:

    Congratulations! You’re doing an incredible job and your postings are a unique resource for understanding even the most tiny details of surveillance laws and practices. Keep up the good work!

  9. pdaly says:

    Congrats on 10 years already on emptywheel.net

    When I first started reading at FDL and The Next Hurrah, I was trying to learn all the acronyms. It took a bit of googling to discern government institutional acronyms such as SSCI, NIE from blogging acronyms such as LOL and LMAO. And for the longest time I thought IIRC stood for some sort of intelligence paper!

  10. posaune says:

    Marcy, you are gold! I cannot even begin to describe the HUGE source of knowledge and hope that we have derived (back to TNH) from you, bmaz, ed, and jim and ALL who have come here for 10 years now! Hope in dark times is it.

    The intelligence, steel-trap minds, analysis and un-tangling of so much makes Emptywheel a national jewel. We are SO grateful to you and all.

    Congratulations on 10 years of outstanding thinking and for sharing with all of us.

    More contributions coming soon!

    Posaune

    p.s. have to share this: when at my lowest points over the 8-yr litigation to win permanent custody of our foster son, I would find the weediest EW post and dig into it fully for relief, and it worked. That and bmaz straightening out the trolls!

    Thanks for that!

  11. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Ten years…?!  I got caught in a time warp for the past 5.

    To return and see the blog still at work, and the ‘old FDL and TNH screen names’, in addition to FDL Book Salon references (and John Dean!) is remarkable…  I’m pinching myself in wonder.

    Will put pennies in till at some point this week.

    And FWIW, having seen some CNN and MSNBC news video the past few days, I am heartened to see the MSM putting up timelines of the Mueller stuff.  Once the reporters lay out the timelines, there’s simply no place for the Trumpsters to hide.

    And although EW and the gang don’t get props for making timelines a centerpiece of MSM reporting, I view its increasing use as a wonderful tribute to y’all.

  12. Whitewidow says:

    10 years! Congrats and sincerest thanks. Been reading and lurking since TNH and my interaction with Left Blogistan began with your coverage of Scooter Libby. Your work is invaluable. I am not in a position to contribute at this time, but you are always at the top of the list.
    One of my favorites of your posts was one you did about 3 women, including Lynndie England, and their positions and outcomes in relation to U.S. torture. It really stuck with me. Thanks also to contributors and commenters, and those we have lost. Hope you can continue for many more years.

  13. pdaly says:

    I was interrupted last night and wanted to add to my comment (above).

    My learning has continued, by reading here, at a break neck pace since then. I’m always amazed and thankful for the detailed explanations of breaking events (and of events that have yet to break in the mainstream news).

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