Bloggers on the newly released Yoo memo.

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April 2 2008 6:29 PM

Did You Get the Memo?

Bloggers jump on a newly released memo by former Bush official John Yoo and discuss the congressional hearings in which oil executives were drilled about their record profits.

Did you get the memo? A 2003 memo  by then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo was declassified Tuesday. The memo argued that federal laws should not apply to military interrogators investigating enemy combatants and was rescinded nine months later. That's not stopping liberal bloggers from having a field day.

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At Tapped, the blog of the liberal American Prospect, Scott Lemieux references Slate's own Emily Bazelon when registering shock over the newly released memo: "Bazelon cites their 'glib certainty' as what stunned her, but I'd argue this would be potentially acceptable if its arguments were more plausible and the implausibilities weren't in service to such reprehensible ends. It's one thing to, say, confidently assert a very narrow but plausible reading of a statute restricting executive power. Confidently asserting a broad range of arbitrary executive powers (including the power to torture), allegedly beyond the power of the legislature to regulate, despite the explicit textual grants of relevant powers to Congress, during a 'war' whose battlefield could be the entire planet and whose duration could be infinite, is another matter entirely.

Josh Patashnik of the New Republic's Plank marvels at the lack of outcry from Congress over the release of the memo: "It'll be interesting to see how Republicans in Congress (and John McCain) react to this. When you think about it, it's somewhat breathtaking that, as a group, they were--and remain--so docile, willing to embrace (or, at least, quietly tolerate) a constitutional theory that renders them toothless."

At TooHotforTNR,Spencer Ackerman believes this document illustrates the dangers of trying to define "acceptable" torture: "Remember: there is no such thing as a little torture. The slope inevitably slips. Throw this memo in the face of any rightist who hectors that liberals don't 'understand'evil."

Wired blog Threat Level argues the damning evidence found in this memo only reinforces the need to declassify more administration documents: "There's no reason that Congress should be in any hurry to hand more wiretapping power to this administration of exaggerators and chicken littles until it releases the other John Yoo memo -- the one that gave legal cover to the government's spying on American citizens without court orders. The one that told this President that he had the power to order his minions to collect, store and sift through my phone records and internet usage without getting a judge's approval."

Liberal Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report finds irony in the similarities between the memo and a certain disgraced president: "Nixon once argued, 'When the President does it, that means that it's not illegal.' It's since become something of a punchline, but the Yoo memo made the tenet official government policy — so long as administration officials were trying to defend the country, they need not concern themselves with the law."

But James Poulos of Postmodern Conservative believes the outcry over limited methods of torture fails to recognize the alternative of suffering on a much larger scale through all-out war: "And so we have to rely on a different set of extraordinary techniques to try to make up for the fact that we're not prosecuting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as if the only goals there were military victory. In a way we've got to think soberly about, our dark turn down the torture road is a consequence of our late-modern, small-l liberal nausea over real war."

Read more about the Yoo memo.

Black gold: Executives from the five largest oil companies testified before Congress Tuesday about rising gas prices. While some bloggers are crying foul about subsidies and tax breaks for the oil companies, others suggest the real pain at the pump isn't Big Oil but Big Government.

Marc at Cranial Cavity points the finger of blame at government taxes: "The real price gouger is the government. According to the Tax Foundation, in the last three decades government has collected more than $1.34 trillion (inflation adjusted) in gasoline-tax revenues — 'more than twice the amount of domestic profits earned by major U.S. oil companies during the same period.' "

Townhall's Mary Katherine Ham suggests that the goals of Rep. Ed Markey, chairman of the House committee that held the meeting, are contradictory, since he wants to lower gas prices and "move beyond this oil economy": "One of the things that might actually encourage a move 'beyond the oil economy' are high oil prices, which discourage unnecessary consumption by motorists through perfectly logical self-interest instead of government-imposed conservation mandates or whatever heavy-handed measure it is Markey wishes for," she writes. "Making gas prices artificially respond to your whims makes the process of buying gas artificially painless, thereby removing all indicators for the consumer that he should have any concern at all about an oil economy." Polimom at the Moderate Voice agrees: "The best thing that could happen, strangely enough, is for prices to go higher yet. Until we cross above the point where the cost of renewable energy is less than non-renewable, we're stuck … and no amount of election year grandstanding will get us out of the spring mud."

ThisJustIn doesn't foresee a downturn in oil prices and therefore believes the oil executives' argument that the industry is cyclical to be defunct: "So suck it up, oil industry. We have been carrying you for a decade; it's time for you to carry us. And Congress, do what's right: Strip those tax breaks and either invest the entire amount in research for alternative energy sources or give the ailing taxpayers a real tax break (not the upcoming fake one)."

Read more about the oil execs' testimony.

Alex Joseph is a Slate intern.

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