Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Say amen....

What Glenn Greenwald said.

The Republicans' secret weapon

"Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...
and an almost fanatical devotion to ...."

.... Dubya and all things 'neoconservative'.

John McSame is of course flogging [so to speak] the "fear the terrorists, fear Obama who'll capitulate to the terrorists, and elect us, we'll keep you safe" meme by the Republicans that's been in reruns for the last six years.

But that's losing its edge. So what to do, what to do?....

Oh, yeah, how about this kind of stuff:

"We have to open up our coasts and the ANWR and drill for oil!!!"

From the link:
Washington, Jun 20 - For the third straight week, House Republicans used the House floor to focus on lowering gas prices at every opportunity. While House Democrats scheduled a vote on legislation on the interstate sale of monkeys, they found no time help working families and small businesses deal with skyrocketing gas prices. Even as Democrats do nothing, Republican members are speaking up.

This week House GOP members gave 25 “one-minute” speeches highlighting the Democrats’ inaction on gas prices while highlighting Republicans’ “all of the above” comprehensive energy plan that includes environmentally sound exploration of oil and gas, improving energy efficiency, and encouraging investment in groundbreaking research in advanced alternative and renewable energy technologies. Full video and key excerpts of all 25 speeches follow:

TUESDAY JUNE 17, 2008 Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) – “Today, with gasoline at over $4 a gallon, $1.75 higher than when we started this Congress, and still no comprehensive energy plan, I as well as the American people seem of reek of discontent, because we know what the right thing to do is, but we can’t get the leaders of Congress to do it, in this case to declare energy independence.”
Yes, after sitting on their asses for a decade and a half, resisting CAFE standards, and investment in alternative and renewable energy resources, and saying "don't worry about oil, we've got enough to last for generations", the Republicans are now claiming to be the ones concerned about energy, and the ones that are going to take action.

The Republicans are thinking that this push for drilling is going to be a winning strategy for them in the fall: either they (and their oil buddies, like Cheney) get their oil leases, or they will hold up the Democrats as obstructionist and responsible for our $4.00/gallon gas.

Sure, they've bent over backwards to make sure that no meaningful legislation was passed for mandating fuel efficiency. They started a stoopid war in Iraq that (outside of bankrupting the country and destroying the value of the dollar) further mucked up oil supplies, not to mention adding to demand. They've ignored other efficiency and conservation standards. Their "energy policy" has been a 'policy' of benign neglect (outside of securing U.S. companies no-bid contracts in Iraq).

Now the Republicans are trying to tell you that they have the solution: Let's open up U.S. gummint property to oil leases so that the big oil companies can go make more money off of $135 a barrel oil.

Let's hope the United States voters see through this sham: Pretending to worry (now) about U.S. energy costs, as an excuse to further enrich the oil companies.

Then, to top it off, McSame is pretending to be the "far-sighted" one, the one that will lead us out of these difficulties. How, you ask? Invest in proven alternative sources right now? No. He's going to offer a prize, not to the highest pole-vaulter in the 2008 Olympics (an achievable goal), but rather, to the first that can "leapfrog" our present abilities, and vault 60 feet!!! Yes, a $300 million reward to whoever can produce a new battery that's light-years better than present technology. Yes, that's a reward he can even offer out of his own pocket (not that he actually did that, mark my words), because it's premised on moonbeams, and he knows he won't ever have to pay up in his lifetime. We might get there eventually, but all the "reward" is at the end, and he isn't going to spend a frickin' dime to help people do the little, incremental things that are actually practical. People are constructing electric vehicles right now, and are converting regular Priuses to be plug-in hybrids that can actually run primarily off the electric net. But no money for that. Only for stuff that can't be done (and that, if and when done, would be instant sellers even without the prize).

Now that's an "energy plan" we can all count on.

In the meanwhile, let the drilling -- and the politicking -- begin.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The need for "bright lines" in law

So-called "bright lines" in law are useful to the aspiring 1-Ls; they let you state the issue, put down the rule, and show how the issue should be resolved. No muss, no fuss. Hell, enough bright lines, and even a moderately sophisticated artificial intelligence program might make a good law clerk or associate attorney.

So today we have this, as reported in the New York Times:
[T]he top lawyer for the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorist Center to Guantánamo, [...] explained that the definition of illegal torture was “written vaguely.”

“It is basically subject to perception,” said the lawyer, Jonathan M. Fredman, according to meeting minutes released Tuesday at a Senate hearing. “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.”
Well thank goodness for "bright lines". Now we know what to expect and what lines not to cross.

Furthering the education being provided for free to 1-Ls thanks to the maladministration's efforts at Guantánamo and elsewhere, then we have the concept of "mens rea"; the "guilty mind":
At the meeting, lawyers talked openly about the “need to curb the harsher operations” during visits from observers with the International Committee of the Red Cross and about moving some prisoners to keep them out of sight at those times.

And Mr. Fredman, the C.I.A. lawyer, warned his military counterparts never to videotape aggressive interrogations because they will “look ugly.” His comment came more than five years before the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into the destruction of C.I.A. interrogation videotapes.

When the issue of "knowingly" comes up in any war crimes trials, this could be relevant.

Then there's this:

The 2002 meeting at Guantánamo showed how C.I.A. lawyers believed they had found a legal loophole permitting the agency to use “cruel, inhuman or degrading” methods overseas as long as they did not amount to torture.

In “rare instances, aggressive techniques have proven very helpful,” Mr. Fredman said, according to the minutes.

A military lawyer at Guantánamo, Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, interjected, “We will need documentation to protect us.”

“Yes,” Mr. Fredman said, “if someone dies while aggressive techniques are being used, regardless of cause of death, the backlash of attention would be severely detrimental.”
Cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment (CIDT) is also banned by law and treaty. Where's the line between CIDT and torture? Well, we have the "bright line" above. If the guy kicks off (see also here and here; pictures here), then it's torture, I guess....

But I'm curious about one thing: Did Fredman get it wrong? Where's the "severely detrimental" backlash? Why aren't the good people of the country demanding war crimes trials for everyone involved, and impeaching the guy that says he signed off on this crap?!?!? Maybe because this article ran on page 3 (in my local newspaper) below the fold, and the so-called "liberal media" is ignoring it.....


Ben Davis, over in a comment at Balkinization, points to this article from the Washington Post on physical evidence for the torture:

One former Iraqi prisoner, identified in the report only as Yasser, said he was subjected to electric shocks three times and sodomized with a stick. His thumbs bore round scars consistent with shocking, the report said. He would not allow a full rectal exam.

Another Iraqi, identified only as Rahman, reported he was humiliated by being forced to wear women's underwear, stripped naked and paraded in front of female guards, and was shown pictures of other naked detainees. The psychological exam found that Rahman suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and has enduring sexual problems related to his humiliation, the report said.

The abuse of some prisoners by their American captors is well documented by the government's own reports. Once-secret documents show that the Pentagon and Justice Department allowed, at least for a time, forced nakedness, isolation, sleep deprivation and humiliation both at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison.

Because the medical examiners did not have access to the 11 patients' medical histories prior to their imprisonment, it was not possible to know whether any of the prisoners' ailments, disabilities and scars pre-dated their confinement. The U.S. military says an al-Qaida training manual instructs members, if captured, to assert they were tortured during interrogation.

However, doctors and mental health professionals stated they could link the prisoners' claims of abuse while in U.S. detention to injuries documented by X-rays, medical exams and psychological tests.

"The level of the time, thoroughness and rigor of the exams left me personally without question about the credibility of the individuals," said Dr. Allen Keller, one of the doctors who conducted the exams, in an interview with the AP. "The findings on the physical and psychological exams were consistent with what they reported."

Update 2

Scott Horton weighs in with a fine article. Included is an accounting of what has happened in the cases where detainee did die:
... Fredman’s concerns [about public reaction to detainee deaths] were clearly addressed by the Bush Administration, because many people did die in detention, in conditions connected to the application of torture techniques (there are at least a dozen such cases already documented), and in none of these cases has a responsible person been punished. Did the Bush Administration ultimately decide that homicide was not a problem, either? Or perhaps it was concern about the information that would come to the surface if a prosecution were to be undertaken.
My emphasis. If such a statement needs such....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And the state didn't sink into the sea....

Nothing but smiles.

No earthquakes. No tsunami warnings. No spate of divorces. Nothing but love all around.

Just doing his job....

Famous lines in legal scholarship: "Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."

The corollary to this is that if anyone in the Preznit's maladministration does it, they can't be held to account either, because they were just 'doing their job'.

The L.A. Times reports today:
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court came to the aid of former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft on Monday by agreeing to hear his claim that he and other high-level Bush administration officials are shielded from being sued by immigrants who say they were rounded up, abused and beaten after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The court's move stops for now a lawsuit by a Pakistani man who was held for nearly six months in solitary confinement in New York.

The justices voted to decide whether the president's top appointees are immune from lawsuits growing out of their response to "an unprecedented national security crisis."
What's despicable is what they did to "the usual suspects" rounded up:
After the Sept. 11 attacks, hundreds of immigrants, nearly all of them Muslim men, were taken into custody and questioned. Officials feared then that the Al Qaeda terrorist network could have "sleeper cells" in the United States, and that these operatives might have been planning more attacks.

As the head of the Justice Department, Ashcroft ordered the FBI to move aggressively and to use all available legal means to question suspects and gather intelligence.


Javaid Iqbal, the plaintiff who sued Ashcroft, was arrested at his Long Island home on Nov. 2, 2001. Two months later, he was put in solitary confinement.

He said at one point he was taken into a room where 15 officers were waiting. He was thrown against the wall, kicked in the stomach and punched in the face, he said. All the while, the officers screamed at him, calling him a terrorist and a Muslim.

Iqbal said the abuse continued for several months. He was eventually cleared of any connections to terrorism, but he pleaded guilty to a fraud charge and was deported to Pakistan in 2003.
What's interesting from a legal standpoint is why they say that Javaid Iqbal and the others are just SOL.
[Iqbal] then sued Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and several other officials, alleging they had violated his constitutional rights by singling out Muslim men for arrest because of their religion and nationality and for abusing them in custody.

Government lawyers said the suit should be dismissed, but a federal judge in Brooklyn and the U.S. court of appeals in Manhattan refused to do so. The judges said Iqbal's allegations, if true, would amount to a violation of the Constitution. And they said his lawyers should be permitted to move forward and to question Ashcroft and Mueller under oath.

To win his lawsuit, Iqbal would have to show that the two top officials were responsible for his mistreatment.
So how does the maladministration respond?:
In February, Bush administration lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court and said the suit against Ashcroft and Mueller should be halted.

They said Cabinet officers should not face the threat of "crippling personal liability" for their official actions, especially when they were "charged with responding to an extraordinary national security crisis like the Sept. 11 attacks."
In essence, they're saying that, as long as Ashcroft was just doing his job, it's OK if what he's alleged to have done violated the Constitution. Go figure....

Yes, I know there's the concept of official immunity from suit for gummint people for actions done in the performance of their duties, but since when can we consider violations of the Constitution to be part of such "duties"?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Third Strike" and you're out?

Not with this maladministration.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled for the third time that the maladministration's treatment of the Guantánamo detainees is unlawful. But, just to put things in perspective, here's a snippet from the news article:
In its third rebuke of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court's liberal justices were in the majority.


It was not immediately clear whether this ruling, unlike the first two, would lead to prompt hearings for the detainees, some of whom have been held more than six years. Roughly 270 men remain at the island prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.
But of course. The maladministraton has avoided, evaded, and ignored what the law requires each and every time. Why should they follow the rules now, and go sit down with a third strike called?

Monday, June 09, 2008

The "Straight-Talk Express" runs off the rails

As Glenn Greenwald reports, John McCain is hardly a model of "straight talk". Charlie Savage picks up the thread here. Amidst the dross and slag of McCain campaign prevarication and dissembling, though, we have this one beaut which deserves to be singled out:
Asked whether the views Mr. Holtz-Eakin imputed to Mr. McCain were inaccurate, [McCain spokesperson] Mr. Bounds did not repudiate the statement. But late Thursday Mr. Bounds called and said, “to the extent that the comments of members of our staff are misinterpreted, they shouldn’t be read into as anything otherwise.”
Kind of reminiscent of Nixon press secretary Zeigler's "The others are inoperative", eh?

A minor problem surfaces....

A potential Republican candidate to run against Sen. John Kerry in Massachusetts ran into problems:
In a major embarrassment to Republican leaders in Massachusetts and in the US Senate, Jim Ogonowski, the party's anointed candidate to challenge Democratic Senator John F. Kerry, failed by a razor-thin margin today to qualify for the GOP primary ballot.

With Ogonowski's stunning blunder, the only GOP name on the primary ballot will be Jeff Beatty, a little-known security expert from Harwich.

According to Secretary of State William F. Galvin's office, Ogonowski's campaign delivered just 9,970 certified voter signatures to its election division today just before the final deadline, 30 short of the 10,000 he needed.
I dunno -- just guessing -- but could it be that they had a hard time finding 10,000 people (particularly in Massachusetts) that were willing to admit being Republicans?

(h/t to Democratic Underground's Top Ten for this gem).