Archive for the 'civil liberties' Category

29
Sep
10

“I can’t stand you. Now go vote for me!”

Well, all righty. It’s now clear that the proliferation of Hippie-punching comments from the White House is not just a series of off the cuff remarks, not just blowing off steam, but an actual Campaign Strategy.

Blame the whiners and those who cling to their quaint literal understanding of the word Change. For it is they who are at fault for the Democrats’ impending electoral doom.

There are any number of good pieces on Firedoglake on the topic.  Jane Hamsher offers the most perceptive take on the motivation behind the strategy, and points out how self-defeating it is.

I also liked Cenk  Uygur’s rant on Ratigan, but this from Bluetexan was perhaps the most succinct.

Just so we’re clear, here are a few examples of messages that don’t appeal to me at all.

Wake up!”

Get over it.”

Get in gear, man.”

Right back at’cha. Right back at’cha.

That’s not reality.”

You know who you are.”

Yes, I do.

And none of these phrases motivate me to want to vote, canvass, give money, phone bank, blog, you know, generally take time away from putting food on my family to pull the lever for Democrats in November.On the other hand, these would do the trick.

“We’ll fight to add the public option to the health care bill.”

“We’re getting out of Afghanistan.”

“We are pulling the remaining 50,000 troops out of Iraq.”

“We’re going to cut the approximately $1T annual defense budget in half and use the remainder to fund US infrastructure projects, including high speed rail.”

“We will roll back the Bush/Cheney executive power grabs.”

“We will repeal DADT.”

“We will fight for marriage equality.”

“We will reform the Senate and eliminate the filibuster.”

“We will make the Fed transparent.”

“We will legalize marijuana.”

Hope that helps.

On the other hand, these would do the trick.

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05
Feb
10

Current age compared (unfavorably) to Salem Witch Era

Glenn Greenwald’s The Lynch Mob Mentality observes that we have gotten to a very bad place, in fact a certifiable crazy-place, to use Dahlia Lithwick’s phrase, where the government’s claim that someone is a terrorist is reason enough for said person (along with anyone nearby) to be vaporized anywhere on the planet, even if that person is an American citizen.

Terrorists have no rights, and being accused is the same as being convicted.

Greenwald compares our current the irrational blood lust of our age to that of the Salem Witch Era, and finds it compares unfavorably to what had been the paradigm of superstitious arbitrary lawlessness.

[I]n fairness to the 17th Century Puritans, at least the Salem witches received pretenses of due process and even trials (albeit with coerced confessions and speculative hearsay).  Even when it comes to our fellow citizens, we don’t even bother with those.  For us, the mere accusation by our leaders is sufficient:  Kill that American Terrorist with a drone!

04
Feb
10

“Terrorism-derangement syndrome,” a phrase that should be forever enshrined in our cultural vocabulary…

… but won’t be.

Because we are all deranged. Duh.

Dahlia Lithwick , in yesteday’s typically despair-inducing and yet still somehow sparklingly witty essay in Slate, has really put her finger on one of the many bizzarro maladies afflicting the American psyche.

The real problem is that too many people tend to follow GOP cues about how hopelessly unsafe America is, and they’ve yet again convinced themselves that we are mere seconds away from an attack. Moreover, each time Republicans go to their terrorism crazy-place, they go just a little bit farther than they did the last time, so that things that made us feel safe last year make us feel vulnerable today.

“Terrorism crazy-place” is a pretty good turn of phrase too, I must say. Dang, she’s good.

Partisan Democrats might be tempted to play their favorite game and say, “See? It’s them!” but Dahlia is not pinning TDS all on the Republicans. “[W]hat was once tough on terror is now soft on terror. And each time the Republicans move their own crazy-place goal posts, the Obama administration moves right along with them.” Yes, the Repugs take the lead, but who’s making the party in control of everything follow along?

No, TSD afflicts both parties, and the general public as well. Definitely this piece must be read in full, but I hope I’ll be forgiven for quoting such a large chunk of it:

But it’s not just the establishment that opposes closing Guantanamo, trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or reading Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights. Polls show most Americans want Abdulmutallab tried by military commission, want Gitmo to remain open, and want KSM tried in a military commission, too. For those of us who are horrified by the latest Republican assault on basic legal principles, it’s time to reckon with the fact that the American people are terrified enough to go along.

We’re terrified when a terror attack happens, and we’re also terrified when it’s thwarted. We’re terrified when we give terrorists trials, and we’re terrified when we warehouse them at Guantanamo without trials. If a terrorist cooperates without being tortured we complain about how much more he would have cooperated if he hadn’t been read his rights. No matter how tough we’ve been on terror, we will never feel safe enough to ask for fewer safeguards.

Now I grant that it’s awfully hard to feel safe when the New York Times is publishing stories about a possible terrorist attack by July. So long as there are young men in the world willing to stick a bomb in their pants, we will never be perfectly safe. And what that means is that every time there’s an attack, or a near-attack, or a new Bin Laden tape, or a new episode of 24, we’ll always be willing to go one notch more beyond the rules than we were willing to go last time.

Some of the very worst excesses of the Bush years can be laid squarely at the doorstep of a fictional construct: The “ticking time bomb scenario.” Within minutes, any debate about terrorists and the law arrives at the question of what we’d be willing to do to a terrorist if we thought he had knowledge of an imminent terror plot that would kill hundreds of innocent citizens. The ticking time bomb metaphor is the reason we get bluster like this from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, complaining that “5-6 weeks of ‘time-sensitive information’ was lost” because Abdulmutallab wasn’t interrogated against his will upon capture.

But here’s the paradox: It’s not a terrorist’s time bomb that’s ticking. It’s us. Since 9/11, we have become ever more willing to suspend basic protections and more contemptuous of American traditions and institutions. The failed Christmas bombing and its political aftermath have revealed that the terrorists have changed very little in the eight-plus years since the World Trade Center fell. What’s changing—what’s slowly ticking its way down to zero—is our own certainty that we can never be safe enough and our own confidence in the rule of law.

20
Dec
09

“Future prospective torturers can now draw comfort from this decision”

We suspect he's an Enemy Combatant, so this is OK!

News earlier this week, from the Center for Constitutional Justice

Today, the United States Supreme Court refused to review a lower court’s dismissal of a case brought by four British former detainees against Donald Rumsfeld and senior military officers for ordering torture and religious abuse at Guantánamo. The British detainees spent more than two years in Guantanamo and were repatriated to the U.K. in 2004.

The Obama administration had asked the court not to hear the case. By refusing to hear the case, the Court let stand an earlier opinion by the D.C. Circuit Court which found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a statute that applies by its terms to all “persons” did not apply to detainees at Guantanamo, effectively ruling that the detainees are not persons at all for purposes of U.S. law. The lower court also dismissed the detainees’ claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Geneva Conventions, finding defendants immune on the basis that “torture is a foreseeable consequence of the military’s detention of suspected enemy combatants.”  Finally, the circuit court found that, even if torture and religious abuse were illegal, defendants were immune under the Constitution because they could not have reasonably known that detainees at Guantanamo had any Constitutional rights.

Eric Lewis, a partner in Washington, D.C.’s Baach Robinson & Lewis, lead attorney for the detainees, said, “It is an awful day for the rule of law and common decency when the Supreme Court lets stand such an inhuman decision. The final word on whether these men had a right not to be tortured or a right to practice their religion free from abuse is that they did not.  Future prospective torturers can now draw comfort from this decision. The lower court found that torture is all in a days’ work for the Secretary of Defense and senior generals. That violates the President’s stated policy, our treaty obligations and universal legal norms. Yet the Obama administration, in its rush to protect executive power, lost its moral compass and persuaded the Supreme Court to avoid a central moral challenge.  Today our standing in the world has suffered a further great loss.”

No shortage of outraged commentary on this howling catastrophe, but I thought Digby put it pretty well:

So torture is a for[e]seeable consequence of the military’s detention of suspected enemy combatants. I guess it’s official.

Everyone in the world should be advised that if they don’t want to be tortured, they shouldn’t let themselves be suspected of being an enemy combatant. And if they foolishly allow themselves to be suspected enemy combatants, they should realize, regardless of any laws or treaties to the contrary, that they’ll be tortured. After all, nobody can be expected to know ahead of time which people are legally “persons” or which prisoners are allowed constitutional rights. It’s up to innocent people not to allow themselves to be caught in this Catch 22 in the first place. Good to know.

Any guesses who said this way back in January?

I was clear throughout this campaign and was clear throughout this transition that under my administration the United States does not torture.We will abide by the Geneva Conventions. We will uphold our highest ideals.

03
Nov
09

“all the historical foresight of Dred Scott”

Scott Horton, on the absolutely shameful, contemptible, disgraceful decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals stating that Maher Arar, a Canadian software engineer, had no right to sue U.S. government officials for HAVING BEEN TORTURED FOR A YEAR, for eighteen hours a day, for no reason, in Syria, after having been sent there by American officials who knew what they were doing to him.

The Canadian government admitted to their role in the  episode and awarded Arar $11.5 million (Canadian) in compensation and reimbursement of legal costs.   “And the United States?

The United States tenaciously refused to acknowledge ever having made any mistakes—even after its own sources did so. It stonewalled Congressional probes and issued a travel ban to stop Arar from testifying before Congress. The Bush Justice Department made aggressive representations to the courts in response to Arar’s suit that strained credulity at almost every step. As in other cases, their trump card was simple: when caught with pants down, shout “state secrets!”….

[Dissenting judge Guido] Calabresi generously accepts the suggestion that the Second Circuit acted out of concern for national security. Still, he delivers an appropriate lashing. The majority, Calabresi charges, “engaged in extraordinary judicial activism.” Its activism was aimed at extricating political actors from a precarious predicament and keeping the door firmly shut on what may well be the darkest chapter in the entire history of the Justice Department. In so doing, the court’s majority delivered an example of timidity in the face of government misconduct the likes of which have not been seen since the darkest days of the Cold War. When the history of the Second Circuit is written, the Arar decision will have a prominent place. It offers all the historical foresight of Dred Scott, in which the Court rallied to the cause of slavery, and all the commitment to constitutional principle of the Slaughter-House Cases, in which the Fourteenth Amendment was eviscerated. The Court that once affirmed that those who torture are the “enemies of all mankind” now tells us that U.S. government officials can torture without worry, because the security of our state might some day depend upon it.




Ineffable beauty, unspeakable evil, and all sorts of crap in between

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